Commons votes to ban hunting with dogs

Labour backbenchers last night humbled the government over an attempt to install a last-minute compromise amendment in the Hunting Bill, when MPs backed a total ban by 362 votes to 154.

Today, Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael said that it was now conceivable that a total ban on hunting with dogs could be enforced by 2005. As it stands, the Hunting Bill returns to committee to review the amendments following last nights session. It is expected to go before the Lords in the autumn.

The defeated amendment last night saw a proposals tabled which would allow limited and licensed hunts to take place.

The Countryside Alliance says that the Hunting Bill was already a "discredited charade", but there may still be a chance that the bill can be held up or dismantled as it passes through the House of Lords. It is not yet clear whether the government would be willing to invoke the Parliament Act in order to push the legislation through.

The Alliance also has condemned Alun Michael for "bowing to pressure" from animal rights groups and his own backbenchers.

Speaking yesterday, Simon Hart, Director of the Campaign for Hunting, said: "The result of tonight's vote is in many ways irrelevant. Alun Michael's Bill is not, as he pretends, a principled compromise but is already a dishonest ban in all but name. Discriminatory legislation based on prejudice rather than evidence will not be workable and the issue will continue to haunt the government."

Unsurprisingly, animal rights groups have warmly welcomed the vote.

The League Against Cruel sports Chief Executive Douglas Batchelor said that it had been a "long and arduous path".

He added: "We haven't got to the statute book yet, but last night was a huge step forward for wild animal welfare. The result has sounded the death knell for hunting.

"To those many MPs who helped us to where we are now, a hearty thank you. To the government, as long as it does what it has promised last night, a welcome and a warning. We are watching and will continue to campaign until hunting is finally banned."

John Rolls, RSPCA director of animal welfare promotion, said: "The cruelty of hunting with dogs in modern society is unacceptable and the vote means that the House of Commons has signalled a total end to this barbaric activity and we welcome this wholeheartedly."

Commenting on the debate, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, David Lidington, said: “Most people whatever their views on hunting will be amazed that the government see this issue as a priority.

“This is an absurd sense of priorities to put hunting ahead of health and shows the government’s priorities are not those of the British people.”


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