WMN opinion: Sensible relaxation of hunt ban would be good for all
So far as the animal rights lobby is concerned, this Government is beyond redemption. The badger cull over six weeks would have been bad enough. Its extension for a further three – because insufficient badgers were killed – has only inflamed the antis even more. It is no surprise, given the anger and outrage expressed in print and through social media online, that Defra Secretary Owen Paterson has received more death threats as mastermind of the cull than he ever did as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
So perhaps he won't mind too much that at the very height of the fury over the badger cull, proposals to relax the Hunting Act and allow full packs of hounds to flush out foxes, should have emerged. Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, he may well think. And, in this context, it is an appropriate saying since it is not the pro-hunt Tory Party who are pressing for the change in the law, but upland sheep farmers who suffered such hardship during last spring's snows and are finding that fox numbers are soaring and the permitted methods of dealing with them are simply not working.
A study has found that using a full pack of hounds to flush a fox is more effective than using the two hounds currently permitted under the Hunting Act. Any change in the law would still ban hounds from pursuing and killing the fox – that would have to be carried out by shooting. But it would make life a great deal easier for those hunts that provide a service to farmers plagued by foxes, some of whom have been losing up to 50 lambs to a single fox. It would also make it much more difficult for the anti-hunt groups who monitor trail hunting in the hope of catching law-breakers to secure a conviction.
The Western Morning News has always respected both sides of the hunting debate and encouraged those who support the ban and those who oppose it to express their views. But we have also made it abundantly clear that in our view this was bad law, built around too many compromises and that its repeal would be good for the countryside, good for rural communities and, ultimately, better for the welfare of the fox. The strong suspicion that the hunt ban was much more about Labour's 'revenge' on the countryside than animal welfare persists. If all parties – Labour included – were to back this change that belief might begin to fade.
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Valid until: Tuesday, December 24 2013