Now the dust has settled on the week’s events, it’s possible to construct a clear overview. The Tory Press has already written its version of History – that the SNP unethically single-handedly blocked an amendment to the Hunting Act which was designed to help farmers control pests. The truth is somewhat different !
To begin with, the ‘amendment’ which snuck in under cover of the night was the result of a careful piece of Machiavellian scheming, seen as a necessity since it had become obvious that the long-promised “Free Vote on repeal of the Hunting Act” was going to fail to bring the result that David Cameron and the fox hunters wanted. The ‘amendment’ – far from being the ‘slight technical adjustment’ that SIs were designed to be, was a flagrant attempt to castrate the Hunting Act, by making it impossible for it ever to yield prosecutions in the future. A dastardly and sordid affair !
Tuesday 14th July 2015 was a victory for Democracy and Team Fox, and for Save-Me, along with all the animal welfare groups and supporters who have e-mailed and campaigned with us. Even though dirty tactics were used, Democracy in some way worked, and triumphed for the benefit of the English.
This was a very public humiliation for the Government and the Countryside Alliance with their ever-changing spin. Despite tampering with the British parliamentary system and attempting to use sleight of hand to fox the public, they have been caught out in the full light of day. This unworthy and ill-used Statutory Instrument was the return of fox hunting under a different name, and in the paltry 6 days’ notice given for the vote on the SI, even pro-hunt MPs were confirming the truth. Even though it failed, Cameron’s attack on the Act which has protected wild animals since 2004 would have gained more respect had it been done straightforwardly.
There are 318 hunts in the UK and in England about 10 upland foot packs and 20 in Wales. There is legislation already in place that allows farmers to act under licence in ‘pest control’ situations. So there was no way the Hunting Act needed to be “relaxed” to give farmers what they need to protect their livestock. It was a deception – a very shabby ruse to circumvent an uncomfortable promise.
The Countryside Alliance have been once again exposed as peddling old-style barbaric hunting with packs of dogs, and as the short week unfolded, while the leader of the Tory party in the HOC was pronouncing “This has nothing to do with Hunting” the CA were sending MPs literature simply saying “Vote for Hunting”. MPs who otherwise may have abstained said they were receiving between 600 and 1,800 emails on this issue AGAINST the SI – the biggest avalanche of E-mails MPs have ever experienced. Many were rightly swayed to have a mind to vote against the Tory Party Line. It seems the 80% of the population who oppose the bill were not remaining quiet. A core of dyed-in-the-wool pro-hunt MP’s chose to ignore their public, but every day more previously undecided Tory MPs joined us.
The change of heart wasn’t a conscious snub to Mr Paterson and Mr Hart in their bid to see the return of blood sports, nor was it disloyalty to the Government; it was a legitimate exercising of democratic process. MPs were, in tune with the ideas of Common Decency, voting according to their conscience and the will of their constituents. Some, of course, were not of a mind to behave decently. Some MPs who had been elected with the support of the CA-backed “Vote Ok” organisation were reminded that if they voted against Cameron’s SI, they wouldn’t receive their help next time. Despite Cameron’s assertions that this was a free vote, bullying was rife within the Commons and the pressure from verbal intimidation was immense. A last ditch attempt from Conservative party headquarters, calling MPs the night before the vote to beg them to abstain instead of voting against, failed completely, and at this stage the writing was clearly on the wall.
We had met with many of the newly elected SNP members over the last few weeks and found them as refreshingly honest as the spirit that flowed through Nicola Sturgeon when she burst onto our screens just a few short months ago.
We had found the pre-election anti-Scot propaganda shocking; the imagery used and the prejudice and fear deliberately generated to divide us from Scotland is forever a stain on Cameron’s administration and the ‘bought’ Tory Press. So why wouldn’t the Scottish National Party vote on animal cruelty ? The SNP took the seats fairly and squarely from the same voters who sent us Tory and Labour MPs just five years earlier, and in recent memory Cameron was seen begging the Scots to stay in the UK, yet people were now saying they shouldn’t vote. Perhaps they forgot that the Scots have always voted ? Gordon Brown was our Prime Minister and Alistair came to us from North of Hadrian’s Wall. Of course they should vote ! And vote they did ! IT was appropriate from the compassionate point of view, because foxes know no boundaries and neither does humaneness.
Of course the cynics will always say the SNP motivation in voting was purely to change the balance of power in Parliament, and that they have no real regard for animal welfare. Well, time will tell. They have already promised that Scotland under the SNP will review the Scottish Wild Mammal Act to tighten it up in the coming weeks. Certainly when the SNP made their announcement on Tuesday afternoon that they were to vote against the SI, Cameron’s advisors were smart to pull Wednesday’s vote with perfect timing to be able to blame the backdown purely on the SNP. And that was the message that went out to much of the World’s news media.
There has been much talk of EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) and guesswork that Cameron will simply implement EVEL and bring the Repeal Bill back in a few weeks. But current advice is that EVEL will not affect another attack on the Hunting Act, so it looks as if this talk was mainly bravado.
Had the vote taken place, whether or not the SNP had voted in the end, there is little doubt the result would have been a defeat for the Government. Whether pulling the vote resulted in less humiliation or more is open to debate. But the principle result is the same: The Hunting Act withstood the attack, and still stands intact.
Of course it’s fairly plain that some hope of turning the clock back lives on in the mind of David Cameron, and a few others. But support is flagging within the party. The view of many is that it’s becoming embarrassing, and makes Britain looks bad on a world stage. Were we really going to be the first government in this century to re-introduce blood sports ? We have now heard many previously committed pro-cruelty MPs tell us they just want this to go away, before it ‘retoxifies’ the Conservative party.
Of course none of this battle has been about political parties. As we always hoped, decency has prevailed because of commitment from politicians of all parties, regardless of ‘colour’. The dispute is simply about humaneness versus cruelty.
The Statutory Instrument has, for now been thrown out, and withdrawn from the order paper. Whether it ever returns remains to be seen.
The results for the Animal Welfare community of this tussle have been already seen to be very beneficial. It seems that more of the British public are now clear about what Blood Sports really are, and why, in the view of at least 75 per cent of them, they should never again be legal in the UK. It might be noted that 75 per cent is an incomparably higher percentage of assent than any government has ever got from Britain’s voters !! Yes, fox hunters must now listen to will of the majority, and the law of the Land, and enjoy their rides without the ‘pay-off’ of a sadistic end to the day.
Brian and Anne
Save-Me 16th July 2015
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