Boxing Day marked the fifth anniversary of the ban on Fox Hunting coming into force. Britain is a more humane nation because of this ban. Legalised fox hunting is a barbaric practice that spoke volumes not only of the regard we have as a nation towards animal welfare but also for the power of a few to dictate welfare standards in the name of ‘sport’.
Do you recall the dire warnings of those engaged in fox hunting? They claimed the rural economy would collapse in on itself. They claimed foxes would run riot over our farms. They claimed the practice of riding would be lost forever. But has it? The ban does not stop the practice of people riding across the countryside in packs – it allows for artificial fox trails to be followed – but what it did outlaw, and rightly so in my opinion, was the practice of ripping a fox apart with a pack of dogs having chased it across the countryside.
The ban on fox hunting is now under threat. Like many seminal Labour policies passed in the last 10 years an incoming Conservative government plans to dismantle them one by one taking Britain backwards. I do not think fox hunting is an issue anymore. In over two years as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate not one person has ever raised fox hunting as an issue with me on the doorstep. That speaks volumes for how much we have moved on as a nation that this practice is no longer regarded as something we want to be associated with or campaign on.
Even in a rural area like South West Devon there is no appetite for repealing the ban. Fox Hunting should be a historic practice that we look back on recalling the barbarity and cruelty of those who came before us – it should not be a manifesto commitment of a modern political party to return this cruelty to our countryside. The truth of the matter is that despite this being a non-issue for the vast majority of people in the country, the Conservatives want to bring it back and will vote to do so if elected at the coming General Election. Fox hunting is opposed by 75 per cent of people according to a recent survey. But the Tories want to bring it back.
I oppose the repeal of the fox hunting ban on two reasons. I do not believe that this cruel blood sport has any place in modern Britain and should remain outlawed. But perhaps more importantly for me, I do not believe that Parliament should be spending any legislative time repealing this ban when there are so many other pressing issues that the nation faces.
How will repealing the fox hunting ban help improve our schools or hospitals? How will it tackle inequality and poverty? How will it improve confidence in our political system? How will it do anything other than help appease a small hardcore of Tory voters who want David Cameron to be a little less centrist and a little more traditional Tory? The answer to each question is apparent.
I am proud to come from Devon, proud of our rural traditions too but I do not support the repeal of the fox hunting ban. Fox hunting is another reminder, if one was needed, that the modern Conservative party has not forged a new manifesto for modern Britain – it is addressing problems of an elite from many years ago. I resent having to campaign to support a ban that is so patently fair and sensible. Like no other time for the past twenty years politics at this time should be about helping people out of poverty, addressing inequality and spreading opportunity to all. Expending effort and energy fighting rehearsing bankrupt arguments in favour of fox hunting from years ago makes me feel sad – I thought British politics had moved on.
I sometimes allow myself the luxury of believing that the Tories have changed. Their efforts to bring back fox hunting reminds me that they haven’t changed. Britain has though. Let’s not allow them to bring back this cruel practice – back the ban.
• Luke Pollard is Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South West Devon. Visit his website