Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Boxing Day Hunt 2011

Certain subjects instantly  provoke a strong emotional response and hunting with dogs is one of them.  

A regular measure now of the support of the the public for hunting is the annual Boxing Day Meet whereby hunters put on a free show on a slow news day.  The Countryside Alliance has gradually coordinated this in to a carnival event.  Masters are expected to make sure that the best riders are neatly dressed outside a suitable pub, the dogs under control, and everybody gets to take photos.  This is about saying to the public "We hunt and we are part of the landscape" and crucially "So are you."

Over to Bedale then, where the fair weather this morning brought a large field of riders and viewers.  The main photographic event was outside the pub with the riders posing with stirrup cups, but just down by the church in a larger field were all the other riders and a crowd well on its way to a couple of hundred.

The dogs were cheekier than expected; one of them rushed in to the CoOp as if realising there was a handy supply of sausages, another lazy dog wriggled under a parked car and settled down for a snooze, hoping not to be seen while the others made the running.  When the pack set off a small wire haired terrier strained on its leash and whimpered pitifully to go with them, called by the ancient sense which even a chihuahua has, that deep in their DNA is still the string which connects them to a wolf.  

Although the hunting with dogs ban  is a nuisance, wasting police time and obliging people to perform legal dances, it hasn't had quite the effect which was feared.  In fact, what with hunt ball tickets selling fast, carol services, calendars of very well-stacked young ladies, sweat shirts, support events and the general opening of social channels, the idea of hunting has never been more popular.  It has thrown off some of its snottier and exclusive airs and has stepped in to a functional niche which used to be occupied by the Church of England.

Whether people mean to get on a horse is as irrelevant as whether they mean to drive an F1 car.  They don't care if someone else does, it is the excuse for the meetings. Hunting is cheap until you saddle up; you can do all the hanging around for a few pounds and that includes having a drink. Or, if you are feeling skint, bring a flask of tea.

For women, hunting has one huge advantage in that it is one of the few sports where a broad beam is regarded as acceptable. Since the riders are under no obligation to be stick insects, nobody else has to either. Hurrah, I'd like cream on that apple pie, thank you.

No doubt it will horrify the old guard and those who don't much care for the riff raff, but the Countryside Alliance has helped the hunts re-position the sport as a socially binding and inclusive activity.  The editorial slant of magazines such as The Field reflect this; articles which would be more at home in Country Living have crept in to justify the cover-price to an audience which, realistically, is not going to buy a gun, a horse or a sporting estate. But they might buy wellies or sportswear such as Dubarry

The pressure is gearing up, then, to get MPs to repeal the ban. So far, according to the Telegraph, the government has indicated that it doesn't want to talk about this subject, and you can see why. It's not a deal-breaker from a Conservative point of view. If you mean to vote for Cameron, this issue won't prevent that. However, it might alienate some floating voters, particularly urban women who are a crucial swing group for all parties. There are disputes about how widely supported the ban is, but if legislation were simply a numbers  game, then perhaps we'd be out of the EU and have the death penalty restored by next month.

Unhelpfully, a group of Conservatives - Conservatives Against Fox Hunting - have formed themselves in to a classic circular firing squad and are about to disrupt the current delicate balance by slagging-off their own voters. Turkeys may not vote for Christmas but they definitely campaign for it.  Their 'about' page says:
The Hunting Act 2004 is not about class issues, town versus country, civil liberties or  banning rural customs or traditions.
Yes it is. If it hadn't been, they'd have banned fishing, and even Labour wasn't quite that stupid.

For some reason, CAFH keep quoting Brian May of Queen as if being married to an ex-EastEnders actress and current Strictly contestant makes the science drop-out and popular banjo-plunker an authority on environmental conservation.

What matters is that people who live and work in the countryside - rather than invest in chunks of it from the sale of catchpenny choons - are not cruel, do not deserve to be insulted that way, and thoroughly understand what they are doing -  unlike CAFH.


JuliaM said...

"Unhelpfully, a group of Conservatives - Conservatives Against Fox Hunting - have formed themselves in to a classic circular firing squad and are about to disrupt the current delicate balance by slagging-off their own voters."


Ah, well, it's better that they identify themselves for all to see, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

How about the re-legalisation of otter hunting, now that otter numbers seem to be on the rise again? (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/18/otters-return-british-rivers).

Barnacle Bill said...

