Prime Minister Boris Johnson has scrapped the Tory party’s pledge, made in 2015 and 2017, to a free vote on fox hunting
The Conservative manifesto will not contain the pledge – made in both the 2017 and 2015 elections – for MPs to be able to vote for the blood sport to be legalised.
Senior Tory sources insisted the ban on fox hunting would remain in force if Mr Johnson is returned to Downing Street.
The Prime Minister – who has also pledged tougher sentences for animal cruelty and to ban the live export of animals after Brexit – wants to show the party is on the ‘right side’ of the animal rights debate, a source said.
At the last election, Theresa May faced a backlash after she committed to a free vote on the issue. Last year she abandoned that position, saying she received a ‘clear message’ from voters that the policy was unpopular.
During the Tory leadership contest this summer, Jeremy Hunt suggested he would support a vote on repealing the 2004 Hunting Act, which banned hunting foxes with dogs in England and Wales.
Details of the revamped Tory policy emerged after Labour pledged a police crackdown on fox hunting and other ‘wildlife crimes’.
The Conservative Party manifesto will not contain the commitment, meanwhile the Labour Party is said to double its wildlife crime officers to crackdown on the hunting and other ‘wildlife crimes’
The party pledged to task an extra 82 police officers at a cost of £4.5million.
Labour’s manifesto will contain a commitment to boost police investigations into fox hunting, hare coursing, stag hunting, badger baiting and the illegal killing of wild birds.
Officials said the officers would be drawn from within the party’s existing commitment to boost police numbers, so no new expenditure would be required.
Labour said a National Police Chiefs’ Council report suggested 88 police staff are currently dedicated to wildlife crime, although this includes civilian managers and community support officers. Labour environment spokesman Sue Hayman said: ‘By increasing the number of wildlife and rural police officers across the country we will help protect both wild animals and property in rural communities, and ensure a crackdown on the types of crimes against animals that this Tory Government has turned a blind eye to.
‘Labour is the true party of real change when it comes to animal welfare.’
A Badger Trust spokesman said Labour was right to highlight the ‘growing threat’ to badgers, foxes, birds of prey and other species.
He went on: ‘The pledge to double the number of wildlife crime officers is of significant importance.
‘The Badger Trust calls on the Conservative Party to match this pledge, to show it is also committed to tackling wildlife crime both at home as well as abroad.’
The Badger Trust hopes the Tories will match the pledge made by Labour. Martin Sims, a former head of the police’s National Wildlife Crime Unit and now director of investigations at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: ‘I urge other parties to stand united against hunting, to pledge to finally stop the barbaric chasing and killing of foxes with packs of hounds that still takes place today, 14 years after the fox hunting ban came into force’
The League Against Cruel Sports urged other parties to also back the measures.
Martin Sims, a former head of the police’s National Wildlife Crime Unit and now director of investigations at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: ‘We welcome the bold plans announced by Labour to tackle wildlife crime and fox hunting by strengthening the Hunting Act, making it the effective deterrent it should always have been.
‘I urge other parties to stand united against hunting, to pledge to finally stop the barbaric chasing and killing of foxes with packs of hounds that still takes place today, 14 years after the fox hunting ban came into force.’
But Mr Johnson (pictured at the annual CBI conference, today) wants to show the party is on the ‘right side’ of the animal rights debate, a source said
Those taking part in hunts insist they merely follow a legal artificial trail, but some have been accused of flouting the hunting ban.
The League Against Cruel Sports has commissioned a YouGov poll which shows the majority of Britons want prison sentences for those caught hunting illegally.