Labour to double number of police officers enforcing fox hunting ban.

Labour has unveiled plans to double the number of police officers tasked with enforcing the fox hunting ban and other wildlife crimes.

The party says it will put £4.5m into cracking down on bloodsports like hare coursing, badger baiting and stag hunting.

The number of officers in rural crimes units across the country would rise from 88 to 170 under the proposals in the party’s animal welfare manifesto, which is being released on Tuesday.

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Other policies included in the document include closing loopholes in the 2004 Hunting Act that allow in practice illegal hunts to continue.

They would remove exemptions such as hunts being allowed for “research and observation” and on the “use of dogs below ground to protect birds for shooting”.

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Prison sentences would also be introduced illegal hunting, bring it into line with other offences, and penalties around wildlife crimes would be reviews more widely.

Jeremy Corbyn’s party views fox hunting in particular as a key Tory weakness, with voters at odds with many Conservatives’ pro-hunting views on the issue.

The Independent revealed earlier this month that Labour was running an under-the-radar campaign against the Tories over the issue using targeted Facebook ads.

Fox hunting was a stealth issue at the 2017 general election: though rarely covered by broadcasters during the campaign, pollsters were later surprised to discover that it was one of just a handful of Tory policies voters remembered.

We are calling time on those who have been allowed to get away with illegally hunting, maiming and killing wild animals such as deer, hen harriers, foxes and hares

Sue Hayman, shadow environment secretary

YouGov found that fox hunting was just behind the so-called “dementia tax”, Brexit, and means-testing winter fuel allowance in terms of policy recognition by voters.

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The issue is fertile ground for the opposition party, because polls show around 85-90 per cent of voters want to keep the bloodsport banned.

Theresa May’s 2017 Tory manifesto included a pledge for a free vote on bringing back fox hunting. The plan was dropped in January 2018, however, partly in response to the backlash during the election.

Boris Johnson repeatedly voted against Labour’s ban on fox hunting in 2000, in the previous decade when he was MP for Henley. As London mayor in 2013, he suggested introducing hunting in the capital to control its urban fox population, saying: “This will cause massive unpopularity but I don’t care”.

But it is not clear whether the policy will make it into the Conservative manifesto this year. Over the summer, cabinet minister Liz Truss – an ally of Mr Johnson – said that the policy would not make the cut. Other senior Tories like Jeremy Hunt have said they still support a vote.

It comes as the Tories target Jeremy Corbyn’s party over its plans to bring in a financial transaction tax. The Conservatives say the plan to raise billions from the City would affect share prices, which they claim could affect some pensions.

General election: On the campaign trail

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General election: On the campaign trail

1/47

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on a tug boat in the port of Bristol

PA

2/47

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson (left) during a visit to the Gurdwara Singh Sabha Temple in Glasgow

PA

3/47

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn meets Colin and his mother after a speech at the University of Lancaster

Getty Images

4/47

Scottish Nationalist Party leader Nicola Sturgeon meets voters and activists at Cafe Roma in Clarkston, Glasgow

AFP via Getty Images

5/47

Protestors participate in an anti-Boris Johnson rally in his constituency Uxbridge, west London

AFP via Getty Images

6/47

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage looks out from a window on the Kestrel crabbing boat in Grimsby fish dock

PA

7/47

Jo Swinson helps chef Leonardo Mastofilippo to make pizza during a campaign visit to cafe Amisha in South Bermonsey

EPA

8/47

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) ladies during a visit to Birkenshaw Sports Barn in Uddingston

EPA

9/47

Boris Johnson at the unveiling of the Conservative Party battlebus in Middleton, Greater Manchester

PA

10/47

Nicola Sturgeon sits alongside Cycling Without Age user Cyril Corcoran (centre), aged 78, in an electric tricycle during a visit to Hawick, in the Scottish Borders

PA

11/47

Nigel Farage holds a fish during a stop at the Grimsby Seafood Village

PA

12/47

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson in the boxing ring at Total Boxer, a specialised boxing gym which offers training to young people as a means of keeping them away from violence, in Crouch End, London

PA

13/47

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts as he participates in a school art lesson, making a clay figure at George Spencer Academy, west of Nottingham

AFP via Getty

14/47

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn during a visit to the Heart of Scotstoun Community Centre in Glasgow

PA

15/47

Scotland's First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon visits the Cafe Gelato in Rutherglen, Glasgow

EPA

16/47

The Green Party launch in Bristol

PA

17/47

Farage enjoys some chips at the start of a nationwide tour for the 2019 general election, in Whitehaven

AFP/Getty

18/47

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn unveils the Labour battle bus in Liverpool

PA

19/47

Boris Johnson reacts as he talks with workers whilst weighing packaged tea bags at the Tetley Tea Factory in Stockton-on-Tees

AFP/Getty

20/47

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage on the campaign trail in Whitehaven, where he was confronted by Karl Connor

