As the annual Boxing Day hunts prepare to set off across Suffolk and Essex, UKIP MP Douglas Carswell calls for fox hunting ban to remain in place

Hundreds of people gathered to watch the Hadleigh Boxing Day Hunt last year

Hundreds of people gathered to watch the Hadleigh Boxing Day Hunt last year - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Leave the ban on fox hunting alone, UK Independence Party MP Douglas Carswell has said.

Ukip MP Douglas Carswell

Ukip MP Douglas Carswell - Credit: PA

The Essex MP, who defected from the Conservatives earlier this year, said he believed there were much more pressing issues facing the area, also claiming it was not realistic that his own party’s policy to hold a referendum in each county on the issue would see the ban overturned in Essex.

Speaking ahead of Boxing Day hunts, the Clacton MP said: “Killing small fluffy animals is not something that I am really in favour of”.

He will put himself at odds with the pro-hunting lobby which hopes that the election will herald an overturning of the ban on fox-hunting.

James Buckle, master of the Essex and Suffolk Hunt said: “Douglas Carswell has always been an incredible supporter of us, but the only way to get the hunting act repealed is to get a Conservative majority, so Douglas taking a Conservative seat is not very helpful.”

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Tim Bonner, from the Countryside Alliance, blasted UKIP’s wider policy, saying it was “possibly the most idiotic policy on hunting that is capable of imagining”.

“They want county by county referendum on whether hunting should be legal. Why it would be cruel to hunt a fox in Suffolk but okay in Essex, and how you stop your hounds when you reach the border I’m not quite sure.

A British tradition, the Boxing Day Hunt in Hadleigh - 2011

A British tradition, the Boxing Day Hunt in Hadleigh - 2011

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“Along with many areas of their rural policy, I think people once they look beyond Nigel Farage’s tweed jacket they find there is very little of substance in Ukip’s rural agenda.

But Ukip leader Nigel Farage said that Tim Bonner seemed to be “lashing out against himself”.

“He was clearly conned by the Tories in 2010 when the Countryside Alliance poured massive resources and delivered hundreds of thousands of leaflets for the Conservatives.

“The results of which have been, nothing, no change in the law, no free vote, nothing at all. Conversely what UKIP offer with our planned county based referendums is a chance for rural people to have their say. It’s simple, it is about democracy.”

A free vote on fox hunting was agreed in the coalition manifesto, subject to parliamentary time, but the Government has privately acknowledged that with just a few months until the election it will not take place this parliament.

But while the Conservatives have not yet published their manifesto, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss has voiced her support for a repeal.

Boxing Day Hunt at Castle Hedingham - 2012

Boxing Day Hunt at Castle Hedingham - 2012

She said: “People should have the freedom to hunt. We’ve said that when parliamentary time allows there will be a free vote on this issue and I am personally committed to voting for repeal of the current legislation.”

Mr Carswell said: “This is not even in my top 100 priorities, let alone top 10 priorities. We don’t need a change in the law. I think leave things as they are. I personally would leave the ban in place as it is at the moment. When you go out with the hunt, ask yourself what it is that they want to do, that they can’t do.

“People in Clacton and Frinton and Walton, they want me to try and fix the ambulance response times, they don’t want me to get involved in a debate on a ban on ending hunting.”

Asked about his previous support for fox hunting as member of the Conservative Party, he said: “It was party policy and I went along with it. But killing small fluffy animals is not something that I am really in favour of. My general view is that if you are going to hunt something eat it, but we don’t eat foxes. My view is leave the ban in place.”

James Buckle

James Buckle - Credit: Archant

Tim Passmore

Tim Passmore - Credit: Archant

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