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Majority favour ‘hunting with dogs’ compromise

A NEW poll released last week shows that the majority of the British public would like to see a compromise over hunting with dogs, despite the determination of most Labour MPs to push through an outright ban on the sport.

A survey by NOP found that 59 per cent either opposed a ban on civil liberty grounds or agreed that hunting should continue - in a regulated form - to "strike a balance between civil liberties and animal welfare".

The poll findings were welcomed by pro-hunting groups who said abolitionist MPs would face the wrath of the public if they tried to force through a ban.

Simon Hart, of the Countryside Alliance's campaign for hunting, said: "For the first time we see support for a ban falling behind calls for a licensing solution for hunting. This poll makes a very clear statement to the Government. It must decide the issue of hunting on the basis of evidence and principle.

Back door

"If it enables a ban to go through by the back door, this will be opposed not only by country people, but by those in urban areas and, more particularly, Labour voters."

Interestingly, a further finding from the same poll showed that a majority of Labour voters - 56 per cent - said they believed hunting with dogs should be allowed to continue, as long as it is regulated, further suggesting that anti-hunt Labour MPs may be at odds with their supporters.

The poll, conducted for the Campaign for Hunting between Dec 13 and 15, found that 18 per cent of all voters oppose a ban, 41 per cent favour a compromise and 36 per cent want the sport abolished.

The League Against Cruel Sports dismissed dismissed the poll for suggesting a swing in favour of fox hunting, saying it had lodged a complaint against the NOP. It claimed the questions tended to produce a distorted picture of public opinion.

Cruel

Meanwhile, an anti-hunt campaigners’ poll released after Christmas, conducted by Mori, found that 80 per cent of the public believe hunting with dogs is cruel, and 61 per cent believe the pursuit "immoral". The detailed breakdown of the NOP poll shows the public’s preferences more clearly.The polls come as the new year hails the passage of the bill to the Lords where it is expected to get a rough ride and as Labour back benchers plan a revolt against some parts of the bill which they feel impinge on the liberty of the individual - particularly if legal precedents are set that could lead to the abolition of shooting, angling, horse racing or greyhound racing.

But these efforts will be equalled by those wishing to ban hunting in all forms by the introduction of proposed amendments to remove the utility and cruelty clauses already in the bill.

The traditional Boxing Day meets across the country were well supported and attracted bigger that normal crowds as well as the usual ‘antis’.

An estimated 2,000 hunt supporters turned out to see off the Beaufort Hunt at its meeting in Gloucestershire. Not a single protester was in evidence as the hunt, which numbers the Prince of Wales among its riders, gathered at Didmarton, Glos.

Ian Farquhar, the joint master, said he did not believe it would be the last Boxing Day hunt of its kind. He said: "I do not think it will be the last one. The Bill has got to go through a long parliamentary process. I think in the end commonsense will prevail and we will finish up with some form of sensible licensing."

Common sense

The Rev Christopher Mulholland, who rode out with the Beaufort, said: "I believe even at this late stage commonsense will prevail. The voices of so many people who support this will prevail, I'm sure, and commonsense will rule."

One of the larger protests was encountered by the Cheshire Forest Hunt as it set off from the village of Lach Dennis, near Northwich. Twenty protesters held banners and shouted abuse at riders and their supporters.

Stag hunting which will be the subject of an outright ban along with hare coursing was also well supported over the holiday period. Speaking to reporters in the national press last week Tom Yandle, chairman of the Master of Deerhounds Association, said that the outright ban on stag hunting in the country’s remaining three hunts in the west country.

Whether the Kennel Club will remove its bronze staghound from the foyer of its Clarges Street premises if a ban is imposed remains unclear.