Opposition to legalising fox hunting at all-time high, poll shows


The sports minister has suggested parliament has "better things to be concerned with" than fulfilling the government's pledge to hold a vote on repealing the Hunting Act.

Tracey Crouch branded fox hunting a "pursuit from the past" that should be "consigned to history".

The comments emerged as Boxing Day hunts are due to get under way, and alongside a survey that suggests more than 80% of the public oppose legalising hunting with dogs again.

The activity was banned in England and Wales by the Labour government in 2004.

The Conservative Party's 2015 general election manifesto promised to "give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time".

An attempt to relax the law was abandoned earlier this year after the SNP signalled they would join Labour and Tory opponents in the division lobbies, rather than abstaining because the change would not affect Scotland.

Ms Crouch is a patron of the Conservatives Against Fox Hunting group, known as Blue Fox, and in a statement issued through it she said: "Fox hunting is a pursuit from the past and like the overwhelming majority of the population I believe that is where it should stay, consigned to history.

"I believe that the legislation as it stands today requires better enforcement, and Parliament has better things to be concerned with than bringing back hunting foxes with hounds."

The survey by Ipsos MORI, conducted on behalf of the League Against Cruel Sports, found 83% of respondents thought the ban should remain in place - 84% in rural areas and 82% in urban areas.

Opposition to legalising fox hunting has risen from 72% in 2008, according to the League.

Director of campaigns Tom Quinn said: "We have a lot of new information about what people think about hunting and none of it is good news for the small but obsessed minority who want to kill animals for fun.

"Opposition to legalising fox hunting is higher than it has ever been. We believe this reflects that as a nation the vast majority of us are repulsed at the thought of killing animals for sport."

Long-standing fox-hunting opponent Sir Roger Gale, Tory MP for North Thanet, said any attempt to repeal the Act was "doomed to failure".

"Support for the hunting ban amongst Conservative MPs has snowballed over the past year and is now at an all-time high," he said.

"In the early days, I was one of very few Conservative voices speaking out against fox hunting.

"The recent increase in numbers of Conservative MPs who have now come out publicly against the repeal of the Hunting Act means that any attempt to repeal the Act at this stage is doomed to failure."

Shadow environment secretary Kerry McCarthy said it was "absolutely clear that the British public do not want to see a return to hunting with hounds".

"As some hunts meet on Boxing Day, I really hope that David Cameron doesn't try and sneak hunting back on to the parliamentary agenda when it is so clear that people up and down this country don't support it," she said.

"This could be the last Christmas where the ban is in place.

"We saw how they tried to sneak it back on the parliamentary agenda and it's only a matter of time before he tries again."

:: Ipsos MORI interviewed 2,036 people aged 15 or over face-to-face between November 27 and December 10. Results were weighted to reflect the wider adult population.