Listeners to BBC Radio 4's Today programme have voted overwhelmingly for the repeal of the 2004 Hunting Act which banned hunting with dogs. The results were revealed on January 1st after a two-week campaign in which leading MPs and public figures spoke on their ‘pet’ subjects of those laws ripe for repeal.
Some 52.8 per cent of votes cast in the online poll were for the repeal of the Hunting Act, well ahead of the next most popular candidate for repeal, the European Communities Act of 1972, which took Britain into the Common Market, with 29 per cent. The Dangerous Dogs Act polled the least votes of the five top Acts that listeners would wish to see repealed, despite a concerted effort by anti-BSL campaigners to garner support via the Internet.
There was some controversy over the result when it was revealed that the panel — which selected five Acts to be included in Today's end-of-year poll — considered excluding the hunting ban because of evidence of a concerted campaign to skew the result.
Ed Stourton, the programme's presenter, said there were ‘suspicions that there was an organised campaign at work’ and the Countryside Alliance confirmed that it had reminded supporters to vote on its website.
Ann Widdecombe, the Conservative MP, an opponent of hunting and member of the panel that assessed nominations for the poll, told Today: ‘Undeniably, the Countryside Alliance pulled out every last stop to get this result. We did hesitate on the panel to put this one forward because there was already evidence of links from the Countryside Alliance. And of course we had the Boxing Day meets, when just about everybody who actively supports hunting would have been out and could have been reminded.’
Baroness Mallalieu, the Countryside Alliance's president, told the programme: ‘What we did was to notify people on the website that this vote was taking place and suggest that they vote. The truth of the matter is that, of all the Acts on the list, this is the one that no case can possibly be made for retaining, because it has been a total failure all round. Whatever your views on hunting, this Act is a fiasco and it is not surprising that it received a mass vote.