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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 October, 2003, 22:26 GMT
Lords reject coursing ban
Hare coursing
Coursing will not be banned if peers have their way

Peers have "arrogantly" defied public opinion by rejecting a ban on hare coursing, an anti-hunt campaigner has claimed.

Mike Hobday, of the League Against Cruel Sports, said a House of Lords decision rejecting a ban had killed any hope of compromise on the government's Hunting Bill.

The latest vote came a week after peers rejected an overwhelming call made by MPs in the summer for an outright ban on hunting with dogs.

Instead the Lords backed allowing hunting to continue under licence.

Now the Upper House has voted by 129 to 59 to remove the part of the bill that would outlaw hare coursing.

Environment Minister Lord Whitty accused peers of "destroying the basis" of the bill.

Benefits?

With parliamentary time running out next month, the bill is not expected to become law but anti-hunt campaigners hope the government will force it through in the next session using the Parliament Act.

Labour's Lord Faulkner said: "Hare coursing is a practice that needs to be outlawed."

"It's an activity whose purport is to give pleasure to bystanders by giving them the opportunity to watch a beautiful animal being subjected to a gruesome and agonising death.

But Tory former minister the Earl of Caithness said: "Hare coursing brings enormous benefits both to the hare and to the countryside."

Countryside Alliance president, Labour's Lady Mallalieu, said a ban on hare coursing would mean "more illegal poaching".

She said: "The amendment is neither pro- or anti-coursing. It does not water down this Bill."

Hound
Are hunts' days numbered?
The Earl of Onslow (Conservative) said: "Don't get over-influenced by long, floppy ears and beautiful paintings by Durer."

Peers had already been warned by Lord Whitty they risked creating a constitutional impasse if they ignored the judgement of MPs.

Anti-hunt campaigners say the pro-hunt changes, which won cross-party backing, show there can be no compromise in the hunting dispute.

Reaching an end?

The government originally proposed a licensing system to allow some forms of hunting to continue, judged against the tests of cruelty and their use for pest control.

They would also have banned stag hunting and hare coursing automatically - the latter being the subject of Tuesday's vote

MPs in July voted to turn the Hunting Bill into a complete ban on all hunting with dogs by a majority of 208 in a free vote.

With the complete ban calls defeated in the Lords, the bill will go back to the Commons, where MPs are likely to overturn the Lords amendments.

That would begin a "ping-pong" battle of wills before the government decides whether to use the Queen's Speech to spell out its intention to use the Parliament Act.




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