Britain could lift fox hunting ban after parliament vote
(AFP) After Luxembourg enforced a ban this year, Britain's House of Commons will vote on the highly contentious issue of fox hunting next week, with critics claiming that it could be a first step towards lifting an 11-year ban.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who has admitted hunting with hounds in the past, is expected to vote next Thursday in favour of the move which would give more freedom to "flush out" foxes with dogs.
Hunting foxes with dogs has been banned across Britain since 2004 but Cameron's centre-right Conservatives pledged to make it legal in their manifesto for May's general election, which they won.
The issue is highly divisive in Britain, where critics often argue that hunting is a cruel pursuit for wealthy landowners and supporters say it is part of rural life and helps control a troublesome fox population that can kill livestock.
Drag hunts, where dogs follow an artificial scent instead of a fox, are still allowed and have continued across Britain in winter months.
Next week's vote will be on a technicality which would make the law the same across England, Wales and Scotland and is not about lifting the overall ban.
In England and Wales, a farmer can currently only use two dogs to "flush out" a fox, or remove it from its hole so it can be shot, while in Scotland, farmers can use an unlimited number of dogs.
Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports campaign group, said the vote was "nothing but sneaking hunting in through the back door".
"By amending the Hunting Act like this, the government are deliberately and cynically making it easier for hunts to chase and kill foxes, and harder for them to be convicted when they break the law," he added.
The Countryside Alliance, a pressure group in favour of hunting, stressed the move would mean that traditional hunting remains illegal.
Following media reports of the vote, Cameron's spokeswoman would only confirm that it would come before parliament's summer recess on July 21.
Asked how the prime minister would vote, she said Cameron had "made clear several times that he believes in the freedom to hunt."
She added that the government stands by its commitment to repeal the ban on hunting eventually.
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