Archive for March, 2012

A paucity of argument

Given the amount of enthusiasm displayed by some MPs for retaining the Hunting Act, it is a little odd that very few want to discuss or explain the reasons for their stance. There again, no doubt many feel that as their law is on the statute book and that the numbers are tight as far as a vote on repeal is concerned, why open up a dialogue that might lead to some messy conclusions about what effect this legislation is actually having on wildlife?

There are, however, some positions held by politicians that demand at least some sort of explanation, if not justification, for the views and policies that they advocate and support.  One such role is that of a Shadow Minister, who, one might think, should be more than willing and able to state clearly why a particular view is held. Not so in the case of Mary Creagh, the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

 Many will know that Labour MP Kate Hoey is Chairman of the Countryside Alliance and never appears to shy away from explaining CA policies. Over the Christmas period Mary Creagh had said, “There is no place for animal cruelty in a civilised society.”   Kate wrote to Ms Creagh stating that she totally supports that view. However, the crux of her detailed letter concentrated on the Shadow Minister’s certainty that animal welfare has been improved by the Hunting Act and the information that allowed her to be so sure.

Given that literally millions of pounds have been spent by anti hunting groups to ensure this measure became law, that millions more – this time tax payers money – has been spent trying to enforce the legislation and the claim that yet another million pounds is about to be spent in employing “investigators” to bring even more prosecutions, it is a damning indictment that not a single penny could be found by those in support of the Hunting Act to examine its effects on wildlife.

Kate’s letter legitimately raised this point and ended with an offer to discuss the matter further …and what was the reply from Ms Creagh?  “The Hunting Act was passed by Labour in government, it is settled policy and I have no intention of re-opening the issue.”  

I thought it worth another attempt to elicit the substance behind that “settled policy” and wrote to Ms Creagh, but I the only information I received in the reply was the earth-shattering news that, “The majority of the British public support the Hunting Act and want to keep the ban on hunting with dogs in place. The vast majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party share this view.”  So there we have it, the reason the Hunting Act should stay is not because it improves animal welfare, but rather a polling figure indicates that most people are against repeal.  Fair enough many will say, that’s what democracy is about, but how was that figure reached?  

The poll that seems to be most widely quoted was undertaken by Ipsos MORI in September 2009. Under the emotive heading, “Now a question about sports where animals are set on other animals to fight or kill them.” questions were asked about certain activities being made legal, starting with dog fighting. Question 2 was on legalising badger baiting and it was only when we get to question 3 that foxhunting is mentioned, well and truly after the tone of the poll had been set.  Apart from the morons that take part in dog fighting and badger baiting, who on earth is calling for these activities to be made legal? Can it be right that such irrelevant questions be included in a poll? Isn’t there just a hint here of weighting the poll in favour of certain answers?

So many aspects of this poll were wrong, involving incorrect, misleading and inappropriate information, further compounded by a failure to follow established polling procedure.

While the body governing polling companies in the UK, the Market Research Society (MRS), initially rejected a complaint signed by six MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum, the independent reviewer said upon appealing that decision, “No attempt seems to have been made to address the substance of the complaint, namely that the nature of the activities of badger baiting and dog fighting were inherently different to hunting.”  But the minds of those who control the MRS were made up and the results of this poll continue to be peddled by anti hunting groups and believed by the gullible. This, according to Mary Creagh, is the basis of her argument…which is not really an argument at all. 

A further letter was sent to Ms Creagh a few weeks ago, this time concluding, “Like it or not, the issue of the repealing the Hunting Act will return to the political agenda at some stage and it will require a more detailed response than you have been able to give so far.” At the point of writing, no reply has been received from Ms Creagh, just as there was no reply from the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, when similar questions were put to him after his U-turn on hunting (see Mr Speaker…not speaking ).

 Both happy to state their positions, but neither capable of explaining precisely why.  




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