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Cruelty ban bill to test anti-hunt MPs

OPPONENTS OF a ban on hunting have published proposals to ban all cruelty to wild mammals in an attempt to ‘flush out’ Labour MPs who want to abolish the sport but are not prepared to outlaw other ways of controlling foxes.

Lord Donoughue, the former Labour minister, and Lembit Opik, the Liberal Democrat MP, will introduce a private Bill to test the motives of anti-hunt MPs when Parliament returns LATER in January.

The legislation, which is unlikely to make it to the statute book, will form part of a New Year offensive by those who want hunting to continue under regulation.

Important

The MPs’ Boxing Day announcement, timed to coincide with one of the most important days in the hunting calendar when all the English and Welsh hunts traditionally meet, sought to draw attention to what they argue is an inconsistency in the arguments put forward by MPs who have voted repeatedly to abolish hunting with hounds.

The cross-party Middle Way Group, set up to co-ordinate pro-hunting MPs’ efforts to block a ban, has been encouraged by signs that the Government seems reluctant to deliver an outright ban in the current session of Parliament.

Field sport campaigners claim Labour MPs pressing for a total hunting ban are acting out of class hatred rather than concern for animals.

Mr Opik, who represents a rural Welsh seat, said: "There are those who claim hunting with dogs causes excessive suffering, compared to other control methods. My Bill means they can test their belief in a court of law.

"It's good the public care about animal suffering. So do I. Obviously there's no point banning one method of control, while leaving other methods legal that can cause as much, or more, suffering. This Bill addresses that problem precisely."

His Bill is the same as the one introduced some time ago by Lord Donoughue in the upper house, which was passed by the Lords but did not progress further due to lack of Government support.