Further Upping the Ante

Posted on Monday, March 4, 2019
In: Editorial
Written by: The Editor

Our last Editorial was very much focussed on the outrageous decision by the Irish Cancer Society to refuse any further donations from the Abbeyfeale Harriers Frestival.  Slightly before that news broke, there was a television advert for Seat in the UK that included footage of a mounted pack with a caption “because they look back, we move forward” overlaid on it.  Now, complaints were made about that advert, and it is interesting to note that it is no longer appearing on televisions in that form (though you can still find it online), but it is worth taking note of, and issue with, Seat’s response.

On 25th December Seat released a statement that they were starting a new campaign called “because them, us” which would contrast different standpoints to show “how the car brand is joining today’s progressive-minded consumers in defying yesterday’s conventions and moving forward.”  When challenged about the advert by the Telegraph, in an article printed on 2nd February, that it was in breach of rules on political advertising, the response was that it was “all about the strength of the individual. Seat supports and encourages those who contribute to a more inclusive society … encouraging people to move forwards in life and make a positive contribution to society. … The idea behind the artwork is that we are all connected and helping each other.”

Really?  Are Seat honestly expecting prospective purchasers to be gullible enough to fall for the idea that a campaign built entirely around a cultural viewpoint of “them and us” actually promotes inclusivity and helping each other?  Or that fostering a divisive attitude is going to encourage making a positive contribution to society?

Putting that rather naïve outlook aside, let’s return to the original question from the first part of this article, but ask it in a slightly different way – what positive contributions have hunting people made to society, and similarly what positive contributions have hunting’s opponents made?  What strides towards inclusiveness have also come from either side?

From the hunting community a few examples are outlined below, but there are many more for those who want to take the time to research them:

  • Early embracers of gender equality – the first women to be Masters in their own right appeared in the 18th century; in the 19th century it was widely acknowledged by some of the most respected hunting commentators that harriers in particular responded better to a woman as Master; and by the early 20th century, research through puppy show results specifically shows that almost all packs had done away with separate classes for puppies walked by women, instead embracing an approach where men and women were competing on fully equal terms over a decade before World War 1.
  • Funding and support for development of a vaccine for canine distemper, which was then made available to all dog owners.
  • In World War 1, when a call went out for contributions to pay for hospital beds for wounded soldiers in the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital where 520 beds were requested, the hunting community across the UK including Ireland raised donations paying for more than 180 beds in very short order.
  • At the end of World War 1, various Masters saved healthy horses from being shot in France by claiming them as “second horses” or ones for the hunt servants when in fact those horses belonged to other returning soldiers who had been refused permission to bring them back.
  • Inclusivity – regardless of what certain politicians would have the public believe, the hunting community stretches across political, religious, racial, social class, and other factors, and have done so for centuries. It was not uncommon during the 20th century for Irish Catholics and Protestants, or Unionists and Republicans, to engage with each other peacefully on the hunting field only to go back to fighting against each other on the following day.  There are sources discussing non-white hunt staff from the nineteenth century and the hunting field has long been one of the few places where a commoner acting as huntsman is able to chastise a member of nobility without any fear of reprisal.
  • In the 2001 Foot-and-mouth outbreak, hunts helped the UK government with culling and disposing of infected livestock (not that the government of the day were very keen to admit to it), even in the face of constant negative pressures from politicians.
  • Provision of a free ‘fallen stock’ disposal service to farmers (until new and unnecessary regulations were brought in to curb that or make it chargeable).
  • Environmental conservation – much of the countryside so beloved by many visitors to the country has been shaped by management for hunting and shooting. Hunting itself, as described in an earlier article relating to vermin control methods, is the most environmentally friendly and sustainable way of protecting both domestic livestock and quarry species.

From opponents to hunting … erm, no, still struggling with that one after half an hour.  It’s very hard to think of a single positive contribution that they have made.  It’s all about being AGAINST someone they have decided to take exception to, often egged on by politicians with little understanding and less interest in the realities of hunting but a desire to “punish” a section of the community that they have assumed are unlikely to vote for them anyway; and getting other people to pay for them to pursue their latest vendetta.

So the question to organisations that seek to promote “inclusivity and making a positive contribution” to society, has to be – “If you really believe what you’re saying, shouldn’t you be supporting hunting people rather than attacking them?’