Hunt saboteurs spark fears over speaking out on proposals being dropped by Theresa May’s government

MPs were to get a free vote on repealing the Hunting Act.
Picture: Ian Burt

MPs were to get a free vote on repealing the Hunting Act. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Supporters of fox hunting are remaining silent in the face of 'intimidation' from saboteurs after the government dropped controversial plans to table a vote to repeal the ban.

None of the hunts contacted by this newspaper were willing to comment on the record about plans dropped from the Conservative manifesto after Theresa May failed to secure a Commons majority.

Representatives cited fear of reprisals from 'emboldened' saboteurs.

One, who spoke anonymously, said the backlash to the manifesto and the added publicity was likely to cause an increase in activity by people trying to disrupt hunts.

'The best thing to do is just keep our heads down,' he said. 'These so-called saboteurs are just thugs. They target businesses and people as well as hunts and it is not worth the bother and distress for us.

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'Regarding the dropping of the plans for a vote, we will just get on with things. But I fear the move will mean these people are further emboldened.'

The MP for North West Norfolk Sir Henry Bellingham said that although he was supportive of the hunts now was not the time for a vote. He said the government's reduced majority and the pressures of Brexit meant it was right not to pursue the proposal.

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'Now is not the time,' he said. 'But hunts are doing better than ever, they are very well attended and I very much hope that continues.'

During the election campaign the Tory manifesto pledge to allow a free vote on fox hunting proved toxic on the doorsteps. One Tory source has even suggested hunting led to one of author's of the manifesto – Ipswich's former MP Ben Gummer – losing his job. He said: 'Labour used it on the doorstep – fox hunting tarnished our campaign. I think that more than anything did it for poor Ben.'

Labour MP for Norwich South Clive Lewis welcomed the news: 'In many ways Theresa May's support for Fox Hunting and her Party's attempt to bring it back, is emblematic of the gulf between her and her party's opinions and those of mainstream British public opinion.

'It's quite right this planned repeal has been jettisoned. Personally I hope an incoming Labour government go further and ensure all the loopholes currently surrounding this barbaric practice are tightened up, ensuring it becomes nothing more than a historical footnote.'

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