ALARM is spreading amongst Britain's three million-plus anglers after it was revealed yesterday that a government committee set up to investigate alleged abuse of animals during the testing of new drugs has widened its scope to look into claims that fish feel pain when being hooked.
Dales rivers draw anglers from across Britain
This has been a hotly disputed debate for decades but the news that Home Office's animals procedures committee has widened its remit to investigate angling has caused thousands of fishermen to fear that this could be the thin end of the wedge leading to fishing following hunting as a banned sport.
With parliament totally dominated by urban MPs who show little love or understanding of country pursuits, the decision to expand into a hitherto off-limits territory has caused the leaders of various countryside bodies to speculate that this is a back-door manoeuvre to put angling into the public arena by politically correct MPs and civil servants.
Although foxhunting has been made illegal, and shooting facing increasing problems caused by ever-tightening restrictions on shotgun ownership, angling would be the next logical target by animal rights supporters.
But a Labour Government would face huge electoral difficulties by launching a head-on assault on angling. It is by far the country's biggest participation sport, with some three million members enrolled in angling clubs and millions more who fish independently.
The vast majority of those numbers are coarse fishermen from the towns and cities - people assumed to be natural Labour supporters.