Labour’s plans to eliminate hunting

Countryside Alliance launches Action for Hunting

Labour’s plans to eliminate hunting have been announced as the Party is accused of pursuing a toxic culture war in the countryside.

The plans, released on Monday morning and further reiterated in a press release by the Countryside Alliance, will see the party implement a “full ban on trail and drag hunting, bringing an end to the activity for once and all.

Steve Reed, the shadow environment secretary, made the announcement as part of a wider pitch to rural voters, who he said Labour would treat “with greater respect”. 

He claimed both drag and trail hunting, two separate activities, were a result of ‘loopholes’ in the Hunting Act, brought in by Tony Blair’s government in 2004.


However, both activities are lawful and involve laying an artificial scent across the country which a pack of hounds then searches for and follows using their noses. 

Trail hunting was adopted by hunts to comply with the law after the Hunting Act came into force 19 years ago (18 February 2005) to enable them to retain their infrastructure. There are other exempt activities which hunts use in addition to trail hunting that also comply with the law, including hound exercise.

Drag hunting involves an artificial non-animal based scent (mostly aniseed) being laid across country over a predetermined route which is then pursued packs of hounds. 

Countryside Alliance Chief Executive, Tim Bonner, said that it was “utterly bizarre that Labour is still making hunting its priority in the countryside”.

He continued:

“Rural people are desperately concerned about affordable housing, access to services, agricultural transition and a thousand other more important issues. Yet Labour wants to return to fight the toxic culture war of 20 years ago. This shows that the party hasn’t progressed at all and that underneath Keir Starmer’s veneer it is still about the politics of misplaced envy and class war. The countryside will not sit back and allow itself to be bullied”.

The rural campaigning organisation has consistently argued that Labour’s long-running feud over hunting has led to rural voters not “taking it seriously”, referring to it as “the elephant in the countryside”, which it claims has deprived the party of a majority in successive elections since 2010.  

Lord Mandelson recently revealed that Tony Blair banned traditional foxhunting in 2004 after coming under pressure from an animal rights group that Labour had accepted a £1 million donation from.

Peter Mandelson, the peer and former Labour MP, said the former prime minister included a commitment to hold a free vote on hunting with dogs in Labour’s 1997 manifesto after receiving money from an animal welfare fund.

For his part, Blair has said the foxhunting ban – which received Royal Assent in 2004 after soaking up 700 hours of parliamentary time – was one of the policies he most regrets. Peter Mandelson who was a leading advisor to Blar has said Labour should let rural people “live and let live”, warning them not to “pick a fight with people who live in rural areas… on things which are part of their everyday life, things that they love doing”.

Since taking over from Jeremy Corbyn in 2019, Sir Keir Starmer has sought to distance himself from the previous leader by seeking to reassure rural voters with long-held support for the Conservative Party in what he calls “a new relationship with the countryside”. 

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