SUPPORT FOR an outright ban on hunting does not have the support of the majority of the British public as claimed by anti-hunting MPs and campaigners, according to a new poll published last week, writes Nick Mays.
The Poll says that for every voter who wants foxhunting banned there is another who believes that the Government should either find a compromise solution or drop the anti-hunting legislation altogether.
Just under half of those polled - 48 per cent - said the Government should ban hunting with dogs, while 23 per cent called on it to find a compromise, and 25 per cent thought the legislation should be dropped altogether.
The Countryside Alliance, which commissioned the poll, will argue that the results undercut the main argument put forward by those who favour a ban, that public opinion is heavily on their side. They say that support for a ban, which was put at in one opinion poll conducted in 1997, has now reached a 10-year low.
Some within the Alliance suspect that ministers have already made up their minds to ban hunting, but are trying to give the impression that they are open to negotiation.
But Alun Michael, the minister for rural affairs, insisted that the Government was still open to arguments over whether hunting with dogs was more or less cruel than other means of pest control. He implied, however, that the Government had rejected arguments that to ban hunting would be an attack on basic freedom or on the British way of life.
All 100,000 members of the alliance have been sent a letter from the chief executive, Richard Burge, saying that the Governments pronouncements last month have provoked a level of anger which must be brought to the Governments attention.
Mr Burge said that ministers at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and prejudiced MPs would be subject to consistent law-abiding protests at official engagements, as part of a sustained campaign.
The NOP poll of 1,000 adults was taken on March 22-24, the weekend after the Commons had voted overwhelmingly in favour of banning hunting with dogs, and the Lords had voted to retain hunting under license.
Another NOP poll commissioned by the Alliance last month showed public opinion almost equally divided between those who favour a ban and those who would allow hunting to continue either in its present form or under license.