PA

21/47

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson speaks to volunteer Rosie Squires in the Stainforth 4 All charity shop during a visit to Stainforth in South Yorkshire to meet people affected by flooding

PA

22/47

Nicola Sturgeon poses with candidates during the SNP general election campaign launch in Edinburgh

Reuters

23/47

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn with Laura McAlpine, the party's candidate for Harlow

PA

24/47

Anti-Boris Johnson protesters demonstrate outside the hall where the Conservative Party were launching their campaign in Birmingham

EPA

25/47

Green Party Co-Leader Sian Berry (left), Deputy Leader and Parliamentary Candidate for Newport West Amelia Womack (right), and Bristol West Candidate Carla Denyer (centre) at the launch of the party's general election manifesto in Bristol

PA

26/47

The PM tastes whisky during a visit to Diageo's Roseisle Distillery near Elgin, Scotland

Reuters

27/47

Nigel Farage poses with boxer Dereck Chisora during a visit to a boxing gym in Ilford

Reuters

28/47

Jo Swinson visits a science class at Hinchley Wood School near Esher

Reuters

29/47

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon holds a guitar as she visits Dalkeith Community Hub

Getty

30/47

A man heckles as Jeremy Corbyn gives a speech at the Senior Citizens Hall in Macclesfield

Getty

31/47

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn visits residents affected by flooding in Conisbrough

Reuters

32/47

Boris Johnson gestures as he helps quality control staff during a visit to the Tayto Castle crisp factory in County Armagh, Northern Ireland

AFP via Getty

33/47

The Lib Dem leader eats a marshmallow during a visit to Free Rangers Nursery in Midsomer Norton, Somerset

PA

34/47

Nigel Farage visits a butcher's shop in Sutton-in-Ashfield

Reuters

35/47

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon visits Blosson Tree children's nursery

AFP via Getty

36/47

Jeremy Corbyn laughs during a visit to the Scrap Creative Reuse Arts Project, Sunny Bank Mills

Getty

37/47

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hold Rosie the rabbit during a visit to a primary school while on the campaign trail in Taunton

AFP via Getty

38/47

Jo Swinson playing with children at the Battersea Arts Centre in Lavender Hill

PA

39/47

Farage addresses supporters at the Washington Central Hotel in Workington

PA

40/47

Jeremy Corbyn poses with Labour activists as they canvas in Govan, Glasgow

PA

41/47

Nicola Sturgeon during a visit to The Shed, a Climate Challenge community project at North Edinburgh Arts

PA

42/47

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets six month old Willow Rose Anderson, at the Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton

PA

43/47

Jo Swinson holds up a sack of barley during a visit to Crafty Maltsters Scotland

Getty

44/47

Jeremy Corbyn tries a scone in Bentley, Doncaster

PA

45/47

Nigel Farage takes a mouthful of homemade cheesecake during a stop at the Grimsby Seafood Village

PA

46/47

Boris Johnson hauling a consignment of frozen chocolate gateaux, during a visit to Iceland Foods HQ in Deeside

PA

47/47

Jo Swinson puts on a high visibility jacket during a visit to Sigma Pharmaceuticals, a family run pharmaceutical wholesaler in Watford

AFP via Getty

1/47

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on a tug boat in the port of Bristol

PA

2/47

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson (left) during a visit to the Gurdwara Singh Sabha Temple in Glasgow

PA

3/47

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn meets Colin and his mother after a speech at the University of Lancaster

Getty Images

4/47

Scottish Nationalist Party leader Nicola Sturgeon meets voters and activists at Cafe Roma in Clarkston, Glasgow

AFP via Getty Images

5/47

Protestors participate in an anti-Boris Johnson rally in his constituency Uxbridge, west London

AFP via Getty Images

6/47

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage looks out from a window on the Kestrel crabbing boat in Grimsby fish dock

PA

7/47

Jo Swinson helps chef Leonardo Mastofilippo to make pizza during a campaign visit to cafe Amisha in South Bermonsey

EPA

8/47

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) ladies during a visit to Birkenshaw Sports Barn in Uddingston

EPA

9/47

Boris Johnson at the unveiling of the Conservative Party battlebus in Middleton, Greater Manchester

PA

10/47

Nicola Sturgeon sits alongside Cycling Without Age user Cyril Corcoran (centre), aged 78, in an electric tricycle during a visit to Hawick, in the Scottish Borders

PA

11/47

Nigel Farage holds a fish during a stop at the Grimsby Seafood Village

PA

12/47

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson in the boxing ring at Total Boxer, a specialised boxing gym which offers training to young people as a means of keeping them away from violence, in Crouch End, London

PA

13/47

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts as he participates in a school art lesson, making a clay figure at George Spencer Academy, west of Nottingham

