Animal lovers and anti-hunt campaigners rejoiced as the Conservative manifesto pledge to hold a free vote on a repeal of the hunting act (as well as a few other unpopular pledges) was not included in the Queen’s speech yesterday.
Since the election results – which came as a surprise to many, commentators have been quick to point out just how important fox hunting was in this election – with some MPs speculating it could have been a key factor in some marginal seats.
Whilst these results are brilliant, is it all over? Nope. With hunts still continuing to kill illegally, why would it be? Find out more in the post below about the impact fox hunting had on the election and how social media had a huge role to play in that.
May’s Return To Fox Hunting Quashed – A Timeline
There have been several key points in this election that have highlighted, despite what the media first stated – hunting IS obviously an election issue, and the power of social media and campaigning really sent a message to the Conservatives:
18th April – Theresa Calls A Snap Election
Much to the surprise of pretty much everyone, on the 18th April, Theresa May called a snap election to take place on June 8th. The reason given for holding this snap election was to ‘make a success of Brexit’, but this was to become one of the first undoings of the Conservative campaign.
It may have seemed a strange decision in hindsight, but at the time Labour were crumbling. With many Labour MPs against Jeremy Corbyn, in the Conservative’s eyes this was the optimal time to take a huge majority in parliament to push their so called ‘hard’ Brexit.
8th May – Leaked Tory Peer Email – “This is the chance we’ve been waiting for”
This was where it all began, on the 8th May The Mirror reported a leaked email sent to hunts up and down the country from Tory peer Lord Mancroft, the email urged hunt masters to “mobilise supporters” and campaign in Conservative marginal seats.
At the time, he predicted that a Conservative majority of 50 seats would be enough to have a free vote on a repeal – stating that:
“this is the best opportunity we have had since the ban, and is probably the best we are likely to get in the foreseeable future.”
At this point, a Conservative landslide was still looking as likely as when the election was called.
9th May Theresa Shows Support For Hunting – “Personally, I’ve always been in favour of fox hunting”
This was a turning point for anti campaigners, on a visit to a bi-fold factory in Leeds, a reporter asked Mrs May about fox hunting following the leaked emails, her response was as follows:
“As it happens, personally, I’ve always been in favour of fox hunting and we maintain our commitment – we had a commitment previously – as a Conservative Party to allow a free vote and that would allow Parliament to take a decision on this.”
See the graph above, this shows the ‘popularity’ for the search term ‘fox hunting’ for the past 5 years, from this we can see that searches for ‘fox hunting’ between the 7th and the 13th May were at their highest point in the last 5 years – directly coinciding with these events. With the second highest point of popularity for the search term being during David Cameron’s attempts to push for a repeal in 2015.
15th May – Live stream Q and A – “A free vote for parliament”
On the 15th May, the PM took part in a livestream Q and A hosted by ITV news – throughout this livestream viewers could send in their questions and the presenter would read selected ones out.
The issue of a return to hunting inevitably came up, part of her response indicated that fox hunting with dogs wasn’t as cruel as other methods:
“Some of the other forms of dealing with foxes can be cruel, so my view is it should be a free vote for Parliament so members of parliament individually should be able to exercise their view on this matter.”
By this point, a Conservative win was still very likely – but public attitude in some areas had started to shift away from her campaigns focus which was mainly on Brexit, and veer towards Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, which was seen as more open with the public and focused on issues closer to home such as minimum wages, housing and student debts.
It was also shortly after this point that the Conservatives pulled a U-turn on the unpopular ‘Dementia Tax’ – people were quick to point out this was the 3rd major U-turn in as many months (general election and self employed national insurance.)
18th May – Repeal Vote Included In Conservative Manifesto
The Conservative manifesto was launched on the 18th May – with Brexit being the centre point of it. However, as expected, tucked away on page 28 was a sentence committing to holding a free vote on a repeal of the hunting act.
“We will grant a free vote, on a government bill in government time, to give parliament the opportunity to decide the future of the Hunting Act.”
On the contrary, the Labour manifesto’s policy to uphold the hunting ban was shown to be one of their most popular policies.
It was at this point that anti hunting groups such as ourselves, Keep The Ban and the League Against Cruel Sports urged followers to get in touch with their MPs to find out their voting intentions on a repeal.
The Votes For Vinny campaign was set up by LACS and made it incredibly easy for people to get in touch with their MP about their views on the issue. During the run up to the voting day, thousands of emails were sent to MPs and respective candidates in constituencies up and down the country.
26th May – Just 1 In 10 People Support A Return To Fox Hunting
On the 26th May, the Independent revealed from their own survey conducted by ORB on their behalf that opposition to a return to illegal hunting was at an all time high of 90%.
