Page last updated at 00:25 GMT, Tuesday, 7 April 2009 01:25 UK

Support 'growing' to end hunt ban

Huntsmen
The hunting ban, which came into effect in 2005, remains controversial

Support is growing for the ban on hunting with dogs to be scrapped, shadow justice minister Edward Garnier has told the BBC.

The Countryside Alliance member said most people at the moment were not interested in hunting.

Conservative leader David Cameron has promised MPs a free vote on the issue if his party wins the next election.

The League Against Cruel Sports says to back a repeal would show the Tories to be the "nasty party" on animal welfare.

Hunting foxes with dogs was banned in 2005, although dogs can follow a scent or flush out a fox so long as they do not kill it.

With the Conservatives ahead in the polls, hunt supporters say repeal is now a "real possibility" after the next general election, likely to be held in spring 2010.

Despite loud protestations from the hunting lobby, there is no doubt the Act is working
League Against Cruel Sports

Countryside Alliance campaigners are to target 140 anti-hunting MPs in marginal seats during the election campaign.

Mr Garnier, who chairs its repeal committee, said: "Most people at the moment are not interested in hunting, they're interested in the economy.

"But I'm finding there is a gathering sense of support for this repeal."

However, the League Against Cruel Sports claims that 75% of the public - including 59% of Conservative voters - support the ban.

It says on its website: "Despite loud protestations from the hunting lobby, there is no doubt the Act is working, with 68 prosecutions to date and a number pending."

A total of 158 MPs have signed a Commons motion supporting the ban and calling on the government to ensure it is enforced consistently.

Controversial

HAVE YOUR SAY
It's disgusting and it says to the rest of the civilised world that we are still a nation in the dark ages.
Margaret Hamilton, Walsall

The ban has remained controversial since its introduction and, in February, the alliance celebrated a High Court ruling which it said would make it harder to prosecute huntsmen.

Judges ruled that the law banning hunting did not include "searching" for wild animals to flush them out.

They also rejected the Director of Public Prosecutions' (DPP) argument that the hunter should prove his actions were covered by exemptions to the law.

The DPP had been appealing against a decision to overturn the conviction of Tony Wright, a huntsman with the Exmoor Foxhounds who was the first man prosecuted for hunting foxes.

He had argued he had acted to ensure compliance with the law and had been trying to prevent damage to livestock, which meant his actions were exempt from the ban.



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