A changing debate

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

This election campaign has produced some seismic changes in the wider politics of the hunting issue. Speakers from the three main political parties have said that revisiting hunting is not a priority issue for a new Parliament despite all the efforts of the Countryside Alliance and Vote-OK to put the hunting issue on the political agenda.

Perhaps more interestingly still, speakers from all the major parties have during the campaign made it clear, albeit in different words, that they accept the general principle that when man engages with an animal he owes it a duty of care.

The fact that the pro-hunt lobby are going to have to accept that if the target animal suffers as a result of their activities, they will not be able to lawfully carry them out in future, is a massive shift in the political reality. Even where there is talk of repeal there is also acceptance that animal welfare must be safeguarded. Quite how this is to be achieved is less clear, but the principle and the need is an accepted political reality.

The pro-hunt lobby has found that its own issues are massively unpopular with voters of all political persuasions and have been doing their best to keep the hunting issue out of the headlines and the political debates and hustings. While some candidates have clearly said in their meetings with bloodsports enthusiasts that they will use any free vote to vote for repeal, for the most part they are not saying that in their election literature or voluntarily on the hustings, unless asked a direct question on the subject.

Where once the hunters’ and shooters’ help and support was seen by candidates as conferring electoral advantage on the candidates that they supported, now reportedly many politicians want to make it clear that they do not support the bloodsports lobby. By publicly raising the issues with candidates, voters are making sure the issues are aired in the public debates and that voters know where candidates stand on the issue.

For years the pro-bloodsports lobby have funded a massive campaign to protect and preserve hunting and shooting for sport. Millions of pounds have been spent on campaigning, on court cases and on organising opposition to the Hunting Act and any other legislation which curtails bloodsports. Tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of pounds have been given by bloodsports supporters to politicians who are known to be personally committed to repeal of the Hunting Act and other legislation which restricts bloodsports. Whilst this is allowed, if declared, it is a matter of concern.

Politicians of all persuasions can see a lost argument – like hunting and shooting for sport – and usually do not want to be publicly associated with a position which the majority of their own voters are not happy with. Of course individual politicians will and can take a personal stand on a moral and ethical issue on principle, and not because it is popular with their electors, but that is generally the parliamentary exception rather than the rule.

The problem that the Hunting Act really faces is not just the test of public opinion, it is the test of whether or not it does or can achieves the objectives that those who voted for it set out to achieve?

Those who oppose the Act and seek to repeal it claim that “it does not work”, that it “cannot work” and in some cases that “it is being widely disregarded” and that it therefore brings the law into disrepute.

One of the things that the passage of the Hunting Act has achieved is a public recognition that setting dogs onto animals for sport is wrong and that it is a crime. Even the most ardent bloodsports lobbyists are no longer trying to argue for the preservation of a bloodsport. Their arguments are now couched in terms of pest control allegedly being necessary and or hunting with dogs allegedly being the least worst animal welfare option. It is worth remembering that the bloodsports lobby used to lobby for their sport, now it seems that even they accept that their activities are no longer acceptable if their purpose is for sport and recreation. That change in itself is a massive move forwards. Score one to the Act: it has changed what people think about setting dogs onto animals for sport.

The next and obvious thing that the Act has achieved is that it has caused those hunts and hunters who obey the law to change what they do. For the most part that means and has meant a change to trail hunting. Those who want to break the law now know that every time they go out with that intent, they run the risk of prosecution. Even the most ardent law breaker does not feel comfortable breaking the law in full and public view. Where hunts are obeying the law, fewer wild mammals are chased and killed for sport. That too is progress brought about by the passage of the Act.

Then there are the claims that the Act cannot work, to which the short answer is over 130 convictions. The Act does work, and in fact works better than a lot of other legislation in the wildlife protection field. And yes there are problems, not the least of which is the relatively restricted access to land to monitor the activity of hunts and of those who plan to break the law.

It is true that the majority of convictions are of hare coursers and or huntsmen or other hunt staff and associates, rather than the masters of the hunts. But that is not surprising in that it is the hunt servants who are the active hunters, at their master’s behest. But nonetheless it is quite clear that if the evidence is compelling, the criminals are convicted under the Act. That too is progress brought by the passage of the Act.

Then there is the charge that the law is being widely disregarded. That is clearly true but disregard for a law that offers society protection from cruelty to animals for sport, is not a reasonable justification for repealing that law. No one is seriously arguing that the laws with regard to the welfare of farmed and domestic animals should be repealed because some people are cruel to animals. Wild animals should also be protected by law from cruelty.

The real issue that has to be faced is why do some people choose to disregard the law and further what should society do about people who regularly and repeatedly engage in criminal activity? The answer is not to make the currently illegal legal again by repealing the Hunting Act, it is to enforce the law without fear or favour, and to bring cases to court where there is evidence of wrong doing. Only that way can society ensure that no animal should suffer for sport. Please do all you can to help.

