Mandelson: Tony Blair banned fox hunting after a £1 million donation from animal rights campaign IFAW

Tony Blair agreed to ban fox hunting after a £1 million donation to Labour from an animal rights group, Peter Mandelson claims

The former business secretary said the group got ‘pretty transactional’

By Jason Groves – published 14 December 2023

Tony Blair agreed to ban fox hunting ‘under pressure’ because of a £1million donation to Labour from an animal rights organisation, Peter Mandelson has claimed.

The former business secretary said the group got ‘pretty transactional’ and it demanded the ban ‘in return’ for the cash – which at the time was the party’s biggest ever donation.

The Labour peer, who is now an adviser to Sir Keir Starmer, did not name the group involved. However, his comments appear to be a reference to a £1million donation given by the late animal rights campaigner Brian Davies, who founded the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Lord Mandelson revealed the pressure Mr Blair was facing during a discussion about political funding on the Times Radio podcast How To Win An Election.

Asked about whether donors had ever tried to buy influence, he said: ‘I can offer you an example from 1997 when an organisation – it was a fund to do with the welfare of animals – got pretty transactional with us. It was the first and last time I can remember this.

‘They wanted a ban on hunting in return for a very sizeable amount of money. And Blair and Co were sort of reluctant obviously to enter into some sort of trade over this policy.

‘However, there were a lot of people in the party who wanted that ban – there were a lot of MPs coming and demanding it – and we got into a difficult situation where frankly we went a little bit too far – further than Blair wanted – in making this commitment in our manifesto.

‘It was, frankly, under not duress but under some sort of pressure. It wasn’t attractive and it’s not been repeated.’

His comments will raise fresh questions about political sleaze. Labour has been trying to woo wealthy donors in the same manner as it did in the run-up to the 1997 election.

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, which led the campaign against the ban on hunting, said: ‘Tony Blair has already admitted that the hunting ban was one of the legislative measures he most regrets.

‘The Hunting Act has failed at every level, not least in the damage it has caused to the countryside and biodiversity. A future Labour government should right the wrongs of the past and remove this running sore in Labour’s relationship with rural communities.’

But a spokesman for Sir Tony said it was a ‘misinterpretation’ of Lord Mandelson’s comments to suggest that Labour’s policy had been influenced by the donation.

They added: ‘There was no such agreement, he is clearly saying there were a lot of people who had passionate views on the subject.’

Labour’s 1997 manifesto pledged to facilitate ‘a free vote in Parliament on whether hunting with hounds should be banned by legislation’.

Legislation to ban hunting was not finally introduced until 2003 and did not come into force until 2005 following a titanic parliamentary battle.

In his political memoir, Sir Tony voiced regret about the ban and revealed that he had deliberately left loopholes in the legislation that would allow hunting to continue provided certain steps were taken to prevent cruelty.

He said he had not realised the ‘primeval’ passions that the ban would cause among rural communities.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare did not respond to a request for comment. The Labour Party has yet to comment on the matter.

UK ‘No Farmers No Food’ campaign launches over ‘green’ taxes and supermarket price fixing, squeezed margins force farmers out as private equity moves in

No Farmers, No Food campaign group wins support as UK producers mull protest action

By Kevin White 8 February 2024 The Grocer magazine

UK farmers have been debating following their European colleagues’ protest action, which led to big disruption in France and across the continent last week

New campaign group No Farmers, No Food is already attracting significant support, as farmers across the UK mull following their European colleagues with protest action.

The group was established on Twitter/X a fortnight ago as a wave of protests spread across the continent over onerous environmental regulations, rising costs, competition from imports and a lack of support from supermarkets.

Farmers across the UK now appear to be eyeing similar action. The new campaign has already attracted more than 50,000 followers on the social media platform and more than 300,000 on Facebook, with countless more farmers and food industry bodies engaging with the movement behind the scenes, said founder James Melville.

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No Farmers, No Food is pitching itself as a non-political, non-militant campaign group that seeks to “support farmers and build public opinion and support” around the type of concerns expressed by continental farmers, said Melville – who is the son of a farmer, a media commentator and communications specialist.

“What we’re trying to do is create a set of campaigns and messages the public can understand, based on what is sometimes a very, very, complicated set of issues that are differing from farm to farm,” he added, pointing to government bureaucracy and the treatment of farmers by supermarkets as key areas that needed to be addressed.

But he stressed organising protests “was not our job as a very new organisation”.

“It’s up to individual communities and farmers to decide what they want to do,” he added.

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The formation of the group comes amid growing calls for organised farmer protests in the UK. Farmers in Wales are understood to be particularly open to protest action.

More than 1,000 farmers met at Welshpool livestock market last week to discuss the impact of proposed new Welsh government sustainable farming rules, which NFU Cymru warned could devastate the nation’s farming sector.

Plans by the Labour administration could lead to a 10.8% cut in livestock numbers and an 11% cut in labour on Welsh farms, equivalent to losing 5,500 jobs – costing the sector almost £200m. However, the Welsh government stresses the plans are subject to a consultation and could still change.

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Farmers at the event expressed dismay at the plans, said north Wales-based livestock farmer Gareth Wyn Jones, who is also among the supporters of No Farmers, No Food. Further meetings were expected in Wales this week.

“There are definitely whispers around protest action and an appetite for it. But we’re not quite there yet,” Jones told The Grocer.

“This is a movement of frustration, with many farmers feeling like enough is enough – the situation many are finding themselves in is unsustainable.”

