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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Viewpoints: Fox hunting ban
MPs voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to ban hunting with dogs despite protesters invading the Commons and demonstrating outside in their thousands.

The government has said it will use the Parliament Act to push through the legislation if it is opposed by the Lords, but the ban would not come into force until July 2006.

The day after extraordinary scenes at Westminster, BBC News Online gathered opinions from different sides of this most heated debate.

Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports

A Countryside Alliance spokesman

John Rolls, RSPCA director of animal welfare promotion

Conservative rural affairs spokesman James Gray

An International Fund for Animal Welfare spokesman

Lembit Opik MP, co-chair of the Middle Way Group

Alastair Jackson, director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman

Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports

We have been campaigning against hunting with dogs for 80 years, so yesterday was a great day.

The pro-hunt lobby has failed to justify its dreadful sport. Its arguments have been demolished once and for all.

We can understand MPs feeling that it is sometimes necessary for people to adjust to the change in law.

That said, however, we are nonetheless concerned that this period of adjustment means that hunting will continue until 2006.

We sincerely hope that because Parliament has finally decided that hunting is cruel and unfair and should be banned, that many of the hunts will move to drag hunting and other alternative pursuits ahead of changes to the law.

A Countryside Alliance spokesman

The legislation the government has proposed is not based on principle and evidence.

There has never ever been any evidence put forward to show that a ban on hunting will benefit the fox in any way - in fact it would be detrimental.

Hunting is the only method where the fox either gets away or is despatched quickly and cleanly, and it maintains a healthy population of foxes in a managed environment.

The common misconception is that a ban on foxhunting will benefit the fox, but nothing can be further from the truth.

John Rolls, RSPCA director of animal welfare promotion

This historic vote in the House of Commons underlines that the gratuitous cruelty inflicted on wild animals in the name of sport will no longer be tolerated in a modern Britain.

Hunting is a sport, not a method of pest control, and one which causes unnecessary suffering. This is not an arbitrary claim - the government inquiry into hunting with dogs found that fox hunting is "insignificant in terms of the management of the fox population".

Where a need to kill a fox is demonstrated, the inquiry concluded that "lamping, using rifles, if carried out properly... has fewer adverse welfare implications than hunting".

The RSPCA sees no reason why a ban on hunting should not become effective at the earliest opportunity.

A delay until July 2006 will mean yet another season of sanctioned cruelty inflicted on hunted animals.

Conservative rural affairs spokesman James Gray

The stark, profound, terrible sense of betrayal felt by people in the countryside will in no sense be assuaged by the prime minister's cynical, grubby attempt to bribe them by offering this 18-month stay of execution.

The Labour Party is choosing to criminalise perfectly decent, law-abiding citizens.

I think the majority of people in the country couldn't care less about hunting one way or another - let people make up their own minds, is what most people would say.

I think the prime minister has made a massive political mistake. I think this is the Labour Party's poll tax, and he is going to be in real trouble.

Middle England feels let down by this. People in the countryside are going to put their shoulders to the Conservative wheel at the next election to put Mr Blair out of office, and we are committed to repealing this ban.

An International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) spokesman

Fox hunting should be banned because it's cruel, it's unnecessary, and it's got no place in modern Britain.

There are many other ways to enjoy riding in the countryside including drag hunting, which would secure the future of the hounds.

There is no evidence that the population of foxes needs to be regulated.

If a particular fox was posing a problem to a farmer, then the most humane way of dealing with it would be for a skilled marksman to shoot it with a rifle.

Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, co-chair of the Middle Way Group which supports regulated hunting

This is not a debate on animal welfare unless we give ourselves the space to consider the implications on animal welfare of a ban.

The stalemate between the two houses really is an indication that there is something seriously wrong with this bill.

The pro-ban lobby can win the vote, but they cannot pretend that by stifling the debate and ignoring the existence of alternative views they have won the argument

They tend to say that hunting is barbaric, but actually they haven't presented a single piece of evidence to prove that shooting is not worse - and remember, shooting and snaring will replace hunting with dogs if a ban comes in.

It's not too late for the government to heed the facts. If they don't, then the RSPCA, IFAW and the League Against Cruel Sports may well be presiding over an increase in animal suffering.

Alastair Jackson, director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association

It was exactly as expected, the vote, so there was no surprise there. But we were certainly gratified by the number of people who turned up to demonstrate.

The feeling remains that this is unjust law, not based on any of the evidence that was produced by the Burns inquiry. The case for fox hunting has been proved time and time again.

This is political expediency. People are very angry - the Countryside Alliance said a long time ago that if this was passed the countryside would "erupt in fury", and that is exactly what is happening.

Most people have said they will continue to hunt and a way will be found to do so.

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman

The government made a commitment in its manifesto that it would allow Parliament to resolve this issue, so it has always been on the agenda.

The Commons has debated this issue time and time again and gone into great detail. It has now voted overwhelmingly in favour of a ban.

We just hope that the law of the land will be obeyed - the Countryside Alliance have always said they are law-abiding members of the community and we take them at their word.

The period [before the ban comes into force] is to give hunts adequate time to stop hunting and to make arrangements for the rehoming of hounds, and refocusing of business activities. It's to assist hunts in preparing for the ban.

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