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HUNTING BILL - The uncertainty continues
Posted 1 March 2003
As promised, the government introduced its new hunting bill in December, and - as suspected - it fell short of a total ban.
Under the new legislation, both stag hunting and hare coursing will be prohibited, but fox hunting will be allowed under licence in certain circumstances. Each hunt application must convince a legal authority (there's some uncertainty as to who this will be) that it passes the tests of 'utility' and 'least suffering' before it will be granted a licence (i.e. It must demonstrate that it is necessary to kill foxes and that hunting is the least cruel method available).
The facts show that the fox is NOT a pest - that lambs die from exposure and disease rather than from fox predation; equally, foxes cannot get at commercially-produced chickens because they live in vast, sealed sheds.
Countryside Minister Alun Michael insists, nonetheless, that his new measures will wipe out most hunts. In practice, they may be open to the widest possible interpretation.
The Bill has now gone to Committee stage, where it is unlikely to be altered significantly. It will then be put to the vote in its second reading in the House of Commons. Will the 200 Labour MPs who say they will vote down the Bill in favour of a total ban stick to their position?
Since it is vital that every effort is made now to persuade anti-hunting MPs to vote for a total ban rather than the government compromise, please write to them one more time! The government has promised to abide by the decision of the House of Commons, so unless it goes back on its word, the next vote will decide the future of hunting. It could come any time between now and the end of June.