Let’s consign the Tories and their fox hunts to the dustbin of history, says CHRIS WILLIAMSON
HUNTING with dogs was banned by the last Labour government in 2004, but Theresa May now wants to bring it back.
There is a certain irony about the Tories saying Labour wants to take the country back to the 1970s, when the Conservative Party wants to re-establish the 19th century in modern Britain.
No wonder increasing numbers of the public are coming to the realisation that Theresa May’s epiphany is an accurate description of today’s Tory Party.
In October 2002 she told the Conservative conference: “Some people call us the nasty party.” In addition to that justified sobriquet, May’s party is now increasingly referred to as the “cruel Tories” as well.
What kind of sick mind is it that thinks it’s OK to inflict pain and suffering on wild animals for entertainment?
Scientific evidence shows that the animals targeted in hunting suffer physical and mental stress when chased by a hunt — whether or not they are eventually killed.
The Burns Report, commissioned by the Blair government ahead of the Hunting Act, considered the question of whether hunting with dogs was cruel.
Of course it didn’t need an expensive enquiry to state the bleedin’ obvious, but nevertheless Burns concluded that fox hunting “seriously compromises the welfare of the fox.” That is one of the reasons hunting with dogs for sport was banned.
Foxes naturally escape predators by going underground, but hunts employ staff to block up these escape routes the morning before a hunt meet, forcing an unnaturally long chase.
If a fox does succeed in escaping underground, hunt followers send terriers down the hole to trap the fox while they dig it out and then shoot it or throw it the hounds.
Again, the Burns Report reached the axiomatic conclusion that the inability to escape dogs underground causes the fox “extreme fear” and is a “serious compromise of its welfare.”
Autopsies reveal hunted foxes are not killed quickly, but endure numerous bites and tears to their flanks and hindquarters — causing enormous suffering before death.
Foxes forced to face terriers underground can suffer injuries to the face, head and neck, as can the terriers too.
Added to the nastiness and cruelty of the Tories is their breathtaking arrogance.
The vast majority of the British public are opposed to hunting and want it to remain illegal, including more than seven out of 10 Conservative voters.
More than eight out of 10 in the public at large are opposed to hunting, including those living in rural areas.
This shows that people who truly understand and experience what hunts do want to see it remain illegal as well as those pejoratively referred to as “townies” by the blood sports brigade.
Yet these arrogant Tories want to plough ahead and bring back this abominable activity.
There is no real justification for killing a fox by any means, let alone by using pack dogs to chase it to the point of exhaustion then tear it apart.
The effect of foxes on livestock is exaggerated, and can be reduced with good farming practices.
The threat of the “fox in the chicken coop” can be remedied with a secure electric fence.
As for lambs, studies have shown that poor farming practices, disease and bad weather are far more likely to kill lambs than foxes.
A 2000 study in Scotland found that only 1 per cent of lamb losses could be directly attributed to foxes.
Another study in 2003 found that because rural foxes feed on rabbits, the estimated saving to British crop farmers was around £7m per year.
In spite of the justification for this diabolical activity being nonexistent, May’s Tory Party still wants to bring it back.
By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to maintain the ban.
Speaking at an election rally last week he said: “I grew up in rural Shropshire and the first speech I ever made in my school was of the need to ban fox hunting, hare coursing, badger baiting and, even in those days, otter hunting.
“But I was in Parliament when we finally got the law changed and got the hunting ban through. I was there when we got the badger baiting ban through as well.
“You can be very clear that any government I am head of would not tolerate this kind of barbarity which is called sport in this country.”
For anyone concerned about animal cruelty the choice tomorrow could not be starker.
So let’s consign these cruel Tories to the same dustbin of history where hunting with dogs was deposited in 2004.
Chris Williamson is the Labour Party candidate for Derby North.