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Friday, 6 December, 2002, 09:53 GMT
Is licensed hunting with dogs the answer?
Hunting with dogs in England and Wales is not going to be banned outright in a new government bill recommended by the Minister for Rural Affairs, Alun Michael.
A licensing system is proposed whereby hunts must meet two criteria: They must prove themselves to be the least cruel and the most effective way to contain the fox population in that area.
It means that hunts could continue in upland areas where other methods like shooting, trapping and poisoning are unfeasible while more fashionable hunts which emphasise sport are less likely to be allowed.
The government favours a complete ban on stag hunting and hare coursing and many Labour MPs were pressing for the same end to fox hunting.
Hunting with hounds is already banned in Scotland and Alun Michael's proposals follow a government pledge to "conclude" the hunting debate that has been raging since Labour came to power in 1997.
Does the compromise make sense to you? Do you think this ends the fox hunting debate? What would be a better option?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Once again, New Labour have shown their contempt for the people of this country.
Do they really think that "licensing" will be anything less than an attempt to ban hunting via the back door, or did they really think we are so stupid as to believe their nonsensical platitudes?
If this were a bunch of yobs on bicycles chasing a cat round a council estate the establishment would be locking them up and throwing away the key. It's inexcusable, immoral and largely ineffective. They might as well licence badger baiting, cock fighting and dancing bears, and while they are at it, send a few small boys up chimneys.
Tod Barclay, United States
Labour has promised to ban hunting. Numerous surveys over many decades have shown that people want hunting banned. Fox hunting belongs to the era of bear-baiting and cock-fighting. It is not about town versus country or a question of class - these are smokescreens raised by the pro-hunt lobby to detract from the central issue - that foxhunting is a bloodsport which has no place in a so-called humane society
Easy answer, go drag hunting with a recently shot fox for a scent trail and hope for an accidental change in target of the dogs. Then no licence would be required and the foxes still get hunted properly and more vermin die!
We are a country on the brink of war, and Parliament has time to discuss the welfare of foxes?
True to form, the government is turning away from a decision which will upset a few people in favour of a decision which will upset everybody. This is really nothing to do with the moral issue of hunting with dogs. It's all about Blair clumsily trying - and once again failing miserably - to please all the people, all the time.
Typical fudge. I presume that other countries manage pests without resorting to hunting with dogs. Why can't we?
Although I would rather see an outright ban, this seems like a very sensible compromise to me. It has long been the position of these barbarians (sorry, "sportsmen") that they perform a public service. This compromise puts the onus on them to prove it. If they truly are providing free pest control, then they should have no problem complying with the legislation and no issue with it.
Why bother? Hunting with dogs is just as barbaric whether licensed or not.
Trevor H, UK
It's amazing how much time has been wasted on this spiteful, illiberal campaign. The opposition springs more from distaste at the pleasure hunters get from riding round the countryside, much more than the welfare of the fox. As the Burns report showed, there is no evidence that the fox's welfare is "compromised" any more seriously by hunting than by shooting or trapping, the alternative means of control. No, this is crude class war but if a licence is the best that can be achieved, then so be it.
This is a fudged attempt to reconcile all parties and it stinks. I would rather have the current situation than this proposal.
Most people know the pest control arguments peddled by hunters are nonsense and that unnaturally large populations of deer, hare and foxes are encouraged and maintained simply to provide sport for people who derive pleasure from the spectacle of another being running for its life.
In Scotland, human runners have replaced the hunted animal. Of course no one gets killed at the end, and both sides are consenting. This is what sport is about after all: fair play, which hunting live animals with 50 dogs and 50 riders will always lack.
Lisa - here in Scotland shooting, not drag hunting, has replaced traditional fox hunting. This has led to increased suffering for foxes which may not be killed cleanly or quickly even by experienced marksmen. A real triumph for the anti-cruelty lobby.
As an "ignorant townie", I could be persuaded that hunting with dogs can be an effective way to cull foxes. However I have always been appalled at the way this activity is dressed up as a sport. If they are to continue in some areas, let's ban the tally ho brigade, with the uniform and the socials aspects that go along with it. I could perhaps then be further persuaded that huntsmen and women are simply doing a job of work and not out to enjoy themselves.
Ray, UK - your "ban the tally ho brigade" quip is exactly the reason why I am uncomfortable with the proposed ban, because it smells like class war!
I am against fox hunting, but it's not my place to tell others what to do with their spare time, and it's not your place either!
To ban fox hunting and leave, for example, fishing is a class war double standard.
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