Peterborough City council have voted against it, calling it divisive and discriminatory

On the evening of Wednesday 29th July 2021, Peterborough City councillors voted down a motion which would have prevented the  East of England Agricultural Society hosting  the Festival of Hunting at the East of England Showground.

Councillors voted 30-25 against the motion which had been submitted by Councillor Ansar Ali.

It is not the first time Cllr. Ali has attemped to rally support against hunting issues. In December 2020 the council narrowly voted to ban trail hunting on all council land, despite no hunting ever taking place on their land.

Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, spoke to Shooting UK directly saying: “We are very pleased that the majority of councillors in Peterborough take a proper view of this ridiculous notion.”

Festival of Hunting

The Festival of Hunting takes place on privately owned land and so cannot be cancelled by the local authority. The Countryside Alliance said that Cllr. Ali’s activity was ‘wasting vital council time’.

The event is extremely popular, with thousands gathering at the East of England showground last week.

£20 million for local economy

Richard Bramley, Chairman of the East of England Agricultural Society commented: “The Society is proud of its connection with the Festival of Hunting and the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show which has taken place since 1878. No hunting activities actually take place throughout the course of the day of the show, it is simply an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the different types of hounds including beagles, basset hounds and foxhounds. The hounds are entered into different classes where they are judged on their conformation and movement in the same way that other breeds of dog are judged at Crufts.

“The Society hosts a number of events on the Showground, which, in any normal year bring in excess of £20 million into the local economy. There are numerous other associated jobs linked to the venue such as catering, hospitality, security, electrical installation, sound and light as well as many local event organisers, a large number of which are engaged for the Festival of Hunting too.”

Councillors lined up to condemn the motion

Speaking to Cllr. Ali, the Council leader, Cllr. Wayne Fitzgerald said: “ I have no idea why you would put this motion forward because it’s the same nonsense as the previous one about trail hunting…it’s political posturing about fox hunting and infiltrators trying to use this council to get their point of view across on something that is not for us to discuss. There are jobs and livelihoods at stake in country pursuits.”

Cllr. Peter Hiller, the cabinet member for strategic planning and commercial strategy and investments, reiterated that the ‘discriminatory’ motion would achieve nothing as the event is held on private land and that the council should maintain its strong links to the rural world.

He said: “The Festival of Hunting takes place on privately owned land. It cannot be cancelled by a local authority, so even if the council votes to support the motion it will achieve nothing other than wasting officers’ time, tax-payers money and council resources which would be better spent helping Peterborough residents out of this pandemic. I’m not supporting what can only be described as gesture politics.”

He added: “Mr Mayor, I think it is important to maintain the close association that Peterborough has had with our rural past and to support our vital rural economy. Therefore I cannot support this divisive and discriminatory motion.”

Ban dog shows?

Cllr. Andy Coles, Conservative member for Fletton and Woodston, questioned the dangerous precedent that could follow if the motion was passed.

He said: “If you really want to ban lawful events perhaps we should stop the dog show down there because it’s a companion animal and animal extremists don’t like the idea of companion animals because we’re obviously abusing them.”

He added: “Or maybe we’d like to ban Truckfest because it might be environmentally unsafe to support people driving lorries.

“I’m sorry, but this is a ridiculous motion.”

Conservative member for Wittering, Cllr. Gavin Elsey, said that of the emails he had received from people actually living in the city, most were against the motion: “My inbox was also inundated both for and against and when I discounted all the CB, MK and London postcodes, there were very few from Peterborough who were actually FOR this motion. However the ones against this motion were people I actually represent in my ward and in neighbouring villages.”

While Cllr. Ali remains suspended from the Labour Party for alleged antisemitism, he was joined in support by former Labour colleagues and as well as some Liberal Democrats some of whom screeched ‘shame’ as the vote tally was read out.