I was dismayed to learn that David Cameron, the conservative Prime Minister, has publicly said that the Conservative Party manifesto for 2015 will (most probably) again include a commitment to reverse the ban on fox hunting by allowing a free vote should the Conservative Party win a majority in the May 2015 general election.
David Cameron is pro fox hunting and has regularly ridden with the Heythrop Hunt in Oxfordshire. I have little doubt that he personally enjoys the so called thrill of the chase as well as the dressing up and rituals involved with fox hunting. I am also aware that his support is also politically motivated. His support for fox hunting is very obviously a rallying call to so called traditional “country” dwelling conservatives in the shires to return to the party and not be swayed by UKIP.
David Cameron is very aware that some small “c” conservative voters have felt alienated by the Conservative Parties alleged liberalism, or rather, nod to libertarian policies. No other policy exemplified this alleged liberalism more than David Cameron’s support for and pushing through of the “Equal Marriage Bill,” which he did despite opposition from a vocal rump of Conservative MP’s who embarrassed themselves and the party by very vocally opposing equal marriage and I use the term embarrassed because opinion poll after poll reveals a very high support for gay marriage in the country, especially among young people. Similarly support for the fox hunting ban is popular, yet some Conservative MPs seem to revel in appearing uncaring and out of touch with greater society, preferring instead to exist in a very tiny and exclusive bubble of similar types to themselves. Those MPs forget that if the Conservative Party is to survive and prosper, then it has to listen to the greater public and appeal to younger voters and a wider society that has changed and which continues to evolve into a society that is increasingly aware of animal and human rights.
The whole fox hunting argument is after all a spurious mishmash of a fetish for a fairly modern tradition (most of the dressing up and rituals are Victorian) and gibberish about it being a form of pest control. Arguments are still made that hunting is actually beneficial to wild foxes because it culls the weak, that is elderly and/or ill foxes. An argument hard to take seriously when you realise that should a fox go to ground, that is, hides in it’s den, it is likely to be dug out and if it is lucky shot or more likely pulled to pieces by the hounds. Cubbing similarly is anther “tradition” where young cubs are hunted, often dug out of their dens, and killed. Hunting enthusiasts refer to fox hunting as a sport. A strange sport that results in a cruel death for the weaker contestant who is run to exhaustion and is allowed no reprieve for taking shelter.
The hunting act, that some Conservative MPs want to repeal, was brought in by the Labour Party. The act banned the chasing and killing of foxes (it’s also illegal to chase and kill deer, hare and mink ) by dogs. Everyone knows however that it is a ban rarely observed and indeed is openly flouted because the police either claim not to have the resources, or some would argue, do not have the will to enforce the act.
Some may ask why I am not, therefore a Labour Party supporter, considering that they brought in the hunting act. The problem for me, apart from their economic policies and being statists to the core, is that the anti hunting legislation was inspired less for the sake of animal welfare and more as a vehicle of class politics. Banning fox hunting was viewed as an attack on the upper classes.
Being from the country and having family members who do hunt and shoot, I can assure everyone that the majority of people involved in hunting are not members of the aristocracy, or even especially wealthy. Many people who hunt are often ordinary people who make financial sacrifices to afford the upkeep of a horse and the fees required to join a hunt. For me, banning hunting for any reason other than animal welfare is wrong. I have sympathy with the pro hunt lobby who argue that if the fox hunting ban was about animal welfare then equally fishing, pigeon shoots, etc, should also be banned. The reason there was less enthusiasm from the labour party to ban those sports, it is pointed out, was because they are understood as “sports” enjoyed by the working class, or likely Labour Party voters. I don’t do politics based on envy or on so called class warfare, and that sadly was the real reason for labour bringing in the hunting act, not animal welfare.
The other reason I will not support labour on this is that there are many libertarians and conservative voters who are anti hunting. In the Conservative Party I believe we are known as blue foxes, this being the case, it is doubtful if on a free vote, even with a majority, that any conservative government would be able to overturn the hunting bill. Personally I believe that the Conservative Party is making a big mistake in believing that supporting fox hunting will win them any new votes. The very idea that hunting is some special evocation of countryfolk culture is itself absurd. I know many farmers and country people in general who loath the hunt and everything connected with it. Most hunts would be long dead and forgotten if it were not for the support of townies (town dwellers) who are desperate to join in what they “think” is a country sport associated with privilege. Hunt supporters from my experience are mainly “townies” out for a day in the country. Hunt supporters especially are loathed by most real country dwellers because they block roads and cause immense disruption.
In conclusion most people know that fox hunting is a barbarous evocation of man’s darkest nature. It may look pretty, the pink coats and stirrup cups and the pretence of being somehow part of country life. In truth however it is like painting the walls of an abattoir pink and pretending that what the walls hide is not the brutal slaughter of victims with the same desire to live as ourselves and in truth the same right to life as we expect for ourselves. All the dressing up cannot disguise the brutal truth. The institutionalising of violence that hunting represents quite rightly should be and is repugnant to a modern and evolving society. So lets hope that if the Conservative Party do form the next government that it is with an insufficient majority to allow that nasty rump of the Conservative Party, those small “c” conservatives who turn their back on human rights by opposing gay marriage and who turn their backs on animal rights by supporting the unsupportable, fox hunting, to have their way and bring back hunting with dogs.
What we really need is for the existing Hunting Act to be strengthened and for the police to stop turning a blind eye to those hunts who flout the law. If it is a tradition, then like wife beating, child chimney sweeps and public hanging, let it be remembered only with disgust.