Before the Ban: Political

Numerous attempts have been made over decades to stop foxhunting using political means. Many pieces of legislation have been proposed over the years to ban or regulate other types of bloodsport like hare coursing and the hunting of other wild animals such as otters.

Some of the following information has been nicked from the BBC and their articles from the end of the ’90s onwards. The list is certainly not extensive.

1949 – Two private member’s bills to ban, or restrict, hunting fail to make it onto the statute books. One is withdrawn the other is defeated on its second reading in the Commons. The Labour government appoints a committee of inquiry to investigate all forms of hunting. The committee concludes: “Foxhunting makes a very important contribution to the control of foxes, and involves less cruelty than most other methods of controlling them. It should therefore be allowed to continue.”

1992 – A private member’s bill to make hunting with dogs illegal is rejected by the Commons. The Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill, proposed by Labour MP Kevin McNamara, is defeated on its second reading.

1993 – Labour MP and animal rights campaigner Tony Banks fails in his attempt to get Parliament to pass his Fox Hunting (Abolition) Bill.

1995 – Labour MP John McFall is unsuccessful with his private member’s bill to ban hunting with hounds. The Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill passes its second reading in the Commons. But it is heavily amended before it falls in the Lords.

1997 – The Labour manifesto promises: “We will ensure greater protection for wildlife. We have advocated new measures to promote animal welfare, including a free vote in Parliament on whether hunting with hounds should be banned.” Later that year, Labour MP Michael Foster publishes a private member’s bill to ban hunting with dogs. The government delivers a blow to the chances of the bill becoming law by refusing to grant the legislation any of its Parliamentary time.

1998 – After the Foster bill passes its second reading in the Commons Countryside Alliance organises a massive protest rally in London. An estimated 250,000 people join the countryside march to protest against the bill and threats to other aspects of rural life. The bill later runs out of time during its report stage in the Commons. The bill is talked out by hunt-supporting MPs who table hundreds of amendments to block the legislation’s progress. Mr Foster pledges to fight on. He then withdraws it, citing the “cynical tactics” of his opponents. He insists that to carry on would deprive other valuable legislation, such as a law on puppy farms, of valuable Parliamentary time. He predicts that fox hunting will still be banned during this Parliament. But he says it is now up to the government to see the job through.

1999 – Prime Minister Tony Blair makes a surprise announcement that he plans to make fox-hunting illegal and before the next general election if possible. Labour denies that Mr Blair’s pledge is connected to an extra £100,000 donation it had received from an anti-hunt pressure group. The Political Animal Lobby (PAL), had previously given £1m to the party before the 1997 election – they had also made donations to the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

Labour MSP Mike Watson announces plans to put forward a private member’s bill in the Scottish Parliament to ban hunting with dogs in Scotland. He predicts the bill could come into force by Spring 2000. Hunt supporters set up a national body, the Independent Supervisory for Hunting, to ensure hunting is carried out in a “proper and humane manner”. The government announces it will support a backbenchers’ bill on fox hunting. Home Secretary Jack Straw announces an inquiry into the effect of a fox hunting ban on the rural economy, to be led by Lord Burns.

2000 – MSP Mike Watson’s bill starts its passage through the Scottish Parliament. Labour backbenchers urge the government to put its weight behind a hunting ban or risk losing voters, and Labour MP Gordon Prentice proposes an amendment to the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill to ban the sport. The Burns inquiry report is due a week ahead of proposed government legislation that will offer a number of options, from preserving the status quo to introducing a total ban.