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The next Labour government will end countryside cruelty

PETER FROST welcomes new wildlife crime policies in Labour’s Hope Manifesto

There are rather a lot of things about our present non-elected Prime Minister Johnson that are hard to discover. 

The man won’t answer many questions, even about how many children he has or what he learned in all those afternoon technology lessons with US pole-dancing businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri.

So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that I couldn’t find if Johnson was a hunting and shooting type. We do know his predecessor David Cameron was a member of his local hunt in Oxfordshire but when it was prosecuted for wildlife offences he quietly slipped away. Now it seems Cameron has gone back to his traditional Tory ways.

The ex-Tory PM took himself of to the Scottish isle of Jura last year to shoot Britain’s largest and most magnificent land based mammal — the red deer stag. Apparently he named this wonderful beast Boris. He shot another stag last year which he named Gove. 

He has also boasted that he names the game birds he shoots regularly Boris or Michael to make the bloodthirsty slaughter more amusing.

Perhaps we will need to wait until Johnson is given his marching orders before we find out about his hunting and shooting predilections — fortunately that shouldn’t take too long now. 

We do know that Johnson and so many other Tory ministers first developed their bloodthirsty tastes at Eton. The public school keeps a pack of hare-hunting beagles. Indeed the League Against Cruel Sports filmed the Eton beagles on an illegal hare hunt only last October.  
 
Hunting hares was banned under Labour's 2004 Hunting Act, which outlawed lethal dog chases including fox hunts. Amazingly Eton school gains tax advantages by claiming that the beagle pack is a community resource.

What we do know is that Labour’s new election manifesto contains a huge range of wide-ranging and unprecedented policies to protect our native wildlife and stop cruelty to animals. It is a far cry from those bloodthirsty traditional Tory hunting and shooting values.

The Hope Manifesto sets out a £4.5 million funding boost to fight wildlife crimes including a commitment to boost police investigations into fox hunting, hare coursing, stag hunting, badger baiting and the illegal killing of wild birds.

It announces additional police resources to support what will be the most radical animal welfare plan anywhere in the world. 
 
The plans will double the number of police officers tasked to prosecute wildlife crimes from the current 88 to 170, increasing the capability of rural crime units. The new wildlife crime officers will not reduce allocations to front-line policing.
 
Wildlife crimes include hare coursing, which has emerged as a significant problem across farmlands. Other acts like fox hunting and stag hunting are already illegal under Labour’s 2004 Hunting Act. Other wildlife crime offences include badger baiting and persecuting and killing birds of prey.

A lack of resources has seen prosecutions in England and Wales for crimes like baiting, poaching and hunting plummet by a third since 2016.

Working in partnership with regional organised crime units, the additional officers will also play a part in policing animal welfare issues like livestock theft and dog fighting, which are often linked to serious organised crime.

Labour’s commitment to increase wildlife crime policing will enable more effective actions against existing crime and will ensure police forces are ready to enforce planned new offences and stricter rules.
 
Labour’s animal welfare manifesto includes additional plans to:
 

  • Close loopholes in the 2004 Hunting Act that allow in practice the continuation of illegal hunting of foxes, deer and hares.
  • Consult on the introduction of custodial sentences for illegal hunting, bringing it in line with the penalties for other wildlife crimes.
  • Introduce a recklessness clause to the Act, to prevent trail hunts being used as cover for the illegal hunting of wild mammals.
  • Remove the exemption for use of dogs below ground to protect birds for shooting.
  • Review the penalties available under the Hunting Act 2004. 

Labour’s shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman told the Morning Star: “Labour’s animal welfare manifesto is the most radical animal welfare plan anywhere in the world.

“While the Tories continue with their mass slaughter of badgers and flip flop on bringing back fox hunting, Labour is determined to bring animal welfare policy into the 21st century, based on the latest science and understanding.

“We are calling time on those who have been allowed to get away with illegally hunting, maiming and killing wild animals such as deer, hen harriers, foxes and hares.

“By increasing the number of wildlife and rural police forces across the country we will help protect both wild animals and property in rural communities, and ensure a crackdown on the types of crimes against animals that this Tory government has turned a blind eye to.

“Labour is the true party of real change when it comes to animal welfare.”

Labour’s new all-embracing wildlife policies cover many of the demands I and other writers have made in the environmental columns in the Morning Star.

They will end the cruel, unscientific and ineffective cull of badgers. They will ban the importation of all fur and hunting trophies.

They will commission an independent review into the economic, environmental and wildlife and environmental impacts of driven grouse shooting on our moorlands.

They will establish a “Blue Belt” to protect and enhance our marine environment around the British coastline and that of overseas territories.

They will end the import and export of animals for use in research. They will improve access to vets for those living on low incomes or in remote areas and they will give tenants in private and social rented accommodation the right to keep pets.

Martin Sims, a former head of the police’s National Wildlife Crime Unit and now director of investigations at the League against Cruel Sports, welcomed Labour’s plans, describing them as “bold.”

“I urge other parties to stand united against hunting, to pledge to finally stop the barbaric chasing and killing of foxes with packs of hounds that still takes place today, 14 years after the fox hunting ban came into force,” he said.

“Introducing custodial sentences for fox hunting would bring it in line with other animal welfare crimes, and will serve to be a more effective deterrent to those who insist on continuing to kill animals for ‘sport’.”

Read Peter Frost on nature, wildlife and working-class history every Friday in the Morning Star.

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