AFP via Getty

14/47

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn during a visit to the Heart of Scotstoun Community Centre in Glasgow

PA

15/47

Scotland's First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon visits the Cafe Gelato in Rutherglen, Glasgow

EPA

16/47

The Green Party launch in Bristol

PA

17/47

Farage enjoys some chips at the start of a nationwide tour for the 2019 general election, in Whitehaven

AFP/Getty

18/47

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn unveils the Labour battle bus in Liverpool

PA

19/47

Boris Johnson reacts as he talks with workers whilst weighing packaged tea bags at the Tetley Tea Factory in Stockton-on-Tees

AFP/Getty

20/47

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage on the campaign trail in Whitehaven, where he was confronted by Karl Connor

PA

21/47

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson speaks to volunteer Rosie Squires in the Stainforth 4 All charity shop during a visit to Stainforth in South Yorkshire to meet people affected by flooding

PA

22/47

Nicola Sturgeon poses with candidates during the SNP general election campaign launch in Edinburgh

Reuters

23/47

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn with Laura McAlpine, the party's candidate for Harlow

PA

24/47

Anti-Boris Johnson protesters demonstrate outside the hall where the Conservative Party were launching their campaign in Birmingham

EPA

25/47

Green Party Co-Leader Sian Berry (left), Deputy Leader and Parliamentary Candidate for Newport West Amelia Womack (right), and Bristol West Candidate Carla Denyer (centre) at the launch of the party's general election manifesto in Bristol

PA

26/47

The PM tastes whisky during a visit to Diageo's Roseisle Distillery near Elgin, Scotland

Reuters

27/47

Nigel Farage poses with boxer Dereck Chisora during a visit to a boxing gym in Ilford

Reuters

28/47

Jo Swinson visits a science class at Hinchley Wood School near Esher

Reuters

29/47

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon holds a guitar as she visits Dalkeith Community Hub

Getty

30/47

A man heckles as Jeremy Corbyn gives a speech at the Senior Citizens Hall in Macclesfield

Getty

31/47

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn visits residents affected by flooding in Conisbrough

Reuters

32/47

Boris Johnson gestures as he helps quality control staff during a visit to the Tayto Castle crisp factory in County Armagh, Northern Ireland

AFP via Getty

33/47

The Lib Dem leader eats a marshmallow during a visit to Free Rangers Nursery in Midsomer Norton, Somerset

PA

34/47

Nigel Farage visits a butcher's shop in Sutton-in-Ashfield

Reuters

35/47

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon visits Blosson Tree children's nursery

AFP via Getty

36/47

Jeremy Corbyn laughs during a visit to the Scrap Creative Reuse Arts Project, Sunny Bank Mills

Getty

37/47

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hold Rosie the rabbit during a visit to a primary school while on the campaign trail in Taunton

AFP via Getty

38/47

Jo Swinson playing with children at the Battersea Arts Centre in Lavender Hill

PA

39/47

Farage addresses supporters at the Washington Central Hotel in Workington

PA

40/47

Jeremy Corbyn poses with Labour activists as they canvas in Govan, Glasgow

PA

41/47

Nicola Sturgeon during a visit to The Shed, a Climate Challenge community project at North Edinburgh Arts

PA

42/47

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets six month old Willow Rose Anderson, at the Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton

PA

43/47

Jo Swinson holds up a sack of barley during a visit to Crafty Maltsters Scotland

Getty

44/47

Jeremy Corbyn tries a scone in Bentley, Doncaster

PA

45/47

Nigel Farage takes a mouthful of homemade cheesecake during a stop at the Grimsby Seafood Village

PA

46/47

Boris Johnson hauling a consignment of frozen chocolate gateaux, during a visit to Iceland Foods HQ in Deeside

PA

47/47

Jo Swinson puts on a high visibility jacket during a visit to Sigma Pharmaceuticals, a family run pharmaceutical wholesaler in Watford

AFP via Getty

Sue Hayman, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, said: “Labour’s animal welfare manifesto is the most radical animal welfare plan anywhere in the world.

“While the Tories continue with their mass slaughter of badgers and flip flop on bringing back fox hunting, Labour is determined to bring animal welfare policy into the 21st Century, based on the latest science and understanding.

“We are calling time on those who have been allowed to get away with illegally hunting, maiming and killing wild animals such as deer, hen harriers, foxes and hares.

“By increasing the number of wildlife and rural police forces across the country we will help protect both wild animals and property in rural communities, and ensure a crackdown on the types of crimes against animals that this Tory government has turned a blind eye to. Labour is the true party of real change when it comes to animal welfare.”

Social media is an increasingly important battle ground in elections - and home to many questionable claims pumped out by all sides. If social media sites won't investigate the truth of divisive advertising, we will. Please send any political Facebook advertising you receive to digitaldemocracy@independent.co.uk, and we will catalogue and investigate it. Read more here.

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