I was asked to comment tonight on some new reports that Cameron is giving up on his promise to bring in a free vote in Parliament on whether to repeal the Hunting Act. He and his fox-hunting pals were hoping to smash the Act and bring back the blood sports which have been illegal since 2005. Apparently he is backing out because he is sure he cannot win.
Here is my comment:
Since long before Cameron seized the role of Prime Minister, he has been promising a free vote in the Commons on the issue of whether the Hunting Act should be repealed. If this ‘promise’ is now being abandoned, we have to look carefully at the context. To whom was the promise made ? Well, to all those members of the Old School Tories who think that restricting their rights to abuse animals is a restriction of their civil liberties. But it would be a mistake to think this is a political issue. To a significant and growing number of Conservative MPs, calls for a return to legalised blood sports are an embarrassment, representing the old ‘nasty party’ image that they are anxious to move away from. But unfortunately Cameron and the small clique which forms his cabinet are dominated by pro-Hunt, pro-cruelty old style Tories. This is not an accident, of course, because the Countryside Alliance and the NFU have been playing at politics for years, and, until the days of enforced transparency due to the Internet, and the rise of NGO’s looking after the interests of animals, these people had it all their own way. With the help of VOTE-OK, an organisation founded by a prominent NFU member, Cameron was able to scrape just enough seats in the last election to be able to form a coalition government. But the deals that had been done to make this happen had to be honoured, and one of them was this promise of an opportunity for the pro-hunt MPs to overthrow the long fought for Hunting Act, the one piece of legislation which affords any kind of protection for foxes, hares, and stags.
Because of the rising tide of public opinion against a return to legalised blood sports, Cameron and the pro-hunting forces in Parliament (known to us as ‘The Dark Side’) have known for months now that in a free vote by which he would hope to smash the Hunting Act, they would be defeated. As desperation grew, we have seen efforts made by back-door routes, to try to bring about an erosion of the protection afforded to wild animals. A few months ago a bogus ‘paper’ was published, by a group of farmers in Wales, purporting to prove that foxes were becoming a menace, and asking for changes to be made to the Act to allow packs of dogs to be re-introduced. After an outcry from animal protection organisations and MPs from all sides of the House, Cameron announced his ‘regret’ that the Government could not move forward on such an amendment.
In the case of the ‘Free Vote’, we have to take very good note that Cameron is abandoning his promise to the pro-cruelty lobby only reluctantly. His intent, and that of his whole rotten Government, is still to value our wildlife at less than zero, as can be seen by his refusal to scrap his nonsensical badger cull, which at a high price to taxpayers, is currently worsening the plight of farmers due to the spread of bovine TB brought about perturbation. In the words of his own Independent Expert Panel, the current slaughter of badgers is ‘inhumane and ineffective’. But the disaster in the countryside rolls on.
We could all hope that the abandonment of the Free Vote on the Hunting Act signals a softening of Cameron’s attitudes – a movement towards decent treatment of animals, whether or not they mean money to some powerful business interest. But in reality, as has been said before, no defenceless animal group, human or non-human, is safe until this Government’s selfish and merciless reign is brought to an end.
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