Sir Ranulph Fiennes pleads with Theresa May: ‘Don’t bring back cruel fox hunting’
ONE of Britain’s greatest living heroes is calling on Theresa May not to bring back the spectre of fox hunting.
By STUART WINTER PUBLISHED: 20:29, Thu, Jul 14, 2016 | UPDATED: 20:44, Thu, Jul 14, 2016
Sir Ranulph Fiennes has called on Theresa May not to repeal the fox hunting ban
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who once famously marched with the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance, wants the newly-shaped Government to keep hunting illegal.
Hours before pro-hunting Andrea Leadsom was appointed as the new Environment Secretary, Sir Ranulph, 72, had written to Downing Street calling for the decade old legislation to be retained.
The Hunting Act prohibits pursuing foxes and other species of mammal with more than two dogs and has been hailed a success despite attempts to water it down.
Mrs Leadsom had made a free vote on repealing the law one of her key policy commitments when she was challenging for the Tory party leadership last week, a move that was heavily criticised by the influential the Blue Foxes – otherwise known as Conservatives Against Fox Hunting – who have been instrumental in gathering strong support among Tory MPs to derail recent Westminster attempts to repeal the law.
Sir Ranulph – full name Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes – has now added his highly respected voice against any return.
In an open letter to Theresa May, the fabled explorer says: “What rural people want from a Conservative Government is not an obsession with repealing a popular piece of legislation.
“They want better housing, more support for farmers and improved broadband infrastructure.
“Conservatives have always been about upholding the law. The Hunting Act is law. The law has proven successful.
“The signals from Government about repealing it have only served to undermine the law, and those whose job it is to enforce it.”
Sir Ranulph, who describes in his letter to the new prime minister how had marched with the Countryside Alliance 12 years ago because he believed in the principle of freedom and the defence of traditions, continues: “Conservatism has never been about turning back the clock.I hope you will join me in championing this compassionate, conservative vision for animal welfare
“It has been about progress and moving forward, adapting to new realities and aspirations.
“There is a unique opportunity today for conservatives everywhere to proudly assert their compassionate credentials, and to communicate a powerful vision of preserving Britain’s natural heritage for future generations.
“I hope you will publicly join me in championing this compassionate, conservative vision for animal welfare and against persecution for ‘sport’.”
Theresa May was appointed Prime Minister yesterday
The League Against Cruel Sports has expressed its disappointment that the new Environment Secretary is committed to a free vote on repealing the law, especially as the “vast majority of the British public are completely opposed to hunting”.
The charity’s chief executive Eduardo Goncalves said: “Following Theresa May’s appointment as Prime Minister, she spoke about need to govern as a one nation Prime Minister.
“Given Mrs Leadsom’s views on hunting, we hope that her appointment will not prove to be a missed opportunity to do just that.
“The Hunting Act is supported by over 80 per cent of the British public – including 70 per cent of Conservative voters – and people in England and Wales have no desire to return to the cruelty of hunting. They view this as a settled matter.”
Why I’m calling for Conservatives to embrace protection of our natural heritage, and to move on from the hunting debate
Firstly, congratulations on your appointment as leader of the Conservative Party and appointment as Prime Minister.
12 years ago I took part in a Countryside Alliance march. I did so, not because I personally approved of fox-hunting, but because of my firm beliefs, including the principle of freedom and in defence of tradition.
I still believe in freedom, and the right of people to live as they wish, in so far as practicable, without government interferences in their lives.
Those marches in the early part of this century were about a great many things to countryside people. At the time, we felt isolated, denigrated, and disliked by the Labour government.
The beliefs of conservatives and countryfolk across Britain on the issue of hunting have changed since the Hunting Act was brought in. I now believe the time has come for the Conservative Party to move on too. That is why I am writing to ask you to commit to retaining the Hunting Act and dropping the promise to repeal it.
The Hunting Act was brought into being because the British public believed that the use of packs of hounds to kill foxes for ‘sport’ had no place in a British society that considered itself civilised, and that the practice should go the same way as bear-baiting and cock-fighting.
Since then, public opinion has only become increasingly clear on the subject. Recent polling by IPSOS-MORI shows that 84% of countryfolk are against a return of hunting, as indeed are 70% of Conservative voters. The change is reflected within the Conservative parliamentary party. Only 4 Conservative MPs voted for the Hunting Act in 2004. Today there are more than 50 who openly support it (and probably many more who privately back it).
What is clear is that being pro-hunting is no longer part of the conservative DNA. What is equally clear is that the principles of freedom and tradition are no longer a cover to justify cruelty. This point was recently reinforced by the outcry that followed an investigation by the League Against Cruel Sports which showed that live fox cubs are routinely thrown to hunting hounds as part of their training. That footage rightly horrified the British public. Such cruelty has no place in the last century, let alone this one. People who previously were supportive of hunting have now turned their back on it.
It would be a fool-hardy political leader who, against this backdrop, would now commit to bringing back hunting, or who told his or her MPs that they will be expected to defend their seats on a promise to make such activities legal again. What rural people want from a Conservative government is not an obsession with repealing a popular piece of legislation. They want better housing, more support for farmers, and improved broadband infrastructure.
There are also many positive reasons for conservatives to embrace a new approach. There is a rich strand in the conservative narrative about compassion and about responsible stewardship of nature. The Conservative party is the party of British values, and Britain has led the way when it comes to animal welfare. We have some of the strongest animal welfare laws in the world. Internationally, Britain has led the charge against the illegal wildlife trade, against whaling, and against trophy hunting. It was, after all, the Conservatives who were the first to appoint a Shadow Minister with responsibility for animal welfare.
Moreover, there is a crying need to teach today’s youth about Britain’s unique natural heritage, and how we must take responsibility for it – so that present and future generations can benefit from it. And if the Conservative Party is to thrive in the long term, it needs to engage with the values and aspirations of younger voters. There are few issues which inspire – and enrage – young Britons more than animal welfare.
Conservatives have always been about upholding the law. The Hunting Act is law. The law has proven successful. The signals from government about repealing it have only served to undermine the law, and those whose job it is to enforce it.
This is not to argue for a free-for-all for predators. The Hunting Act provides for situations such as where a specific fox that is a habitual killer of chickens and lambs, allowing for it to be humanely shot. However you don’t need a pack of 40 hounds charging across the countryside to carry out pest control. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a less efficient or effective way of achieving that aim. And for the avoidance of doubt, I am not against hunting for food. Hunting for ‘sport’, though, is simply no longer justifiable. Taking the life of sentient beings simply for pleasure is surely not the mark of a civilised nation. Britain in the 21st Century can – and should – aspire to be better than this.
This is why I am now supporting the League Against Cruel Sports and its work to uphold, strengthen and extend the Hunting Act, and to end the persecution and killing of animals for sport. Conservatism has never been about turning back the clock. It has been about progress and moving forward, adapting to new realities and aspirations. There is a unique opportunity today for conservatives everywhere to proudly assert their compassionate credentials, and to communicate a powerful vision of preserving Britain’s natural heritage for future generations.
I hope you will publically join me in championing this compassionate, conservative vision for animal welfare and against persecution for ‘sport’.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes