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The BBC's John Andrew
"The bill still has many hurdles to clear"
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The BBC's Daniel Boettcher in the village of Semer
"Many people are now pinning their hopes on the Lords"
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Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 10:39 GMT
Pro-hunt activists vow to fight on
Anti-hunting groups
Anti-hunting groups say the public want a ban
Countryside campaigners have vowed to continue their fight to preserve hunting with hounds, despite Wednesday night's overwhelming vote in the Commons for an outright ban.

They are planning a big protest march through London on 18 March and say it will be the "biggest civil rights march ever".

The ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales was carried by a majority of 213, to the delight of anti-hunting groups.

Voting on the three options
Self-regulation - 155 with 399 against
New licensing scheme or "middle way" - 182 with 382 against
Total ban - 387 with 174 against

If the ban does become law, some supporters of fox-hunting have warned that they will keep hunting regardless and challenge the police to arrest them.

Conservative MP James Gray, who opposed the ban, warned that people would have little choice but to break the law - although he made it clear that he believed that laws should be respected.

He vowed to use every loophole in the law to fight a ban.

The legislation is likely to face stiff resistance in the House of Lords where pro-hunting Conservatives hold a majority.

Lord Strathclyde, leader of the Conservative majority in the House of Lords, warned that it had little prospect of making it on to the statute book in the current session.

"No bill, not even the shortest and least controversial one, can normally pass the Lords in less than six to seven weeks from when it leaves the Commons," he said.

'Public opposition'

"That means that if there is an election called for April or May, this bill has no chance of becoming law, for timing reasons alone. Tony Blair knows that."

Douglas Batchelor, chairman of the Campaign for the Protection of Hunted Animals, said he was delighted that the majority of MPs voted for a ban.

"This reflects the huge public opposition to hunting," he said.

"Independent polls have consistently shown that the majority of people in this country want hunting to be banned.

"With such strength of feeling against hunting, it is crucial that this bill makes it on to the statute books."

Countryside Alliance chief executive Richard Burge said MPs had failed to take on board the findings of the independent Burns Report into the impact of a ban on hunting.

William Hague
William Hague voted against a ban
He said: "The reputation of parliament for reasoned debate and fairness has been put on trial and found sorely wanting.

"It has long been apparent that on the hunting issue, many MPs never had any intention of allowing themselves to be informed by the facts established by the Burns Inquiry.

"This inquiry found absolutely no grounds for a ban - indeed banning hunting will not save the life or improve the welfare of a single animal in the countryside."

But Mr Batchelor said the Burns Report had found that hunting "seriously compromises" the welfare of the hunted fox.

Mr Burge said the Alliance was "saddened and surprised" by the result of the vote, but added: "We are still confident that the Upper House will do its constitutional duty and protect the people from the exercise of parliamentary prejudice."

Prime Minister Tony Blair was not in Westminster for the vote but on a visit to Northern Ireland.

Still confident

The outright ban was opposed by Tory leader William Hague, former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown and senior Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich).

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Home Secretary Jack Straw and Scottish Secretary John Reid voted in favour of the `middle way' option and against the maintenance of the status quo.

Labour's Michael Foster, who tried unsuccessfully four years ago to ban fox hunting through a Private Member's Bill, again insisted members had followed the only "consistent and principled" option.


Hunting with dogs is cruel and unnecessary and it's time this practice was stopped

Mike Foster MP
"Hunting with dogs is cruel and unnecessary and it's time this practice was stopped," he said.

Tory home affairs spokesman David Lidington denounced the ban as "illiberal and intolerant".

Liberal Democrat Lembit Opik, a member of the Middle Way group, said the question was not whether foxes should be killed, but how.

He said banning hunting would not save the life of a single fox because of other "ruthless techniques" to kill them.

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See also:

17 Jan 01 | UK
The hunt bites back
17 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Hunt ban may still fail
17 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Blair on NI talks mission
16 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Labour 'will not pledge hunt ban'
15 Jan 01 | UK
Pro-hunt vigil continues
15 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Hunting for victory
17 Jan 01 | Scotland
Fox vote fuels Scots MPs row
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