Our rural and hunting way of life is being systematically destroyed, stealthily, in the corridors of Westminster, Stormont, Cardiff and Holyrood, by the sour ingredients of a damaging cocktail of misguided urban political correctness, ‘virtue signalling’ and woke agendas. Our fragile rural economy is being damaged and our rights, as a rural minority, are being trampled into the mud of our beloved isles. Our cultural heritage, as articulated by UNESCO, is in danger of being eradicated forever. And that is all before I even mention the rights and wrongs of foxhunting as an essential tool in wildlife management and whether or not, it is a sensible and practical activity.
“Hunting is our music, it is our poetry, it is our art, it is our pleasure. It is where many of our best friendships are made, it is our community. It is our whole way of life. And we will fight for these things with all the strength and dedication we possess because we love them…We cannot and will not stand by in silence and watch our countryside, our communities and our way of life destroyed forever by misguided urban political correctness. It is about freedom, the freedom of people to choose how they live their own lives” Baroness Mallalieu at the Countryside Rally in London, 2002.
As they used to say in the Army, when unexpectedly under threat of being overrun…. “Stand To!”. In reality, this threat is from a tiny minority of animal rights extremists, disproportionately influencing an unknowing political class. Our ability to deliver effective PR based on the science of the matter and Political Lobbying is sadly lacking teeth and so these injustices become law. How many of us really had any idea that 3 months ago in Northern Ireland, a bill that would have ended all forms of hunting with dogs and trail hunting, was rejected by MLAs in Stormont, the best piece of news for rural and hunting people in 20 years? Sensible and practical MLAs rejected prejudice and voted for proper wildlife management, minority rights, the rural economy and the preservation our cultural heritage. Politicians here need to follow that lead if they are sensible enough to realise the importance of rural votes.
‘Hunting Kind’ aims to represent hunting from hunting’s perspective from now on and that means those of us who care for scenthounds, terriers, gundogs, lurchers and longdogs. ‘Hunting Kind’ represents all of us because it is the review and replacement of the anti-hunting laws that affect us all, that matters.
Please have a look at the website www.huntingkind.com to see what we’re all about and register your support. Pass on the link to any like-minded friends or family and use the flyer or simply the website link to let your MPs know how you feel about our rural way of life. I encourage any brave souls amongst you to go further and get the flyer printed and hand them out at Point to Points, race meetings, country shows, within your organisations, it doesn’t cost much to print 500 copies and get the message out.
Why would the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management, an organisation comprised of 400 members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons state “Hunting by hounds is the natural and most humane method of controlling the population of all four quarry species, fox, deer, hare and mink, in the countryside” if they didn’t believe that to be the case? Surely, they would know, specialist professionals whose continual function is in support of reducing animal suffering?
After 12 years in the British Army, I spent the next 20 years as a security consultant, working abroad in some of the world’s troubled areas, focussing on emergency response, crisis and risk management and business continuity.
I have also been a lifelong participant in fox hunting and have also enjoyed keeping lurchers bred in the coalfields of Northumberland, ferrets and terriers. I enjoy a day shooting when people are kind enough to invite me and have stalked deer, as well as wet a fly on the odd occasion on some fine salmon rivers.
A strange combination, one might think and yet I feel one that perfectly qualifies me to comment thus. That from the leaked Hunting Office zoom call around 18 months ago, through the ban of trail hunting licenses, the conviction of a Director of the MFHA, via the National Trust banning trail hunting, the Animal Welfare (Sentience) and (Kept Animals) bills currently in play, through the NI Bill and now the Scottish Parliament’s proposal, this is a disaster for our rural way of life. We have witnessed an ‘event’ become an ‘incident’, developing into an ‘emerging crisis’ and now into full-blown ‘crisis’ mode. If you were ever to think that ‘we are in safe hands’ and that ‘all has been taken care of’, then I must ask you to see this scenario for what it is rather than what you would like it to be.
