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Friday, October 1, 1999 Published at 05:13 GMT 06:13 UK

Minister defends opposition to hunt ban

The government has pledged to ban foxhunting

Sports Minister Kate Hoey has defended her opposition to a ban on foxhunting.

Fox hunting
Asked during the recording of a special Radio 5 Live Any Sporting Questions programme at Labour's Bournemouth conference whether she believed it was a sport, Miss Hoey said: "It's a very easy option to just simply come out and say 'I'm against foxhunting'.

"I'm very clear on my own position which is that I'm against banning foxhunting. I know that is a minority position but I believe there is a role for minorities in this country."

The BBC's Guto Harri: ''Opponents of a ban sense a growing anxiety on the issue at the heart of government''
Miss Hoey's comments were met with boos from sections of the audience, in a week when the pro and anti-hunting lobbies have been in the spotlight at Bournemouth.

But she said: "If you're against foxhunting on cruelty grounds, you would also have to look at fishing which I personally would not be wanting to look at.

"Once you start down the road of picking on things you personally don't like, you are opening up a whole area of controversy and issues which many of us would not want to do.

[ image: Sports Minister Kate Hoey has been a consistent opponent of banning foxhunting]
Sports Minister Kate Hoey has been a consistent opponent of banning foxhunting
"I'm not going to be told I don't care about animals. But in terms of animal welfare groups, we know very well that they want to ban hunting and then ban fishing which is one of the most important and widely practised sports in this country."

Miss Hoey stressed that hunting does not fall within her remit, adding: "In terms of whether it's a sport, officially, as a minister for sport, I'm not responsible for foxhunting.

"Nor am I responsible for racing - neither of them are recognised as sports because they involve animals.

"Racing itself is something I have absolutely no responsibility for whatsoever and I think that's something we might want to look at."

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