Pursuing the competent knave

This week’s note from Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive

It has been an interesting week since the last InfoMail. I find that there is a subtle distinction to be drawn between information and disinformation. This last week there have been several very clear instances of disinformation doing the rounds.

Perhaps the most obvious one has been the efforts being made to deny what the Westminster moles are saying. The hunters are apparently desperately seeking assurances that my moles are off message, so that they can go back and reassure the Vote-OK troops that all will be well once their chosen candidates are elected in the marginal seats.

Interestingly they aren’t getting quite the answers they seek. This week the Conservative Party leaders office is making it very clear that they “will reopen the debate and offer a free vote in Government time. If there is a majority in favour of repealing the Act, then we will act on the will of the House”.  That message is a long way from complete repeal in the first hundred days as is being touted by some bloodsports supporters.

The other piece of information down with the moles this week was that consideration is being given to making the brown hare a protected species. Were that to be done it would become an offence to hunt, shoot or snare a brown hare. At a stroke that would mean that hare hunting and coursing of all forms would remain banned whatever happens to the Hunting Act.

Meanwhile the detractors of the Act carry on regardless of the fact that the number of convictions and cautions is climbing week by week. The hunters like to say that few hunts have been convicted, but that is because charges have not been brought against the bodies corporate or incorporate, it is the people allegedly doing the hunting that have been charged under the Act.

Then there was the National Trust AGM. Had you read the pro-hunt press you would have seen reports that the resolution put forward by League members who are also members of the National Trust was ‘soundly defeated’. The actual facts were very different.

In the postal ballot together with the ballot of those present at the AGM, there were 14,279 votes for the resolution and 14,769 against. Which, given that the Trust had recommended that members vote against the resolution was quite astounding. It was only the 6,756 proxy votes cast by the Chairman that shifted the end result to 14279 for and 21335 against. 2123 voters abstained from voting on the resolution.

Even more interesting was the Trusts attempt to wriggle out of supporting the Terms and Conditions of the licenses they have required the hunts to sign this season. The licences very clearly state, in clause 22, that the hunts must “… produce forthwith in response to a request by a member of the public the details of the dates on which the licensee intends to exercise the rights and the details of the land”. Their spokesperson denied that they were giving the information to the League. Perhaps the Trust thinks that in some strange way League members are not members of the public but are in fact some sort of alien species. The hunters of course say that the Trust will not give information to the League, but they certainly don’t advertise the fact that they are obliged by their licenses to provide that information to any member of the public who asks for it.

The whole proceedings of the NT AGM are on the Trust website. The session lasts about half an hour, starts with me proposing the resolution, seconded by Ivor Annetts and ends after the responses from the Trust and the floor with me summing up for the motion proposed. If you want to see the Trust making it very clear how opposed they are to any law breaking by hunts, watch with interest.

Then there was that old chestnut that the Countryside Alliance loves to bring out, about Lord Burns saying that hunting isn’t cruel. For starters that isn’t what he actually said, and neither is it what he was asked to report on.

There is a convention in government inquiries that you answer the questions asked. The Burns Inquiry were not asked whether or not hunting is cruel, that was clearly to be left for parliament to decide. What the Burns Inquiry did say was that “hunting seriously compromised the welfare of the fox”. He said the same of the hare and the deer as well.

The legal definition of cruelty is “unnecessary suffering”. It was left for parliament to decide whether chasing an animal for sport with a pack of dogs before killing it was an unnecessary pastime, and they decided that it was and that by definition, hunting for sport was a cruel sport because it caused unnecessary suffering.

Parliament didn’t ban pest control, it didn’t ban trail hunting and it is amazing that the bloodsports lobby are still trying to repeal the Hunting Act on the supposed grounds that it stops them dealing with pests. It does not, it simply makes being cruel for sport a crime.

Finally this week the Countryside Alliance has been making great play of its supposed new good fortunes for hunts. More people going out they say; more new faces they say; more work they say; more popular than ever before, they say. The trouble is that they can’t explain why repeal is such a good idea if the hunts without a live quarry are so popular.

When pressed the hunters talk about the risk of being caught on camera and convicted. The answer of course is for them to train their hounds to follow non animal based scents, to lay trails where there is less risk of ending up on roads and in places where the wildlife may by lying up. But they don’t want to do that, so week by week they have ‘accidents’ and ‘incidents’ where the hounds, supposedly out of control, rampage across the land and on occasion chase and kill peoples livestock and pets.

One can only reasonably conclude that a hunt that has an ‘accident’ with a live quarry on most of the occasions it goes out, is run by someone who is either an incompetent fool or a competent knave.

Personally, I don’t think most people who hunt illegally are fools, I think they are criminals and should be brought to justice.

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