Minister backs hunting and says Act banning it does not work

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Agriculture Minister Jim Paice declared the Hunting Act “simply doesn’t work” as hundreds prepared for the traditional post-Christmas meets.

Mr Paice said he is in favour of hunting with dogs while visiting Milton Park in Peterborough ahead of the Boxing Day hunt.

Hunt supporters have described the Act as “failed”, and under the terms of the coalition agreement there will be a vote on whether to repeal it.

The Countryside Alliance estimates that more than 250,000 people are expected to turn out today to 300 hunts across the UK.

“The current law simply doesn’t work,” said Mr Paice.

“I personally am in favour of hunting with dogs and the coalition agreement clearly states that we will have a free vote on whether to repeal the Act when there is time in the parliamentary calendar to do so.”

Countryside Alliance chief executive Alice Barnard said: “It is a point of pride for rural communities across Britain that, despite the prejudice and ignorance of some, hunting remains as strong as ever.

“This Boxing Day we are expecting a quarter of a million people to come out in support of their local hunt. Added to this, the visit of the hunting Minister to a hunt kennels is a very welcome and strong show of support from this Government.

“The Countryside Alliance is delighted to be in such a strong position to push for the repeal of the expensive and failed Hunting Act.”

League Against Cruel Sports chief executive Joe Duckworth said: “It is utterly appalling that people can think the act of chasing a wild animal with hounds to the point of exhaustion and then taking pleasure in watching it being killed is acceptable.

“This cruel blood sport has thankfully been made illegal in this country and there is absolutely no desire among the general public to bring it back.”

The coalition Government has promised to allow MPs a free vote on whether to bring forward legislation to repeal the Hunting Act, which made it illegal to hunt wild animals using dogs.

A vote to repeal the Hunting Act should not be a top animal welfare priority for the coalition Government, according to a poll.

The Government should instead work to tackle irresponsible owners of dangerous dogs, a study for the League Against Cruel Sports found.

Of 2,126 adults questioned, 48 per cent said that a vote to repeal the Act was the least important animal welfare priority. A third of people thought that tackling dangerous dog owners should be the top priority; more than two-thirds of adults believed the Hunting Act should remain in place.