So, in a month which could be recalled in history as the one that saw the relabelling of factual inaccuracies as ‘my truths’ and ‘accidental misremberings’ or, in ‘playground speak’ “stuff the facts, I really, really hate you!” we have learnt that:-
The chocolate box vision of the countryside championed by some television presenters and their vocal supporters, exists because of, NOT in spite of, hunting, shooting, coursing and or fishing. However, what country sports emotionally incontinent opponents deliberately overlook are the inconvenient facts. It might be an inconvenient ‘truth bomb’ but the copses, coverts, canals and hedgerows which provide habitat for wildlife throughout the year, and which are enjoyed by anyone and everyone using public access routes are where they are because they were paid for by the big landowners of the past.
1) Nothing is more wild animal welfare centred than the development and maintenance over centuries of woodland rides and coverts, yet this ‘natural’ landscape came at great personal expense of individual landowners and not from government. It was created for shooting or hunting with hounds and not for the benefit and pleasure at nil cost of today’s dog walkers or tree huggers, or those who talk earnestly about ‘protecting our countryside’ but fully expect others to pay for it.
2) The Hunting Act has not saved the life of a single fox or hare, but then this is unsurprising as it was never intended to do so.
Let’s not forget that the real reason for the Hunting Act was as a sop by a Blair government to pacify a feisty left wing and gain their support for a radical policy which gave Hospital Trusts autonomy from the centralized planning of big government i.e. the freedom to choose- which you will note is a concept that is not offered to anyone involved in county sports.
Once enacted, it became clear that animal welfare was not The Hunting Act’s intended purpose “This has nothing to do with animal welfare – this is for the miners.”(Dennis Skinner MP) and from Peter Bradley MP “Now that hunting has been banned, we ought at last to own up to it : the struggle over the Bill was not just about animal welfare and personal freedom, it was class war.”
3) Hunting with hounds removes any risk of wounding. The quarry is caught, or escapes unharmed.
Since the late 1890’s well regarded observers, many with scientific training, writing in Baily’s have stated that, even when pursued by hounds there is no actual evidence of an animal being ‘terrified’. Indeed at least one account recalls a fox running through a farmyard with hounds little more than a field behind. In full view of an angry farmer’s wife, the fox stopped, backtracked, and grabbed an unwary chicken before continuing to evade hounds and whilst keeping the chicken as its prize. However, it is also no secret that throughout the same period Baily’s readers have admired and applauded such cheek!
Though you might not like the idea of something you have never seen, history says you are highly unlikely to actually view a kill by hounds despite it taking place for years in our increasingly overcrowded island. A ‘professional anti’ was recently forced to admit in court that, in 13 years of anti-hunt activity (which must amount to at least 1200 days) he had only actually witnessed four occasions when hounds caught a fox. So, if this is true of a paid specialist in covert surveillance it strongly suggests that the frequent tabloid tales of numerous paramilitary clad individuals regularly attempting, (while filming) to save a ‘terrified fox being torn to pieces whilst still alive’ should be treated with caution, if not outright suspicion.
The courts should always be seen to require a bit more than ‘my truth’ to secure a reliable conviction regardless of the effort and emotion that went into constructing them. Heavily edited video, complete with emotion driven narrative just will not do. But such events are regularly promoted to the ‘court of social media’ because they are useful for fundraising and perhaps on occasions gaining certain journalists interest. Click bait headlines drive comment to the local press and offer such incites into their audience mindset as ‘we went for a nice drive in the country and saw riders from a hunt in the next field. I thought such things were illegal but when I found out that they weren’t, I cried all the way home’ With hindsight perhaps such emotional drivel might have been better kept for a ghost-written novel?
Currently, those of us who participate in country sports are pawns in a game without rules, where anything is justified by our opponents ‘because it’s for the animals’ and in which the there is currently no umpire to oversee fair play. Perhaps this is because despite ‘my truths ‘supported’ by edited video, cast iron facts have an annoying habit of getting in the way of fund raising?
Or, it is because for too long we have ‘bought in’ to the mantra ‘ignore them and they will go away’ sold to us by those who should have known better but just seemed to want a quiet life until they retired, even if that were at the expense of other types of hound sports?
What this overlooks is the question “Why should talented youngsters come into hunt service when those charged with providing them with a career path seemingly care so little for their or their family’s future?” This includes those ‘supporters’ welded to ‘traditional hunting’ (a phrase we should drop faster than ‘frozen todger’) and vocally disapprove of anything other than ‘the way things used to be’ overlooking the brutal fact that it is not them, or their ego, but the hunt staff and hounds that will pay the price for any transgression.
The opportunities missed by continuing to adopt this delusional and defeatist mindset drives your Editor spare and we suggest it is time it changed! In the next Editorial we will outline some suggestions for a way forward.