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Archive for September, 2011

Preaching to the converted

Convincing  people who are already on your side must be one of the easiest jobs on the planet. What is considerably harder is persuading those who have no opinion, don’t care or at the very least are willing to debate in a rational way.

In writing for this ‘blog’ site, I have tried to explain why I feel the use of scenting hounds is important. Not because I go hunting, but because I believe that in animal welfare terms it is the best method to manage wild mammals. As I and others have said numerous times elsewhere, hounds either catch their quarry or it escapes – there is no wounding and, just as importantly, those scenting hounds are selective, catching in the main the old, weak, sick and injured. Yet, to those who cannot under any circumstances accept that hunting in this way can be good, such a statement is outrageous – even akin to blasphemy if spoken by someone who once opposed hunting.

So we see two clear lines of debate (if you can call it that) employed by the anti-hunting lobby. The first is to denigrate the opposition as bloodthirsty thugs who savour every moment of an animal’s last moments after a terrifying chase. The second is the avoidance of any detailed discussion on either the alternatives to hunting or the scientific evidence that justifies a ban. That first position, like preaching to the converted, is again easy.  For most people, witnessing a hunt or meeting a hunting person is something they will never experience and so creating an image of what goes on and who is involved is uncomplicated and  comfortable.

The second position was highlighted perfectly in a recent radio debate with a representative of the RSPCA.  I asked numerous times for the scientific evidence that justified a hunting ban.  My opponent could not give me a single reference. The list of totally illogical and unprincipled conditions set out in the flawed Hunting Act was simply ignored and instead the tired, old “terrified animal, chased and ripped to bits” line was promulgated. Would he support a principled, wider wild mammal welfare law that relied on evidence, rather than opinion? No answer.

I’m not happy to see animals killed – far from it, having been a vegetarian for most of my life – but I accept that simply doing nothing with regard to our wildlife in this man-managed environment is not a realistic option.  And I’m not going to condemn those hunting and shooting people who are especially careful about what they eat, how it was produced and how it was killed. Painting these activities as purely ‘sport” (which they not) allows the unthinking to claim a kind of moral superiority, regardless of what animal suffering  they may cause in their way of life. I seriously wonder exactly what those who lead the anti-hunting campaigns have witnessed in the hunting field, while they munch into their factory farmed food (and don‘t be fooled by the “I only eat ethically produced meat” line so often trotted out by such people – easy to say, much harder to do).

Further, no one has properly explained to me exactly why the chasing of a wild mammal is so bad, given that it is a process that has existed for millennia in which wild predators remove weaker animals, thereby leaving a healthier quarry population. What appears to be the argument is that “The hunted animal must be terrified, because that’s how I or my dog would feel in those circumstances.” This is perhaps an understandable mistake to make by those not too deeply involved in the issue, but not by those who claim to care for animals yet choose to ignore the evidence because it doesn’t fit their view.

The simple, but crucial, aim of the anti- hunting groups (and one in which they’ve had a degree of success) is to convince the public that animal welfare is their sole preserve. Even daring to give an alternative welfare view is seen as trespass on private property. Of course there have been some unforgivable incidents caused by certain people within the field sports world ( as in the animal rights movement too), but to claim that this is the norm and that no one who supports hunting could possibly care for animals as they are only interested in torturing and killing them for sport is utter garbage. Yet this is exactly what the antis would have the public and politicians believe.

The vast majority of hunting people I have met over the years do care about animals. Just recently I learned of  some really horrendous stories about stray animals abroad and how some were being treated back to health, but as this came from someone at the Countryside Alliance no doubt the antis would much prefer it to be ignored.  The CA Awards scheme often includes small companies that produce locally and ethically produced meat – a world apart from the industrialised systems that require the mass transportation and processing of millions upon millions of animals. But again, this is the Countryside Alliance and they must be condemned at all costs. Far easier to fight for animals by writing snide, silly little comments on Twitter that wouldn’t appear out of place in a primary school playground.

Why should anyone who is genuinely concerned about animal welfare accept such simplistic and patently untrue nonsense?  Yes, it’s easy and for the bigoted it’s comfortable…but it’s wrong.  Remember, the very first animal welfare law anywhere in the world was championed by a fox hunter – a fact either unknown to the antis or at least conveniently ignored by them. It’s now time that ground was reclaimed.

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