Last week, the Conservatives postponed a vote in the House of Commons that would have changed the rules and legality of fox hunting.
The Tories were forced to postpone the vote after the SNP revealed their opposition to the proposed changes. The Bill in question only affects the people of England and Wales. In the past, the SNP have pledged to keep out of English/Welsh only issues, thus not overstretching their democratic mandate. However, on this issue, Nicola Sturgeon’s party have decided that they wish to intervene.
Fox hunting laws were passed in the Scottish Parliament in 2002. The SNP merely want to vote in order to impinge upon the legislative agenda of the Conservatives. Under plans from the Prime Minister, a repeat of this situation would be contravened by ‘English votes for English laws’. English votes for English laws actually entails a procedure whereby Scottish MPs cannot vote on issues that do not affect Scottish constituents. The SNP feel that this would undermine their MPs, making them second-rate representatives.
Whilst the SNP are playing politics, the debate about fox hunting is still developing. Fox hunting is part of the English country tradition. Hundreds of people used to take part in hunts involving hounds, mainly for the sake of pest control. Like it or not, foxes are pests. They cost farmers and land-owners hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, they kill chickens, dig up and trample over crops, chew through plastic, and cause various other issues.
In 2005, group fox hunting was banned by the residing Labour government. This caused outrage within the farming and land-owning communities, but they were ignored. Now foxes have to either be shot, or killed by two dogs – the latter of which results in a slower, prolonged death. By relaxing the rules surrounding fox hunting, the government wishes to reverse the changes implemented by the last Labour government.
Since Labour’s reforms, fox hunting has been a highly political issue. Thus, David Cameron will face a hard task trying to push this legislation through Parliament. Indeed, 56 Conservative MPs automatically oppose the measures. Furthermore, pressure groups, animal rights charities and individual campaigners are whipping up a public frenzy over the issue, attempting to force the Prime Minister to yield.
Whatever happens in Parliament, foxes will continue to be killed, to allow farmers to do their jobs and to preserve the British agricultural industry. There are logical imperatives to fox hunting that simply cannot be ignored.