If David Cameron and a minority elite get their way, there will soon be a free vote in the House of Commons to decide whether the Hunting Act should be repealed. This is devastating news for animal lovers, and would set back animal welfare in the UK by more than a decade, sentencing thousands of foxes and other defenceless wildlife to misery, suffering and death.
There is hope though, and it comes in the guise of the Scottish National Party (SNP). They are on record as saying that “SNP MPs will always be a voice for the protection of our environment and wildlife.” After a landslide victory in Scotland in the last general election, there are now 56 SNP MPs in Westminster, which means their votes against the repeal could save the day.
There is also a problem. Since the Hunting Act 2004 covers just England and Wales, the SNP may decide to abstain from the free vote on hunting. We at Network for Animals are doing everything in our power to convince the SNP to do the right thing. If they care as much about wildlife as they say they do, then it follows that everything in their power should be done to stop the repeal from becoming a reality. SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford said as recently as April this year that hunting with dogs is “inhumane” and “cruel”. How then could she possibly sit back and watch the evil bloodsport be voted back into the UK in 2015?
It makes no difference whether the animals being hunted are in Scotland or England. Cruelty knows no borders and the SNP must be persuaded to vote with their conscience. Abstaining would be seen as an act of political cowardice by most of the 1,454,436 people who elected the SNP to represent their wishes as a voter of the United Kingdom. Furthermore, given that 80% of the UK population is against the repeal of the Hunting Ban, failing to vote would let down animal lovers across the UK, who are relying on the leadership Scotland demonstrated with the 2002 Protection of Wild Mammals act.
Network for Animals believe that together with the help of our supporters, we stand a real chance of convincing the SNP to vote against the repeal. SNP MPs Angus Robertson and Calum Kerr have both spoken favourably in the press recently about the number of animal lovers who have got in touch with them about the repeal of the Hunting Act. Both said that the SNP have yet to make a final decision about whether they will vote or not. This means there is still hope. We are meeting SNP MPs, petitioning Angus Robertson, and have asked our supporters to tweet their own MPs, and even better, to go and see their MP and let them see how important it is for the people they represent, for them to vote to keep the Hunting Act when the time comes.
This is a fight we stand a real chance of winning, but we must stand up and make our voices heard.