Long life

It's sheer madness for Cameron to resurrect the hunting issue

What really happens on foxhunts nowadays is a mystery, but it must be pretty exciting to command such enthusiasm

22 March 2014

9:00 AM

22 March 2014

9:00 AM

My house in south Northamptonshire looks out over parkland on which Henry VIII used to hunt deer with Anne Boleyn. The only deer on it nowadays are the unhunted muntjacs, charmless little creatures that only arrived in England from Asia 400 years later; but there still are plenty of foxes, which carry out periodic massacres of my chickens. I am in the country of the famous Grafton hunt, but the hunt, alas, never ventures into my area because of the busy roads that surround it. The Grafton is still, however, extremely active elsewhere in the county and thrives just as much as it did before Parliament’s ban on hunting with hounds came into effect nine years ago. The law says that you can’t hunt a fox to its death with more than two hounds, but there is nothing to stop you exercising large packs of hounds provided you don’t let them kill any foxes.

What really happens on foxhunts nowadays is a mystery to me, but it must still be pretty exciting to command such continued support and enthusiasm. A kind of omertà surrounds the question. Ask a member of the Grafton hunt, and you don’t get a straight answer, just a complacent, slightly conspiratorial look. So hunting would still seem to yield most of its traditional satisfactions to those who practise it; and this is not surprising, given not only the reluctance of the police to enforce the law but also the huge difficulties they face in doing so. It is a law so muddled that it allows the hunting of rabbits, but not squirrels; of rats, but not mice (I like the idea of mouse-hunting); and if a dog were to kill a fox in forbidden circumstances, it would be necessary to prove that a person had told it to do so in order to achieve a successful prosecution. It is not therefore a reason for astonishment that so few people have been successfully prosecuted during the past nine years.

So really it has been a kind of victory for the hunting fraternity. Despite an exceptionally vigorous campaign, which included a demonstration in London by 400,000 people in September 2002, the biggest show of disgruntlement by country people since the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, they failed to stop Parliament passing its stupid bill with the dishonourable support, subsequently regretted, of the then prime minister, Tony Blair. But they have since found that they can go on doing whatever it was they did before, legal or not, with very little interference by the authorities. They had gloomily foreseen the death of a traditional English pursuit that for centuries had alleviated the excruciating boredom of country life in winter, and with it the gratuitous shooting of some 20,000 foxhounds (foxhounds being incapable of adapting to domesticity); but as it turned out, things went on much as before.

It shames our democracy not only that Parliament should have spent 252 hours debating this futile issue, but also that any law, however bad, should be openly flouted. Even so, it should be a time for silent rejoicing by hunting people, a time to be quiet and thank their lucky stars, especially since a large majority of British voters remain supportive of a hunting ban. Yet what have we now? The Prime Minister, David Cameron, proposing an amendment to the Act that would allow packs of 40 dogs, instead of the present maximum of two, to flush out foxes towards people with guns who would then shoot them. This is what happens in Scotland, where they have a different law on hunting from England, and it is a change that has reportedly been requested by Welsh hill farmers, who have been experiencing an upsurge in the numbers of lamb-killing foxes.

Well, I’m sorry for the Welsh hill farmers, but is it not madness on the part of the Prime Minister to resurrect the hunting issue when he is hoping for re-election in a year’s time? No matter that the pro-hunting campaigners have always argued, probably rightly, that hunting is not, as Adolf Hitler once described it, one of ‘the last remnants of a dead feudal world’, but an activity embracing participants from all social classes: it remains in popular estimation in the same category as old Etonianism and former membership of the Bullingdon Club. He may wish to retain the support of Vote-UK, a pro-hunting lobby group that canvasses with rare enthusiasm on behalf of the Conservative party, but with even Michael Gove raising the class issue, you might think that he would lie low on this one.

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  • Lesebyst

    What happens on fox hunts isn’t a mystery thanks to the work by hunt saboteurs across the country – hunters are a pack of arrogant bloodthirsty law breakers, as illustrated by the hundreds of successful prosecutions under the 2004 Hunting Act (not all for fox hunting but often it’s the same scum who hunt foxes). Hitler’s policies were…. misguided to say the least, but he was spot on with his analysis of fox hunting.

