The Star is today speaking up for Sheffielders and saying a resounding ‘no’ to fox hunting.
As the greenest city in Europe and with a spectacular national park on our doorstep, our region provides a habitat for foxes to live without the fear of being hunted for pleasure.
And as the government shelves controversial plans to relax hunting laws, a Star Live poll reveals some 85 per cent of our readers say no to a change in the law.
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City Labour MPs had been poised to vote against the Tory government’s attempt to overturn the fox hunting ban, having been contacted by thousands of concerned locals.
Louise Haigh, Sheffield Heeley MP, said: “I have been absolutely inundated. I have had more emails about this than any other issue.
“When I was first elected I had about 500 emails on the subject and I’ve had the same again in the last couple of days.
“I have been an animal welfare activist for a very long time. There’s absolutely no way I could support hunting of any kind.”
The changes to the law would have brought the Hunting Act in line with Scotland, where an unlimited number of hounds can be used to ‘flush out’ a fox to be shot, compared to just two dogs in England and Wales.
Angela Smith, Penistone and Stocksbridge MP, said: “I’ve had more than 400 emails, the majority asking me to vote to keep the ban on fox hunting in place.
“Indeed, it is one of the largest responses I have had from constituents, which gives an indication of the strength of feeling people have.
“I am frankly shocked that the government should even try to secure a return to fox hunting by the back door, which is what they were trying to do by amending the Act.”
And Clive Betts, Sheffield South East MP, said: “It’s interesting to note fox numbers haven’t increased since the hunting ban.
“Lamb loss due to fox predation is still evidenced to be less than 1 per cent of all lamb deaths. And, contrary to the regular assertion, culling actually appears to increase fox numbers, because it attracts foxes from surrounding areas and increases reproduction rates.”
Meanwhile, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam, said he supported the current law and would vote against plans to change it.
But he said: “The wider issue is why the government believes this to be a priority.
“In a week where a deal on nuclear weapons is agreed with Iran and the Eurozone has narrowly averted total meltdown, both the Tories and the SNP think the most important issue for it to debate is how many dogs can pursue a fox on a hunt.
“If the government believes fox hunting is the priority of the day then I fear what the next five years will bring.”
However, Fraser Wakerley, chairman of the Barlow Hunt, which meets across South Yorkshire and Derbyshire, said it was a ‘huge disappointment’ the vote has been postponed.
He said Barlow Hunt outings still take place under the current law by leaving scented trails for the dogs to follow – but organisers are under a constant fear of prosecution if the hunt begins pursuing a real fox in error.
He said: “I would personally like to see a full repeal, because I genuinely think the hunts provide a service to the farming community in managing the fox population.
“If you have a lot of foxes, you have a lot of problems for lambs, chickens, ground-nesting birds and so on.
“Hunting has gone on for hundreds of years and the whole purpose is to manage the countryside.
“We are aware hunting is a contentious issue. The hunting community has always been a minority, but it’s fair to say that in England minorities are generally respected.
“We ask for nothing more than to be respected like other minorities.”