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18/1/02
McCartney urges PM to ban hunting

SIR Paul McCartney urged the Prime Minister to mark 2002 by launching a renewed attempt in Parliament to ban hunting with dogs in England and Wales. A number of celebrities also signed the letter to Mr Blair, including the television presenter Michaela Strachan, the actress Jenny Seagrove and the former model Twiggy.

In the letter, Sir Paul claims that most people want the sport to be banned because it inflicts pain and suffering. However, his assertion comes as a study by the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance suggests that a majority of Britons oppose an outright ban.

In the previous parliament the Commons voted several times by a large majority to outlaw hunting. A Bill that presented three options - a ban, hunting under statutory regulation, or the status quo - fell this year after running out of time when the general election was called. Mr Blair has so far showed no signs of wanting to reintroduce legislation.

Sir Paul's letter tells Mr Blair; "Your Government has promised to give the House of Commons an early opportunity to express its view, to have a free vote and to enable Parliament to reach a conclusion on the issue.

The time to do this has now come. "We want to live in a country where it is illegal to inflict pain and suffering by hunting wild animals with dogs - an activity that we along with most British people believe is cruel, unnecessary, unacceptable and outdated."

Polls

The Countryside Alliance study of this year's polls on hunting claims that public support for a hunting ban is "at its lowest for 10 years". In July, an NOP survey of 1,000 members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons found that 63per cent of rural vets oppose a ban on hunting on welfare grounds.

In addition, 79 per cent of rural vets consider that fox control is necessary, with only 15 per cent saying that it is not. An NOP poll of 1,000 members of the public last April found that 36 per cent wanted all hunting to be regulated by a new statutory authority. A further 22 per cent preferred hunting to continue under current rules.

Only 37 per cent backed making hunting a criminal offence. Simon Hart, director of the Alliance's Campaign for Hunting, said: "Opponents of hunting have consistently claimed that their mandate for a ban is based on overwhelming public opposition to hunting.

"These polls show that not only do the public not feel that a ban is needed or justified, but also that expert veterinary opinion considers it would be bad for animal welfare.

The results show that the public have been seen, through the deliberately misleading propaganda peddled by opponents of hunting, to take the view that providing it is properly regulated and accountable, then hunting should be allowed to continue."