Ricky Gervais and Bill Oddie join Paul McCartney to slam Tory plans to change fox hunting law
BY TOM BRYANT , TOM PARRY
10 JULY 2015
The former Beatle spoke out against changes that could come in next week, believing they would effectively bring back legalised hunts with hounds through the back door
Hunting fury: Sir Paul McCartney
Comedian Ricky Gervais and TV presenter Bill Oddie have added their backing to Sir Paul McCartney's calls to scrap Tory plans to change fox hunting laws as “cruel and unnecessary”.
The former Beatle spoke out against changes that could come in next week, believing they would effectively bring back legalised hunts with hounds through the back door.
Under Labour’s Hunting Act, which came into force a decade ago, hunts were prevented from going out in pursuit of foxes with a pack of hounds.
The proposed amendment being put before Parliament will give MPs a free vote to determine whether hunts in England and Wales can use an unlimited number of dogs to “flush out” foxes.
Animal welfare campaigners, including Sir Paul, are outraged at the sly change in legislation which they fear will make it virtually impossible to launch prosecutions against hunts.
Comic backing: Ricky Gervais has also hit out at plans to scrap the hunting ban
“The people of Britain are behind this Tory Government on many things but the vast majority of us will be against them if hunting is reintroduced,” Sir Paul said.
“It is cruel and unnecessary and will lose them support from ordinary people and animal lovers like myself.”
The 90-minute debate next Wednesday is expected to focus on amending, rather than repealing the 2004 Hunting Act.
The pro-hunt Countryside Alliance say the amendments will enable farmers and gamekeepers to make a judgement, based on the terrain and other circumstances, to use more than two dogs to flush out and stalk wild animals for “effective and humane shooting”.
Yet, animal rights groups like the League Against Cruel Sports, believe the amendment is a cynical attempt to bring back the widespread return of bloodsports across Britain.
David Cameron’s decision to offer MPs a free vote on the hunting amendment has caused anger amongst other celebrities, including Ricky Gervais, 54.
Anger: Bill Oddie has slammed the plans
Ian Vogler / Daily Mirror
He told The Mirror: “Imagine if a gang of thugs set a pack of dogs on a terrified animal for a laugh? Now imagine they’re posh people on horseback.
"Why would anyone want the right to dress up and chase a fox to watch it ripped apart by dogs? I honestly don’t get it.”
Animal rights campaigner and long-time wildlife TV presenter Bill Oddie, 74, has blasted Cameron for having “no shame.
Speaking exclusively to The Mirror, he said: “The review that Cameron promised in his manifesto was a blatant sop to potential Tory benefactors.
"He is now under pressure to deliver their reward - not an OBE or a Knighthood, not a lucrative business contract, not a garden party at Chequers or tickets to the Test Match.
"What they want is the right to condemn foxes, stags and hares to a barbaric death.
“Have they no shame? With the world is such crisis and chaos, is it not obscene to waste time discussing cruel sports that should be banished for ever?
“Hunting with hounds is nothing to do with conserving either the countryside or wildlife. It is everything to do with revelling in the ‘thrill’ of blood sports. These people enjoy killing.”
Queen guitarist Brian May, 67, has been the most vocal opponent of Wednesday’s vote, accusing hunt supporters of lying over claims the bloodsport is a form of pest control.
“It seems we are now approaching the showdown - the moment that has been threatening British wildlife for 10 years now - a return to the ugly scenario of unfettered thugs roaming the English countryside with packs of dogs, ready to tear innocent wild animals apart limb from limb while still alive, in the name of sport,” he claimed.
“We must make no mistake here. This under-handed scheme is being sold to MPs as simply a minor amendment to the Act, to bring it into line with the Scottish Wild mammals act of 2002.
"In fact, this truly is Armageddon for foxes, and those who fight cruelty to animals.”
What the Conservatives said
Change of plan: David Cameron with Guy Avis at a fox hunt
The Conservative Government made a commitment in its manifesto to offering MPs a free vote on completely repealing the Hunting Act 2004.
Now they’re in power, they’ve decided instead to propose an ammendment to the Act - which could increase the number of dogs allowed to be used to flush out foxes.
It is billed as a technical change that will be easier for some MPs to back, and therefore the vote is expected to be close.
Although the Tories have a majority of 12, there are several Conservative MPs who disagree with hunting.
The Conservatives Against Fox Hunting group, also known as Blue Fox, says it is confident of exceeding the 28 supporters it had in the last Parliament.
The SNP could play a key role, but the laws on hunting are already different in Scotland.
Scottish hunts can use an unlimited number of dogs to flush out foxes but in England and Wales two are allowed. If this amendment is passed, Scotland, England and Wales will all have the same rules.