More Tory MPs ‘refuse to run with the pack’

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Today’s meets include the Bedale Hunt whose joint master Matt Ramsden said although the ban had been put in place to protect foxes, they had been dealt with in “less humane” ways since, including gassing, snaring and shooting with a high-powered rifle while using a lamp. “Whereas a fox 20 years ago would lived five years, it is lucky if it lives two years now,” he said. “(Gamekeepers and farmers) feel they have to carry it out themselves and it is done in a pretty wholesale fashion.”

Both opponents and supporters suggest it is highly unlikely.

Last summer David Cameron was forced to postpone a vote on relaxing the ban when the SNP opposed the move. The controversial vote would have bought the law in line with Scotland where an unlimited numbers of dogs can be used to “flush out” a fox, compared with just two in England and Wales.

But the SNP’s 56 MPs decided to break with normal practice of not voting on England-only matters and joined Labour in opposition. Tom Quinn, from the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Because the SNP stood in the way, it didn’t come down to the final vote. But we believe David Cameron knew then how strong opposition to hunting is in his own party and made a tactical decision to back down rather than face embarrassment.”

They claim as many as 70 Tories would vote against a repeal, including 50 who have made public their intentions.

Among the five in the region who the League claims would vote against is Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew. Mr Andrew said it would be “problematic” for the Government because of the numbers of new MPs since 2010. He said: “The research suggests that the public are against it and that’s matched by the MPs. I know having spoken to a number of colleagues it is something they feel uncomfortable about or passionately it is their firmly held view they don’t want to see a repeal.”

Brigg and Goole MP Andrew Percy, who said he would abstain or vote against, said hunts had proved they could operate within the law: “The risk is actually if they try to reopen legislation when the Conservatives are in power once there is a change of Government it will definitely be repealed and it will end up with a legislative framework that is even harder than the one they have now.”

Sir Roger Gale, MP for North Thanet, President of Conservative Animla Welfare, who was once one of only a handful of Tories to speak out against foxhunting, said support for the ban among Tory MPs was at an all-time high. He said: “Any attempt to repeal the Act at this stage is doomed to failure.”

A survey by the Countryside Alliance this week suggested strong support for hunts, with four in five hunts either retaining or gaining new supporters since the ban came into force. But chief executive Tim Bonner said they had to be realistic as the SNP could “probably block any attempt” at repeal. But he insisted the public was divided 50/50 on the issue and it was a fundamental issue of rural freedom: “We understand hunting is a minority activity even within a rural minority and Britain is a very urban society and increasingly urban but what we are not is a society that believes people should be discriminated against because the majority doesn’t like them.

“Many people in Yorkshire are involved in game shooting, livestock farming, horse racing, they all know an attack on hunting is one item on an animal rights agenda.(Supporters of foxhunting) are fighting a battle for everyone who works and lives in the country.”

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