Kate on Conservation

Fox hunting ban: Holding on to hope

Dr Brian May and Kate on Conservation at fox hunting protest

In the four years that I’ve been keeping this blog, I haven’t once written about fox hunting. Not once.

Which is particularly surprising when I consider that the first ever piece of ‘conservation-themed’ writing I ever did was a persuasive letter to the then Prime Minister, John Major, asking him to put an end to the cruel practice. Circa 1996.


The main aim of my keeping a blog is merely an extension of that persuasive writing exercise. To encourage compassion and persuade others that things don’t have to stay the same. That they can be made better. That they should be made better.


Perhaps that’s why I’ve avoided writing about matters related to fox hunting: shrouded in class-based politics, it’s minefield of negativity. I want to inspire hope and positivity on this blog: positive action and progressive thinking.


I joined the #Keeptheban protests near Parliament Square yesterday, and outside Downing Street today; standing alongside the likes of Born Free Patron Dr Brian May, Badger Trust CEO and Born Free Foundation’s Policy Advisor, Dominic Dyer, and my good friend and fellow blogger Anneka Svenska, against a relaxing of the long and hard fought fox hunting ban.


The ban is not an all-encompassing, total solution, but it’s better that it’s in place, than not.

The outcome of the last two days was not the one that conservationists were hoping for, but it wasn’t an absolute disaster, either. The SNP pledged their allegiance with those wanting to keep the ban. David Cameron postponed today’s vote; a delay tactic that has many implications, but the ban is in place — for now.


As I say though, my aim is to inspire hope, not promote hopelessness.

The last time I met Dr Brian May, it was at a Votes for Animals protest, ahead of the General Election, and he was promoting his campaign; Common Decency. Common Decency was about voting for MPs ‘colourblind’; paying attention to their policies and not their party.


Shortly after meeting him this time, I received the following response from my St Albans MP, Conservative party’s Anne Main, in response to my lobbying email:

Dear Miss Snowdon,
Thank you for your email regarding the Hunting Act. I apologise for the standard nature of this email – as I am sure you understand, I have received a very large volume of emails in a short space of time from constituents asking me for my views on this important issue and I was keen to ensure that you received a full and informative response. I would like to thank those who included a personal message in your email; I did read all of the emails which were sent to me and I was grateful to hear all of your views.
It is now my understanding that the vote which was due on 15th July has been postponed and will not take place tomorrow. This was a Statutory Instrument to make amendments to the exempt provisions included in the Hunting Act 2004, as opposed to a vote on repealing the Act itself. Prior to the withdrawal I was going to vote against the Statutory Instrument as I feel it would weaken the ban.
Currently, as part of the Hunting Act pest control exemptions, farmers and gamekeepers can use up to two dogs to flush foxes from cover to be shot. I understand that upland farmers have argued that the two-dog limit can be impractical on their terrain, which can be vast, difficult and covered by woodland. The new Statutory Instrument intended to give land owners in England and Wales the opportunity to use more than two dogs to flush out foxes. However, I believe that the changes proposed would make prosecution of those who participate in illegal hunting more difficult which is why I would have voted against this measure.
Many of the constituents who contacted me have asked for my views on the Hunting Act more generally, following the commitment in the Conservative Manifesto that MPs would have the opportunity to repeal the Act on a free vote. I would not like to see the Hunting Act repealed and I would not wish to see hunting returned as a sport.
I hope that I have been able to reassure you of my commitment to ensuring animal welfare. Animal welfare is an issue that I have been raising in Parliament for some time. I am the leading Conservative campaigner against the badger cull, and I have done significant work in opposing the culls. I have also campaigned to the Government against the use of pinch collars on dogs with the help of the Dogs Trust, and have supported a variety of animal rights campaigns including those relating to wild animals in circuses, backstreet breeding and strengthening protection for racing greyhounds. I have worked with a number of animal welfare charities and I am determined to continue the fight against animal cruelty.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
With best wishes,
Mrs Anne Main

A damn sight better than the lack of response that 6-year-old me got from John Major!


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