MPs out fox the House of Lords
For just the third time in half a century the British Parliament has invoked the Parliament Act to force approval of a long and hard-fought measure banning fox hunting in England and Wales by the use of hounds.
Fox hunting is a long standing tradition in England and has been, for the most part, the reserve of the landed gentry, wealthy titled land owners whose inherited estates often provide a venue for the 'sport'. The House of Lords has vehemently resisted any attempt by their counterparts in the House of Commons to institute such a ban even though they no longer hold sway over the law lower house when it comes to law making. The passage of the bill quickly received Royal approval and will become law in February, 2005.
Spokespersons for the opposition vow a determined resistance to the ban saying they intend to appeal through the courts; first on the basis that use of the Parliament Act is unprecedented and spurious, secondly with regard to the more likely argument that the ban injures prevailing human rights legislation.
RSPCA director of animal welfare, John Rolls, said the bill was a "watershed in the development of a more civilised society for people and animals".
According to the BBC, "The pro-hunt Countryside Alliance has already written to Attorney General Lord Goldsmith saying it will challenge the legality of the 1949 Parliament Act in the High Court as soon as a ban gains royal assent".
Whatever happens in the next three and one-half months it must be said that The British House of Commons has more than succeeded in accomplishing the will of their constituents they have raised the benchmark of human civilization and with it the possibility that as a species we may yet come to address equal rights for all creatures.