Lyttle calls for Assembly fox hunting debate

Alliance MLA and deputy Chair of the Assembly Group on Animal Welfare Chris Lyttle has called on the First and deputy First Ministers to bring the issue of fox hunting to the Assembly to allow local representatives a debate on the topic.

The British Government attempted to relax hunting laws in England and Wales last week, however, the SNP’s declaration it would vote against proposed changes in Parliament forced a delay.

East Belfast MLA Mr Lyttle said although the vote was postponed, it would have given local MPs a chance to debate the topic, an opportunity not afforded to MLAs. Hunting in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) but despite previous Alliance requests, the Department maintains there are no plans to discuss the issue.

“Alliance remains committed to preventing animal cruelty,” said Mr Lyttle.

“Our Councillors recently brought a motion to Belfast City Council calling for hunting with dogs to be outlawed. It received unanimous support across the chamber, while we also held a packed public meeting where people gave their unanimous backing to stopping animal cruelty.

“That sends a clear message to the Assembly that urgent action is needed to tackle cruelty such as fox hunting. Yet when Alliance has previously written to OFMDFM about the issue, we have been told there are no plans forthcoming for it to be included in the Programme for Government.

“Northern Ireland MPs would have had the chance to debate and vote on this issue, even though it only concerned England and Wales, yet our MLAs are unable to do the same. Such an attitude by OFMDFM is clearly out of step with the vast majority of public opinion and Alliance will continue to try and ensure such horrifying cruelty is a thing of the past.”

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