Countryside Alliance Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner writes: Tomorrow the Government was due to introduce amendments to the Hunting Act under a free vote, which would have represented a significant improvement. The amendments would have removed the arbitrary two dog limit in exempt hunting, making it legal to flush and shoot foxes using packs of hounds. If the changes had been passed it would have been legal to manage foxes and some other wild mammals using packs of hounds representing a significant improvement for many farmers and hunts, whilst moving the law into line with Scotland. The requirement to take reasonable steps to shoot would, however, have remained.
For reasons that have little, if anything, to do with the amendments under consideration, the SNP have decided to break their often repeated commitment not to vote on the Hunting Act which only affects England and Wales.
As recently as February Nicola Sturgeon said: “The SNP have a longstanding position of not voting on matters that purely affect England – such as foxhunting south of the border, for example – and we stand by that.”
Yesterday, however, the SNP said that they would be voting against the proposals to remind “an arrogant UK government of just how slender their majority is”.
In the face of the SNP’s u-turn the Government has postponed the vote. This was the correct decision. This is now clearly a constitutional issue rather than one about wildlife management or animal welfare and we look forward to the Government bringing the amendments back to Parliament in due course.
This will be a deep disappointment to many of you, but we can take heart from the fact that we have shown that there is a clear majority of support for the proposals amongst English and Welsh MPs. The fact that the Labour party were ready to whip their MPs on the vote shows how desperate they were.
We cannot stress enough the appreciation we have for all those of you who have taken part in our campaign for fair, effective and humane law. It is far from over.