    • Peter Stroud

      Hundreds of successful prosecutions under the 2004 Hunting act? On what planet are you living? Most prosecutions, since the act was passed, involved poaching and illegal hare and deer coursing. These could have succeeded prior to the ridiculous act. The few successful prosecutions against Hunts were private, and those who brought the cases ended up very much out of pocket. Ask the RSPCA.

      Bringing Hitler into the argument – shows a complete lack of perception of scale.

      • Lesebyst

        Learn to read. I said I was aware they weren’t all for fox hunting yet the prosecutions often involve the same people. Go to huntingact.org for the stats, but remember to add on all the successful prosecutions from the last six months. Doesn’t matter that they didn’t end up massively out of pocket, the scum now rightfully have criminal records and will have been inconvenienced by the whole process.

        As for bringing Hitler into the argument – if you’d bothered to read through the full article you’d have seen Alexander Chancellor made a reference to Hitler which I picked up on. I know there were a lot of words to read through (and some of them are quite long and intimidating) but at least make an effort before jumping to the comments section and picking an argument with the first anti-hunt commentator you find.

        • LarrySc

          Both of you inappropriately brought Hitler into the argument. Maybe Hitler was talking about Goering, who was a big-time hunter. But any man who is responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews who talks about hunting in the way Hitler supposedly did gives me great pause – Hitler WAS, after all, the first big-time environmentalist. And there are some enviro-radicals who would see to it that humans would be completely eradicated from the planet if they had their way, that is how much contempt they have for humanity AND for nature as well. I still side with the fox hunters over the animal rights kooks.

          • Lesebyst

            By your logic you’re also at fault since you’ve just inappropriately brought Hitler into the argument.

  • mikewaller

    First class article. I count myself a pragmatic pro-hunter as more foxes were said to survive in hunting counties than elsewhere simply because the hunters wanted their sport. I nonetheless see it as a contemptibly barbaric activity in which any notion of British fair play is nonexistent. I mean by this that £100,000s of equipage are deployed to pursuit one small quadruped.

    However what makes me boil is folks like that wretched female Q.C. of Scottish ancestor who routinely bangs on about opposition to it being no more than an aspect of class warfare. Just imagine what would happen if a bright boy of solidly working class credentials organised groups of his fellows with trained dogs in pursuit of feral cats.

  • You had me up until the ‘gratuitous shooting of some 20,000 foxhounds’. Domestic bunnies or not, what sort of people would kill rather than feed and support innocent canines, just because of a law saying what one could or could not do with them… especially since that law might easily be overturned? It’s like killing your grandparents because the laws of inheritance had changed.

    If this is what ‘country people’ are like, then screw them!

    • Lesebyst

      What they don’t mention is they have them put down at an early age anyway. Not banning fox hunting extends their life expectancy by a couple of years, the way they treat their ‘tools’ is disgusting.

  • Eyesee

    So maybe its a statement then, more than anything else. When lazy Blair agreed to it, his reasoning was that it would enhance his political standing and nothing more. It played to the class hate of the Left and would achieve nothing in the real world. Cameron just looks to score points by reversing it. By doing so he wins the applause of useful successful people from all walks of (mainly) country life, only annoying metropolitan Lefties with no understanding of anything, but hate in their soul.

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  • LarrySc

    This law in the UK is just one example of why the UK is in civilizational decline. Those weak of spine and spirit are responsible for a silly law that appears to be honored more in the breach than in the observance.

    Of course, I’m a gun-happy American (even though I don’t own a gun), so what do I know? I simply believe that hunting foxes isn’t a bad thing.

    • Lesebyst

      I hardly think people opposed to dog fighting (that’s what fox hunting in the UK actually is) are weak of spine and spirit. They’re just not cunts. It’s pretty funny for an American to claim the UK is in ‘civilizational’ decline – it’s not great here (compared to Sweden for example) but at least it’s not like in the US!