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We work to expose and end the cruelty inflicted on animals in the name of sport

Last Hooray of the Hunts?

26 December 2015

foxOpposition to fox hunting at record level as more rural residents and Conservative MPs than ever before join the fight against blood sports.

Opposition to legalisation of the ‘sport’ of hunting with dogs is at an all-time high – with people in rural areas turning against fox hunting in record numbers.

Hunts will be out in force on Boxing Day, with many of those involved hoping that the government will once again attempt to repeal the Hunting Act which has made it illegal to hunt wild mammals with dogs since 2004.

But new analysis of MP voting intentions(2) by animal welfare charity League Against Cruel Sports indicates that any repeal attempt would be in vain.

In addition, new figures revealed by the League show that opposition to the legalisation of ‘blood sports’ is continuing to rise. Key figures from this year’s annual poll, conducted by Ipsos MORI(1), show:

  • When asked if fox hunting should be made legal again, 83% said no.
  • The figure was as high in rural areas (84%) as in urban areas (82%)
  • Opposition to legalising deer hunting (85%) and hare hunting and hare coursing (87%) is equally strong

Consistent polling using the same questions over several years shows that opposition to fox hunting has risen steadily:

  • Opposition to legalising fox hunting has risen from 72% in 2008 to an all time record of 83% this year.
  • Opposition to legalising fox hunting by those living in rural areas has gone up dramatically from 69% to 84% in just three years

Separate analysis by the League Against Cruel Sports of the voting intentions of MPs during this year’s failed attempt by the Government to bring back hunting also reveals a massive rise in opposition to legalising hunting from Conservative MPs:

  • At least 50 Conservative MPs have clearly stated in public that they will oppose a repeal of the ban on hunting. At least 20 others have opposed the repeal in private.
  • This compares to just six Conservative MPs who supported the Hunting Act when it was brought in 11 years ago
  • The government would face defeat if it tried to repeal the Hunting Act - even if SNP MPs were not allowed to vote.

Tom Quinn, Director of Campaigns for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “We have a lot of new information about what people think about hunting, and none of it is good news for the small but obsessed minority who want to kill animals for fun.

“Opposition to legalising fox hunting is higher than it has ever been. We believe this reflects that as a nation the vast majority of us are repulsed at the thought of killing animals for sport. It’s nearly 2016 for goodness’ sake, surely we’re past this kind of barbarity?

“Crucially, over eight out of ten rural residents are opposed to the legalisation of fox hunting, a dramatic increase in just the last three years. This destroys the hunts’ argument that it’s just ‘urbanites’ or ‘animal rights’ people who oppose hunting because they don’t understand it. The very people who know what hunting really is are saying that enough is enough.

"There will no doubt be pictures on Boxing Day of a few people supporting the hunts as they go about their business – but these figures show the damning reality. Hunting is a tradition that no-one but a small minority wants, needs or cares about any more, and those doing the hunting need to accept that and move on.”

Hopes among pro-hunt supporters that the Hunting Act would be repealed under this government have also taken a political pounding. Evidence of growing anti-hunt feeling among Conservative MPs shows that any attempt to bring hunting back would almost certainly fail. This is unsurprising given that the new poll shows that now seven out of ten Conservative supporters oppose hunting.

Sir Roger Gale, MP for North Thanet, President of Conservative Animal Welfare, Patron of Blue Fox and a Life Member of the League said: “Support for the hunting ban amongst Conservative MPs has snowballed over the past year and is now at an all-time high. In the early days, I was one of very few Conservative voices speaking out against fox hunting.

“The recent increase in numbers of Conservative MPs who have now come out publicly against the repeal of the Hunting Act means that any attempt to repeal the Act at this stage is doomed to failure. The hunting of wild animals with dogs is a pastime that has rightly been consigned to the dustbin of history along with cock-fighting, dog fighting and bear baiting.

“Fox hunting has had its day”,
Sir Roger added.

The League’s Tom Quinn continued: “Conservative MPs are showing their opposition to hunting in greater numbers than ever. We were aware of this during the attempt to bring back hunting during the summer, but because the SNP stood in the way, it didn’t come down to the final vote. But we believe that David Cameron knew then how strong opposition to hunting is in his own party, and made a tactical decision to back down rather than face embarrassment.

“Hunts need to understand that killing animals for sport is not acceptable. If they cannot accept that, then they must be punished by the law. The Government and police authorities need to take responsibility for bringing law breakers to justice, because clearly that is the will of the people of this country.”

The Hunting Act is the most successful piece of wild animal welfare legislation in England and Wales and out-performs all other wild mammal legislation, having both the highest number of convictions since it was introduced (400+ from 2005 to 2015) and the highest conviction rate (65% of charges laid under the Act have resulted in convictions). 59 Hunting Act convictions are directly related to registered hunts or coursing clubs. As a result of the Act many more people have been deterred from chasing and killing foxes, hares, deer and mink with dogs for pleasure.

The League’s Tom Quinn said: “A criminal is a criminal; whether they wear a red coat or belong to a club is irrelevant. The Hunting Act was brought in to stop cruelty to animals in the name of sport, regardless of the perpetrator.”

“But there are still those that flout this law, using loopholes to muddy the water and avoid conviction. Because of this, the law needs some minor tightening up. But the writing is clearly on the wall.

“Hunting is a tradition that no-one but a small minority wants, needs or cares about any more, and those doing the hunting need to accept that and move on.”


Notes to Editors

  • Please contact the League’s Press Office on 01483 524 250 (24hrs) or email for any image or comment requests.
  • Details of poll: 
    Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 2,036 adults in GB aged 15+. Interviews were carried out face-to-face, in home, using CAPI (Computer Aided Personal Interviewing), as part of the Ipsos MORI Omnibus (Capibus).

Fieldwork was conducted between 27th November – 10th December 2015

Results are based on all respondents and have been weighted to reflect the known profile of the adult population. An urban area is defined as a census output area in a settlement with a population of 10,000.

Conservative MPs – the details:
(For a full list, please contact the League’s press office).

There are 650 MPs in total, and 8 always abstain (Speaker, deputies, and Sinn Fein). This means there are 642 votes up for grabs. At present, only 1 Labour MP and 6 from other opposition parties have said they want to repeal the Act. Removing these and adding them to the government side, this leaves the opposition benches with 303 MPs. However, these numbers are missing a key element – Conservatives against fox hunting.

  • There are as many as 70 Conservative MPs who have said either publically or in private that they will vote against any repeal of the hunting ban. At least 50 have stated their position online, with a further four saying they will abstain.

Taking the smaller figure, we are left with:

  • Pro-Repeal: 285 (breakdown – 278 Conservative, 7 other)
  • Anti-Repeal: 353 (231 Labour, 56 SNP, 50 Conservative, 16 other)
  • Abstentions: 12 (2 Conservative deputy/speakers, 2 Labour deputy speakers, 4 Conservative MPs, 4 Sinn Fein).
  • A majority against fox hunting of 68.

It is worth bearing in mind that even if somehow the Prime Minister was able to prevent the SNP from voting on this issue, something he has suggested but never actually implemented, the pro-hunt side would still lose by at least a dozen votes, though likely more.