MP in plea to relax the ban on foxhunting to 'send clear message'
A Westcountry Tory MP has made a plea to relax the ban on foxhunting to "send a very clear message" the Conservatives care about the countryside.
Sheryll Murray, Conservative MP for South East Cornwall, has backed calls from farmers to scrap a law prohibiting them from using more than two dogs to flush out foxes.
Mrs Murray, who serves on the rural affairs select committee, said the move would be "vital for farmers in my own constituency and across Cornwall, where there is a long tradition of using gun packs to control the fox population".
If sanctioned, it could mark a first step towards the return of foxhunting with a full pack of hounds – though the coalition Government's pledge to stage a free vote on a repealing the Act in full has shown little sign of materialising. A recent survey showed rural voters leaving the Tories for the UK Independence Party.
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Farmers say attacks by foxes on lambs have increased, and argue that limited pest control measures permitted under the 2004 Hunting Act are not working.
The clamour follows a study commissioned by the Federation of Welsh Farmers' Packs which demonstrated for the first time that deploying a full pack of hounds to flush foxes from cover can be almost twice as effective as using a pair of dogs.
Mrs Murray argued, writing for the Conservative Home website, that an amendment would "send a very clear message to the rural community that we are doing what we can to help" – even against fears the move would be a "vote loser".
She said: "I hope the Government and my colleagues will give the proposal their full support and start to repay the patient and long-standing support we have all had from the rural community."