So, finally, we have a respite from all the recent playground shenanigans and general childishness of too many of our politicians. Writing an editorial in the last few weeks has proved impossible as every likely scenario was squabbled over by seemingly jealous politicians and sulky civil servants and each scenario was then gleefully recounted with numerous leaks from ‘informed sources’ by crises addicted reporters employed by institutions that not so long ago people could, and would, actually trust.
We now have a PM in both name and nature who is unlikely to take advice on policy or political appointments from his wider family. In addition, he has verifiable countryside credentials, so perhaps just perhaps we can see the end of short sited ‘Elastoplast’ style policies being generated by DEFRA in an effort to satisfy the eco loons and their bankers, including Aileen Getty – the granddaughter of J Paul Getty, the same J Paul Getty that made his fortune in the oil business.
Despite the added complication and unprincipled vindictive nature of the Hunting Act the issues we face today are not new and should have been been the focus of rebuttal some time ago. Hopefully, the new BHSA will work with the Countryside Alliance and therefore be more effective and better engaged to counter threats both new and old but not fundamentally different from those hunting faced 140 or more years ago when a correspondent to Baily reported that “It is only the other day that at the meeting of some Council or other some one gave notice of a motion that the privilege of free chase should be amended in the form of licences to ride over enclosed land, and that the money paid for these licences should be devoted to the alleviation of local taxation. The meaning, of course, is that every man who rides to hounds would have, in addition to his subscription and personal expenses, to take out a licence to hunt, just as he must take out a licence to kill game. It is a somewhat fantastic idea, but it is one of the straws indicating the direction of the wind.”
In 1899 there was a further warning “….The cry about the old days when hunting fields were made up exclusively of landowners, farmers and their friends, is all nonsense. From the earliest times strangers flocked into eligible countries in great numbers; not, of course, by train as they do now, but on short visits, and by long hacking journeys. And how did those hunting men of the old school treat the farmers? Why, by larking over their fences when going to covert, and by having a sort of steeplechase home after hunting, things which would not be tolerated today for an instant. Many of those hunting being the very worst friends the sport could have. The old-fashioned farmers are disappearing, and as many of them cannot, or at least do not, hunt, they do not regard the sport in the same light as did their predecessors on the land.”
Nor was it just in England, or confined solely to hunting with hounds, and in the same year a report concluded “continued investigation and argument will still further tend to show that at the present time deer and grouse are the natural tenants of the Scottish Highlands, and that it will be a bad day for the people when the sports of deer-stalking and grouse shooting come to be prohibited at the instigation of a mob of unprincipled political agitators.”
Hunting deserved and continues to deserve so much better, but so far in Scotland, evidence, and the cornerstones of good wildlife management ‘utility and welfare’ have been jettisoned because they do not fit with the current regime’s unceasing appetite for total control over a population carrying on a lifestyle they detest. The countryside deserves better and the people who live in the country and follow country sports deserve so much better.
Country people will be interested to see if this government and the policymakers can put their prejudices to one side and admit that just because you do not like, participate in, or have tried to understand an activity or the people involved in it, imposing your half thought through emotion-driven prejudices upon a population and calling it ‘democratic’ is not good governance. And, much like foreign funding for a few angst driven middle-class activists who demand a chocolate box vista of the countryside from every window of their new, well-insulated, but totally oil derivative free ‘Tudorbethan’ executive home, the proponents of such dogma should have no place in a rural environment.