Charity welcomes support for hunt ban in face of Sinn Fein opposition

An animal welfare charity has welcomed Belfast City Council’s support for a ban on hunting mammals with dogs, despite strong opposition from Sinn Fein.

By Mark Rainey
Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 5:57 pm
The Huntsman Master leads the hounds and riders through Main Street Crawfordsburn during the the North Down New Year Hunt in 2019. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA
The Huntsman Master leads the hounds and riders through Main Street Crawfordsburn during the the North Down New Year Hunt in 2019. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA

The League Against Cruel Sports said the vote in favour of the motion shows that the council “is far more in touch with public opinion than Stormont,” where a bill to end hunting with dogs was rejected last month, with every Sinn Fein MLA voting against.

Following the council debate on Monday evening, 34 councillors backed the Alliance proposal to write to DAERA – expressing disappointment at the lack of legislative progress in “ending his barbaric practice” – with 18 opposing the motion.

Another six councillors abstained.

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Janice Watt of the League Against Cruel Sports said: “We’re delighted Belfast City Council has put its support on record to end the barbaric cruelty of hunting wild mammals with dogs.

“This position shows the council is far more in touch with public opinion than Stormont, which voted down a bill to end hunting with dogs last month.”

“The Hunting of Wild Mammals (Northern Ireland) Bill, which was intended to prohibit hunting wild animals with dogs, prohibit trail hunting, and to prohibit terrier work failed at stage two after MLAs voted 38 for, and 45 against.

“Sinn Fein blocked the bill after being whipped to vote against it, and this pattern continued last night (Monday) when Sinn Fein councillors failed to support Councillor McReynolds’ motion.”

The charity’s senior public affairs officer added: “Northern Ireland is way behind its UK counterparts when it comes to legislating to end the cruelty of hunting wild mammals with dogs.

“Last month we had an historic opportunity to rectify this but sadly the attempt failed.

“Belfast City Council has sent a clear message that this is an issue which is not going to go away quietly. Public support is firmly in favour of ending this cruelty and the League will continue to campaign to end this cruel bloodsport once and for all.”

Speaking to the News Letter following the vote on his motion, Cllr McReynolds said he was “stunned at the Sinn Fein approach,” in persisting that regulation rather than legislative ban is the way forward.

Cllr McReynolds described the idea of new regulations as “a charter for continued cruelty” and added: “I understand that some in the DUP were in favour of my motion and some were against. Some decided to abstain, and that’s fine, but en masse, Sinn Fein decided to vote against it, tried to amend it, deleting 90% of it and replacing it with their own – it was just shocking”.

Explaining Sinn Fein’s position to his fellow councillors ahead of the vote, Matt Garrett stressed that his party is “opposed to the unnecessary infliction of cruelty to animals”.

However, he added: “But we also understand the importance for many in the rural communities of traditional, rural activities like hunting.

“We believe that the regulation of the hunting of wild animals is the best approach.”

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