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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 17 January, 2001, 20:26 GMT
Head to head: Foxhunting
As MPs prepare to vote whether or not to ban hunting, BBC News Online spoke to Tony Banks MP, a fierce opponent of hunting and to Richard Burge, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, who is in favour of the pursuit.

Here they put forward their arguments for and against hunting with hounds.

Against Foxhunting - Tony Banks MP

It's a straightforward issue as far as I'm concerned. It's a matter of stopping cruelty to animals.

The hunting of foxes, mink, hare-coursing, and deer-hunting involves cruelty to animals - these are not recognised as sports, they're to do with blood-lust, and they're to do with cruelty and they should be banned.

I've consistently supported a ban, and I'm pleased to say that a great majority of members of parliament also support a ban and so do the majority of people of the country, both in rural and urban areas.

Tony Banks MP
Confident of a ban: Tony Banks MP

We keep hearing about the rights of the minority but what about the rights of the majority?

We also have rights, and the majority of people in this country, urban and rural support a ban, as do a majority of members of parliament and we have rights that are equal to those of the minority.

It just so happens that there are more people who want to support a ban than want to support the activity and I'm afraid that in a democracy the will of the majority must prevail.


The majority of people in this country, urban and rural, support a ban

Tony Banks MP
When parliament was proposing to ban bull-baiting, exactly the same arguments were used to defend the practise - 'the animal quite enjoyed it, it was a lawful pursuit, it was traditional, it might only be a minority sport but it was something they were entitled to do'.

I think in a few years time we'll look back and wonder who were these barborous people, just like we look back at those who supported the abhorrent practices of bull-baiting.

I'm not trying to disparage or make light of anyone who loses their job as a result of a ban, but the Burns report identified 700 to 800 people directly employed in the hunt and a few thousand attendant upon them.

This assumes of course that no-one moves over to the alternative practice of drag-hunting, where you follow a trail rather than follow a fox.

If they don't want to move over to the alternative it just proves that it isn't the thrill of the chase, of riding through countryside, it's the thrill of the kill and that's what we want to stop.

Yesterday Barclays announced the closure of some of its insurance businesses, which resulted in maybe 500 jobs in my constituency disappearing, so you've got to realise that these things happen.

The economy is vibrant and flexible enough to absorb the small number of jobs involved in the abolition of fox-hunting.


For foxhunting - Richard Burge, Countryside Alliance

We should keep hunting because there is no reason whatsoever to ban it or to stop it.

There was an independent inquiry which the Home Secretary himself initiated, chaired by Lord Burns to look at all aspects of hunting.

In no case did Lord Burns find any reason to ban hunting and specifically on the cruelty issue he said very clearly that hunting was no less a humane way of controlling those four quarry animals than any other way.

Now if we're going to remove the civil liberty of individuals, and that's what banning hunting would be, there has to be civil liberties benefits that far outweigh that imposition.

Lord Burns has found there is no case for doing that whatsoever, so any ban on hunting is a serious imposition on liberty and a serious imposition on individual liberties and that's why we shouldn't do it.

Richard Burge: Civil liberties under threat

It's perfectly permissible for people to dislike hunting, it's perfectly alright for them to try to persuade other people not to hunt.

But what is not acceptable is for parliamentarians driven by bigotry and prejudice to try and use their position in parliament to enforce their moral opinion as a matter of law.

That is not what happens in a free country, it is not what democracy is there to deliver.

These people are doing no wrong, they are ordinary, decent law-abiding people, they should be respected as such and allowed to live their decent ordinary well-mannered lives as they choose, because they are doing no-one and no thing harm.


What we're after is actually people being fair and tolerant in a free democracy

Richard Burge

Lord Burns has shown hunting is no less humane than any other way of dealing with those animals.

I worry about what goes on in the heads of people who go and watch boxing, I worry about what goes on in the heads of people in football crowds yelling racial abuse, but what I do not think it is my right to do is to ban something simply because I don't like somebody's opinion.

You should only stop somebody if what they are doing is directly harmful and what we're after is actually people being fair and tolerant in a free democracy.

The middle way option is statutory regulation rather than self-management and the alliance's strong view is that that is not the best way to manage hunting.

Our strong view is that the best way to manage a lot of activities in this world, including hunting, is by much stricter self-regulation. We believe then you put the responsibility in the hands of people who have to do this and you hold them accountable for that.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Tony Banks MP
"It's a matter of stopping cruelty to animals"
Richard Burge
"There is no reason to ban it or to stop it"
Background and analysis of one of the most contentious issues in British politics

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