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Last Updated: Monday, 1 January 2007, 11:42 GMT
Hunting ban tops 'unpopular' poll
A pack of hunting dogs
The ban on fox hunting has proved hugely controversial
The Countryside Alliance has admitted conducting a drive to get people to vote for a repeal of the laws banning hunting with dogs, in a Radio 4 poll.

The Hunting Act took 52.8% of the votes to top a Today poll of the act people would most like to see reversed.

The alliance said it used its website to encourage pro-hunt activists to back an end to the ban in England and Wales.

The programme's panel had considered excluding hunting because of evidence of a campaign to affect the outcome.

Today presenter Ed Stourton said there had been "suspicions that there was an organised campaign at work".

Panel 'hesitation'

Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, who was on the panel which 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 - encouragement etc - 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."

Whatever your views on hunting one way or the other, this act is a fiasco and it is not surprising that it received a mass vote
Countryside Alliance president Baroness Mallalieu

Countryside Alliance president Baroness Mallalieu said she was not surprised by the result.

She said: "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 one way or the other, this act is a fiasco and it is not surprising that it received a mass vote."

The vote for the Hunting Act was well ahead of the second-placed European Communities Act of 1972, which took Britain into the Common Market, which gained 29.7% of the votes cast by telephone and online.

Other acts voted for included the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, which requires police permission for protests in Parliament Square and attracted 6.2% of the vote, and the Human Rights Act, which got 6.1%.

There were also votes for the Dangerous Dogs Act and the Act of Settlement.

Ann Widdecombe and Anne Mallalieu discuss the poll

In pictures: Boxing Day Hunt
26 Dec 06 |  In Pictures
Anger over 'anti-hunt propaganda'
14 Jul 06 |  UK Politics


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