I could never understand why Tony Wot's His Name invested so much political blood, sweat and tears in pushing the anti-hunting legislation thru Parliament.
On reflection and view in the light of nuLabor's underhanded immigration policies I can only put it down to - spite.
Thanks TWHN, nice to know you had the country's interests at heart.

Richard said...

That was it - pure spite against the 'toffs' (a theme which has persisted in Labour's 'thinking') and a class-war measure to keep the Old Left onside when pushing through PFI deals and 24-hour casinos.

I support hunting with a passion - not because I am a hunter (never have, never will) but because to me it crystallises the argument about living your own life without interference from others. Those who would seek to ban other people from doing something that goes on far away and out of sight of their Islington cosiness, just because it offends some sensibility of theirs, are never more obvious than when the debate turns to hunting.

Anonymous said...

Barnacle Bill - The League Against Cruel Sports gave a million to the Labour party in return for a promise to ban hunting with dogs.

We went on the Countryside Alliance march through London along with over 400,000 other people and Tony Blair wouldn't even acknowledge that the march had taken place.

Richard said...

I was on the Liberty and Livelihood march in September 2002, and my daughter was on the march against the Iraq war a week later. 400,000 and over a million people respectively. Both ignored and, worse, dismissed by the Blair government. Daughter and I both learned lessons from that.

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lilith said...

Just HOW can hunting with dogs be illegal? If you have dogs, and they are allowed to be dogs, they hunt every time you go for a walk! It is like criminalising playground noise or naturally occurring plants. Seasons Greetings Woar.

Woman on a Raft said...

I expect Cameron gets what he deserves, JuliaM.

I wouldn't hunt otters, but that's because I'd be farming them, Edgar. They seem to breed well enough in captivity and they have a beautiful short, dense fur which is as flexible as velvet. Plus, if a few of them escape, it's no big deal.

As Richard and Lakelander note, Bill, when you consider the donations and the need to put together voting coalitions it explains a lot as to why they'd ignore what appear to be big numbers of protestors. What I've not really understood, though, is why people like the late Tony Banks got so upset over something which didn't even happen in their constituencies.

I think, Lilith, that that there are a lot of people who don't really understand dogs at all. What is even more surprising is that many of them are dog-keepers. Now, if I were going to keep a dog it would definitely be a working terrier and I'd become a ratter. I swear those dogs understand how to read maps and the only thing which prevents them driving to a job is that they can't reach the pedals and see out of the windscreen at the same time.

Stadtler said...

It always amazes me is that so many of the muppets who are anti-hunt have cats, one of the most gleeful four legged torturers of other small critters on the planet.

JuliaM said...

"I wouldn't hunt otters, but that's because I'd be farming them, Edgar. They seem to breed well enough in captivity and they have a beautiful short, dense fur which is as flexible as velvet. "

Sadly, it only comes in one colour-phase - at least, so far!

Richard said...

Tony Banks = old-style class warrior. There is no need for any further explanation, although I suspect there is a dose of the New Puritan there too. You know, "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is having fun", and not approved fun, either.

WV: monstr

Woman on a Raft said...

The ghastly old hypocrite was interviewed by David Frost in 2002:

DAVID FROST: Is fishing in danger?

TONY BANKS: No. No, no, not at all. I mean I was a very keen angler, won prizes at it, I was quite good at it. There are always lines - you know what it's like in politics David - the lines are drawn and everyone's going to sort of complain if they're the wrong side of the line, but fishing cannot be compared with fox-hunting. You know, when people say you, you know, you hunt a fish and you rip its hook from its mouth, I mean if you're a good angler that isn't the way that you do it, so you cannot compare those two activities.


Richard said...

"You know, when people say you, you know, you hunt a fox and the hounds rip it to pieces, I mean if you're a good hunter that isn't the way that you do it, so you cannot compare those two activities."

Two things: one, hunters wear pink and anglers wear baseball caps, and two, anglers are more likely to support Labour, whereas hunters (of whatever social class) are unlikely to. Partly tribal, and partly pure self-interest.

'Ghastly old hypocrite' sums it up.

banned said...

At the time of the ban I asked the son of friends, who live on the caost, what he thought of it.
He replied that he thought nothing of it because he did not hunt.
I told him "But you do go sea fishing and that will be next". That set him thinking.

Woman on a Raft said...

Ironic that with the rise in the number of urban foxes there are arguments for forming the Beacontree Heath Terrier Footfall. You could have the lead BMXers wearing pink to make them visible to the rest of the field.