British close to banning fox hunts–– if Labour keeps deal

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1997:

LONDON––Did International Fund for Animal
Welfare founder Brian Davies retire from the IFAW board of
trustees after the election of the new Labour government of
Britain to put himself in line for a high-level appointment, or
because his million-pound gamble that Labour will halt hunting
might not pay off?
Or was it really all just as he said, to focus on his
work with the Political Action Lobby, PAL for short, an independent
pro-animal organization claiming 50,000 supporters?
Davies gave Labour the equivalent of $1.5 million on
September 1, 1997, after Labour leader Tony Blair pledged to
permit a free vote in the House of Commons to ban hunting
with hounds. Blair seemed to retreat, however, as the May 1
election approached and hunting supporters formed a trade
union, The Union of Country Sports Workers. Eventually
Blair appeared to indefinitely postpone the free vote, in which
Members of Parliament would be allowed to vote their consciences
instead of a particular party line.

On May 1, Labor behind Blair captured 418 of the
659 seats in the House of Commons, with 47% of the total
vote, which was split among three major parties and a number
of fringe parties of mostly regional backing.
Newly appointed minister of agriculture Jack
Cunningham waivered at his first press conference. “Whatever
is done about hunting with hounds generally,” Cunningham
said, “packs might be licensed to control foxes. Shooting
might be licensed. But there would have to be some control.”
Pounced Janet George of the British Field Sports
Society: “It would make hunting all right as long as you don’t
wear red coats, ride a thoroughbred horse, or enjoy it.”
Evidently wobbling himself, League Against Cruel
Sports spokesperson Kevin Saunders allowed, “Licensing of
packs is an option if there is deemed to be a pest problem.
However, we shall still press for a complete ban.”
Davies, though, seemed to be getting his way by
May 18, when according to James Hardy of the London Daily
Telegraph, “Home Office officials have begun preparations to
introduce a government bill, possibly before the end of the new
session of Parliament, to outlaw fox hunting. Jack Straw, the
Home Secretary, last week indicated that a private members’
bill was the most likely option, but The Telegraph has learned
that officials are drawing up plans for the government to put
forward its own legislation.”
According to Hardy, the bill would be likely to come
up for a vote within the current 18-month legislative session.
Hunting was already curtailed somewhat on April 10
when the 40 attending members of the 52-member governing
council of the National Trust, the British equivalent of The
Nature Conservancy, voted unanimously to ban stag hunting
with hounds over the 600,000 acres it controls. The ban came
one day after publication of a study of chemical stress markers
in the blood of about 150 just-hunted deer, coordinated by animal
behaviorist Patrick Basteson of Cambridge University,
concluded that as National Trust chair Charles Nunnelly put it,
“Hunting causes suffering to the animals to a degree which is
far beyond their natural expectation.”
An estimated 240,000 of the 59 million residents of
Great Britain hunt in one form or another, chiefly by following
dogs, either on foot or on horseback. The hunting participation
rate in the U.S. is about a dozen times higher, due to the far
greater prominence of rifle and shotgun use here. The level of
participation in pack hunting in either nation is about the same.
The Union of Country Sports argued during the election campaign
that British hunting, fishing, and shooting together
employ 125,000 people, or one for every two hunters.

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