Hunting in Hampshire: A Letter to my MP

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Readers of my blog will know that I am wholeheartedly in support of the Hunting Act of 2004, and last year celebrated ten years since the hunting of foxes, deer and hares was made illegal. As a member of the League Against Cruel Sports, I received an email after the rather grim result of the General Election in May, encouraging me to write to my MP and ask them to keep the ban in place. My MP for East Hampshire is Conservative Damian Hinds. As it’s easy to judge someone before hearing what they have to say, I wanted to keep an open mind. After all, the Blue Fox is a fantastic organisation run by ‘Conservatives Against Fox Hunting’, and I hoped Damian might be an aspiring member of this group. I was, of course, wrong.


Dear Mr Hinds,
Congratulations on your election as a Member of Parliament.
The Hunting Act recently passed its tenth anniversary, and has never been more popular, with 8 out of 10 people saying that they support the ban on fox hunting, and even more supporting the ban on stag hunting and hare coursing.  All three are currently outlawed under the Hunting Act.
I support the Hunting Act because chasing and killing wild mammals with dogs is cruel and has nothing to do with wildlife management. There is no credible evidence that fox numbers have increased since the ban or that more foxes are being killed by other means. Moreover, hares are a declining species in Britain and classified as a conservation priority. With over 400 convictions to date, the Hunting Act is the most successful piece of wild animal welfare legislation in this country’s history.
However, the ban is now facing a serious threat of repeal.
A modern, one nation Conservative party should not be supporting a repeal of the Hunting Act, which has majority support across all parties and social grades, and is as strongly supported in rural areas as it is in urban. Recent Ipsos-Mori polling shows that 66 per cent of Conservative voters want fox hunting to remain illegal, 83 per cent want deer hunting to remain illegal, and 87 per cent want hare coursing to remain illegal. This is not, as some have suggested, an issue of class; it is an issue of compassion.
While some may argue it helps preserve green land and maintain our beautiful countryside, this can just as easily be achieved with drag hunting and wildlife tourism, which is something I believe we should be supporting instead.
Thank you in advance for your reply. I have only recently moved back to Hampshire from Bristol and then London. I moved home because I missed the beautiful atmosphere of our town and the surrounding National Park. If our countryside were to be tainted by the cruel hobbies of a select few, despite the majority of people not supporting it, what kind of place will Hampshire and the rest of Britain become? These activities belong in the past, and are not part of a progressive Britain.
Kind regards,
Tiffany Francis


Dear Miss Francis,
Thank you for contacting me about the Hunting Act 2004.
I know that many people have strongly held views about hunting, for understandable reasons. I have corresponded on this issue many times over the last five years. My opinion has not changed substantially.
I share your concern for ensuring the welfare of animals, but in my judgement, the Act does not protect wild animals. In many cases it is actually detrimental to animal welfare. This is particularly evident when other methods of control are deployed, several of which can be indiscriminate. The law as it stands simply bans one method of killing foxes, whilst leaving people free to kill them in various other ways, including shooting, trapping, snaring and gassing. This seems illogical and counterproductive.
The Act itself is also worryingly badly drafted, despite the debate on it occupying hundreds of hours of parliamentary time. This sadly leads to misinterpretations of the Act and confusions in its application.
Many people have no wish themselves to hunt (myself included), and yet are increasingly aware that the ban is not a workable means of promoting animal welfare.
Those that hunt are in a minority. But in the tradition of our liberal democracy, being in a minority doesn’t mean you are ‘wrong’. Our tradition is to treat minorities with tolerance and understanding.
The Prime Minister has said that a majority Conservative Government, which we now have, will give Parliament the opportunity to consider the Hunting Act on a free vote, in government time. For the reasons outlined above, it is very likely I would vote in favour of repeal of the law in its current form.  I realise that many people will not approve of this stance, and that it may make me unpopular with some.
I am sorry that this is not the response you were seeking, but I wanted to set out my position clearly. I respect that many people have passionate and differing views about hunting, which is why the issue has been voted as a ‘conscience’ issue for many years.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Yours sincerely,
Damian Hinds


Dear Damian,
As far as I can see, your reasons for wanting to lift the ban are as follows:

Foxes can still be killed in a number of other ways. While I agree that some other forms are also inhumane, how does this mean that chasing a fox across the countryside for hours at a time, and then ripping it apart with dogs when it is too exhausted to continue, is a viable form of pest control? It is unfortunately a dated tradition that belongs in the past. I agree that other forms of pest control are equally inhumane, so why not address these with changes to the law?
The Act is badly drafted. Why not change this? Lifting the ban is not a viable solution to correcting a badly drafted bill. Use your powers in parliament to address how badly it is drafted, and change it for the better.
Those that hunt are in the minority and deserve a fair voice. Do you not think we all have a say on how our wildlife and countryside is managed? I have lived in rural Hampshire all my life, and I am completely against foxhunting. Yet I spend many hours each week walking, cycling and horse riding through the countryside. Why should our wildlife be left in the hands of those who want to hunt it? It makes no difference how many people actually hunt. We should all have a say on how our countryside is managed, and 80% of UK citizens do not want the ban to be lifted.

I don’t understand why drag hunting is not enough for these minorities? I have full empathy for people not wanting tradition to be forgotten. But these people have to adapt to a modern, progressive society. There is no place in British society for a cruel and bloodthirsty sport like this. Drag hunting is a perfect compromise; they can still enjoy the thrill of the hunt, and the hounds and horses can still pursue a trail. Why is this not enough?
Will you ignore the voice of the British public? When so many people are against foxhunting, how can you justify voting to have the ban lifted? Do you think the British public are idiotic and ignorant, and don’t know what they’re talking about? I don’t believe this. I think we are moving forward into a fairer society, where we treat animals with respect and carry out pest control properly. I have no problem with pest control where it is desperately needed, to ensure our farmers can continue to work and produce food for us.
I don’t believe you have animal welfare in mind when you say you want the ban lifted. While it is important to protect our countryside, we need to do this by protecting our green belts from overdevelopment, reducing the number of pesticides used, and subsidising wildlife protection programmes. I find it amusing that you claim wildlife protection as your reason for supporting foxhunting.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Tiffany

Dear Miss Francis,
Thank you for your further message, and I have taken all that you say on board.  These are very important matters and I know that views are very deeply and sincerely held, on all sides.
Thank you again for getting in touch.
Best wishes,
Damian


Rather disappointed. I believe our MPs should be there to engage in debate and discussion with their constituents, and I genuinely wanted to understand how someone can be in favour of hunting. I considered my responses reasonable and well-informed, and I had hoped Damian might be interested in the opinions of local residents and at least pretend to consider the alternative. Instead, he simply closed the conversation down. Sadly, I don’t feel I can look to my MP for support with wildlife matters, and it is once again up to normal people to fight for the protection of our natural world.

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2 thoughts on “Hunting in Hampshire: A Letter to my MP

  1. Indeed, it is very disappointing to see his responses here. Unfortunately I believe there are many other MPs with similar held views. We must continue to fight our corner.

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