There remains today a staggering number of rural folk in Great Britain who for some reason, whether its ignorance, apathy, blind faith or just plain refusal to see things for how they really are, think that the preservation and continuity of our rural way of life is being well represented politically and that all will be alright if we just keep our heads down, do nothing and continue to leave it to those who know best. I’m reminded of the Iraqi PR spokesman during the Gulf War, dubbed ‘Comical Ali’ sending live reports from Baghdad as the Allied tanks rolled past behind him, incredulously reassuring everyone that everything was going according to plan and that he couldn’t really foresee any problems ahead. Well, you had to admire his optimism and possibly his epitaph would be ‘he meant well’. But we are all painfully aware of how his game played out in the end.
Take a quick overview of the situation facing hunting now. England and Wales continue to labour under the nonsense of the bad law that was the Hunting Act 2004, aiming to rely on the exception and exemption provisions of an Act that has done nothing for the welfare of the wildlife it purportedly attempted to protect and really was ‘revenge for the miners’ as Dennis Skinner said. It was nothing other than a thinly veiled prejudicial move to persecute and prosecute the way of life of a decent law-abiding rural minority, and was a law which the then Prime Minister Sir Tony Blair conceded had been ‘one of the political decisions he most regretted’. Daniel Greenberg, the Parliamentary Counsel who drafted the various bills for the Act is on record as saying that the Hunting Act 2004 is really the only piece of legislation in his career that still gives him a sense of moral unease and that it was really, just ‘an act of what today it has become fashionable to describe as ‘Virtue Signalling’. Among his achievements has been drafting the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, to put that in context.
In Wales Senedd Cymru has been savage in its onslaught on its rural constituents, banning game shooting and trail hunting on its NRW land. Scotland faces serious challenges, right up until last week when a bill was proposed by the SNP/Green Party coalition, to further restrict hunting with hounds to an ineffective number of 2. And everyone knows about the pantomime villain, Chris Packham, like a dark presence in the wings of his favoured BBC, influencing people like Carrie Johnson, Ben and Zac Goldsmith and more worryingly, Conservative MPs like Sir Roger Gale and Henry Smith.
But we know all that, or do we?
Following the, admittedly appalling hand of cards dealt from the leaked Hunting Office zoom meeting 18 months ago, a shot below the waterline indeed, the MFHA has worked hard to consult on and scope a way forward for hunting and has at least gained a clear view of the reality of where we stand currently. I remain quietly optimistic that things will get better, having really got about as close to the bottom as it is possible to be without being utterly scuppered.
But in order to do so, we don’t need to reinvent the currently failed strategy, representing hunting from a shooting perspective. We need a solid stance to represent hunting in all its forms, from a hunting perspective. We don’t need to reinforce failure and a track record of failing to succeed, by trotting out the same old lines by the same old crew wearing a slightly less offensive shade of cherry-coloured cords.
We need sharp, bright, agile people, who understand political lobbying and how to engage with our MPs to show them that rural voters are capable, as a collective, of changing Governments. We need people who are good at strategy, PR and Communications and can reach across any divide because they are sensible, sympathetic and effective. Over 400,000 country people marched on London back in 2002, the largest protest in British history. With today’s technology and communications, that figure would be nearer 2.5 million.
So how do we get that done? Make your voice heard and if there’s only ‘one thing you do in ’22’, then register your support on www.huntingkind.com and click on whichever category you support – Scenthounds, Sighthounds, Terriers, Gundogs, General Support. If we don’t stand up now as a ‘call to arms’ and stand together, our beloved rural activities will be banned and to a politician, it is all the same matter. With the right level of support, yes about 2.5 million of us, we will proceed to Westminster and encourage like-minded MPs to lobby the Law Commission to properly review and where necessary, replace wildlife management laws including the disastrous Hunting Act 2004 and bills that are currently in motion such as the Animal Welfare (Sentience) and (Kept Animals).
We may have lost a few skirmishes but the battles and the war remain there to be won. The first steps in turning the tide rest with you, our readers in your capacity as a rural voter. The most important thing is to act and DO something now, be part of the ‘Hunting Kind’.
This Guest Editorial is an abridged version of an article that was first published in Country Squire Magazine