Bill to ban hunting with dogs is rejected

A GREEN Party bill which called for an end to hunting with dogs was opposed by almost every other political party in Stormont yesterday.

Yesterday saw the second reading of the bill at the Northern Ireland Assembly which was brought by Green Party MLA Brian Wilson.

Mr Wilson wants to extend the UK ban on fox hunting to Northern Ireland.

He denied accusations that the bill was an attack on rural communities, stressing the aspect of cruelty. However, it was soundly rejected across the chamber.

DUP Newry and Armagh MLA William Irwin slammed the bill as a "waste of assembly time and resources" as the debate opened.

"The Green Party is out of touch with rural Northern Ireland. As a rural dweller and farmer myself I oppose this bill," he told the assembly.

"I reject this bill and hope it ends up in a paper recycling centre which would be in line with Green Party policy."

Ulster Unionist South Down MLA John McCallister said it is unfair to criminalise hunters when police have so many other pressures on their service.

"I am concerned that this bill is the thin edge of the wedge for our rural way of life.

"First this bill then shooting, the fishing - you do not want to go down that road," he told the chamber.

"Why would you tie up police resources when you have many other issues to deal with. It criminalises some of our most law-abiding citizens."

DUP Strangford MLA Jonathan Bell told the chamber that the Veterinary Association of Wildlife Management contend that the most humane way is through the natural hunt.

He told the chamber of an incident within his constituency recently when a fox killed 12 chickens without eating them but just leaving them dead.

"The alternative being proposed to cull the fox is more cruel than the law that is currently in existence," said Mr Bell.

Ulster Unionist South Antrim MLA Danny Kinahan slammed Mr Wilson's bill as an "election gambit".

Republican and nationalist representatives also opposed the bill.

Sinn Fein Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan said the proposals were not enforceable.

"How is it meant to be policed. I don't know how we would go about enforcing that, it is farcical,"Mr Boylan told the assembly.

SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley said if the bill was passed into law it would make the house a laughing stock.

He slammed it as "ridiculous".

However, Alliance South Belfast MLA Anna Lo backed the bill and said she found hunting to be "a barbaric, inhumane and cruel bloodsport which has no space in a modern society".

Ms Lo further said she found Mr Kinahan's description of a day's hunting "sickening".

"There is a need for this piece of legislation," she told the chamber.

"Animals have thoughts and feelings. Like humans they experience pain."

After a vote, deputy speaker John Dallat told the assembly: "The second stage of the hunting bill was not agreed, the bill falls."