An MP has tabled an early day motion (EDM) voicing “concern” over the Ministry of Defence’s ongoing licensing of hunts. And it’s quickly gathering support.


TIME TO APPLY PRESSURE

On 16 May, Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Dave Doogan tabled EDM 41 to raise further awareness of the Ministry of Defence’s ongoing licensing of hunts. The text of the motion states that:

“this House notes with concern that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) continues to grant licences for trail and drag hunts on MoD land, including 248 hunts over 13 MoD sites in a single year”


Speaking to Keep The Ban, Doogan explained his decision to table the motion came after he was “shocked” by the Hunting Office webinars published by the Hunt Saboteurs Association. Doogan explained:

“I welcomed the National Trust and Natural Resources Wales banning trail hunts in light of these revelations, as well as Forestry England suspending the hundreds of trail hunts that happen on MoD land every year. This suspension is due for review “before the end of the 21/22 season” which is pretty much now, so this is the perfect time to put pressure on Forestry England and the MoD to make the suspension permanent.”

As Keep The Ban previously noted, the EDM provides an excellent tool for applying such pressure.

Sponsors of the EDM include Labour MPs Rachel Haskell, who recently raised the issue in a Westminster debate, and ex shadow chancellor John McDonnell. All other signatories at the time of publishing are SNP.

In addition to highlighting the MoD's actions, the motion also goes on to recognise the permanent withdrawal of hunt licences by the National Trust and Natural Resource Wales. And holds the conviction of Mark Hankinson, former head of the Master of Foxhounds Association, as evidence of the hunting industry’s systemic problems.


WHAT IS AN EARLY DAY MOTION?

Politics.co.uk described EDMs as “petitions put forward by MPs on specific subjects”. In theory, EDMs are for subjects to later be discussed by parliament. This rarely occurs today.

Nonetheless, Doogan told Keep The Ban that he is positive about the role they play:

“EDMs are a good way of assessing support for an issue amongst MPs, and of bringing that issue to the attention of Parliament. I hope this EDM will be signed by MPs across the political spectrum and show the MoD that there is widespread support for a ban on trail hunting within Parliament, as there appears to be in the wider population. If enough MPs support the motion it will put real pressure on the MoD to abandon their licencing of trail hunts.”

EDM 41 is also notable as the first time MPs have raised this issue as a motion.


ANTI-HUNTING, PRO-SHOOTING?

Despite his opposition to hunting on Ministry of Defence land, Doogan has previously supported the grouse shooting industry. In June 2021, newspaper The Courier reported that Doogan defended “the role of shooting in his ward”. It came after campaign group Wild Justice launched an ultimately unsuccessful petition to ban driven grouse shooting. Doogan opposed it on the grounds of economic benefits, saying:

“If we’re removing this economic activity, how is a family that’s got a gamekeeper going to support themselves?”

Keep The Ban asked Doogan whether he maintains this position. The MP said:

“I understand the concerns people have around grouse shooting, especially instances where poorly managed grouse moors carry out reckless deep burns and kill native raptors and land predators. This is why I supported the Scottish Government’s move to licence grouse moors. This gave the Scottish Government the power to revoke licences from bad actors.

“I still oppose a sudden, blanket ban on grouse moors because I’m keenly aware of the impact this would have on many small, very rural communities in Angus and elsewhere. Where grouse moors are able to move to other forms of land-management, while still supporting local communities, I wholeheartedly support it. But I cannot in good conscience support a ban that doesn’t help communities transition to new forms of land use where appropriate and sustainable.”

Common Weal, a Scottish think-tank that advocates for grouse moor reform, published Work the Land. The review looks at ten alternative uses for Scotland’s current grouse moor estates and claims that “All apart from crofting... pay more than the average incomes from current use”.

Keep The Ban also asked Doogan about how his position on grouse shooting sits alongside his position on hunting. He said:

“Not the least of these differences is that grouse shooting results in, however tenuously for some, the production of food. With the dispatch of the bird contained within a short period in a comparatively swift manner.

“This is in stark contrast to hunting down an inedible and terrified animal(s) for protracted periods of time until exhausted and unable to evade or defend itself it must submit to an horrific end. And all this in pursuit of pleasure for the hunters, the maintenance of a tradition many find appropriately repugnant while resulting very little economic benefit.”


THE TIME FOR CHANGE IS NOW

Doogan also said that he ‘urges’ people to “contact their MP and recommend they sign the EDM to show their support for this change”.

Ending hunting on MoD land will be another major blow to an industry that’s had a bad time of it the past couple of years. With huntsman of the Royal Artillery Hunt Charles Carter up in court soon for Hunting Act offences on MoD land, the end may be within sight.

You can find and contact your MP at TheyWorkForYou. You can also sign Keep The Ban’s petition to end hunting on MoD land. And you can follow the Hunt Saboteurs Association’s guide on contacting the MoD directly. 

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