In Brief

Theresa May pledges free vote on foxhunting

Prime Minister tells supporters she has always been in favour of hunting and wants parliament to have a fresh say

wd-fox_hunting.jpg

Theresa May has promised MPs a free vote on foxhunting if the Tories win the general election.

Speaking in Leeds, the Prime Minister said she had always been in favour of hunting and would campaign to deliver on a long-term party goal to make it legal again.

"We have had a commitment previously as a Conservative Party to allow a free vote and that's what it will allow," she said.

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, welcomed the news, saying the 2004 Hunting Act, which bans hunting foxes and other wild animals with dogs in England and Wales, "continues to cause real problems" and that hunts were "the subject of constant vindictive allegations by animal rights activists, and employees... often investigated and sometimes prosecuted".

He added: "Overturning the ban and allowing properly conducted hunting with dogs to restart would correct an historic injustice and get rid of one of the most illiberal laws passed in modern times."

May's commitment will be welcomed by grassroots supporters in the party's heartlands after fears she was poised to drop the measure from the Conservative manifesto. Nevertheless, it "will dismay some modernising Tories", says the Daily Telegraph, citing MPs who argue it was best confined to history along with other policies "like hanging".

Eduardo Goncalves, director of the League Against Cruel Sports, asked: "Are we really going to turn the clock back to a time when killing animals for fun was legal?"

Animal charity the RSPCA also said the ban had the support of 84 per cent of the public.

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