FOX hunting is still a hugely divisive issue in the country.

Before the general election, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to hold a vote on repealing the ban, which was passed in 2004, if he was re-elected.

So with a Conservative majority in the Commons, a vote among MPs to decide whether to scrap Britain’s fox hunting ban is likely to take place in the near future.

A poll on the Echo’s website received more than 10,000 votes, demonstrating the big interest in any vote.

In total, 6,422 people (60 per cent) said fox hunting should stay banned, while 4,223 people (40 per cent) called for the Hunting Act to be revoked.

Mr Cameron believes in the “freedom to hunt” and wants the ban removed, but he may find it hard to get support from his colleagues in south Essex.

Conservative MPs will be given a free vote in any potential hunting debate, meaning they have no obligation to side with party leadership .

The 2004 law change banned hunting for wild mammals using dogs, but drag hunting , where dogs follow an artificial scent, continues to take place .

It also remains legal for foxes to be “flushed out” of a hole by dogs, as long as the fox is shot afterwards, instead of savaged by the dogs, as was previously permitted.


Southend West MP Sir David Amess,apatron of the Conservatives Against Fox Hunting group, has unsurprisingly confirmed he will vote to keep the ban.

He said: “I have always voted against fox hunting and will vote against any changes to the Hunting Act.”

In explaining his stance, Sir David emphasised his longstanding interest in animal welfare issues, adding: “I was responsible for introducing the Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act in 1988.

“More recently, I have successfully campaigned to stop the unethical practice of testing domestic products on animals, to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, and to end puppy farming.Ihave also consistently opposed the culling of badgers.”

While Sir David has adopted a strong position, other south Essex politicians insist fox hunting is simply not a big issue among residents.

A spokesman for Rayleigh and Wickford MP Mark Francois said: “This issue was barely raised with Mr Francois during the election campaign, but he has voted against a ban on fox-hunting in the past and would do so again in the future.”

'Tradition no excuse to reverse ban'

A FORMER hunt saboteur believes tradition should not be used as an excuse to overturn the ban.

As a young adult, Iain Blake-Lawson would travel across the country carrying out peaceful protests and attempting to sabotage hunts in an attempt to save foxes from being savaged to death.

Mr Blake-Lawson, 53, from Leigh, is now chairman of the League Against Cruel Sports, which campaigns for proper enforcement of the Hunting Act.


Former hunt saboteur Iain Blake-Lawson

When supporting calls for the hunting ban to be scrapped, David Cameron described it as a “rural way of life”.

Mr Blake-Lawson said: “I’ve heard everything from it being tradition and part of our countryside culture, to it being necessary to control fox populations, to the fox actually enjoys being hunted.

“There are many traditions our country has celebrated in the past, but that doesn’t mean they are not cruel or should be allowed to continue.”

But the Countryside Alliance has condemned the Hunting Act as illogical and unfair.

Its director of campaigns, Tim Bonner, claims 97 per cent of prosecutions using the law have involved poachers, rather than registered hunts.

He added: “The Hunting Act does not even work from the fox’s point of view.

“Anti-hunt groups spent about £30million to put the Hunting Act on the Statute Book– since then they have not spent a penny to show the impact it has had on animal welfare.

“This is because there has been no improvement in welfare – just as many foxes are being killed as were before the ban.”

Since the ban was introduced, there have been 237 successful convictions and 96 unsuccessful convictions across the country.

But Mr Blake-Lawson believes, with the help of the League Against Cruel Sports, the law is working.

He said: “The league has done fantastic work in training investigators, gathering evidence and working with the authorities to expose what’s happening.”


Hunt takes over High Street

HUNT events continue to take place regularly in Essex, despite the ban on using dogs to track down foxes.

A New Year hunt takes place every year in Maldon, pictured, which involves a parade along the High Street followed by a mock hunt using a scented rag. The Maldon hunt had been held for about 80 years prior to the introduction of the ban.

Although the event abides by the terms of the Hunting Act, protesters regularly attend to voice their opposition.

The Essex Animal Defenders and Hunt Saboteurs Association both attended this year holding banners and signs condemning the event.