Whately challenged over pro-hunting vote

13 July 2015

Faversham & Mid Kent MP Helen Whately has announced that she plans to vote to repeal the hunting ban in Parliament this week. Here Green Party activist Tina Hagger challenges her position and picks apart the arguments.

While 8 out of 10 people support the ban on fox hunting, Faversham & Mid Kent MP Helen Whately isn’t one of them. In letters to constituents she has said: “I would vote to repeal the Hunting Act.  In my view the Act does nothing to protect wild animals and, in many cases, is actually detrimental to animal welfare when other methods of control are deployed, several of which can be indiscriminate.”

I want to publicly challenge her argument here:

Surely if someone’s concern is animal welfare they would wish to keep the Act but tighten it up. There are too many loopholes in the Act, which should be tightened up to stop hunts tearing a fox to pieces if they happen across it ‘accidentally’. Perhaps the Act should also be enforced properly by the police instead of leaving it to the RSPCA.

Fox hunting does not discriminate as Helen Whately suggests. I assume by this she means that only sick or old foxes will be killed by hunts. This is not the case. Once the hunters find a fox they pursue it for about 20 minutes and stop when the dogs catch and kill the fox, or if the fox hides underground it is dug up and killed by terriermen.

On the rare occasion a fox may escape after a long chase it is likely to die from stress. Also, the presence of 'weaker' foxes within a population is often helpful to that population because when diseased or weak foxes recover, they can pass on their genetic resistance to the fox population. They cannot do this if hunts kill them. In addition, about half the foxes that hunts kill are cubs, which are neither sick nor old.

The idea that fox hunting is a wildlife management service is completely unfounded.

The Government’s inquiry into Hunting with Dogs concluded: "The overall contribution of traditional fox hunting…is almost certainly insignificant in terms of the management of the fox population as a whole." 

In fact, some hunts have even built artificial earths and put food down to make sure there are enough foxes to be hunted for so-called ‘sport’ [Source: RSPCA]. In addition, with over 400 convictions to date, the Hunting Act is the most successful piece of wild animal welfare legislation in this country's history.

The only 'sensible' argument against the Hunting Act is the libertarian point: ‘I enjoy hunting in this way, why should I be stopped?’ I don’t agree with this, but it is a rational argument. I will assume from Helen Whately’s response that this is what she really means.