Criminal instinct

This week’s note from Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive

Sometimes things are so obvious we forget to state them. One of those blinding flashes of the obvious is that it is people – not animals – who hunt for ‘sport’.

When you listen to, or read the hunters arguments about hunting, the people are surprisingly absent from their arguments. The hunted animal is allegedly a pest, the countryside needs to be managed, the hunted animals are diseased and some are old and weak and must be culled for their own good, or for the good of the animal population as a whole.

It is as if they don’t want to put people in the frame as being the hunters. James Barrington, now of the Countryside Alliance as well as the Middle Way Group, takes the argument to the extremes when he argues that hunting is an entirely natural activity; often comparing it to wolves hunting in packs. The unspoken suggestion then being that if people hunt, with or without dogs, they too are only doing what comes naturally to them.

Those hunters who want to see the repeal of the Hunting Act, are not really talking about pest control at all, because they can still do all of that as long as they set about doing it in a manner Parliament believes to be humane. What they are talking about is bringing back the sport of hunting live mammals with packs of dogs. They want to bring back a form of public entertainment that sets packs of dogs onto animals for sport.

The hunters will readily tell you that theirs is a social activity, a chance to meet up and chat, a chance to ride or drive around the countryside amongst friends. They will often describe the actual hunting activity as being just the means to their social end. Many will say that they didn’t see the fox and they certainly would not aim to be in at the kill. They agree that the blood and guts end of hunting isn’t what they are in it for, it is for the company.

I think it is worthwhile examining the rather mixed motives that seem to exist within the hunting community. For the majority who follow the hunts and don’t get close to the messy and now criminal end of the business, you can see why they and their friends feel that hunting is now a socially acceptable activity because they have been told that the cruelty has been taken out of it. They are reassured at meet after meet by the field master that the day’s activity will be lawful, and they accept those assurances.

But there is a very different group within the hunting community who are determined abusers of animals for sport. That minority actually seek their pleasure from the organised setting of packs of dogs onto animals for sport. They are the people we should be really worried about, rather than the poor dupes who follow such hunts because they do not know or understand what the cruel abusers are really up to.

I recently read one piece by a hunter that said that repeal was needed for the sake of the hounds. The hounds he suggested must be free to do what they have been bred for and must have the fox as their ‘reward’ at the end of the day. Not a mention in there of seeking repeal so that they can return to a blood sport.

It is when you start looking at why people want to set dogs onto animals for sport that you rightly begin to get worried about the people who do that. And that is the one topic that the hunters really don’t want to talk about.

So let’s talk about why people might want to set a dog onto another animal for sport. Perhaps the best place to start is with what the hunters like to call ‘terrierwork’. It is, of course, just dog fighting by another name. One dog set against a fox, another canine, for sport. In days of yore the dog fights were above ground in pits where the gambling audience could see and could bet on the outcome of each fight. Now hunting has its very own version of the same old dog fight but it takes place underground.

If you read the literature and or look online, you can see what the terriermen are really up to, and it is nasty stuff. All sorts of euphemisms are used, but it is quite clear from the language that they are in fact talking about dog fighting and for the most part how their dog got the best of it. Interestingly it doesn’t seem to be just the dogs that are abused, the authors frequently rant on in a racist and homophobic manner and they certainly don’t like anyone they would regard as an immigrant based on their skin colour. This is so clearly a culture of abuse, of animals and people, that the hunts themselves should be distancing themselves as far as they can, but they don’t.

Many ‘trail’ hunts are now accompanied by packs of terriermen on quad bikes. As if by magic, they enter woods and foxes pop out supposedly by accident. These supposed conservators of wildlife seem to have a good working knowledge of where all the artificial earths are. The huntsmen then supposedly loose control of their hounds as they race off after the accidental fox.

The hunts train their huntsmen and kennel men in the death of animals. They may not intend or even understand the full consequences of what they are doing, but if a kennel man or huntsman is asked day after day to slaughter animals and to feed the carcasses to the dogs, we as a society should not be very surprised that such a person would come to like their killing work. How else could they do it day after day? For the huntsman a hunting day is a working day like any other, where animals get killed and fed to the dogs. A day’s sport for the huntsman with a run and a reward for the dogs thrown in is just a more fun working day as far as they are concerned.

It has long been known that constant exposure to brutality or abuse coarsens the sensibilities of the abuser. The only way for someone to cope while staying involved with the abuse and such suffering is to shut off and become less sensitive to it. Typically the abuser will also be absolutely convinced that the victim of their abuse deserved – or even enjoyed – every part of it.

In much the same way as other abusers, for the people up front in the hunts who are directly responsible for the cruelty and abuse that does occur, their only coping mechanism is to shut their eyes and ears to the reality of what they are involved in and to blame the victims. They are, in every sense of the word, the cruelty deniers, because they simply cannot bear to see what they are in fact responsible for.

When Parliament passed the Hunting Act it passed it because it regulated the behaviour of those people who seek to set dogs onto animals for sport. That law is both a protection for the animals that could otherwise legally be abused and a restraint on the cruelty and animal abuse that is a part of the hunting culture.

Animal abuse for sport is a truly toxic activity and it is rightly a crime. Hunting for sport is a form of animal abuse, where the victims are not only the hunted animals but also the hunt servants who are paid to organise such abuse for the pleasure and gratification of their masters and whose sensibilities become coarsened by the ritualistic and repeated cruelty to which they are exposed.

Finally it is worth remembering that when the hunters claim that the rest of society is picking on them, that it is entirely normal for an abuser to claim that they are being abused and are in fact the victim. Any psychologist will tell you that such claims are further evidence of the psychopathology of the abuser.

The only way to break into the vicious cycle of abuse and the grooming of yet more abusers by way of hunting for sport is to make the activity a criminal act as Parliament did by passing the Hunting Act 2004. Let’s for the sake of the animals and the people involved.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    mhayworth said,

    Excellent article!

    You must check out this guy’s blog. It is hilarious. A rep from the CA went to his school and certainly didn’t manage to get his message across!

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