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  • Writer's pictureMichael Kenwood (Local Democracy Reporter)

Belfast City Council calls on Stormont to ban hunting with dogs

Belfast City Council has called upon Stormont to end hunting with dogs – without the support of Sinn Fein.

At the monthly meeting of the full council (Monday January 10), 34 of the council’s 60 elected representatives voted for the Northern Ireland Executive to ban hunting.

Alliance, the SDLP, the Greens, People Before Profit, the UUP, the PUP and one Independent Unionist voted for the ban, while Sinn Fein voted against it, and the DUP had a free vote, with some members joining the call for a ban.

The council motion, forwarded by Alliance Councillor Peter McReynolds states:

“This Council notes the widespread support across Belfast for the ending of animal cruelty and the improvement of animal welfare.”

The motion adds the council “expresses disappointment at the lack of legislative progression on banning the hunting of mammals with dogs in the Northern Ireland Assembly, reaffirms our support for ending this barbaric practice, and agrees to write to DAERA and the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Affairs to show our support for ending the practice of hunting for mammals with dogs”.

Sinn Fein has been on the defence over its stance on hunting, after the party whipped its MLAs to oppose a bill last month in the Assembly that would have banned the practice in Northern Ireland.

38 MLAs voted for the bill, while 45 voted against. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where hunting wild mammals with dogs is still permitted.

At Monday’s council meeting Sinn Fein Councillor Matt Garrett again gave the party position. He said: “Sinn Fein as a party are opposed to the unnecessary infliction of cruelty upon animals. But we also understand the importance for many in rural communities of traditional activities like hunting.

“We believe that the regulation of the hunting of wild animals is the best approach. The bill that was brought forward recently in the assembly in our opinion was flawed.

“A significant flaw was in clause six – the interpretation of the bill’s provisions, which had a very wide scope, and could potentially have led to individuals who were engaging in appropriate activity being penalised unnecessarily.

“For us this was a very real concern. To address the flaws in the bill and give it the full and proper consideration needed, it would have required considerable time and attention from the Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. Unfortunately the reality is there wouldn’t have been enough time for a proper consultation with the AERA committee.”

He put forward a Sinn Fein amendment calling for a public consultation on the regulation of hunting, which failed with 21 votes for and 29 against.

Green Councillor Anthony Flynn said:

“It is a shame on Sinn Fein not only to whip its members on this bill but to attempt to gaslight the public on their reasons for doing so – something even they with their vast resources and media machine have been unable to do on this issue. Public opinion against hunting with dogs has only increased.”

He stated that the latest consultation, involving 18,000 people from NI, showed that 78 percent of respondents were against all hunting, coursing and capturing of wild animals by dogs.

He said:

“I don’t accept that the bill would have ruined anyone’s way of life as we heard tonight. Hypothetical pest control is not rooted in fact.”

He added:

“The consultation for the Blair bill was one of the most responded to consultations in Northern Ireland. What more consultation do you need? The amendment is complete nonsense.”

Alliance Councillor Peter McReynolds said the Sinn Fein amendment was “a charter for cruelty” and was “indirectly pro-hunting.”

The DUP allowed a free vote for its elected members. The councillors who supported the call for the ban were Councillor David Brooks, Councillor Fred Cobain, Councillor Adam Newton, Councillor Dale Pankhurst, Councillor Nicola Verner, while six other other DUP members abstained.


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