Farmer Focus : Patrick Godwin 12/11/04

IT IS a curious paradox: Here I am advising on government policies that encourage the introduction of schemes promoting the right environment for ground-nesting birds, while the same government is determined to push through a bill which takes away a legal and humane way of controlling foxes, a big predator of these same birds.

So is this really the end for hunting? The Hunting Bill, it appears, is being railroaded through by a group of backbench bigots who have probably pledged their support for some other shady pieces of legislation in return for the promise of Parliamentary time to bring about a ban on hunting with dogs.

It is interesting to note that among the vitriol and rubbish emanating from these members is the constant reference to their own manifesto from the last election. “Parliament will bring about a decision on the Hunting issue.” Well, parliament is made up of two houses. If one adds up the number of votes cast in both houses for the last and much altered bill, then we find 413 votes in favour and 477 against a ban. This, and it is not coincidence, is on a par with most of the opinion polls, which consistently show that 50-60% of the population do not want to see a cessation of hunting with hounds.

This suggests to me this bill is not based on evidence and principle. The Burns report showed that hunting was the preferred method of fox control. The Portcullis hearings earlier in the year were also unable to show any just reason for the banning of hunting. Yet despite the weight of public opinion against a ban and the full parliamentary system in favour of the status quo we still see this monstrous bill about to pass into law. And they wonder why the number of electors turning out to cast their votes is falling? Physician heal thyself, I say.