New year message to supporters

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year and to set out my priorities for the coming 12 months for our movement.

The New Year is a time for fresh starts and renewed commitments. As some of you may know, I had some health issues during 2017, so personally it is great to be back - for which I am deeply grateful for our wonderful NHS. Thank you to all of you who sent me your best wishes.

I want to get back firmly on the front foot in taking the war to the bloodsports lobby and their apologists. Our latest poll shows 85% of voters want the ban on fox-hunting to stay - the highest figure ever, which gives us a great platform to start from.

And the Prime Minister Theresa May is now apparently dropping her party's policy of a 'free vote' to repeal the Hunting Act. I'm sure she remembers the poll we commissioned during the General Election which showed that thousands of Conservative supporters in marginal seats would switch their votes to anti-hunting candidates. I am in no doubt that hunting - and our campaign - was a key factor in the General Election result.

This means we have a great opportunity to press our case for the law to be enforced, strengthened and extended.

Every single police force should be making enforcement part of their policing plan. Chief Constables should ensure their officers are focused on the real criminals. The Boxing Day meets showed hunts' true colours. Despite the media scrutiny, they openly killed foxes and attacked ordinary people like lawless thugs.

Many of us know all too well what they're like the rest of the year when the media aren't there. That's why we will be out there too, exposing the truth and helping bring the perpetrators to justice.

It's high time the ridiculous loopholes and exemptions were closed. Nobody believes Japanese whalers are conducting 'research' when they kill whales. Similarly, nobody for one minute believes hunters are just doing 'research' when they kill beautiful stags on National Trust land.

Across the UK, the movement to clamp down on bloodsports is growing. In Scotland, it is looking increasing likely that the government will soon tighten its laws against hunting. and in Northern Ireland more and more people want a ban there too. We must seize this moment to ensure that people who torture or kill animals for fun will feel the full force of the law throughout the UK - and face the prospect of jail time, not just a fine. If you can go to prison for dogfighting or killing a badger, why not for tearing apart a fox for bloodlust? The Hunting Act should stop being the poor man of animal cruelty laws. If the government is serious about animals having sentience, that should apply to all animals who are senselessly tortured and killed.

In 2018, League Against Cruel Sports needs to lead the fight against animal persecution and animal abusers. The League's supporters are the lifeblood of our movement. Animals don't have a voice - we are their defenders. So, it's up to us to go down to MPs' constituency surgeries, call them up, write letters to them - and turn the momentum we've built into real action for animals. We've got an exciting new network of regional campaign managers to support you. Let's make this the year that's remembered for achieving something huge for our long-suffering fellow travellers on this earth.

Thank you.

Eduardo Gonçalves, League CEO, at Baronsdown wildlife sanctuary.

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