Fox-huting bill reappears after rallying call from theologian
The Hunting Bill, which bans hare coursing and stag hunting and effectively bans lowland foxhunting, is to return to the Commons on June 30 after a gap which has seen a well known theologican wade into the debate.
During the pause in the legislative process, Andrew Linzey, professor of theology at Oxford University and a recognised authority on morality and its effects on people's relations with animals, called on church leaders and representatives to consider the ethical dimension of the debate with a sense of urgency.
In a report published by the Christian Socialist Movement (CSM) Linzey argued that there is no moral defence for hunting as sport and that it should be completely banned.
"Causing suffering for sport is intrinsically evil," he said.
"All acts of cruelty to animals are of a kind," Linzey said. "They diminish our humanity and offend."
Linzey was also critical of the fact that there had been so little serious focus on the ethical aspect of hunting with dogs.
"The Government commissioned a report chaired by Lord Burns on the subject, but its terms of reference oddly excluded consideration of the ethical issues, and (to my knowledge) none of the Burns Committee has qualifications in moral philosophy or theology."
But the reappearance of the bill late in the Parliamentary session raises the possibility that it will not complete its passage through the Lords - where a majority of peers are opposed to it in its present form - before the end of the Parliamentary session.
In previous years that would have meant the Bill would fall, but now it can be carried over into the next session.
As the Lords session is already congested with legislation, insiders say a major Government Bill would have to be dropped for the Hunting Bill to go through.
A string of Bills crucial to Tony Blair's programme for reforming the public services still needs weeks of consideration in the upper house.