And…. that’s it! Welcome back to the long grass. The Prime minster gambled, and for all sorts of reasons including apparent lack of engagement with the population, that gambled failed. With that failure comes any real chance of the Hunting Act being repealed in the near to mid-term.
The opposition showed that the public are gullible. You can promise everything in the garden will be rosy, that there will always be ‘jam for tea’, that someone else will pay for your life choices. Do so and the voters will flock to you like….well, sheep.
Worse still the sterling work that the Vote OK teams did putting boots on the ground to support candidates who were at risk from an anti hunt MP will quickly be forgotten as even those MPs who welcomed the support become embroiled in an instinctive ‘its all about me’ survival strategy.
Regaining the right time for repeal will not be easy. But we can and should learn lessons from this. We can no longer afford to carry on repeating identical behaviour and expect a different result.
The answer DOES NOT lie in posting cutesy hound/child images on social media, or feel all warm and self satisfied because we engaged with a school to arrange kennel visit, our opponents were there in schools, colleges and universities months ago, giving out free teaching ‘resources‘ packed to the brim with ‘HUNTING IS CRUEL KEEP OUR WILD ANIMALS SAFE! ’ messages. We are on the back foot once again; out thought, and out manoeuvred.
A family member at University states that she observed two things that got students engaged with voting, the first was the promise of ‘free tuition for life for everyone’, the second was the anti hunt message – “That vile woman will bring back hunting with hounds and badger baiting.” Both messages were pushed hard in the Student Union bar. Who cares that neither message was actually true? It was a powerful two pronged message, and why let the truth get in the way of politics?
We absolutely failed to engage with students at their level and show them the truth was different. Not helped of course by a largely anti local press owned by the Mirror Group, who seem willing to publish any lurid claims from the antis without any basic fact checking, after all, headlines sell papers!
What is worse it that we do not seem to have any sort of plan to counter such messages or any real concrete grasp of what we want. It is difficult reach a destination if you don’t know, or can’t agree where that destination is. None of the above is the fault of any group or organisation, we ALL have a collective responsibility. If you want to change things it is up to you.
We can no longer rely on the old messages such as justifying hunting on the basis that ‘it is traditional’, as if that is a ‘good thing’. For example most people would recoil in horror at the thought of forced marriage and FGM being ‘justified’ because ‘it’s traditional’. What we can say is that the Hunting Act has not saved the life of a single fox, this is because as an alternative to being hunted and either caught or not they are shot and often wounded. So, you don’t like hunting hares with hounds? The alternative is hare shoots – where for sound economic reasons whole areas are cleared of hares – regardless of age.
We must explain that the hunt staff are there to do a job, the field are there to support the professionals. However from the perspective of the media we have learnt that this is a non story, there is no blood lust and, as a result, no story.
We must use the experiences of those who have been ‘anti’ in the past to find out why they have made the brave step of publicly changing their stance and learn from them; and when those rare unpleasant events do occur be prepared for the negative spin of our opponents and deal with the matter immediately and publicly so there are no skeletons to fall from cupboards and no smoking guns. There have been some good beginnings in the last 12 months or so, and now is the time to build on those foundations to build a solid, fact-based, non-emotional case so that when the next opportunity presents itself we are fully ready to counter the lurid hype delivered by a new type of messenger.
Bearing in mind that time bound Brexit talks begin in a few days it is likely that we will be able to put together a concrete argument relating to the positive aspects of hunting with hounds and to start to spread that message before the next half cocked media frenzy engulfs us.