Oxford West MP under fire for fox hunting stance

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Oxford MP Nicola Blackwood has come under fire from student activists this week for her apparent support of legal fox hunting.

Blackwood, Conservative MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, has signalled her support for a bill to legalise fox hunting, which was banned in 2004. She claims the original ban was “introduced undemocratically”, and she “fully supports a Repeal Bill with a free vote so that a proper debate can happen”.

A commitment to a fox hunting Repeal Bill is included in this year’s Conservative Party manifesto.

It also emerged in recent weeks that Blackwood has received campaign support from Vote-Ok, a countryside lobbying group that sends campaigners to parliamentary candidates sympathetic to their cause. Vote-Ok views the legalisation of fox hunting as one of its top priorities.

Student animal rights activists reacted with dismay to Blackwood’s stance. Adam Bridgen, President of the Oxford University Animal Ethics Society, described fox hunting as a “barbarous blood sport that the Labour Party did well to do away with”, and criticised Blackwood’s position as a “populist pre-election move, intended to appeal to the Conservatives’ traditional support base”.

 Bridgen continued: “Nicola Blackwood is a prime example of the risk of fox hunting being used as a form of electoral leverage: not only does she vocally support the promised repeal, but she is receiving backing from pro-hunting lobby groups in [her constituency].”

Blackwood is currently fighting a hotly contested election race to regain her parliamentary seat, with Oxford West and Abingdon considered one of the closest constituencies in the country. She was elected in 2010 only 176 votes ahead of her Liberal Democrat rival.

Liberal Democrat candidate Layla Moran, Blackwood’s main opponent, also criticised the MP’s stance and voiced her own disapproval of fox hunting: “There is no appetite to bring back the sport of fox hunting in the public and the Tory obsession with repealing the Hunting Act is a waste of Parliamentary time. As the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon I would oppose any repeal.”

Blackwood has provoked student anger on previous occasions. In 2013, her vote against same-sex marriage was criticised in a letter written by 38 JCR Presidents, as well as then OUSU President Tom Rutland.

Bridgen went on to describe Blackwood’s stance on fox hunting as a “ridiculous proposal” that will “lose [Blackwood] as many conscientious voters as it gains them blood sport fans”.

Sally Copley, the Labour candidate in Oxford West and Abingdon, also implied criticism of Blackwood’s support from Vote-OK, telling The Oxford Mail: “The important thing is to take your lead from what consituents tell you rather than particular groups.”

A PPE student at Brasenose voiced his support of Blackwood’s stance, commenting: “Foxes are pests that cost the rural economy hundreds of thousands of pounds a year as well as causing untold disruption to the farming community.

“Agriculture already faces a myriad of threats and difficulties and it’s right and proper that the government does everything it can to support the community. Moreover, foxhunting is an integral rural tradition.”

Fox hunting was banned by Tony Blair’s Labour Government in 2004, though legal hunts are still held on Boxing Day every year in a number of areas.

PHOTO/ Oxford Mail

4 thoughts on “Oxford West MP under fire for fox hunting stance

  1. Vote Okay is a group of hunters who canvass and leaflet in return for a promise of a vote to repeal the hunting Act if the candidate is elected. They do not tell people on the doorstep that this is the plan, and neither do the MPs themselves admit they are using hunters to help in their campaigns in this way. Hunting is a cruel and totally unnecessary blood sport which doesn’t help to control foxes in any way. Like all predators foxes control their own numbers according to food supply and habitat. If more foxes die one season more cubs are born the next. There are approximately 250,000 foxes in the UK today and that number has remained largely unchanged. Foxes are not agricultural pests, in fact they are beneficial to farmers because they eat rats and rabbits and beetles etc which damage crops. It is simply untrue to claim that foxes kill thousands of lambs, they will scavenge dead lambs and they may take a sick or dying lamb. They hang around ewes at lambing time because they like to eat the afterbirth. Most lamb deaths are due to poor ewe health, cold or infection, not foxes. Foxes will kill hens, but the onus is on the farmer to keep his hens in fox proof enclosures. Hunting is a particularly cruel way to kill an animal. The hounds are bred for stamina to give the riders a long chase. Eventually the fox will be cornered and attacked by the dogs. He is disembowelled as he fights for his life, then he is torn apart. This may be a tradition but its not a tradition normal people wish to see carried on in 2015. Animals matter today, more so than ever, and our wildlife is precious. Poll after poll has shown that the majority do not want to see hunting return to the UK countryside. In spite of 80% of us wanting to keep hunting banned, a minority of powerful voracious hunters will not accept the wishes of the majority. As for Ms Blackwood claiming the Hunting Act is undemocratic, that is stuff and nonsense. The Act was 10 years in the making and took up 700 hours of Parliamentary time. The pro hunting politicians prevaricated and did all they could to talk I out of time until in the end the parliament Act was used to push it through. It is a legal and successful Act of Parliament which simply needs a few loopholes closed, it must not be repealed. The electorate have given animals a voice and thousands of us are going to use our votes to ensure that voice is heard.

  2. Very unhappy with the way the Conservatives, with the exception of some who back animal welfare and I truly appreciate, have dealt with both the cull and the prospective return of fox hunting. The ignorance of scientific advice, public opinion and basic humanity is not something that should appeal to the majority of people. They have not only got the backing of the pro hunt to, mostly not revealing their intentions to the public when canvassing, rally for their support http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/generalelection/prominent-fox-hunting-supporters-step-up-tory-support–and-expect-repeal-of-ban-in-return-10154990.html but stopped the bill from having wild animals in circuses and forced to perform against their natural behavior blocked http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/ban-on-wild-animals-in-circus-blocked-by-tory-backbenchers-10092779.html ? Why is it also that it is left to charities to provide protection against wildlife crime, many hunting incidences have not been prosecuted http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/11160851/Three-hunt-leaders-accused-of-illegal-fox-hunting.html and unbelievably isn’t Otis Ferry, someone who attacked a sab and had to pay damages helping the Conservative campaign?

  3. I doubt if Nicola Blackwood has much interest in fox hunting. Should have kept quiet on it; lobby groups will be the undoing of many MPs for their complete contempt of public opinion.

  4. Just use some common sense and don’t vote tory. They have proved time and time again that they do not care about our wildlife or the less fortunate in our society. It is a no brainer… get rid.

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