Civil liberties, or bloody liberties?

This week’s note from Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive.

I have always been fascinated by the way in which the Countryside Alliance and the bloodsports lobby seek to wrap themselves up in the property and the language of others.

The pro bloodsports lobby love the incredible idea that it is the voice of the countryside, and that it is in some way a proud freedom fighter. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The whole question of who is the voice of the countryside, and what is the view of those who live and work in the countryside, needs much closer examination than it usually gets. The countryside, as defined by the various agencies charged with looking after it, contains some 10 million people who live and or work there. The population in the countryside has increased by over 25% in the last 25 years, as people have sought their rural idyll. And yes there are second homes and all the rest of it, but the vast bulk of the migration to the countryside has been by well educated, professional people seeking a new, and as they see it, a better way of living for their families.

The introduction of broadband, the new wave of home based working and small businesses, has brought a new vibrancy to the countryside. It is also true that others have sold up in town and moved to the countryside to enjoy their retirement. As a result of all these changes in the demography of who lives and who works in the countryside, we now have what amounts to roughly 20% of the population either living or working in what is defined as the rural areas.

The ten million rural residents include less than 250,000 people engaged in any form of farming, forestry or fisheries. Of that 2.5% who are engaged in any of the three Fs less than 0.5% of the rural population are engaged in either hunting or shooting. Organisations like the Countryside Alliance have a stronger numerical support base in the towns and cities like London than they have in any rural area, yet it claims to be the voice of the countryside.

The Countryside Alliance likes to say that it speaks for the countryside, when the League actually has a higher percentage of its support base in the rural areas than it has in the towns. That doesn’t stop the bloodsports lobby claiming that League supporters are for the most part ignorant townies, but it does mean that they are wholly wrong when they claim that.

League members and supporters are knowledgeable about the countryside and its wildlife, many have chosen to live there, they work there and they spend their leisure time there. The last thing that they are is uninformed about what really goes on in the countryside.

So when you next hear the Countryside Alliance claiming that it is the voice of the countryside, tell everyone you can, that it is not, that it doesn’t speak for you or for the vast majority of the people who live and or work there. It is the voice of bloodsports and the supporters of violence to animals for sport, not the countryside.

Having comprehensively lost the animal welfare based arguments about hunting with dogs for sport the bloodsports lobby is now seeking to claim that the debate for or against hunting isn’t really about animal welfare, but that it is actually about civil liberties.

The bloodsports lobby has developed a new line of argument which is that it is an assault on their personal freedoms and their property rights to legally deny them the right to set packs of dogs onto wild animals for sport. Essentially what it is asserting is that there should be such a thing in a democracy as a freedom to be cruel to animals for sport. It asserts that while other people may not like what it does, it is an assault on their civil liberties to pass a law that makes what they do a crime. The great majority of the British public just do not agree with this. As far as they are concerned, cruelty is cruelty and people who are cruel to animals are criminals. Their view in poll after poll is that hunting is cruel and that it should remain as it now is, a crime.

The Countryside Alliance has borrowed from revolutionary history, albeit in part only, with their use of the slogan Liberty and Livelihood in their campaigns. When you think about it, their corruption of the revolutionary slogan, which was “land liberty and livelihood”, is utterly perverse. The earlier revolutions were about land for the serfs, liberty for the serfs and servants and a living wage for the people on the land. Yet now we have a bloodsports lobby closely associated with large landowners, dropping any mention of land other than their open campaigns to restrict other people’s access to that land. That campaign is not for the liberty of the mass of the people to roam across the land but a freedom for the few to be cruel on that land in privacy.

The bloodsports movement also still has staff whom they call hunt servants who work for their masters and pays amongst the lowest wages of all rural employers. Which ever way you look at it, the bloodsports lobby adopting the slogan liberty and livelihood is a sick joke and a travesty of the earlier revolutionary pleas for land liberty and livelihood.

So lets get real, what the bloodsports lobby seek is a legal right to take bloody liberties with the nations wildlife for their own gratification. They seek the protection of the law in keeping people off their property and in being cruel to animals for sport. To my mind that isn’t a civil liberty it is a bloody liberty.

There has been a lot of talk about the Hunting Act not working, as if in some ways that was of itself a justification for repeal. If we applied that logic to laws on speeding we would do away with speeding offences. If we did away with all laws where one group in society doesn’t agree with the law or determinedly breaks the law, we would be repealing all sorts of legislation from the Statutes on domestic abuse and paedophilia and pornography, through to abolishing the theft act because we still have burglars.

There has been a lot of talk about repeal being necessary because the Act was passed as if it was enacted as some continuing part of the serfs long war against the historic masters of the countryside. The simple truth is that cruelty to animals for sport disgusts most people, and they, and Parliament decided that such cruelty for sport is a crime.

Cruelty for sport is a crime.


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3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    lindammadnil said,

    Wouldn’t it be better to have a law which clearly defined cruelty and then prohibited all deliberate cruelty to all wild animals howsoever caused?

  2. 2

    lindammadnil said,

    It seems to me that a test of cruelty is vital to making the law just. What do you say is wrong with hunting? You say it is cruel. So surely if one is not being cruel then what one is doing should not be illegal.

    A good example is flushing out of cover. This can easily be done without cruelty.

  3. 3

    gilesbradshaw said,

    Making what i do illegal is definitely against ,my civil liberties.

    All I do is flush out wild deer and chase them through my woods.

    I have spoken to the RSPCA about this and they say flushing out of cover seems like a good way to move the deer on.

    It’s also great fun.

    Sorry Douglas but I won’;t stop. No matter what you do or say.

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