Skip to content

Tim Bonner: Labour, LACS and the battle for hunting

This week has seen Shadow Environment Secretary, Steve Reed, questioned about Labour’s hunting proposals and a spectacular meltdown at the anti-hunting charity the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS).

Steve Reed appeared on Farming Today and was asked about the Labour manifesto commitment to “ban trail hunting”. He said:

“When the hunting ban came in originally, trail hunting was allowed to continue, but only on the grounds that it would not be used as cover for continuing the illegal hunting of foxes. The police tell us that there are countless examples now of trail hunting being used in that way. Now drag hunting will remain, but we will have to close the loopholes that are being used as cover for illegal activities.”

There is plenty to challenge about this statement. Those of us who were around at the time remember very well that the last Labour government did not set out to ban hunting, but to regulate it as there was no justification for prohibiting traditional hunting. It was backbench MPs who turned the Hunting Bill into a ban and the Labour government which gave in to them. The idea, therefore, that trail hunting was ‘only’ allowed under certain conditions is nonsense. In reality the law does not deal with hunting an artificial scent at all. 

As for the ‘countless examples of illegal activities’ I have a feeling this is overstated, but we do need to address the fact that at least some police officers have a perception that not all hunts are operating legitimately all of the time. There is one simple solution to this misconception and that is to show clearly and consistently that they are. The British Hound Sports Association is planning a trail hunting day on 14 September which will be a significant starting point in a campaign to ensure that the police, and also the public and politicians, understand that hunts are operating properly. It is the perception that they are not that is fuelling this new campaign against hunting so our first priority must be to change that perception.

Meanwhile, the LACS Chief Executive, Andy Knott, has resigned claiming that he was gagged from criticising the Labour manifesto. Like the rest of the anti-hunting movement, LACS is far more interested in eliminating hunts than it is in the reality of wild animal welfare. It wanted a more wide-ranging and detailed commitment to strengthen the Hunting Act as a whole along the lines of the pledge that was included in Jeremy Corbyn’s 2019 manifesto. Mr Knott thought that he had been promised such a commitment and was less than pleased about what was published. However, LACS Chair Dan Norris, who has been a Labour MP and is standing as a candidate at this election, allegedly blocked any criticism and Mr Knott was sacked. He has retaliated with allegations of bullying and harassment.

What this means is anyone’s guess. It does, however, highlight something that the Alliance has been warning the Labour Party for some time. Trail hunting may be a niche activity carried out by a minority of the rural minority, but it is also the most damaging political issue imaginable. No one has ever won a political battle over hunting, as Tony Blair himself has admitted, so the sensible course is always to leave well alone.


Image credit: Hattie Austin Photography

Become a member

Join the Countryside Alliance

We are the most effective campaigning organisation in the countryside.

  • life Protect our way of life
  • news Access our latest news
  • insurance Benefit from insurance cover
  • magazine Receive our magazine