Hunts have always been integral to their community, from the days of trencher fed packs, through to fund raising for local good causes such as the air ambulance. Now is the time for hunts in all countries that hunt hounds to step up and once again demonstrate that the antis myth of arrogant ‘redcoats’ on horseback perpetuated by the tabloid and online ‘media’ is just a toxic combination of an AR ‘Press Release’ and lazy journalism. Though at this point in should be noted that as far as we are aware no journalist has yet reported anything about ‘arrogant geriatric followers of foot packs rampaging through the countryside at a sedentary pace’ which does indicate that the opposition to mounted hunting has no real basis in animal welfare. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t change if general opinion swings further against us, and that is going to be very much driven by what we do over the coming weeks and months.
In these difficult times when a newly emergent disease is causing chaos around the world, the hunting community needs to be seen to be supporting not only ourselves but the wider society in general. At Baily’s, we have been horrified to see posts on social media from some hunt supporters along the lines of “I’m going to go out no matter what, no-one can stop me” at a time when restrictions to avoid gathering in groups, restaurants and pubs are closing, at maintaining the wider public health.
While hunting in itself might not be the problem, the mere fact that anti-hunt activity so often requires a significant police presence to keep order makes such an attitude unrealistic. We should be calling off meets for the remainder of the season to make those officers available for more critical activities. Add to that the fact that many meets happen at pubs which will be closed anyway and it starts to look very selfish, even elitist, to insist on carrying on. There is already a lot of public condemnation linked to the buying behaviours that are leaving so many shop shelves bare of essentials; how much more would the hunting community be the target of if public perception is that we are insensitively carrying on an activity that is perceived to be using critical resources inappropriately?
In the same line of thinking, and its highly unpalatable one, we believe that the normal summer programme of puppy shows, hound shows, and summer fundraising events can’t really go ahead as normal this year. It is already late March, and with the advice that the more vulnerable should self-isolate for at least 12 weeks there is a very strong possibility that key organisers will become unavailable until mid-June at the earliest. While events later in the year may be possible, anything in June and July is going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to organise the essential infrastructure effectively – and that’s in the best case. With some scientists suggesting that restrictions need to be for 6 to 9 months or even longer, the level of uncertainty makes it hard to see how anything can be planned for 2020, and even where they do go ahead attendance is likely to suffer as people put health concerns above all else.
So now we come to the opportunity. This is a time when the hunting community can show just how supportive we can be locally. Living in an area with a large number of people self-isolating? The hunt already has the social networks in place to organise into groups for collecting and delivering shopping and supplies and for keeping a watchful eye on the vulnerable in our communities.Fundraising needed locally for a particular good cause related to the virus? Perhaps look at how to run online fundraisers that don’t need people to get together. Local children getting bored stuck at home for a long time? Hunts with pony clubs or other knowledgeable members could set up activities that can be shared online and to help with that effort we will be offering easy to enter colouring competitions that you can submit online for prizes wherever you are in the world. Details coming in the News section shortly.
To support our efforts on behalf of hunting we will be changing to weekly editorial to ensure our subscribers are kept up to dare with fact and not social media generated hysteria and rumour. The more we can do now to be seen to be helping our wider communities, the more chance we have of promoting a positive image of hunts and hunt supporters when a semblance of normality returns, be that later in 2020, or at some point in the future.