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Fox hunting while the Earth burns

We might have hoped environmental issues would be to the fore during the next general election instead we got the Prime Minister saying she favours fox hunting and will re-open the debate.

Matt Cardy/Getty Images Fox
Fox

Politicians rarely fail to disappoint. As the general election campaigns swing into action we might have hoped that important environmental issues would be to the fore. There are plenty to choose from: post EU protection for wildlife and its habitats; global warming and President Trump’s threat to withdraw the USA from the Paris Climate Change Agreement; air pollution in towns and cities (discussion of which the Government actively tried to suppress); future progress on water quality, to name but a few.

Instead what did we get? The Prime Minister going off at a tangent by saying that she favours fox hunting and will re-open the debate. This old chestnut, guaranteed to make people hot under the collar one way or the other, has been endlessly discussed (one estimate is that Parliament has spent 700 hours on it) and was ‘finally’ decided upon in 2005, when hunting foxes with dogs became illegal. Not that that has stopped the activity - more than 400 convictions have been secured since the ban was introduced

Foxes exemplify our confused attitudes towards wildlife. Because they are carnivores some label them with the human attributes of ‘cruelty’, ‘viciousness’ and ‘savageness, and say that they are senseless killers. As free living wild animals though, others think that they are sacrosanct, and should not be killed in any way or for any purpose. The ban on hunting is not, as it happens, a ban on killing foxes, that is still permitted in various ways. This is to allow livestock owners and others protect their livelihoods, although there are other and better ways of doing this - fox hunting has always been more about sport than pest control. In the 19th Century foxes were imported from mainland Europe because there were not enough of them to satisfy the many hunts.

The problem here is that, by re-opening the debate, Theresa May is diverting attention away from the current Government’s poor record on environmental protection in general, and that for nature conservation in particular. Other parties are likely to waste their time in responding to what she has said, instead of taking her to task, and focusing on their own plans for far more important aspects related to the countryside, the natural world and the environment in general.

As always, the way to keep these things on the agenda is to tackle candidates about them whenever you can.

Twitter: @PeteWestbrom

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