Labour pledges fox hunting crackdown with plan to boost rural police numbers
A Labour government would launch a crackdown on fox hunting by boosting the number of dedicated officers working on wildlife crimes, the party has announced.
Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary, Sue Hayman, said a £4.5m fund would be used to almost double the number of officers tasked with prosecuting wildlife crimes from 88 to 170.
It comes after fresh analysis by the party found prosecutions for offences, such as poaching and baiting, have fallen by a third since 2016.
The cash boost will come as part of the party's wider commitment to increase frontline police numbers, and will see rural crime units given new resources to tackle illegal hunting.
Ms Hayman said the dedicated fund would help deliver the most "radical animal welfare plan anywhere in the world".
"While the Tories continue with their mass slaughter of badgers and flip flop on bringing back fox hunting, Labour is determined to bring animal welfare policy into the 21st Century, based on the latest science and understanding," she said.
"We are calling time on those who have been allowed to get away with illegally hunting, maiming and killing wild animals such as deer, hen harriers, foxes and hares."
She added: "By increasing the number of wildlife and rural police forces across the country we will help protect both wild animals and property in rural communities, and ensure a crackdown on the types of crimes against animals that this Tory government has turned a blind eye to.
"Labour is the true party of real change when it comes to animal welfare."
The new officers will also work alongside organised crime units to monitor offences such as dog fighting and livestock theft, which are a common source of funding for major crime groups.
The announcement comes after Boris Johnson pledged to boost animal welfare standards in his first speech as Prime Minister, including an ban on imports from animals killed in trophy hunts.
It is also expected the party will dump a commitment from their 2017 manifesto to hold a Commons vote on reversing the fox hunting ban after then-Prime Minister Theresa May triggered a furious public backlash against the plans.
Meanwhile, Labour has already made commitments in their animal welfare manifesto to halt the import and export of animals for use in research, and to end the badger cull.