Six years on, public even more opposed to hunting

Most people don’t much like hunting, so the more they complain about their lost rights, the more opposition to their cause hardens.

Our guest writer is Liam Raftery, campaigner at the League Against Cruel Sports

Today’s revelations in The Independent that the hunting community is being cajoled into supporting pro-hunting PPCs in marginal constituencies on the promise that a Conservative Government has promised a free vote on repeal of the Hunting Act, proves just one thing: the hunters’ own naivety.

The hunters set up “Vote OK”, a pretty innocuous sounding front for election campaigning by bloodsports enthusiasts, after the Hunting Act was passed in 2004, motivated they claim by Alun Michael MP who said that “…if people wish to continue their opposition to legislation, they have the option of the ballot box through which to express their views”. By supporting PPCs who promise to vote for repeal of the Act, Vote OK claim on their own website to have had impact in recent by-elections and are organising hard for the forthcoming general election.

The problem for the hunters is that public opinion is so far removed from their motivations, a fact highlighted by the Independent. Monthly polling by YouGov on behalf of the League Against Cruel Sports shows that support for repeal of the Hunting Act averages just 24%, with a further poll by ORB commissioned by the Countryside Alliance showing that just 19% support repeal. As the Independent said this morning:

“Most people don’t much like hunting, so the more they complain about their lost rights, the more opposition to their cause hardens.

Vote OK claim to be promoting democracy but at the same time their website states their clear aim to “take country sports off the political agenda” which, by stifling debate and discussion, is fundamentally undemocratic. They claim to be politically independent and yet they are only working to oust anti-hunting Labour MPs in favour of pro-hunting Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. One of their key campaigners is an agent for a Conservative MP in Wiltshire. This is not political independence.

Their campaign also fails to acknowledge that there is support for the hunting ban right across the political spectrum. A grassroots campaign, Conservatives Against Fox Hunting, launched in January and data collected for our Keep Cruelty History campaign shows that a good number of Conservative PPCs would not support repeal. Amongst Liberal Democrats, support remains high and in some constituencies, such as Torbay, an anti-hunting Liberal Democrat is facing a challenge from an anti-hunting Conservative. Vote OK do not like to be beside that seaside.

Visitors to the Keep Cruelty History website can find out how PPCs in their constituency say they would vote on repeal of the Hunting Act, and many thousands of visitors are doing so. Savvy anti-hunting PPCs around the country are using hunting to raise other animal welfare issues, whilst pro-hunting PPCs are – predictably – tending to keep quiet.

Hunting might not be a key issue alongside health, education and law and order, but it does have a resonance with the public who firmly want to see hunting remain a thing of the past. The Independent leader this morning got it bang on in their “election advice to hunters: let sleeping dogs lie”.

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