York MP claims public don't want to see return to 'barbaric' Boxing Day hunts

A reader disagrees with a previous correspondent about fox hunting. See letter
A reader disagrees with a previous correspondent about fox hunting. See letter
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Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to gather to support Boxing Day hunts - but the MP for York Central says supporters of the activity are in the minority.

Those who promote fox hunting, who expect more than 250,000 people to turn out for Boxing Day events, are calling for the scrapping of the Hunting Act, which forbids the hunting of animals such as foxes with dogs.

But the League Against Cruel Sports said polling showed the opposition to fox hunting remained high, with 84 per cent of the 1,986 people quizzed in an Ipsos MORI survey saying it should not be made legal again.

Former Labour shadow environment secretary Rachael Maskell, the Labour MP for York Central, is concerned that the Conservative Government will bring the subject back to Parliament.

She said: "As some hunts meet on Boxing Day, it is absolutely clear that the British public do not want to see a return to hunting with hounds.

"Each year the polls show that more and more people are against this cruel and barbaric activity.

"The Tories must not try and sneak hunting back on to the parliamentary agenda when it is so clear that people up and down this country don't support it."

'Rural opposition increasing'

The League Against Cruel Sports claims polling over time has showed that opposition to repealing the ban had risen steadily, and had also increased to 82 per cent in rural areas, up from 69 per cent four years ago.

League Against Cruel Sports chief executive Eduardo Goncalves said: "The Boxing Day hunts are portrayed as a glorious pageant taking place in front of a huge number of people who support them, but the truth is very different.

"The fact is 84 per cent of the public do not want fox hunting made legal.

"Just because families might venture out on Boxing Day to see the hunt, stroke the dogs or watch the horses, doesn't mean they support repealing a law to enable the hunt to chase and kill wild animals with their dogs for sport."

No arrests in more than 300 hunts

Drag hunting, where hounds are trained to follow an artificial trail, is legal, but anti-hunt campaigners claim illegal hunting of foxes continues.

The Countryside Alliance said nobody connected to one of the more than 300 hunts in England and Wales registered with Council of Hunting Associations had been convicted of hunting offences in the past two years.

Since the Act was brought in in 2005, 94 per cent of the 423 people successful prosecuted under the Act were for casual hunting or poaching and had nothing to do with registered hunts, the organisation said.

The Countryside Alliance also said the rate of successful prosecutions associated with registered hunts was falling and raised concerns about the cost to the taxpayer of pursuing cases.

Chief executive Tim Bonner said: "Our figures demonstrate unequivocally that the Hunting Act lies in tatters.

"The problem with the Act is that over the past two years all those prosecuted under the Act have had nothing to do with 'hunts'.

"The law that was supposed to have got rid of hunts is now being used as little more than a vehicle to harass them," he added.