As a vegetarian of over 20 years, a longstanding animal welfare campaigner, I have been consistently horrified by the continued practice of fox hunting,
In fact, the first political act I ever took as a ten-year old child was to write to the then Prime Minister Tony Blair to ask him to ban fox hunting.
I believe this cruel blood sport has no place in our country and should be consigned to the history books. I am fully committed to enhancing and strengthening the Hunting Act, closing loopholes that allow for the illegal hunting of foxes, deer and hares.
We need to see tough action against those who continue to conduct illegal fox hunts. I therefore support a review of penalties under the Hunting Act 2004 to ensure it is an effective deterrent, including a consultation on the introduction of custodial sentences, bringing it in line with the penalties for other wildlife crimes.
I am also aware that a director of the Master of Foxhounds Association has recently been found guilty of encouraging and assisting others to evade the ban on fox hunting.
Disappointingly the UK Government believes that the Hunting Act is sufficient and that it is for individual landowners to choose whether they would like hunts to take place on their land.
This simply isn’t good enough and highlights the Government’s clear reluctance to do away with fox hunting permanently.
However I have been encouraged by many landowners including Forestry England and Natural Resources Wales who have suspended trail hunting on their land. Likewise I know that National Trust members voted to ban trail hunting recently, and that the Trust had suspended its issuing of licences to partake in such hunts in 2020.
There is an opportunity within the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill to look at strengthening the fox hunting ban, and will look to table amendments on this subject at the next stage of the Bill’s parliamentary scrutiny.
I can assure you that I fully support the bans on fox hunting, deer hunting and hare coursing and will continue to press at every possible opportunity for the existing legislation to be strengthened.