Suffolk/Essex: Caution over new moves on fox hunting

James Buckle at the 2011 Boxing Day Hunt in Hadleigh, Suffolk.

James Buckle at the 2011 Boxing Day Hunt in Hadleigh, Suffolk.

Hunting supporters in Suffolk have extended a cautious welcome to suggestions that restrictions could be eased.

James Buckle, Master of Essex and Suffolk Hunt, said he supported the possible concession with some qualifications.

“As long as they don’t think that’s far enough, because it isn’t,” said Mr Buckle. “It’s a start and it shows they’re thinking about it, but it’s not far enough.”

Yesterday the Prime Minister indicated that he had “sympathy” with campaigners who want the rules on fox hunting to be loosened.

Welsh farmers have complained that attacks on lambs are increasing in upland areas and that they are unable to prevent them with the limited pest control measures allowed under the Hunting Act 2004.

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While acknowledging that the situation in Wales was very different to Suffolk and Essex, Mr Buckle branded the current situation “ridiculous”.

However trying to repeal the bill would be a “waste of time” until the Conservatives have a majority, he added.

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“They’ve said that they’re going to try to repeal the act and that’s what we want. But until the Conservatives have a majority there’s no point.”

Mr Buckle’s position echoed that of the Countryside Alliance, which yesterday said that any amendment should not be seen as an alternative to the repeal of the Act.

Tim Bonner, director of campaigns for the Countryside Alliance, said: “The Countryside Alliance has consistently made the case for the repeal of the ban on hunting and does not believe that it is possible to amend or adapt a law as flawed as the Hunting Act into any workable form.

“The Alliance does, however, understand the urgent need for the only effective method of fox control in many upland areas to be reinstated and so supports the call of the Federation of Welsh Farmers’ Packs for the removal of the two dog limit for flushing and shooting foxes.”

However Lawrie Payne, a veteran anti-hunting activist who lives in Harwich, said the concession to Welsh farmers was “just a ploy, a ruse to try to get a small wedge in the legislation”.

“Any back door entrance into trying to bring hunting back needs to be opposed by the strongest methods,” said the former honorary secretary of the League Against Cruel Sports.

“Parliament has already spoken and has said that hunting is cruel and barbaric, the people of this country believe that it is cruel and barbaric, there’s no way in a sane and humane nation that we should allow this to happen.”

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