Interestingly, the survey found that just 16% of people who voted for the Conservatives in 2015 would want to see a return to fox hunting, and a mere 8% of previous labour voters – you can read the full findings of the survey here.
The usual figure cited for the percentage of the UK against fox hunting sits at 84%, whilst there are several other surveys – this statistic is the most cited, it was carried out by ipsos MORI on behalf of The League Against Cruel Sports – you can read the full findings of the report here – Attitudes to Hunting 2016.
At the time of this result, the polls still predicted a fairly large Conservative victory with Theresa Mays party set to take their majority with 44% of the vote for 345 seats, 27 seats less than the actual result (318).
29th May – Make Hunting History March
On the 29th May, an estimated 2,000+ people marched through the streets of London to ‘make hunting history’ the march was the largest throughout the election and was reported by several large online newspapers.
We attended the event ourselves and thought it was a very positive event for the movement. Check out our round up of the best signs and posters from the Anti Hunting March 2017.
The event was organised by Keep The Ban along with other anti-hunt campaign groups, and included high profile speakers such as TV presenters Bill Oddie and Anneka Svenska, animal rights activist Peter Egan and writer Dominic Dyer.
9th June – Shock Election Results
The results came as a surprise to many, after a reasonably accurate exit poll. The final result was a hung parliament with Labour gaining 30 seats taking them up to 262, and the Conservatives losing 13 seats leaving them 8 shy of a majority.
Despite the results, the Conservatives are already in talks with the DUP to be supported by them to form a government, official talks have begun but there has been no real outcome as of yet.
This agreement has opened up Theresa May to fresh criticism, as the DUP have a history of unorthodox views on matters such as abortion, climate change and gay marriage.
Check out our post on the election day results and what they mean for hunting.
12th June – Former Tory Says Theresa’s Return To Hunting Is ‘Dead’
A few days after the election results, ex tory chairman Grant Shapps labelled fox hunting as one the main failures of the Conservative campaign. Citing that:
“It’s absolute insanity to start talking about passing and changing fox hunting laws, what an Earth was that about? “I thought a mistake had been made, perhaps an off-the-cuff comment.
“Then I read the manifesto and discovered not only were planning to allow a free vote, but it was going to be a government bill and on government time.” “This now stands absolutely no chance. It’s a silly idea.”
You can watch his response in full below:
The Power Of Social Media Throughout The Election
It’s no doubt that social media has huge political influence – and this election it had even more so. Early indications suggest a youth turnout of 58% in comparison to 43% in 2015.
Many commentators put this down to social media campaigns, celebrity influences and campaigns specifically targeted towards young people, a group that has always been the least likely to register and vote.
Theresa May’s open attitude to hunting caused her serious problems with the public, particularly on social media. Anti Conservative and anti hunt groups could quickly create images like the one below that would be shared thousands of times, these types of images are designed to play on your emotions.
I have mixed feelings about the use of these kinds of images to get points across, on one hand I would say its extremely unfair to brand every Conservative voter as voting to see a return to what is being depicted in these images. On the other hand, a return to this would be a lot more likely if we had a Conservative majority.
Catchphrases such as ‘Save Britain, Cull Tories’ and ‘Make June the end of May’ were prominent on social media throughout the entire election campaign.
Hunting More Prominent Than Brexit On Social Media During Election
We ourselves have seen an incredible reaction on social media, jumping from a brand new page with 30 likes from friends to a 1,600 strong following in just over 1 month.
On Facebook, BuzzFeed found that the Conservative’s plans to hold a free vote on a repeal were shared more times that articles about Brexit – with the top 250 articles about fox hunting raking in a massive 340,200 shares in comparison to 309,000 shares for the top 250 articles about Brexit.
Following these results, Jim Waterson, Political Editor at Buzzfeed, tweeted that
“Anecdotally and based on our most-shared data, I really think fox hunting (& ivory ban) cost the Tories some marginal seats”.
Anecdotally from candidates and based on our most-shared data, I really think fox hunting (& ivory ban) cost the Tories some marginal seats.
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) 9 June 2017
When Will It End?
So why isn’t the hunting issue over? Well, because it should have been over in 2015, when David Cameron left the issue along with his resignation. Support for a repeal should never have been brought up again, especially at this time.
Illegal hunting is constantly binned as a ‘non election issue’ when a strengthening of the ban is mentioned – but politicians will still make cause for a repeal despite 84% of the public being against it.
Politics aside, the simple reason is, it still takes place in its illegal form – and its extremely hard to police with the current legislation in place. Whilst the hunt saboteurs do an incredible job – they should not have to be there.
In order to put a stop to this happening, the hunting act must be strengthened. Remember to keep the pressure up on your MPs – don’t let them forget the importance of this issue, spread the word on Facebook and support your local hunt saboteurs group.
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