Giving candidates a bad hare day

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

One of the duties that I have is to keep a watchful eye on our opponents and to see what arguments they are using which may need to be countered. As a part of that duty I read the Countryside Alliance Annual Report and Summary Financial Statements for 2009, which landed on their member’s doorsteps last week.

Kate Hoey MP reported to the Alliance members that as 2009 drew to a close, “there were no prosecutions in play under The Hunting Act”. Seemingly she was blissfully unaware that as a result of our monitoring work the position now is that nine cases are “in play” and these include cases against some of the best known hunts in the land.

Ms Hoey also makes some other remarks in her report to members which are difficult to reconcile with the polling information that we have. She says that the commitment to allow a government bill in government time on a free vote to repeal the Hunting Act is a “statement greeted with gratitude by the hunting community and respect and understanding by the wider world and the media”. Clearly it comes as no surprise to us all that many in the hunting world want to turn the clocks back to the cruelty and barbarism of live quarry hunting for sport. But to claim the respect and understanding of the wider world and the media seems somewhat rich to put it mildly given the clear evidence of the opinion polls.

The article titled “Tally Ho” in The Independent this week revealed the extent of the campaign by the bloodsports and hunting lobby to do what they can to get pro-repeal candidates elected to Parliament in the election. Now that the hunting season is almost at an end, the hunt supporters are being asked and encouraged to get out into the target constituencies and deliver leaflets and generally do what they can to support the candidates who have the Vote OK seal of approval.

Perhaps the scariest thing about this new ‘Barbour Cavalry’ as The Independent labelled them, is that they are not knocking on doors seeking to engage members of the public in a debate about the pros and cons of hunting, they are quite simply doing what they can to get certain candidates elected and to stop others being elected. Interestingly, while clearly supporting certain candidates, some of those candidates are saying to the wider public that they have not yet decided how to use any free vote they might have on the future of the Hunting Act. One can only wonder what they may have said to Vote OK to get them on board and to get their troops out in support.

The Countryside Alliance repeatedly trots out the assertion that the Hunting Act has done nothing for animal welfare. They continually say that foxes die anyway, and that not a single fox has been saved by the Act. They completely miss the real point, which is that setting packs of dogs onto animals for sport used to be a legal activity and now it is a crime. It is a crime whether or not the fox, deer or hare is caught. If the primary purpose of the activity is sport and recreation, the activity is criminal, whether the fox, deer or hare gets away or is caught and killed. The law is all about what people do to animals for sport. It is not about what may or may not happen to the same animals at other hands in the wild.

Interestingly Kate Hoey says in her report to the Alliance members that the Hunting Act “could easily be altered by a future hostile government to close the gaping loopholes”. Now there is a thought that must have occurred to many a policeman, prosecutor and politician as well as to all of us. The phrase “bring it on” comes to mind.

Those who want to turn the clock back should be aware of the political consequences of asking for yet more legislation on hunting. Once they throw the ball with bad law written on it into the political arena, they cannot be sure where it may end up. The majority of public opinion is not on the hunters’ side and one of the consequences of their campaign that they seem not to have foreseen, is that day by day they are building a case for a review of the law, rather than for its repeal. The Independent editorial advised them to let sleeping dogs lie. By asking for yet more parliamentary time on hunting, the hunters are staking their all on one last throw of the dice. Clearly we all hope they will get their comeuppance from MPs of all parties when that happens.

Earlier this week I attended a breakfast briefing for MPs and candidates of all parties, held in the House of Commons. The discussion was interesting. There was a very clear consensus that while there were clearly diverging views amongst the public, politicians and candidates of all parties with regard to how they would or should use any free vote on fox hunting, there was very little public or political support for any change in the law that would bring back hare hunting and coursing and stag hunting.

By wrapping up all the bloodsports in the same protective Countryside Alliance-led cloak of repeal, the bloodsports lobby have put their supporters in a quandary. They are asking people to support the return of hare coursing. They are asking people to support the return of hare hunting, and they are asking people to support the repeal of the ban on stag hunting, which even the staunchly traditional National Trust membership found to be beyond the pale and banned from their land years ago.

Any supposedly simple bill to repeal the Hunting Act would bring with it repeal of the ban on coursing and stag hunting and it would even bring with it the return of legitimate interference with badger setts. If all that the MPs who support a repeal of the ban on fox hunting for sport want to do is bring back fox hunting, they cannot do that with a one line bill repealing the whole of the Hunting Act. They will need new legislation and that will take hours and hours of parliamentary time.

The time has come to ask candidates of all parties the “bad hare day” question. Do they or do they not support the return of hare coursing for sport? Will they use any free vote to bring back hare coursing? Will they vote to bring back stag hunting with packs of dogs for sport? A very few will say yes, most will say no, of course not!

Now is the time to be asking the candidates of all parties the hare and deer questions. The vast majority of the voting public are against the return of hare coursing and stag hunting for sport. Make sure that you know what your candidates think about cruelty to animals for sport, and even more importantly, make sure that they know what you think! Always remember politicians of all parties want your vote and some will be prepared to make you promises in the hope of getting your vote. Ask for what you want and make it clear what you are against, that is my advice if you want to Keep Cruelty History.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Well, have no fear with regard to this independent candidate in South East Cambridgeshire (opposing Mr James Paice, the ‘shadow minister of agriculture,’ who has said that he will vote to repeal the Hunting Act 2004. If elected, I will vote against its repeal. Moreover, I will do all that I can to strengthen it.
    Geoffrey Woollard (aka notoharecoursing).


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