From our archive

bloodsportsFollowing our head office move from central London to leafy Surrey just over a year ago, the League has begun the long process of creating electronic versions of archive material, some dating right back to the foundations of the League in 1924.

Some of this material continues to be useful, and there are plans for a high profile outing of some of the material as part of our Keep Cruelty History campaign in the run up to the general election. But some of it is just fascinating, such as this confidential 1947 letter from the British Field Sports Society (BFSS) to all Masters of Hounds.

In the letter, BFSS Secretary James W Fitzwilliam is complaining that the term ‘blood sports’ is becoming increasingly common, including amongst huntsmen themselves. He urges use of the terms ‘country sports’ and ‘field sports’ instead, to avoid “suggesting to townspeople … all sorts of unknown horrors”.

Those damn townspeople, eh. The arrogance with which hunters then – as now – claim hunting to be favoured by country people and attacked only by townies who don’t understand the issues is astonishing. The League has this year undertaken extensive research to find out more about the demographic make-up of our members, and we know that the vast majority of our members live and work in the countryside, and also visit it regularly. ‘Townspeople’ they are not. And we also know from the Ipsos-MORI poll last month that support for the ban on hunting remains over 70% even in rural communities.

It’s clear from the tone of the letter that the blood sports brigade was fearful even then of a public turning against them and their cruel ‘sport’. Then, just as now, the hunters wanted a veil of secrecy around their nefarious activities and then, as now, they had an organisation to help them out. Incidentally, the BFSS was later to become the Countryside Alliance, that well known champion of rural post offices.

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