Hunting spat puts Labour Party at odds with countryside campaigners over ‘real’ rural issues

More than 250 Boxing Day meets are planned, the Countryside Alliance said.
More than 250 Boxing Day meets are planned, the Countryside Alliance said.
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Proposals to strengthen hunting laws have further alienated the Labour Party from rural communities, countryside lobbyists claimed.

More than 250 Boxing Day hunts meet today, including in Gargrave, Boroughbridge and Pocklington, and the Countryside Alliance said Labour’s focus on rural issues is at odds wit that of countryside voters.

A survey of 2,087 adults commissioned by the group found that 58 per cent of people - rising to 65 per cent of those who identified as rural voters - thought rural constituencies would be worse off under a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour’s environment policy, published this year, vows to strengthen the Hunting Act, end the badger cull and review the impact of driven grouse shooting.

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance said: “The Labour Party continues to focus on a narrow animal rights agenda, rather than issues that really matter to rural people.”

The survey findings must be “a wake-up call” to Labour to engage with issues that really matter to rural voters, he said.

Sue Hayman MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, responded, saying: “With more people using food banks, rural poverty on the rise, bank branches closing and serious problems affecting rural bus services, and maternity and A&E services, it is extraordinary that the Countryside Alliance chooses to focus almost exclusively on driven grouse shooting and fox hunting.”

She said 85 per cent of the public do not want to see the Hunting Act repealed and that Labour continues to be willing to work with the Countryside Alliance “on the real issues impacting rural communities”.