Hunting Act 2004

I’ve received the following standard petition, with the subject heading “A question from a local constituent: Will you #keeptheban on fox hunting?”

Dear Dr Platt,

I am concerned that Theresa May has promised a vote to repeal the fox hunting ban if the Conservatives win the general election. Please can you tell me:

If there is a vote to repeal the ban, how would you vote?

What is your party’s policy on fox hunting?

I am emailing you via this Care2 petition http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/798/498/031/

Sincerely,

(I actually received eight emails from this petition, all within ten minutes. That was an interesting example of the power of social media. A couple of senders added personal notes. I’ll respond to all eight, soon – it’ll be tomorrow morning, now – with personalised responses as appropriate.)

My standard response is as follows:

I believe that mankind has a responsibility to be good stewards of creation, and to promote animal welfare. It’s partly for that reason, and partly on grounds of liberty and tolerance, that I cannot support your campaign.

I haven’t closely followed discussion of the likelihood of repeal of the Hunting Act, although I am aware that there has been some speculation. I think that’s unlikely to be a government priority in view of the important constitutional matters that are bound to preoccupy parliament for at least the next two years and possibly longer. In a way I think that’s a shame; as Preston’s MP I would certainly vote for its repeal and for the legalisation of hunting once again. I’ve never hunted myself, and there are no hunts very close to Preston although I think there is or was one in Bowland and another based near Chorley. My own sport has always been fishing; and I’m looking forward to spending time on the bank again soon, once the election campaign is over and the coarse-fishing season begins.

And people shouldn’t be concerned about the prospect of a vote in parliament. That would be an example of our democratic system in operation. MPs would be able to review the operation of the Hunting Act, a little over a decade since it came into force. They would also be able to take representation from constituents and other interested parties and come to a consensus view. Surely that is not a bad thing? (As I say, I am sure that government time would not be made available for repeal of the hunting Act, but it is always possible for a suitable Private Members’ Bill to be introduced.)

I’m not aware of any UKIP policy on hunting. It’s certainly not a UKIP priority. If there were such a policy, however, it wouldn’t change my view: I would vote to repeal the Hunting Act. And this is something we can do in UKIP. Elected representatives and candidates from UKIP are encouraged to have their own minds; our councillors are not whipped, and we candidates were briefed recently “if there’s something in UKIP policy that you don’t agree with, don’t hide the fact”. I have few reservations about UKIP policy – our manifesto is superb – but I have no hesitation in speaking my own mind when I do. That’s the UKIP way; one of the things that sets us apart from the old parties.

I opposed the ban on hunting in 2004 – I was a member of the Countryside Alliance – and I oppose it now. I think that fox hunting is a humane way of pest control; the best for the welfare of the fox population as a whole and of individual foxes, too. (The concern is usually about fox hunting, although the Hunting Act has wider scope than that.)  Although I have never hunted myself, and although I am seeking to represent an urban constituency where nobody hunts, I have absolutely no objection to those who take pleasure in doing so. I want to live in a society that is tolerant enough to take the same view as me.

I think the ban on hunting should be repealed.

People are welcome to contact me in this way; I’ll do my best to respond, whether or not I agree with the petitioners, and post my responses here, for all to see.

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