Jeremy Corbyn's government would increase spending on policing for wildlife crime, although polls show rural dwellers are more concerned with issues such as housing, health care and transport

Labour has called its plans for tackling wildlife crime the “most radical animal welfare plan in the world”.

The party has stated that it would spend an additional £4.5m to recruit wildlife crime officers with numbers increasing from 88 to 170. The officers would be dedicated to dealing with illegal hare coursing, fox hunting and other wildlife crimes. However there would be no reduction in frontline policing.

Sue Hayman, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, said: “Labour is determined to bring animal welfare policy into the 21st Century, based on the latest science and understanding.

“We are calling time on those who have been allowed to get away with illegally hunting, maiming and killing wild animals such as deer, hen harriers, foxes and hares.

“By increasing the number of wildlife and rural police forces across the country we will help protect both wild animals and property in rural communities.”

Reduction in hunting prosecutions

In fact, prosecutions in England and Wales for hunting, poaching and baiting have reduced by around 30% in the last three years.

On the Radio Four Today programme on 19 November, Polly Portwin of the Countryside Alliance (CA) spoke about the campaigning organisation’s reaction to Labour’s manifesto pledge. She said the CA had carried out a lot of polling which showed that voters were more worried about the planet.

The Tory manifesto will not contain the pledge – which was given in the last two elections – for MPs to be able to vote for fox hunting to be legalised.

Speaking about the Conservatives’ decision to abandon a free vote on fox hunting, Ms. Portwin commented: “Anybody who thinks this matter is a priority is out of touch with their voters …”  Whilst the organisation “welcomes” Labour plans for increased police in the countryside and to focus on cruelty to animals, she pointed out that there were greater issues at stake, such as Brexit.

The Countryside Alliance has stated its concern that the real issues facing those who live in the countryside are being ignored.

What rural dwellers really care about

A survey carried out by ORB in conjunction with the Countryside Alliance focused on the key rural issues for voters. The results found that less than one in six UK adults view animal welfare as an important rural issue, when asked which three issues are the most important for political parties to address. Hospitals and healthcare topped the poll at 49%, followed by local transport links (37%) and affordable housing at 35%. The survey was conducted online amongst a sample of 4323 adults, including 1025 rural adults, between 17-23 June 2019.