By Gabe Trodd
Sickening details of the Conservatives’ plans to reintroduce hunting foxes, stags and other animals have been revealed over the weekend. Labour’s flagship 2004 Hunting Act had previously consigned the ‘sport’ to the history books, although newspapers are reporting that fresh Tory policies are being cultivated behind closed doors by William Hague, Edward Garnier and the Countryside Alliance, with the firm backing of a number of other senior Conservatives and private organisations. In policy terms, the finer details of the plans will include the creation of a quango, the Hunt Regulatory Authority (HRA).
Inevitably, the plans will be distressing to the 75% of the British public who do not wish to see a return to the cruelty of this pastime, as well as organisations like the League Against Cruel Sports, who are gearing up to fight hard against the plans with a new high-profile campaign next month. Whilst the League Against Cruel Sports have flagged up the fact that “fifty-six per cent of people say they would change their vote if their candidate supports the repeal,” Stephen Lambert of the Master of Foxhounds Association, who is fine-tuning the plans for the Conservatives with Brian Fanshawe (a former Master of Foxhounds), has unkindly stated in the media: “We’ve built the car, the key is in the ignition, we’re just waiting to turn it.”
It’s easy to take for granted how far Labour has taken the UK on animal welfare: securing an EU-wide ban on the trade in seal fur; banning fur farming and working in Europe to ban imports of cat and dog fur into the EU; establishing the National Centre for the Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of Animals in Research which provides research into alternatives to animal testing; securing better welfare standards at a European level for battery hens and meat chicken; banning driftnet fishing which helps protect dolphins, turtles and other animals; banning testing cosmetics, toiletries, alcohol and tobacco on animals; and refusing to license any testing on great apes (such as chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas).
But what’s confusing about the Conservative plans, for anyone interested in environmentalism and ecology, is the hypocrisy and duplicity. Whilst Conservative-run councils have opposed 80% of wind farm applications submitted to them since David Cameron became the leader of the Conservative party, against the backdrop of fierce campaigns against the supposed ‘scarring of the landscape’, the Conservative plans to turn back the clocks on the hunting ban will obliterate Labour’s work to protect British rural areas and wildlife, and blight the landscape with the savagery and cruelty of the hunt. The League Against Cruel Sports have rebutted many of the reasons being put forward by supporters of the Conservative plans here.
The details of the plans are the final nail in the coffin for any credible pretence of ‘compassionate Conservatism’ or Tory environmentalism. The conflict and dividing lines that would exist under Cameron are becoming increasingly pronounced: climate change campaigners would have to fiercely clash with the Conservative energy team and Conservative-run councils, and animal welfare campaigners would have to fiercely clash with William Hague, Edward Garnier, the Tory DEFRA team and the new HRA.