A fur farming ban and a new fight with the fox hunters
28th November 2000
Animal rights activists have multiple cause for celebration this month as the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Bill takes its final steps towards law and news leaks out of a new bill against fox hunting.
The Fur Farming (Prohibition) Bill, which received its final reading in the House of Commons on Nov 22, will outlaw the farming of animals solely or primarily for fur. The new Act contains measures to compensate the remaining 13 mink fur farms in the England which will be required to cease operation by 2003.
A spokesperson for the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade welcomed the legislation but insisted the timetable for farm closures was too long: "Fur farming is undeniably cruel and this cruelty is carried out simply to satisfy the whims of the fashion industry. We must ensure these farms close this winter rather than wait until the end of that time.
Separate legislation is to be brought forth to include Scotland and Northern Ireland in the ban, although there are at present no fur farms in these areas.
According to a document leaked to the Daily Telegraph, a new bill banning fox hunting is to be presented in the next queen's speech. The Telegraph, whose editor Charles Moore is an ardent fox hunter, opened their November 23rd coverage of the leak with their now traditional outcry: "Huntsmen, including masters of hounds, landowners and hunt officials, are to be treated as members of criminal organisations under the Government's Hunting Bill".
In reality though the government are treading extremely cautiously with a measure they know will raise the bile of the landed gentry. The Hunting Bill is set to reflect this caution by offering three possible options to MP's and Lords. These are to ban hunting altogether with £5000 fines for non-compliance, to regulate it under a statutory body, or to leave it unregulated under the auspices of an independent supervisory committee.
Although Tony Blair and Jack Straw are amongst senior figures who have voiced opposition to hunting, the New Labour government is seeking to mollify the British aristocracy and those who depend on their favourite sport, by offering three options and an unwhipped free vote. This means the government are officially neutral on the issue; an unusual situation for a government bill.
The well-financed Countryside Alliance, an organisation set up to prevent a ban on fox hunting, claim the latest bill is an "unenforceable" assault on the civil rights of Britain's landed gentry and their minions, and promise to organise a big central London march on "a major constitutional issue." The Alliance say their march will be bigger than the 1998 march in London, at which many thousands of people, many of whom worked for big landowners and were given a paid day off, marched through central London to Hyde Park.
The Countryside Alliance were further inflamed when Deputy prime minister, John Prescott declared at this year's Labour conference: "Everytime I see the Countryside Alliance and their contorted red faces, I redouble my determination to abolish fox hunting." The battle is on.
For investigative material on the Countryside Alliance and its behind the scenes backers check out The Countryside Corralled on the SQUALL features page.
THE COUNTRYSIDE CORRALLED - An investigation into the Countryside Alliance and large UK landowners Squall 16 / Summer 1998