- The ban on fox hunting in the UK could be lifted, under plans by the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
- Hunt, who is running to become the next prime minister, said he would back a new vote on legalising hunting with hounds after the next general election.
- The government’s opponents promised to fight any attempt to lift the ban.
- Hunt U-turns on Thursday following a backlash from Conservative MPs, saying a new vote wouldn’t be a “priority.”
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LONDON – Jeremy Hunt would vote to lift the ban on fox hunting in the United Kingdom, if he becomes prime minister, he said on Wednesday.
The Foreign Secretary said that he would be “happy” for fox hunting, which was banned under the last Labour government in 2004, to be allowed again as it was “part of the countryside.”
“I would vote to repeal the ban on foxhunting,” Hunt told the Telegraph.
“I would soon as there’s a majority in parliament that would be likely to repeal the fox hunting back I would support a vote in parliament.”
He said repealing the ban was necessary in order to restore the “heritage” of the British countryside.
“I don’t hunt personally… but it’s part of the countryside,” he said.
“It’s part of our heritage so personally I’m happy for people to do it.”
Hunt’s comments triggered a backlash among opponents and Conservative MPs, leading the Foreign Secretary to say on Thursday that a new vote would not be his “priority.”
The Conservative party has a long-running commitment to repealing the fox hunting ban but has so far resisted taking the opportunity to hold a vote on the issue.
Prime Minister Theresa May committed to holding a free vote on repealing the fox hunting ban in the run-up to the 2017 general election, but lost her party’s governing majority.
Hunt said on Wednesday that he would hold such a vote after a general election.
“I don’t believe there ‘s a majority in parliament to change it, so I think you would need a Conservative majority,” he said.
The Conservative’s opponents said that lifting the ban would be “barbaric.”
Labour party chairman Ian Lavery said: “This Tory leadership race is going from bad to worse. We’ve had Johnson’s tax cuts for the wealthy, a race to the bottom on no-deal Brexit, and now a pledge to bring back this barbaric practice that Labour had proudly banned.”
He was also criticised by a number of Conservative MPs on Twitter.
Wales minister Kevin Foster said there was “no chance of such a majority for this cruel and long banned activity to come back”.
He tweeted that it was “time to move on with animal welfare gains, not go back decades.”
Conservative MP Julian Knight tweeted that his party “can’t seriously be talking about this again.”
Following the backlash, Hunt told the Today programme on Wednesday that lifting the ban would not be his “priority.”
“This is not something I would seek to change as prime minister,” he said.
However, he added that it would be a “free vote issue” under his government.
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