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ISSUE 1523Tuesday 27 July 1999

  New poll shows public not prepared to outlaw hunting
By Charles Clover Environment Editor


 THERE is no clear majority of the public in favour of Tony Blair's promise to ban hunting, according to a new poll that asks if people are prepared to support laws that would make those who hunt criminals.

Fifty-seven per cent of people asked said that it was not a matter for Parliament to regulate hunting on private land, instead it was a matter for individual farmers to decide.

Only 49 per cent of people supported the introduction of legislation to make hunting a criminal offence, according to the poll commissioned by the Countryside Alliance. Forty-two per cent opposed legislation that would criminalise hunting and nine per cent did not know.

The poll, conducted after the Prime Minister, on the BBC's Question Time, promised to ban hunting, asked different questions to a Mori poll which found that 52 per cent strongly supported a ban on foxhunting with dogs, with a further 11 per cent "tending to support" a ban.

The NOP poll for the alliance found that 89 per cent of the public agreed with a view expressed by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, last year that the public wanted action on health, education or addressing drug addiction as a first priority. Only five per cent of those asked saw hunting as priority legislation.

Sam Butler, the chairman of an alliance task force set up to fight the hunting ban, said: "This new poll gives the lie to the idea that there is any majority public enthusiasm or support for outlawing hunting.

"It is clear that even many of those who might disapprove of hunting do not believe it is the place of Parliament to turn those who hunt into criminals, or to overrule the judgment of individual farmers.

"Voters want Government leadership to help to address the problems facing rural people, not unworkable and illiberal legislation which attacks a key part of their way of life."

Other results of the poll were: that 63 per cent of the public believed that the Government should not ban everything that the majority of the public was against. Almost half - 48 per cent - disapproved of the idea of holding local referendums to decide whether hunting should take place in an area. The same percentage was in favour of the idea.

Slightly more than half - 52 per cent - believed that foxes in rural areas needed to be controlled. A third disagreed. Forty-two per cent believed anti-hunting activists were more interested in attacking the upper classes than saving foxes. The same percentage disagreed with that statement.

Of those asked, 85 per cent said they would not change the party they voted for because of the hunting issue. The 12 per cent who said that they would included both supporters and opponents of foxhunting. The poll, based on a sample of 1,001 people across the country, was conducted between July 16-22.


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