In a shock declaration on the TV Politics Show, the Bridgwater & West Somerset LibDem candidate Theo Butt-Phillips (who lives in Wells) said that if elected he would "Vote to repeal the hunting act in a free vote ". This puts him at odds with popular opinion yet clearly reflects how the parties and candidates stand on the issue. All 22 Labour candidates and all 15 Green candidates in the south west would retain the hunting ban while the right wing parties (Conservative & UKIP) show a majority for repealing the ban. In the case of the libDems 13 would retain 3 would repeal and 4 are undecided.
Ivor Annets from the League Against Cruel Sports was so shocked by the 'progressive' candidates stance that he asked "Would you also bring back badger baiting!!? 80 % support the hunting ban so why do you want to put the clock back!?" The Lib Dem replied "Leave it to the farmers and local hunts who know the best way to deal with it. Let the Countryside get on with it".
Labour campaign organiser Brian Smedley said "While trying to play to the Tory vote or maybe just plain confused - Butt Phillips has clearly shot himself in the foot and alienated many of his potential supporters. A Lib Dem vote always was and still is a wasted vote for an opportunist bunch of unconnected individuals who couldn't hold a line if their laundry depended on it!"
Labour candidate Kathy Pearce included suporting the Hunting ban in her Top 10 campaign issues when she launched her candidacy and is a passionate opponent of hunting. In a statement she said;-
" I strongly support the current hunting ban, on the following grounds:
1. I have always believed that in a civilised society, the act of hunting is unacceptably cruel and barbaric. Whilst I acknowledge that there are occasions when pest control is necessary, exemptions within the Hunting Act are designed to allow farmers, landowners and managers to carry out humane pest control on their land. I agree with the League Against Cruel Sports that this should be carried out by trained markesmen, who are competent in such activities.
2. The predicted dire effects on the rural economy have not come to pass. A recent Ipsos Mori poll has shown that 72% of the rural population do not want hunting with dogs to be made legal again. There is evidence to suggest that there has been an increase in interest in drag hunting, which could be down to the fact that the cruelty element has been removed.
3. I strongly support the findings of the recent poll carried out by the League Against Cruel Sports and the International Fund for Animal Welfare that:
75% of the public support the ban on hunting
84% support the ban on deer and stage hunting
85% support the ban on hare hunting and coursing.
I therefore believe that the Conservative proposal to repeal the ban would indeed be a retrograde step for this country."