Who Do You Think You Are Kidding?

Posted on Friday, January 28, 2022
In: Editorial
Written by: The Editor

Anti-hunting groups and tame journalists continue to be more adept or perhaps ‘streetwise’ than the hunting community in exploiting the use of various online platforms to shape perceptions against ‘hunting’.

In the world of poor dramatic fiction masquerading as tabloid news and social media, it has become all too easy for a ‘press release journalists’ to fool a gullible, sensation-seeking public to accept that the masked thuggery at the heart of the direct action preferred by today’s anti [you name a cause and I am against it] activist is ‘heroic’ behaviour, who are battling to ‘save’ animals. The ‘outraged’ PR is written for such ‘jounalists’ and all they need to do is hit ‘publish’ and hunting once again is on the back foot. Take a recent report (thanks to Google News for this one) https://www.politicshome.com/thehouse/article/is-it-time-to-ban-trail-and-drag-hunting in which a Labour MP  appears to think the priority of Government is to further regulate an activity which she quite obviously does not like, despite the fact that the Act has, since its inception, had a negative impact on the fox population across the country.

Claims throughout the article range from just simply inaccurate:- such that hunting is undertaken solely by beagles of which there are apparently 300 packs in the country. In fact, as readers will know prior to the Act specific foxes were targeted by foxhounds of which there are just over 150 in England and 30 in Wales a far cry from the 300 claimed. The article makes other ludicrous claims such as that made about hounds attacking livestock a ‘problem’ which it states can be stopped by using the Animal Welfare bill to introduce proposals to ban hunts from areas containing grazing animals. In other words, farmers and land stewards will no longer have the right to control access to their own land but the state will dictate who can access their land and when,  so apparently ‘nice’ people (presumably Labour voters to a person) will be allowed to exercise their pet pooch amongst cattle or sheep, unfazed by the carnage that their loose out of control pets can cause, (it is just playing after all….) Yet hounds who have permission to be on the land cannot, because it is contrary to the sensibilities of a vocal, and from experience, sometimes vicious and mendacious minority. Surely a sitting MP, of any political colour should be aware of the personal and political risk of not doing your own research and not treating claims of wrongdoing with circumspection? All politicians dealing with issues in which they have little or no real interest but have been convinced by wily activists to see as ‘low hanging fruit’ should consider the words of Ernest Benn (Uncle of Tony Benn) when he said  Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies”

That’s not to say that the situation we find ourselves in is entirely down to successes for the anti-hunt groups. And a cold hard yet honest appraisal of the issues facing us today would suggest a historic catalogue of issues at national level has not helped hunting’s cause. It is no exaggeration to say that as a result, we now have no real control of our own destiny, a situation which has not been helped by the fact that locally the hunting community has scored some exceptional own goals. While individuals are legally and morally responsible for their own actions, a lot of blame for the loss of direction and control must be attributed to ‘those at the top’  who appear to have been unwilling to adapt to the realities of the modern world hiding inaction between the totem of “tradition” and the unrealistic goal of full repeal, while completely ignoring the facts – society has changed, political managers of all colours view the whole area of hunting as ‘toxic’ to their career aspirations, and so we as a community must work to change that if we are to have any kind of future. Continuing to ‘ignore the problem and it will go way’ was a childlike playground strategy that was never likely to work and has simply served to keep hunting defending itself from overconfident, well-funded bullies

The unpleasant truth is that the hunting community in the UK has to accept that full repeal of the Hunting Act, which was never very likely as it is not in a politician’s DNA to admit they have ever ‘got it wrong’,  has now become an almost impossible dream. There is no easy resolution.   In addition, we have to accept that there are those who follow hounds who will resist change because they feel it doesn’t match with their view of the “traditional” ways of doing things. The other truth is that without effective regulation of the type that we at Baily’s have been advocating for a number of years, including penalties for breaking the rules and transparency around when those penalties have been applied, it will be increasingly difficult to win back public trust enough to ensure survival in any form; it is not just a case of doing the right things as so many thousands of hunt staff and supporters do every day, we must be seen to be doing and be able to prove we have done so because modern society is increasingly driven by image and perception.

As highlighted in earlier Baily’s articles, hunting needs to come out with a strategy for all stakeholders in hunting from:- landowners, stewards, hunt staff and followers of ALL types of packs. However painful it might be urgent changes in how hunting is structured and managed are required. Such changes need to be significant and managed so that they are clear and offer a step up from where we are to where hunting and wild animal management needs to be. Simply rebranding an organisational structure without changing how they work is not enough. There has never been a greater need for a single organisation to set out the rules aims and objectives clearly to ensure consistency across all packs and followers and thus remove the current perception of “them and us”. Unfortunately, lack of trust in the ‘leadership’ among hunts as well as supporters, coupled with negative perception from a largely hostile media means that any new organisation structure has a lot to do before it can even think about moving forward. But move forward we must. We are ready, are you?