Back in the heady days of 1966, The Kinks delivered a body blow to the pomposity of fashionista of the time with their song ” A Dedicated Follower of Fashion” it was intended to lampoon a movement led by those with ever demanding egos which drove them to seek increasing self-importance and become ‘influencers’.
Some decades later the ‘animal welfare industry’ has reached the same point by where a tribunal judge in an employment tribunal declared that certain flavours of a lifestyle choice must be respected by law. You really could not make it up. The real reason for the dismissal which was as a result of the alleged deliberate sharing of confidential data will come out in a later trial, but for the moment we appear to stuck in a strange world where it seems to be ‘ethical’ to break the law as long as that suits ‘me’ but with no hint of the ‘The Kinks’ irony or satire. The influencers of today are deadly serious. When a ‘fad’ becomes an unthinking dogma the genie has long departed the bottle.
However, in the world of hunting, we still don’t get ‘it.’ We still happily chatter on about the importance of ‘tradition’, without any real realisation or acceptance that the rest of the world does not care about our ‘traditions’ one iota. Yet that same world blindly accepts what it has been indoctrinated to see or ‘feel’, buoyed by a sensation hungry media which has lost the ability to inform, educate or entertain.
The world has changed, and that means we either step up and start to regain control of that change or are once again swept along with it. Pick one.
Examples of this loss of control are easy to find. It is becoming ‘normal’ for anti-hunt pressure groups to bully town councils demanding the need for hunts to have conducted risk assessments. They try to suggest that without such ‘safety-related‘ documentation it would too high risk for any public authority to hold the long-held convention of an annual Boxing Day meet in the town square. Then, in a spectacular ‘volte face‘ these same protestors turn up on Boxing Day waving banners and shouting through a megaphone without any care or consideration for the impact that their activity safety of the horses and young children.
Of course, it is to be hoped that these pressure groups have thought ethically or otherwise about this intended conduct and have, on that basis, obtained insurance against any third party taking action against them for any incident that was caused by their activity and which could have been reasonably foreseen. Such as those that recently caused a young pony to panic and slipover with a 12-year-old on board. It should come as a shock to the wider public that some people would put a child’s life at risk. Modern antis have been taught by high profile media influencers that they ‘own’ the public’s compassion and empathy and this is only bestowed by them on what they decide, in this case, the fox and any empathy is turned against the hunting community as we continue to play by rules that we no longer control taken from a rule book that only we have read.
So, what of us ethical hound followers? For too, long we have really done nothing about the erroneous claims of ‘You are engaged in illegal hunting’ either at meets before hounds have moved off. Too often we have been behind the reactive curve when hounds have been deliberately distracted by antis and are then filmed with a half-frozen ex roadkill fox carcass which just happened to play a small but important role in the anti-hunt charade. We have not done enough engaging with the media showing them we have nothing to hide. We have allowed our Adrenalin fuelled opponents to become contemptuous of the ability of the authorities to control their activism so that they now use the ‘Court of Social Media’ to present their corrupted evidence of ‘wrongdoing’ by anyone but them. Take, for example, their activity around badger setts which is lauded by them as ‘essential sett monitoring’ – monitoring that naturally requires funding. However, if a hunt passes by a badger sett this is immediately declared to be ‘interference’ and must be prosecuted- with yet another appeal for funds. In addition, hounds are declared to have the unique ability to be able to spread TB by just walking through a field. Yet thousands of dog owners who walk their dogs through those same fields, doing so more often than not without any permission, appear to own dogs that are unable, under any circumstances, according to anti-hunt PR, to be a transmission vector for TB transmission.
We ethical hound followers are once again shoved unceremoniously on the back foot, left to try to justify our activity to an audience that no longer seems to care what we think. However, with a new political regime in place we have the ability to get our representatives to listen – not to pressure group hyperbole, but the facts. Facts such as the Hunting act has no animal welfare benefits whatsoever and has not ever saved the life of a single fox. We are willing to use our unparalleled levels of skill and knowledge to work with government to improve best practice in countryside management and animal welfare without the need for more Draconian legislation.
We just have to move the debate from the unwinnable emotional argument, the cries of ‘tradition trumps development’, and the need to hark back to a past world that no longer exists, replacing them with fact, common sense, and a willingness to evolve to suit the modern world without losing our core purpose.