Fears mount fox searching might be again on the agenda as Tories courtroom grass roots

Animal welfare campaigners worry fox searching might be again on the agenda as political events gear up for subsequent 12 months’s normal election.

As scores of hunts collect throughout the nation to cry “Tally-ho!” at conventional Boxing Day meets, activists warned the bloodsport might change into a poll field challenge as soon as once more because the Tories battle to win again disillusioned grassroots. Bloodsports fan David Cameron’s bombshell return to the political frontline as Foreign Secretary has additionally bolstered fears for the return of searching.

Mr Cameron tried to set off a parliamentary vote on bringing again searching inside weeks of profitable a shock Commons majority as Prime Minister in 2015. It solely flopped after Scottish nationalists vowed to torpedo the plan.

The return of David Cameron to the Cabinet has stoked fears that fox hunting could be back on the agenda
The return of David Cameron to the Cabinet has stoked fears that fox searching might be again on the agenda
AFP through Getty Images)

League Against Cruel Sports deputy chief government Chris Luffingham advised the Mirror: “We are concerned that hunting will be back on the Conservative Party’s manifesto for the next election, given the return of David Cameron to the frontbenches and his elevation to the House of Lords.”

Tens of thousands of hunt supporters are expected to flock to rural towns and villages today to watch huntsmen and women ride out on their mounts accompanied by baying hounds. They will be carrying out legal drag or trail hunts following the block on hunting with dogs which came into force in England and Wales in February 2005.

But campaigners fear foxes could still be killed accidentally if hounds pick up a scent before chasing down and mauling a live animal. The League warned hunting could be hauled into what is set to be the most bitter, divisive election campaign ever – fuelled by culture wars around issues such as transgender rights, the toppling of controversial statues and identity.

“Our worry is that this will be yet another excuse to launch a divisive culture war that this time uses hunting to pitch communities against each other,” said Mr Luffingham.

“We must refuse to let hunting be collateral damage in yet another culture war. It’s not about urban versus rural, it’s not about class – it’s about animal welfare and preserving the countryside.”

Successive Tory big beasts have tried to bring back hunting since it was outlawed by the 2004 Hunting Act. The Mirror exclusively revealed how then PM Theresa May attempted to revive fox hunting at the 2017 poll.

Experts said her support for killing the animals with packs of dogs fuelled the shock loss of the Tories’ majority. Running for the party leadership in 2019, Jeremy Hunt – now the Chancellor and second-most powerful Cabinet Minister – also threw his weight behind hunting.

“I think we have to recognise it’s part of the countryside and I think we have to recognise that, in terms of the balance of the countryside, it’s part of our heritage,” he told The Daily Telegraph that summer. “So, personally, I’m happy for people to do it.”

He added: “I would vote to repeal the ban on fox hunting. I would as soon as there was a majority in Parliament that would be likely to repeal the fox hunting ban, then I would support a vote in Parliament.”

Hunting did not become an issue at the 2019 election when the Conservatives were led by animal-loving Boris Johnson, whose then girlfriend – now wife – was environmental campaigner Carrie Symonds.

But some analysts believe Rishi Sunak’s love of the countryside – he is MP for Richmond, North Yorks – and desperation to buoy up dejected the Tory grassroots could see him leave the door open to a comeback for hunting.

The Countryside Alliance’s head of hunting Polly Portwin said: “Tens of 1000’s of individuals from all walks of life will likely be out celebrating Boxing Day meets with their households, mates and neighbours whereas supporting struggling native excessive streets. Trail-hunting varieties a part of the spine of rural Britain.

“It would be horrendously short-sighted and, frankly, just plain nasty, for any political party to bend to the will of obsessive pressure groups by turning this community into a political football. Political parties should be focusing on how to address problems in the countryside in a respectful way and not attack or demonise rural communities as part of some divisive culture war.”

The Conservatives declined to remark.