There are various versions of the famous 80:20 rule in existence – 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people; 80% of the information available online is 20% true; or 80% of an emotional debate is bluster and 20% is fact are just 3 examples of this.
Over the last 130+ years for all sorts of reasons hunting with hounds always seems to be having to defend itself against ill-informed and emotional rhetoric. Much of this has been taking the emotion led position that ‘hunting is inherently cruel’ with a range of increasingly unscientific claims ascribing feelings to wild animals that do not exist in nature. Examination of this position has over the years meant critically examining AR (Animal Rights) dogma since the 1950’s. This has revealed a subtle but discernible move towards a more aggressive, belligerent, often violent tone accompanied by the constant wittering of some of its more deranged proponents.
In analysing that shift of emphasis we have become convinced that the largely emotion driven complaints which appear regularly in both print and online media adhere to the 80:20 rule. In other words, 80% of what is written and triumphed by the media in the UK is about 20% factually correct. In addition, there has been a noticeable left-wing shift in anti-hunt rhetoric bolstered by evidence tampering from those who are people-haters rather than animal lovers.
More worryingly there has been an increasing move against factual evidence and a reliance on ‘ the decision of the courts of social media’. This is a particular problem for hunting, where 80% of the material available online is provided by 20% of contributors who most commonly take an ‘anti’ stance.
Notwithstanding the fact that only 20% of anti-claims of wrong doing may at the core have some degree of substance, it is still too much, and we are still allowing them to control and direct the media narrative. Rather terrifyingly this has led to a position where ‘my truth’ (whatever that means) complete with inconsistencies, dogma and often blatant deceit has been allowed to replace the need for ‘THE TRUTH’.
An example of this would be the public and highly personal vilification of Mark Hankinson in his role with the Hunting Office. Following his conviction after comments made in a video that was ‘stolen’ and broadcast via social media to a scandal-hungry and highly partisan audience, his reputation was subject to what can only be described as a sickening ‘virtual lynching’ by ‘rent a mobs’ more tech-savvy members.
To any external observer not involved with the dogma of Animal Rights the process above which resulted in the submission of a report for prosecution seems absurd. It is certainly contrary to a basic grasp of one of the core concepts of civil rights that of ‘Natural Justice’. Natural Justice enables checks and balances so that decisions can be shown to be made:- in the absence of bias, the accused has a right to know the case against them, they have the right to review related evidence, and the right to a fair opportunity to rebut the case against them. Reporting anyone for prosecution just because you have an antipathy towards them or you have a leadership team keen to be seen to leap on the latest virtue signalling platform should not be any part of a judicial process.
At appeal, where it transpired that he had not even been questioned regarding the context of his remarks the Court overturned the original verdict, but it was a long time coming and the whole episode made a total mockery of ‘blind justice’.
Naturally, we hope that the recent emergence of the British Hound Sports Association (BHSA – not to be confused with:- various schools, horse show associations, bacteria related to e.coli, a degree in health services administration, numerous sports associations, or anything else already established with the same acronym) will lead to improved internal processes which will avoid any repeat of the above incident and that this will be underpinned by a more structured, more considered, evidence-based approach to governance of the type that Baily’s and others have been advocating for a number of years.
To that end, we would like to see the BHSA actively support the excellent work that Jim Barrington and Charlie Pye-Smith are doing with the “Rural Wrongs Project” to provide an evidence-based report on the actual impacts of the Hunting Act. The Project is focussing particularly on looking at how populations of traditional quarry species have been impacted, including rate of kills through other means and general population health. Early indications suggest that when it is issued the report will be highlighting that the Hunting Act has had an effect directly opposite to what its proponents spent many hundreds of hours of parliamentary time insisting, in very emotional terms, would happen.
Unfortunately, there is a fear among many in the hunting community that 80% of the workings of the new body will be only 20% focussed on changing what needs to be changed, or challenging what needs to be challenged, to enable hunting with hounds to be effective in any form; and that the 80% of those remaining in leading positions from various previous hunting organisations who don’t want to accept that hunting must evolve will pay only 20% lip-service to any measures brought in, to the detriment of us all. We can only hope the 20% of new or more worldly-wise people involved will put in the 80% of the effort to prove the doubters wrong and that hunting with hounds is no longer subject to the Alice in Wonderland logic of `Sentence first–verdict afterwards.”