- Peter Nicholls/Reuters
- Theresa May’s election campaign pledge to allow vote on fox hunting ban led to Conservatives being seen as anti-animal.
- Prime Minister reportedly insisted on the controversial policy being included in the party’s election manifesto.
- Conservatives forced to deny claims that their MPs voted against animal sentience as they reposition themselves as a pro-animal party.
LONDON – Theresa May insisted on including a commitment to allow MPs to repeal the fox hunting ban in the Conservative election manifesto, despite opposition from ministers.
The prime minister made the decision which could have meant fox hunting being legalised, overruling colleagues including Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom, The Times reported.
Policies such as a vote on repealing the fox hunting ban and the lack of a policy on banning ivory sales in the manifesto helped to contribute towards the Conservatives being seen as anti-animal by voters.
The stance led to severe criticism of the Conservatives on social media during the election and in the months following it, with both the Tories and Labour stunned by the reaction against it.
Analysis done by Britain Thinks shortly after the June election found that fox hunting was the second most talked about campaign issue online, second only to May’s u-turn on social care policy.
- Britain Thinks
Last week, a story in the Independent about Tory MPs voting against including a clause on animal sentience in the EU withdrawal bill became the most read political story of 2017, according to Buzzfeed.
The story spread quickly online, being shared more than 500,000 times on social media.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove was forced to issue a statement denying the claims, saying: “This Government is committed to the very highest standards of animal welfare.”
Gove also hit out at the way that social media “corrupts and distorts” political stories, and said it aided the spread of “fake news.”
Tim Bonner, the chief executive of the Countryside Alliance pressure group, warned May not to try and get to “electoral nirvana” by bowing to the aims of animal rights groups.
He wrote: “There is a small element in the party which has embraced the more extreme parts of the animal rights movement usually with some trite line about ‘modernisation’. Selfies with Brian May, voting against badger culling, signing up to the latest item on the animal rights agenda are, apparently, the road to electoral nirvana.
“Well, this week those Conservative MPs found out exactly who their friends, or more importantly their enemies, are as the animal rights movement laid into them and the Conservative party on the most spurious of grounds.”
Wasn't aware I'd told Theresa May anything @elliotttimes ?? Also the commitment was for a vote on the future of the HA, different to previous manifestos, & there are probably more pro-hunting MPs https://t.co/f3d39iiIxM
— Tim Bonner (@CA_TimB) November 27, 2017
A ministerial source told The Times that Leadsom, who was then the environment secretary, was stopped from changing Tory policy on fox hunting. “Andrea wanted May not to repeat the promise to allow parliamentary time for a ban on hunting but she was overruled,” they said.
An ally of May said that it was true that the prime minister had insisted it be included: “It was one of the first things that was decided because it was such a toxic issue. [May] just felt that she couldn’t do anything other than continue with it because she had been previously supportive.”
The policy was one of many that were dropped after the Conservatives failed to achieve a majority in June’s general election.