1. ITV Report

Ranulph Fiennes tells Conservative Party to 'move on' over fox hunting ban

Sir Ranulph says the Conservative Party should 'move on' Photo: PA

The explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has called on Prime Minister Theresa May not to repeal the ban on fox hunting, saying the Conservative Party should "move on".

The 72 year old, who once marched with the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance, said Tory voters' views had changed since the Hunting Act 2004 and urged the party to focus on other rural issues like housing and support for farmers.

He wrote to the new Prime Minister as Andrea Leadsom was appointed Environment Secretary. Mrs Leadsom, who stood to become Tory leader before dropping out, said during her leadership campaign that she would commit to holding a vote to repeal the Hunting Act if elected.

In his letter, released by the League Against Cruel Sports, Sir Ranulph said:

The beliefs of conservatives and countryfolk across Britain on the issue of hunting have changed since the Hunting Act was brought in. I now believe the time has come for the Conservative Party to move on too. That is why I am writing to ask you to commit to retaining the Hunting Act and dropping the promise to repeal it. The Hunting Act was brought into being because the British public believed that the use of packs of hounds to kill foxes for 'sport' had no place in a British society that considered itself civilised, and that the practice should go the same way as bear-baiting and cock-fighting. Since then, public opinion has only become increasingly clear on the subject.

– Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Fox hunting with dogs was made illegal in the UK in 2005 Credit: John Giles/PA Archive/Press Association Images

In his letter, Sir Ranulph cited an opinion poll showing 84% of people in the countryside and 70% of Tory voters were against repealing the hunting ban, adding that 50 of the party's MPs now openly supported the legislation, compared with four when it was introduced by Tony Blair's Labour government.

What is clear is that being pro-hunting is no longer part of the conservative DNA. What is equally clear is that the principles of freedom and tradition are no longer a cover to justify cruelty.

– Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Earlier this month Mrs Leadsom told ITV news that the hunting ban had "not proven to be in the interests of animal welfare whatsoever".

She added:

I live in a constituency that's quite rural about this and very successful hunts there that are now absolutely abiding by the law as it stands now, but who are very often pointing out to me the consequences of the need to exterminate vermin, which foxes are. Actually I do believe we need a proper, licensed regime, that works much better and is much more focused on animal welfare.

– Andrea Leadsom MP

Fox hunting with dogs was made illegal in the UK in 2005. Many hunts have

continued operating within the law. Sir Ranulph also cited a recent investigation by the league which claimed live fox cubs were thrown to hounds as part of their training. He added:

It would be a foolhardy political leader who, against this backdrop, would now commit to bringing back hunting, or who told his or her MPs that they will be expected to defend their seats on a promise to make such activities legal again. What rural people want from a Conservative government is not an obsession with repealing a popular piece of legislation. They want better housing, more support for farmers, and improved broadband infrastructure.

– Sir Ranulph Fiennes