Rural History

‘Putting Animals into Politics’: The Labour Party and Hunting in the First Half of the Twentieth Century

a1 University of the West of England, Bristol, BS16 1QY, UK.

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This article will discuss the background to opposition to hunting within the Labour Party before the Second World War, and in particular the role of the Humanitarian League and its successor the League Against Cruel Sports. It will highlight internal tensions of class and ideology that are still current today. It will examine the fate of two private members bills introduced in 1949 designed to prohibit hunting and coursing. Both bills were heavily defeated after the intervention of the Labour Government. This article will examine the reasons the post-war Labour Government used to oppose the bills before drawing some general conclusions about the Labour movement and blood sports. It will be argued that the primary reason why the bills were defeated was the strong desire of the Government to preserve its relationship with the farmers and the wider rural community.

(Published Online September 26 2006)