Tory supporters trail Brexit Party voters in backing crackdown on illegal fox-hunting

The Independent 3 weeks ago

Conservative backers are less supportive of tough laws on illegal fox-hunting than voters for the other main parties – including the Brexit Party.

Tory supporters showed the lowest support of the four main political factions for the idea of illegal hunting being punishable by jail terms.

They also came lowest when it came to wanting the Hunting Act to be strengthened to prevent the killing of foxes.

The poll comes just weeks ahead of controversial Boxing Day and New Year’s Day hunts, when packs claim they follow a legal scent trail but opponents claim they chase foxes, breaking the Hunting Act 2004.

A fine of up to £5,000 is the only punishment available to magistrates.

A pack of hounds races past saboteurs. Hunting foxes with hounds is illegal in England. 2011
Saboteurs geared up in camouflage strategize and survey maps of the area. They follow hunting teams around the countryside in cars and on foot, spraying citronella around to throw off the scent of the fox for the dogs. They use the same whistle the hunters use to get their dogs to turn left and right and all the commands, etc., which throws off the dogs. England, 2011
Saboteurs travel on foot through miles of country fields during a fox hunt. England, 2011
A pack of dogs waits for commands from their mounted owners. England, 2011
In England, fox hunting with hounds is illegal. So is sabotaging a hunt. Yet the police are there only for the saboteurs. 2011
Saboteurs film the illegal practice of using dogs to hunt foxes. England, 2011
Saboteurs follow hunting team into the fields during a fox hunt. England, 2011
Saboteurs follow hunting team into the fields during an illegal fox hunt. England, 2011
A hunter angrily addresses a crowd of saboteurs. England, 2011
Things turn dangerous as hunters on horseback rush the line of saboteurs. England, 2011
A hunter and saboteur share the same space as one attempts to direct dogs towards fox trails while another tries to confuse them. England, 2011
Fox hunt saboteurs keep an eye over the horizon for signs of pursuit. England, 2011
Saboteurs block hunters from passing. England, 2011
A mounted hunter addresses the saboteurs. England, 2011
Mounted fox hunters, a pack of dogs, and saboteurs all converge before the hunt. Fox hunting with dogs is illegal and so is sabotaging the illegal hunt. England, 2011

But in a poll on whether illegal hunting with dogs should be punishable by prison sentences, there was cross-party backing for the idea. Of those who expressed a view, it had the support of 74 per cent.

Some 84 per cent of those intending to vote Labour, 75 per cent of Brexit Party supporters, 71 per cent of Lib Dem supporters and 67 per cent of Conservative Party supporters approved.

The survey, by YouGov for the League Against Cruel Sports, also found strong backing for strengthening the Hunting Act to prevent the killing of foxes, with Tory supporters again less enthusiastic than others.

Of those who expressed a view, 89 per cent of Labour voters, 82 per cent of Lib Dem supporters, 71 per cent of Brexit Party supporters, and 68 per cent of Conservatives agreed.

Saboteurs regularly claim to have seen foxes being savaged by packs of dogs but hunters insist it happens accidentally if hounds leave a pre-laid scent trail.

Earlier this week a fox was beheaded after being attacked by a pack of dogs, near Rye, East Sussex, according to saboteurs. Overhead footage showed a pack converging on an animal.

The poll – the first of its kind – found that 79 per cent of respondents who expressed a view thought the Hunting Act should be amended to ensure foxes are not killed by hunts, intentionally or otherwise, when they claim to be trail-hunting.

Chris Luffingham, of the league, said: “How many times do we need to show pictures and film of foxes being ripped apart by dogs before the politicians realise the Hunting Act is not doing what it’s there to do – protect the lives of wild animals?

“In the next fortnight there are two separate hunts in court, and we know if the law was strengthened there would be a lot more. It’s time police and the courts were given the power they need – and that the public want – to bring prosecutions.”

The league, which says 191 fox hunts operate in Britain, says the introduction of a recklessness clause in the legislation would stop hunts arguing they were trail-hunting when animals are killed.

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