I’M honoured to represent a party that has consistently and unwaveringly defended animals.

Compassion for animals is in the Green Party’s DNA. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with animal advocates across Britain as we face a challenging future.

The snap election campaign has revealed the gruesome heart of the Conservative Party, with Theresa May’s bloodthirsty plot to bring back fox hunting enshrined in the party’s manifesto. This general election could signal the end of this hard-fought-for, if far from perfect, piece of legislation.

Hunting live mammals with hounds has been illegal in England and Wales since 2004. The ban has helped stop more than 100,000 animals being subjected to this needless cruelty, including foxes, hares and deer.

But the battle to stamp out hunting completely is far from won. The ban brought in by Labour has a colossal weakness; it allows existing hunts to continue on the poorly enforced proviso that the fox hunters don’t kill foxes. It only took one season with the ban in place for people to realise hunts were choosing to ignore this proviso. As many still do.

The RSPCA and the League Against Cruel Sports do a fantastic job. The organisations, which receive no public funding, have successfully prosecuted 344 people for offences under the Hunting Act since it came into force.

Had the law been properly designed and enforced from the start, up to 2.8 million animals would have been spared an agonising and unnecessary death at the hands of hunters. Only the Green Party is committed to strengthening the Hunting Act. And we have the overwhelming backing of the British public too; four in five people oppose this barbaric pursuit.

Theresa May knows this. In 2015, the Tories attempted to weaken the Hunting Act via a statutory instrument, a move that could have brought back hunting by the back door. They abandoned the vote when it became clear the Government didn’t have the numbers to push it through. It is only thanks to an outdated voting system that a Conservative government could now return a sizeable enough majority of MPs, from just a minority of votes, to bring back this horrifically cruel spectacle.

Fox hunting has been tried in the court of public opinion many times and found utterly repellent to decent, compassionate folk on every occasion. The arguments put forward by proponents are tired, but worth knocking down for the umpteenth time.

Fox hunting first emerged in the UK in the 1600s and, in a minority of cases, it was a form of grossly indulgent pest control. In the 17th century, some foxes were hunted to stop them killing livestock. But it caught on because the hunters got a taste for blood. Exemplified by the introduction of foxes to the Isle of Wight in 1845 for hunting.

It was an ineffective pest control method then and it still is today. The last survey of fox numbers concluded that a year of cancelled hunts had no significant impact on fox numbers and the average fox density. It has never been about pest control. Hunts have been caught capturing and raising foxes to hunt them.

And nobody buys the “townies don’t understand the countryside folk” arguments any more – nor did they ever. There’s no decency code exclusive to England’s rural idylls that excuses the brutal torture of a living creature in the name of entertainment. In fact, the same survey that found four out of every five British people oppose fox hunting also revealed 82 per cent of “countryside folk” support the ban.

The “excitement” of the ride and the “thrill of the chase” has attracted an often privileged minority who enjoy donning a red jacket for the costumed “glamour” of watching a fox get mercilessly ripped apart by a pack of, often, badly treated dogs. This is the real reason the hunts flourished. It is also why lobbyists, out of sync with the British people by a good 400 years, want to revive the barbaric pursuit.

Fox hunting is clearly an emotive issue; to anybody with a shred of compassion it is just instinctively wrong. But it is also a common sense issue. There is no appetite or reason to bring it back.

Theresa May is capitulating to a hunting lobby that represents a noisy but tiny minority of people in 21st century Britain. In doing so, the Prime Minister is hoping we will be distracted from more pressing election issues, like the Tories’ plan to lead Britain off an extreme Brexit cliff edge or, say, the crisis in our NHS service, failed by almost a decade of deliberate Tory underfunding and rampant privatisation. We won’t let Theresa May distract us from key issues facing Britain ahead of polling day.

Keith Taylor is Green MEP for the South East.