At the full council meeting on 14th December, Cherwell District Council considered a motion brought by Green Councillor Ian Middleton to suspend hunting with dogs in the district.
The motion was in response to recent revelations surrounding a secretly recorded video in which senior members of the hunting community appeared to admit that trail hunting was a rouse to allow them to continue hunting foxes illegally.
More information on this is available here https://www.league.org.uk/news/police-investigate-after-trail-hunting-exposed
The motion, seconded by LibDem councillor Conrad Copeland, called on the council to take action similar to that taken by other landowners such as the National Trust, United Utilities and Natural Resources Wales, who have all suspended hunting on their land pending the outcome of a police investigation into the allegations. Two other local authorities in Chester and Peterborough also banned hunting on their land for the same reason last week.
The motion failed to gain support at Cherwell with all Conservatives voting against. It was supported by the Labour group and by the Progressive Oxfordshire Group on the council of which Ian Middleton and Conrad Copeland are founder members.
Councillor Ian Middleton comments:
“This motion was never intended to be a debate about the rights or wrongs of fox hunting. That was decided in 2004 when the Hunting Act was passed which banned hunting with dogs except in special circumstances.
"The motion was brought merely to protect the council’s legal position in the same way that other agencies and local authorities have done. As a responsible council I felt we needed to take heed of the position of other landowners and councils.
"As a result of the release of the leaked video there is an ongoing police investigation into the way these hunts are being run. There are serious concerns that many hunts may be deliberately setting out to break the law. That potentially puts any authority with control over land use in a potentially problematic position if they are seen to be facilitating these practices.
"There have also been concerns raised by residents in the north of the district over incidents where the Warwickshire Hunt have crossed public land and even invaded private gardens, put domestic animals in danger. Hounds and horses have also strayed on to public roads in Horely and around Broughton causing serious concerns for public safety.
"Conservative councillors seemed oblivious to these problems. Even the ward councillors for the areas concerned were apparently unaware of these encroachments and tried to claim that the hunts never came into the district. It was clear that, even when there is evidence that there may have been wrongdoing, the Conservatives would rather support their friends in the hunting community than protect the legal position of the council and the residents of Cherwell. Councillor McNamara made mention of a ‘reputational matter’ and I agree that the council needs to protect its reputation. The best way to do that in this case is to ensure it is not caught up in the fallout from these potentially explosive revelations.
"Instead of taking on board the facts that were presented to them, they chose to make this a debate about fox hunting itself. Other councillors simply made disparaging remarks about the motivations behind the motion, claiming these matters were not important enough for them to be bothered with. I hope the residents of those wards affected remember that during next year’s district and county elections.”
Chris Luffingham, Director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said:
“I’d like to thank those councillors and their supporters who put so much energy into the campaign to ban trail hunting on council land in Cherwell. It is a travesty that other elected representatives in the council chamber refused to acknowledge the substance of the motion and the facts placed before them. Some councillors even advocated the hunting of foxes and showed just how out of touch they are with the situation."
“We’re confident that other councils across the country will look at the issue and take it a step further than Cherwell was able to do, banning trail hunting and denying hunts the land they need to carry on with their barbaric blood sport.”
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