Theresa May
Theresa May has said she hopes to bring back fox huntingStefan Wermuth/Reuters

Frightened foxes being ripped to shreds by packs of frenzied dogs: this is what Theresa May would like to see return to Britain after the upcoming general election. Speaking in Leeds, the prime minister said MPs will get a free vote on lifting the 2004 ban on fox hunting if the Conservatives win the general election.

If the ban is lifted, it would give depraved individuals who enjoy taking out their feelings of inadequacy on other living beings permission to do so.

Two years ago, a small but loud and cranky group previously tried – and failed – to have the current ban on fox hunting overturned. In spite of more than a decade of success, the Hunting Act is once again in danger of being repealed.

It matters little to this fringe group that the orchestrated act of forcing packs of hounds to tear foxes apart is abhorrent to decent people, which is why fox hunting was banned in the first place and why support for the act remains robust 12 years after it was passed.

A 2016 Ipsos MORI poll shows that 84% of Britons – including those living in both rural and urban areas – back the law and think that fox hunting should not be made legal again.

Foxes are canines with the very same capacity to feel pain and suffer as the dogs many of us share our homes with and consider a part of our families. If groups of humans hunted dogs or cats for fun, we wouldn't call it a sport, we would call it abuse – and that's exactly what it is when the same is done to foxes.

From the terrifying chase that can cause them to rupture organs when fleeing the hounds to the moment they're surrounded, petrified and exhausted, by dogs and then ripped apart, every minute of the hunt involves cruelty to animals.

Hunting with dogs
The hunting ban could be overturnedGetty

Hunters who claim that they must kill foxes in order to control populations are either severely misguided or actively trying to deceive lawmakers. In areas where many foxes are killed, the number of fertile vixens increases, as do litter sizes – a common biological response which restores populations to their natural levels.

What's more, hunters have been caught intentionally breeding and feeding foxes in areas where they are hunted – apparently to encourage population growth and later kill them. Last year, hunters were caught throwing fox cubs into kennels of dogs in order to train the hounds to kill.

Thankfully, from the time the legislation came into force in February 2005 to the end of last year, more than 500 individuals have been charged under the act. If these acts of cruelty are allowed to be glorified or portrayed as a "hobby" once more, it will debase us all.

Common decency says that we should protect the most vulnerable and helpless, not destroy them – and much less derive "pleasure" from doing so.

We must not allow the compassionless bullies who enjoy the bloody "pastime" of terrorising and killing animals to reverse the moral evolution of our country. Hunting of any kind has no place in modern Britain, and repealing the Hunting Act would be a huge step backwards for humans and animals alike.