Archive for January, 2019

The Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt saw one of the largest crowds ever at the Boxing Day meet just a few weeks ago.

It brought back memories of a meet in 2005 at the same venue when the mood was very different. The Hunting Act had just passed into law and if anyone had said at the time that in 2018/19 support for hunting with hounds would be even stronger, I suspect they would secretly have been regarded as a little over -optimistic, despite many in the hunting world always showing a defiant face.

While the pro-hunting world remains strong and confident, anti-hunting groups continue to have less than satisfactory times. The League Against Cruel Sports, despite having initially claimed that the Hunting Act was good legislation, finally accepted that this law they and their supporting MPs had drafted was indeed flawed and now call for it to be strengthened. Constant internal disagreements have caused turmoil within the organisation for years, fuelled mainly by frustration over the lack of prosecutions under the Hunting Act. Different approaches were needed, all of which underline the failure of this law.

“This has nothing to do with animal welfare – this is for the miners.”
Labour MP Dennis Skinner

The obsessive nature of the antis compels them to attack hunting with dogs at any level and every way possible. We see ridiculous statements from Members of Parliament, such as that from Labour’s Dennis Skinner, who said in 2004, “This has nothing to do with animal welfare – this is for the miners.”  The fact that his own party closed 303 mines compared to the 162 closed by the Conservatives is, like so much evidence that doesn’t suit the anti-hunting case, conveniently ignored. We see pseudo-scientific reports claiming to show that hunting dogs cause disturbance to wildlife or that they spread disease, yet these reports are rarely validated by peer-review and published in scientific journals. Hunts are accused of causing havoc on roads and railways, which indeed may unfortunately happen on occasion, but can the actions of hunt saboteurs, who remarkably are often present to record the event, be seen as totally irrelevant in such circumstances? One might think that such incidents are unique to hunting hounds alone, when sadly the reality is that animals are killed on roads every day. Fake negative comments are posted on the internet about pubs and hotels that host hunting events with the aim of having a detrimental effect on these businesses; sometimes the comments have a threatening tone. Conservation organisations like the National Trust are targeted and motions put forward attempting to ban hunts on the land such bodies own, once again conveniently ignoring the fact that all such bodies employ wildlife management systems that involve culling wild animals.

In Scotland, the SNP government is happy to cherry-pick the findings of the Bonomy Report that itself commissioned and look for any reason to further restrict hunting with hounds. Recent scientific research on the benefits of using a full pack of hounds is simply overlooked.

Now the latest tactic is to pressurise local councils to use health and safety regulations to prohibit hunts meeting in places that they have used for decades. It’s a strategy that has worked in some cases, including the New Year meet of the Beaufort Hunt, which was due to meet in Tetbury. In admitting that safety reasons were not the only concern, Tetbury Town Council revealed that it was “conscious of the reputational damage associated with public protests and the risk of disorder.” So now all that is needed, it would seem, is for any group to threaten disruption of a legal event for it to be cancelled or forced to move. A couple of years ago, a petition to Atherstone Town Council was launched by hunt saboteurs with the aim of banning the hunt from the town square. On closer inspection, some of the signatories were not locals as one might normally expect. In fact, some came from quite a distance, actually about as far as possible – Australia. Some petitions are certainly worthwhile, some causes are definitely important enough to support regardless of where you might live, but does a local matter such as who meets in a town square justify international concern?

Even when the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox MP was filmed by saboteurs hosting a meet of the Lamerton Hunt, this was portrayed in the local press as something controversial, seeing it as more newsworthy than the disruption the hunt saboteurs had caused while trespassing on private land. The story provided an opportunity for a gullible Labour MP to raise the matter in the House of Commons, obviously trying to score a few political points by attempting to link the Attorney General with what the saboteurs will always see as illegal hunting – basically, trying to show guilt by association. Cheshire Police are concerned about statements and the use of selectively edited film shot by saboteurs and placed on social media. The force was prompted to issue the following warning, “Many comments are based on inaccurate information that do not reflect a balanced view of the matters discussed. Frequently, video footage does not reflect the full scenario.”

Attorney General The Rt. Hon. Geoffrey Cox QC MP

It’s hardly surprising that Jeremy Corbyn’s version of the Labour Party could let a Boxing Day pass without leaping onto the class war bandwagon. True to form, his shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman tried to grab the Christmas headlines by announcing that her party would tighten the Hunting Act, if ever it reached power, by jailing those found guilty of breaking this law. Despite the absence of any scientific evidence to support the Hunting Act or any research by those who support it to ascertain what effect this legislation has had on the wild animals involved, the obsessive antis and class warriors are not deterred. We have the lamentable  sight of Corbyn’s Labour Party threatening to burden the national police force and the prison service, both already under strain, with treating the most natural, selective and certain method of killing a fox as a major crime with a custodial penalty – all in the vain hope that the ignorant, the naïve or the bigoted will vote for him.

There never has been just one single anti-hunt argument – the attacks have always come from numerous sources and for different reasons – but a genuine concern for animal welfare clearly isn’t one of them.

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