Earlier this year Michael Foster, who was the Labour MP for Hastings and Rye before his defeat by Conservative candidate Amber Rudd at the general election in May, presented a petition of 4,000 names to Parliament in support of the Hunting Act 2004. Michael recently forwarded to me the official response from the now Tory run Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which states:
Observations from the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: The Hunting Act was passed by Parliament in 2004. It has not been demonstrable success and is difficult to enforce. Only three hunts have been successfully prosecuted for illegal hunting. There are many more pressing issues for parliamentary time at the moment, but the Government wish to give Parliament the opportunity to review the Hunting Act and, if it wishes, repeal this legislation. The Government will, therefore, put a motion before the House of Commons on whether the Hunting Act should be repealed and, if the motion is carried, it will bring forward legislation in due course.
The claim that the Act “has not been demonstrable success” is, of course, a matter of subjective opinion. To say that it is “difficult to enforce” should not necessarily make it irredeemable. Should we, then, only pass laws that are only easy to enforce? Of course, more to the point is that not enough law enforcement resources are deployed or it is not considered to be a priority. There is, of course, the socio-economic and cultural context of law enforcement having to ensure a law is obeyed by those who generally are members of the ruling elite who still have disproportionate influence over this country notwithstanding their relatively trivial number.
A briefing on the Hunting Act published by the RSPCA showed prosecutions under the Hunting Act compared favorably with other wildlife legislation, including the Badgers Act 1991, Deer Act 1991 and Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996. Further, IFAW identifies more than 100 prosecutions under the Hunting Act. So, we have to wonder why DEFRA chooses only to identify three.
Yes, of course, there are many more pressing issues. So, why are the ConDems making such a fuss over the repeal of the Hunting Act? What’s next: the return of bear baiting and dog fighting? Back street abortions anyone? Repeal of the right for women to vote? Push the homosexuals back into the closet?