Some farmers were “raring to go” on protests, he said.

However, Jones – who has also highlighted the plight of farmers on his YouTube channel – stressed the “need to keep the public on board” and for any potential action to be co-ordinated, respectful and peaceful.

“There is no point in fragmented protest,” he added. “But if we do see protests it demonstrates we are at rock bottom.”

With Tata steel having just confirmed the closure of the two blast furnaces at Port Talbot, here are a few important data points.
First, UK steel-making has collapsed faster, over the past half century, than ANY other country in the world save for Venezuela.
Pretty shocking👇

Blockade: EU Farmers topple and torch John Cockerill’s statue; Welsh Farmers organise

Farmers bring down Cockerill statue in Brussels protest as 1,000 tractors block roads

Protest on day of EU summit comes as France lays out concessions to protesters leading to union bosses to call on farmers in the country to go home

Emmanuel Macron has said that Europes farming sector is facing a major crisis and needs to profoundly change its rules after more than 1,000 tractors brought part of Brussels to a standstill, calling on EU leaders to do more to support them with rising costs and environmental rules.

Background from The Guardian: Carbon offsets overstate climate benefit by 1,000%, study finds

Farmers in several countries across Europe have been blocking roads for days as part of protests, with France particularly hard hit. Speaking after a leaderss summit in the Belgian capital, the French president said that Europe is not deaf to the plight of farmers and that simplified regulations across the EU would help. The statement came after France laid out plans for some concessions to the protesters, leading to unions to call on them to go home.

Earlier in the day, farmers threw eggs and stones at the European parliament, started fires near the building and toppled a statue of John Cockerill a British-Belgian who helped Belgium’s industrial revolution who the protesters potentially mistook for someone connected to the EU. Small groups tried to tear down the barriers erected in front of the parliament a few streets from where the leaders summit was taking place but police fired tear gas and sprayed water at the farmers with hoses to push them back.

Major thoroughfares in Brussels were blocked by around 1,300 tractors, according to police. Security personnel in riot gear stood guard behind barriers where the leaders were meeting at European Council headquarters.

Background from BBC: Carbon offset, tree planting schemes pricing out farmers

If you see with how many people we are here today, and if you see its all over Europe, so you must have hope, said Kevin Bertens, a farmer from just outside Brussels. You need us. Help us!

Farmers from Italy, Spain and other European countries took part in the demonstration in Brussels, as well as continuing their protests at home. In Portugal, farmers made their way to the Spanish border at the crack of dawn to block some of the roads links between the two countries.

One of Belgiums biggest supermarket chains Colruyt said on Thursday three of its distribution centres were blocked by protesting farmers, leading to disruptions in its supply chain. Centres located in Ollignies, Ghislenghien and Halle in central western Belgium, which supply Colruyt’s Belgian shops with dry food, water and drinks, and fresh and frozen products, were no longer accessible.

At the moment, stock is still available in our shops… [but] it is inevitable that products will eventually be missing from the shelves, Colruyt said in a statement, adding that it was difficult to make definitive statements on timing as shops have different stock levels.

Background from Newsweek: Farmers Fight Back Across Europe

Colruyt Group has always focused on sourcing locally as much as possible and succeeds very well in this for many categories, the store chain said. It added it understood farmers concerns but did not see blockades as a solution to them.

In France, where farmers stepped up protests at the start of the week, the impact of dozens of blockades is also being felt, said Eric Hemar, the head of a federation of transport and logistics employers.

We did a poll among our federation members: all transport firms are impacted (by the farmers protest) and have lost over the past 10 days about 30 per cent of their revenue, because we are not able to deliver on time or with delays, he told France Info.

In his latest speech aimed at easing tensions with angry farmers, Frances prime minister Gabriel Attal earlier said France would enshrine in law the principle that it should be self-reliant in food and it will tighten import controls.

Mr Attal, speaking at a press conference, also said the government will stop imposing stricter regulation on its farmers than European Union regulations require.

It makes no sense to ban pesticides in France before such decisions are taken on an EU level. We will end this practice, he said.

Background from BBC: Climate change or market change? Cold callers shock farmers with tree-plant plea

Detailing his agenda to boost Frances agricultural sector, Europes largest, Mr Attal said it was out of the question that France would agree to the Mercosur trade deal with Latin American countries.

He also said France will step up safety checks on food imports, notably to make sure that imported foods do not have traces of pesticides that are banned in France or the EU.

The finance ministry said the new emergency measures for the sector, focused largely on supporting struggling livestock farmers and wine producers, would cost 400 million (340m), plus 200m in cash advances.

Union leaders called on their members to end the roadblocks in the wake of the speech but said this came with the condition that the promises be followed by concrete progress. They said they would give the government a three-week deadline until the start of Frances giant Salon de lAgriculture farming trade fair for the first results to show.

From Monday, were going to get to work in the prefectures and ministries to work on all the points that have been announced, said Arnaud Gaillot, the head of the Young Farmers (Jeunes Agriculteurs) union.

The protests across Europe come ahead of the European parliament elections. While the farmers crisis was not officially on the agenda of the EU summit, which focused on aid to Ukraine, an EU diplomat said the situation with the farmers was likely to be discussed later in the day.

Farmers have already secured several measures, including the blocs executive commission proposals to limit farm imports from Ukraine and loosen some environmental regulations on fallow lands, which several EU leaders welcomed as they arrived at the summit.