“At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation and prejudice.” (Gore Vidal)
Much like they did with the hunting ‘debate’ at its height, the media are having a field day with the current pandemic. Every column inch in once well respected newspapers and their electronic offspring designed not with the Reithian values of ‘inform educate and entertain’ at their core but a need for each news outlet to broadcast more outrageous and sensational stories than it’s competitors. This pursuit of market share, has led to the ‘facts’ and ‘truth’ becoming war weary casualties of misinformation, prejudice and even superstition.
In the deliberate feeding of this misinformation and prejudice the media has, thanks to perhaps an unintended consequence of ‘lock down’, grasped the opportunity to force feed a captive audience with a steady stream of half-baked statistics. Such presentations are often comparing ‘apples and oranges’ underpinned by the twin banana skins of political correctness and historical revisionism. This has encouraged the production of a steady stream of ‘sound bite’ ready sensationalism neatly packaged to feed an ever hungry 24 hour media covering both news and mainstream content.
For example, amongst a deluge of repeats of ‘ lifestyle’ programmes on daytime broadcast concerned a chef travelling in Europe. Whilst hunting in France they gave a tearful ‘piece to camera’ about the end of a hunt for a wild boar without actually showing it. Minutes later they were filmed eating the fresh liver of the recently butchered animal whilst in a piece to camera the chef was informing the viewer how good fresh boar offal tasted, between greedy mouthfuls. This new prejudice of chefs towards their suppliers is not peculiar to UK broadcasters. In France, that once apparent bastion of sensible rural values, another chef was interviewed on television and went to great length to tell the viewer that she was anti hunt before cooking her signature dish of small game on toast. The apparent dichotomy between the declared prejudice against hunting people and their activity providing the ingredients for some no doubt incredible cooking by the chefs, did not seem to really bother either chef very much.
Returning to hunting with hounds the ‘anti hunt’ prejudice in England Wales and Scotland is a text book example of the way that half-truths, lies and ‘class based’ prejudice were sanitised by professional communicators employed by the Animal Rights industry and then packaged together with appropriate emotional sound bites to ‘gift wrap’ their message for the use of lazy and sometimes inept politicians at both local and national level. This tactic was so successful, it led to a fabricated story being read out to members of the Lords, and MP’s from urban constituencies leaping gleefully on the ‘ban it’ band waggon. One MP was even sent a letter which told him that the stag hunting issue could be solved “at a stroke, if the experienced tufters were each given a humane killer and quietly despatched the problem stag”. Anyone who spent more than two minutes researching stag hunting would immediately realise the challenges with this ‘solution’.
However, those that predicted the ban would end badly for the fox have subsequently been proved right, with some national surveys indicating that rural fox numbers might have fallen by 41% since the ban, although the authors acknowledge they are not actually sure…it might be more, or perhaps less as surveys are conducted in daylight hours.
Prejudice exists in many forms and is perpetuated both by those with an agenda and those unwilling to acknowledge it. It existed in the early 20th century for those lady masters and hunt staff who wanted to be involved in actually hunting hounds and who refused to be pigeonholed as nothing more than a useful diversion at the next hunt ball. Unfortunately for those unwilling to recognise the skill of these pioneers, they quickly proved more effective at managing harrier packs than their male counterparts. A fact which appears to have irked more than one (male) ‘hunting scribe’ at the time.
There is no place for any sort of prejudice on the hunting field whether it towards those who follow on foot or who have come from a non or anti hunt background or any other ‘ism. This is exacerbated by the prejudice-based antagonism between the different field sports, even between different types of hound packs – something that those who wish to see us disappear will leap on with gusto so they can ‘divide and conquer’ and get rid of us all one by one.
We are going through difficult times at the moment and the ‘new normal’ is a way of acknowledging that things and the way we do them will have to adapt. Moving forward, everyone involved in any fieldsport (hunting, shooting, or fishing) should accept that, regardless of their preconceptions, we ARE all in this together and that journey has no room for baggage marked ‘prejudice’.