Push to relax fox hunting law to allow 'full pack' of hounds
Farmers demand measures to stop foxes killing lambs, but change to 2004 act would ignite 'furious debate'
A PROPOSAL to relax the ban on fox hunting in England and Wales is being considered by ministers and is set to "reopen the furious debate" over the issue, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Under the proposal, the law restricting farmers to using no more than two dogs to flush out and kill foxes would be scrapped. New legislation would allow them to hunt the animals using a "full pack" of hounds, a development that would be seen by opponents as a push to reintroduce traditional fox hunting "by the back door", the paper says.
It is high time fox hunting was completely banned yet alone laws relaxed http://t.co/6pBkte5vKP
&mdash ; Jean Haines (@JeanHaines) October 14, 2013
The move, which is backed by a cross-party group of Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative MPs, would be "the first change to one of the most contentious pieces of legislation in modern times", the Telegraph says. It has the backing of farmers who say fox attacks on lambs are on the rise and the limited pest control measures allowed by the Hunting Act 2004 are not working.
David Thomas, secretary of the Federation of Welsh Farmers told the Telegraph: "We feel that this is something that could be very easily done. It is necessary for sheep farmers, it is not going to cost the government any money at all. It is a win, win situation."
The Times reports that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has received evidence that foxes are killing more lambs and that allowing farmers to use a full pack of hounds would help to "counter the threat posed by foxes to livestock". The change, which is likely to require a vote in Parliament but not a new bill, would bring the law in England and Wales into line with that in Scotland.
The timing of the proposal comes as trial badger culls continue in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Questions over the efficacy of the operations in reducing the spread of bovine TB and the humaneness of the killing, have put farmers and wildlife activists at loggerheads.
— Paul Lowndes (@PLowndes1970) October 14, 2013
Queen guitarist and anti-badger cull activist Brian May weighed into the debate today, tweeting that traditional fox hunting plays "no part" in controlling fox populations but is "done for sport".
Fox hunting was banned by Tony Blair's Labour government in 2004, but has "long been a source of debate" among MPs, the Daily Mail says. Lifting the ban on using more than two dogs to "flush out" foxes from their lairs would not herald a return to traditional fox hunting, the paper says. And that will reassure many Conservative MPs who feel that "there is not enough public support for overturning the full ban". ·