The age of stupid

This week’s note from Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive

The fifth anniversary of the Hunting Act 2004 coming into effect was accompanied by a lot of media coverage. From press adverts through to blogs and television and radio interviews, the hunting issue reached an audience estimated at well over ten million people.

The new film now on our website showing celebrity reactions to film of traditional hunting has proved very popular. It has also been repeated on celebrity fan websites and is reaching a much wider audience.

The hunters have an ever increasing image problem. They like to look like country squires and gentle folk out for a good days hedge-hopping on horse back, but time and again they run into problems. ‘Accidents’ and incidents abound. Hounds on railways, in housing estates, on firing ranges while red flags are flying, and on trunk roads, are indicative of either an unwillingness or an inability to control their packs of hounds.

Some people in the hunting fraternity are playing a very dangerous game with their hounds, their supporters, and the general public alike. Where hunts are continuing to train hounds to chase fox and deer scents, and the hounds get onto the line of a live deer or fox, they run the risk of ending up on a road or a railway line. If to avoid accusations of hunting illegally the people in control of the hounds hold well back so that they can argue in court that they didn’t know about or intend the live quarry hunt, they also are unable to exercise proper control of their hounds. The result as we have seen all too often is hounds in places where they absolutely should not be.

In the last few weeks there have been several incidents where hounds have ended up on trunk roads and on railway lines, and have been killed. There is something terribly bloody minded about people who put their politics with regard to the campaign for repeal of the Hunting Act ahead of their duty of care for their hounds. Worse still is their willingness to risk the lives of others by recklessly allowing their hounds to get out of sight and out of control. Drivers on dual carriageways should not be faced with packs of hounds in full cry crossing and re-crossing major roads whilst they are driving at or near seventy miles per hour.

To allow a pack onto a Ministry of Defence firing range while the red flags are flying is an act of monumental stupidity. To lay or hunt a trail anywhere near a road or a railway is a further act of monumental stupidity. To allow a pack of hounds to get far ahead of the people responsible for them and for their welfare is the ultimate act of monumental stupidity.

Talking of stupidity, it’s interesting to note the responses we’ve received from hunts to a letter I recently wrote to all masters of hounds, informing them that the advice they had been given by the Countryside Alliance with regard to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act was at best incomplete and at worst misleading, and seeking their assurance that they would make it clear to hunt supporters that monitoring hunts was a lawful activity and not an illegal one as some have suggested. The result has been some interesting answer phone messages. One very grumpy hunt master called to tell us in no uncertain terms not to dare to write to him again. He didn’t leave his details unfortunately, so he will have to put up with further correspondence. Others have been marginally more polite, but have been equally clear that they do not want to hear from us.

For the masters to be refusing to accept good legal advice is quite shocking. Talk about turning a blind eye and a deaf ear! Their line seems to be, “don’t trouble me with facts”!

On the wider field of public and political opinion, the hunting issue is getting more and more profile. Not because the vast majority think that it is a key election issue, far from it; only around 4% of the public believe repeal should be a government priority. What appears to be happening is that the hunters and in part the Countryside Alliance have decidedly over egged their pudding. Their claims, of repeal being an early priority for an incoming Conservative government, and having overwhelming support amongst candidates are beginning to unravel because they are not based on the facts.

Politicians have a pretty good finger on the pulse of public opinion and well know that the Hunting Act has the support of more than 75% of the public. They also know that repeal is not what the vast majority of the public actually want. All this talking up of the prospects of an early repeal may encourage the hunters, but it is fast becoming a major political embarrassment for the very politicians whose support they will need if and when it actually comes to a free vote on the hunting issue.

It is already quite clear that while some politicians are prepared to say in private to the hunters that they will support repeal, they are not nearly so keen to say so publicly to the vast majority of their potential electors who do not want repeal. This is leading to some significant confusion about where individual candidates actually stand on the hunting issue. At present almost 1,000 have said or made it clear where they stand on the hunting issue. A large number have tried to dodge the question by saying that they will only decide when they see what actual question is put to them in parliament.

The best way through to the politicians and candidates who are sitting on the fence is to ask them some direct questions. Do they support the return of hare coursing with dogs? Do they support the return of stag hunting with dogs for sport? Do they support the return of hare hunting with dogs for sport? Do they support the return of fox hunting with dogs for sport? A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will do. Ask the question in a public meeting if you can, or in the local paper or on the radio or television if you call in to a chat program. Do they think that repeal of the Act is a priority for an incoming government? Yes or no? Some politicians will be quite forthright in their replies, others will be less so. Given that politicians of all parties agree that hunting is a free vote issue in parliament, you are well within your rights to ask the questions and to seek an answer on the issues that concern you.

Finally it is worth sparing a thought for our wildlife with all the bad weather we have had recently. Unusual amounts of snow and rain affect our wildlife in all sorts of ways. Food is harder to find, particularly if it has to be dug for under the snow. Wet coats lead to rapid heat loss. Animals tend to do all that they can to conserve heat and energy and to minimise the use of body reserves to ensure their survival until spring comes. If the hunters really cared about wildlife, they would call an early end to their bloodsports and minimise the disturbance they cause which in turn causes unnecessary suffering. But, no they don’t stop, they just go on with their bloodsports regardless of the suffering being caused.

Please do all you can to help us Keep Cruelty History.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    gilesbradshaw said,

    I’ve done exactly that Douglas. I am currently not chasing any of the deer that I illegally flush out so as to allow them to conserve energy.. I will resume chasing them off when the weather gets better. This will discourage them from laying up foals in the areas of woodland where I use my dogs and encourage them to do so in areas where it fits in with my management strategy.

    Of course I am not shooting them either.

    You should support non lethal alternatives to slaughtering our wildlife.


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