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Government postpones Hunting Act vote

The Government has postponed voting on proposals to relax the Hunting Act, in the face of rising pressure from the SNP and rebel voters.

MPs had been set to vote on amendments to legislation on Wednesday, but the vote was called off after the SNP announced they would vote against the changes - adding to opposition including up to 40 Tory rebels.

Tracey Crouch, MP (Con) for Chatham and Aylesford
Tracey Crouch, MP (Con) for Chatham and Aylesford

Among Tories set to vote against the Government had been Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch, who said she had no fears in taking a stand against David Cameron’s attempt to relax the hunting ban.

The proposals would have scrapped the current ruling which states no more than two dogs can be used in order to flush out a fox so that it can then be shot for pest control purposes - and instead allow hunts to use a pack of hounds for the same purpose.

But opponents say the idea is impractical and dangerous - and would simply see a return to old fashioned fox hunting.

Traditional hunting with dogs has been illegal for 10 years. Stock picture by Nico Morgan
Traditional hunting with dogs has been illegal for 10 years. Stock picture by Nico Morgan

The blunt reality, said Miss Crouch, was that “more foxes will be ripped to shreds by dogs.”
“Effectively they’re relaxing the current legislation so it allows you to hunt with a pack of hounds - it’s similar to the legislation in Scotland, where there hasn’t been a single prosecution because it’s unenforceable.”

She said the move would have been a regressive step for a country in which 80% of the population disagreed with fox hunting - and that the argument that fox hunting was supported by a majority of people living and working in the countryside, was “rubbish.”

“I’m always getting emails from people who live in the countryside who don’t support fox hunting,” she added.

On the opposite side, pro-hunting MPs had been ramping up the pressure on rebel voters, with one former minister reportedly warning that the Prime Minister would be watching the vote closely, and that rebels would find themselves isolated.

Miss Crouch said such warning shots did not strike home.

“I don’t take any notice of it,” she added. “He appointed me knowing my views on this particular issue.

“It’s a free vote and they know my opinion on the matter.”

On the streets of Chatham this morning, shoppers were largely in agreement with her.

“I think it’s wrong. I don’t think it should happen,” said Pat Farrow, 63. “I actually don’t like animals at all but I think fox hunting is wrong.”

21 year old jobseeker Ryan Coleman, said: “I don’t think they should repeal the ban. Fox hunting is cruel.”

David Wallington, 78, of The Delce, Rochester, said: "I get a lot of foxes in my garden but I let them alone after all we pinched their territory, built too any houses on their land. They can do a lot of damage if you're a poultry farmer so there does need to be control but not hunting for sport. We're over-populated, and the animals are feeling the pinch now."

"I'm dead against it," added 22-year-old accountant Charlie Huggett, 22, of Priestfields, Rochester. "It's cruel and horrible and they shouldn't bring it back."

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