A Bill that could have seen fox hunting banned in Northern Ireland (the only place in the UK where it is still legal) has been narrowly rejected after it failed to win enough votes in the Stormont Assembly.

The Bill which was put forward by Alliance MLA John Blair was defeated by 45 votes to 35 despite Sinn Fein having previously said that they would vote to ban fox hunting if the opportunity arose. The Bill would have brought Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK and seen legislation similar to the 2004 Hunting Act which oversees the protection of wildlife in England and Wales. It is even more shocking considering over 80% of respondents to the open consultation on the Bill backed fox hunting being made illegal. Only a few weeks ago the landmark Hankinson Trial ruling also demonstrated in open court that the alibi of "trail hunting" is nothing but a "smokescreen" for illegal fox hunting. Mr Blair had hoped that the Bill could have also ensured this activity could not be used as a coverup for illegal fox hunting had it won the approval of Stormont.

The Countryside Alliance hailed the outcome, labelling the proposals an "attack" on rural life. Keep The Ban is incredibly disappointed with this decision and sadly it leaves Northern Ireland lagging behind when it comes to outlawing this cruel and barbaric pastime from the 21st century. The sick activity of chasing and killing wildlife has no place in a civilised society and it is shocking that there was a majority in favour against a Bill that could have helped protect wildlife against those intent on destroying it.

As reported by ITV News, Mr Blair described hunting with dogs as a “cruel and unnecessary sport that causes immeasurable suffering to both the hunted animals and the hunting dogs”.

“It is my intention in bringing forward my Private Members Bill to reform legislation of hunting wild mammals with dogs in Northern Ireland to bring our legislation in line with that in England, Scotland and Wales, where the practice has been illegal for nearly 20 years,” he said.

“The Bill is not intended in any way to restrict traditional country sports such as shooting, using gun dogs or angling.

"The Bill maintains appropriate balance by exempting hunting from the ban in certain circumstances including avoiding damage to livestock, crops or property, and causing damage to the biological diversity of an area.

“We have an historic opportunity to make a significant difference. A real opportunity here for Northern Ireland not only to catch up with the rest of the UK but to lead the way in ensuring full robust protection for animals persecuted for sport and for human enjoyment.”

Rob Pownall

Founder of Keep The Ban

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