I congratulate Christian Matheson on his splendid speech, and on attracting so many colleagues to support his point of view. We could not have anyone better to chair proceedings than yourself, Mr Rosindell, given your track record on the issue.
In the early years, when I was first elected to Parliament, only four or five colleagues on the Conservative Benches were against foxhunting—I am delighted that two of them are present this afternoon. A wonderful lady called Lorraine Platt, who founded the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, changed all that, and I think that now in excess of 60 Conservative Members of Parliament would be very much against foxhunting.
Throughout my parliamentary life, I have done everything I can to improve the welfare of animals and the environment in which we live. In so many ways, the quality of a nation should be judged by how it treats animals. To give a taster, I got on to the statute book the Protection against Cruel Tethering Act 1988, to protect horses, ponies and donkeys from being cruelly tethered. Together with Ann Widdecombe, in 2002 I introduced the Endangered Species (Illegal Trade) Bill. We led campaigns against live animal exports, the badger cull, animal experimentation, dog meat, the fur trade, netting and the killing of songbirds throughout the Mediterranean.
Legislation is all very well, but it is the enforcement that I am particularly concerned about. My hon. Friend James Cartlidge mentioned hare coursing. I was appalled that in Essex more than 500 cases of illegal hare coursing were reported in 2017. However, I am glad that, with consistent action from rural police forces across the country that are taking the crime seriously, there has been an impressive reduction in offences.