Prime Minister Theresa May abandons pledge to give MPs vote on fox hunting ban

The lead rider kicks off Hadleigh's annual Boxing Day hunt. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The lead rider kicks off Hadleigh's annual Boxing Day hunt. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Theresa May will abandon her Conservative general election manifesto pledge to give MPs a vote on whether to overturn the fox hunting ban.

Prime Minister Theresa May being interviewed on The Andrew Marr show. Picture: BBC/JEFF OVERS/PA WIR

Prime Minister Theresa May being interviewed on The Andrew Marr show. Picture: BBC/JEFF OVERS/PA WIRE - Credit: PA

The law, introduced by Labour in 2004, bans the use of dogs to hunt foxes and other wild mammals in England and Wales.

Mrs May told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show she had received a “clear message” on the issue and said there will not be a vote during this parliament.

Michael Gove has prioritised animal welfare issues since Mrs May appointed him environment secretary after the June election.

But Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly criticised Mrs May for saying she was in favour of fox hunting during the election, which shattered the PM’s authority after the Tories lost their Commons majority.

Hadleigh's annual Boxing Day hunt. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Hadleigh's annual Boxing Day hunt. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The Tories had pledged in their manifesto to hold a free vote on a bill in government time to allow parliament to decide the future of the Hunting Act 2004.

However, Mrs May told the BBC: “As prime minister, my job isn’t just about what I think about something, it’s actually about looking at what the view of the country is.

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“I think there was a clear message about that and that’s why I say there won’t be a vote on fox hunting during this parliament.”

Chris Pitt, of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Hunting is a barbaric practice which still sees British wildlife being torn to pieces by packs of hounds.

Anti-fox hunting protestors at Hadleigh. Picture: MICHAEL STEWARD

Anti-fox hunting protestors at Hadleigh. Picture: MICHAEL STEWARD - Credit: Archant

“It appears that the Government now accepts that cruel sports should no longer be a part of 21st-century society so it’s good to know they won’t try to legalise it again in this parliament, though they may try again in the next.”

The Boxing Day hunts in Suffolk saw anti-fox hunting protestors at events in Hadleigh and Great Thurlow.

Police were called to the Great Thurlow event after a disturbance broke out between observers and members of the hunt following an allegation that a fox had been illegally killed.

No arrests were made and police have asked that anyone with video footage of the incident to contact them.

Speaking on Boxing Day, James Buckle, master of the Essex and Suffolk Hunt, said Mrs May should be focusing on more important issues.

“It’s a ridiculous piece of legislation, which clearly hasn’t worked,” he said. “She can’t win a vote on Brexit, let alone a vote on fox hunting.

“I think she should focus on more pressing matters before perhaps coming back to fox hunting.”

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