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6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    nebhunting said,

    Douglas, you talk such crap, all these comments you are making maybe are your own view but there are not fact, just like the 130 convictions claiming that most are hunt staff and not the Masters of the Hunt, well I know of two Hunt Staff that have been convicted under the act, Five years this has been in force yet only two Hunt Staff and who knows these might have been an accident, anyway as you are going to disagree with me the only thing you can do is name say some fifty of the Hunt Staff that have been convicted under this act, so it’s put up or shut up dougie boy

  2. 2

    I wish I could share the initial view yet that is simply not the case. The priority remains for the Conservatives to repeal the ban. Nothing has been said that has changed their position. If they win then the tearing of our wildlife apart for fun will be legal again in mere months.

    Mr Cameron is wedded to the hunting lobby in such a way it is impossible for there to be any other outcome. Added with the prospect of a hung parliament with the Tories joining the Lib Dems, that too is just as much risk. Nick Clegg may have said he has no plans to revisit the issue yet they are just hollow words. His Shadow Leader of the House David Heath when challenged by the Today Programme on Radio 4 could not even bring himself to see the issue as relevant or important.
    The concept of animal cruelty was something he appeared to be bored with. He was speaking in his capacity on rural affairs. So it is logical to see his response as speaking in relation to Lib Dem policy.

    Why would Nick Clegg stand in the way of David Cameron when he never supported the hunting ban in the first place? Mr Clegg is seeking power sharing and if that means Cameron getting his way on hunting they that is what he will do. More than half of the current Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the hunting ban.

    The risks to our wildlife have never been greater. Just a few days will either see the ban protected or strengthened under Labour. Or it will be the end of the hunting ban for most likely a lifetime. The risks to our wildlife are real and it’s sickening to think what might happen.

    Only Labour has the decency to put the hunting ban in its Green manifesto. It is after all Labour MPs who largely made this ban a reality after decades of campaigning.

    It is only Labour who can be trusted to stand up to the hunting lobby and say no. David Cameron has shown if anything he does not understand why the public are so against hunting. Instead of listening to the public he is forever trying to ignore their concerns.

    Our wildlife does not need throwaway words from Nick Clegg with replies that lack conviction or understanding of the issue. They need MPs and partys with strong policy that adds decency to their values which gives animals the protection they deserve. If a party cannot construct a policy based on the values and decency of the British public then they are letting society down.

    Gordon Brown will defend the hunting ban and Labour MPs will ensure the ban is made waterproof.
    Yet to do so Labour needs support on May 6th. The hunting lobby by themselves could not bring about repealing the hunting ban. They can however have great influence by becoming part of a political party.

    I would challenge the view that the Conservatives do not see the repeal as a priority. For this is just not backed up by their actions. The Countryside Alliance Party and the Conservative Party
    are really just one of the same…

    Vote Labour on 6th of May, our wildlife deserve more then what is on offer by Cameron or Clegg.

  3. 3

    saynototories said,

    This post from the head of LACS is most unhelpful just days before an election which is the most crucial for our wildlife in living memory. If Cameron wins then the hunting fraternity will be running DEFRA and the whole lot will be re-legalised. LACS is not suited to giving accurate political messages because it made the huge error of changing to a charity.As an anti hunt campaigner of long standing (who never asks anyone for money) I am appalled that the Chief Exec of LACS is telling people that the threat has diminished and that somehow even if the law is repealed the cruelty will be removed. It is an insult to all the people out in the country working very hard to tell people the message about the real threat from Cameron and how he will indeed deliver for his friends if ge gets into power. I suspect this post will be removed because LACS does not want to hear anything critical about its messaging, messaging which betrays the very people trying to defend our wild animals from the terrible future they will have if the Tories win.

  4. 4

    nebhunting said,

    Yep, FiP, the LACS is sailing close to the wind again, Dougie can’t have his cake and eat it, if he want’s to be politiacal then the LACS should not be a charity and Sayno, you are saying that also, Dougie has put his size 12’s in it again, this makes it far more helpful for repeal of this bigotted act.

  5. 5

    davegb2 said,

    Nebhunting: I suspect you are a very bitter lonely old man! Wherever there is a hunting story, there you are desperately trying to defend your sick sport. Very much like a paedophile trying to convince people that what he does is good! Why don’t you come out of the 16th century fantasy world you live in, and accept that hunting is a thing of the past, and that most people are disgusted by what you do?

  6. 6

    nebhunting said,

    Well Dave boy, perhaps you may be right, well on one point anyway, I will defend Fox Hunting, I do not class it as a sick sport and further more I do not agree with the figures, one only has to go to a local meet on Boxing day to see the overwhelming amount of support that the hunts get with only a handfull of protesters, about one % of the turnout, in fact our local hunt did not have anyone protesting at the meet.
    Just because you are very anti hunt does not mean every one suffers your views and the reason I reply on this is because of the lies which are put into print, Hunting is a way of life so I think it is you who shoild get use to it.

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