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The hunting ban might turn out to have been a good thing

Waitrose sells Horse and Hound magazine.

Huh?

Didn’t they ban hunting, like, years ago? Yes. Yet Horse and Hound is still there on the hotly contested shelves of the Waitrose magazine rack, and in the posh aspirational section right next to Country Homes & Interiors to boot. I suppose some of the reason for H&H’s survival must be down to upping the quotient of writing about Princess Zara and her horse Toytown and downing the quotient about hunting. Even so, it must be galling for the anti-hunting activist community. Not what they imagined back in the heady days of 2004 when they were offering to help the government and police enforce a hunting ban.

At this point I could either launch into a detailed, link-filled account of whatever it is hunts actually do these days or I could just vaguely mutter some half-remembered stuff about how there is some get-out clause that allows them to chase the foxes with as long as they don’t actually kill them, or if they do it’s collateral damage or done for research or something. I shall do the latter and make a virtue of it, because vague half-remembered perceptions and their political consequences are what this post is actually about.

It didn’t stick. Thirty years plus of campaigning, thousands of letters to the editor, millions of Ban Hunting Now badges, at least three private members’ bills, Royal Commissions galore, keeping the faith in the dark days of Thatcher, then the dawning hope that this Bill might be the real deal, First Reading, Second Reading, Committee, Third Reading… then that last minute farrago with the Parliament Act when the Lords cut up rough, then finally Royal Asssent (through gritted Royal teeth, yeah)… all that and it still didn’t bloody stick. The hunts are still there, shooting foxes by firing squad or whatever they do, and the sabs are still there cutting off peoples’ heads with gyrocopter blades or whatever they do, and when the Tories get in, as they almost certainly will in three months time, they will repeal the ban.

I will rejoice. I have never seen the appeal of hunting, still less hunt-following, but hundreds of thousands of my fellow-citizens seem to like these pastimes, as their ancestors did, and a large proportion of the human race still do. The anti-hunt argument that does have some power to move me is the one about preventing suffering of a creature who can suffer. I myself prefer not to think too deeply about Mr Fox getting killed by dogs – but I do not see that it differs much from what Mr Fox does to rabbits. It’s a predator thing. As for the argument about humans, get lost. On those grounds the new puritans had about the same moral right to stop their fellow humans hunting foxes as they would have to stop their fellow mammals, the foxes, hunting rabbits. Another thing, it bugged me to hear people who, if they were to learn that Amazonian tribesmen, having been forced to give up their ancient traditions of the hunt, had taken to soccer and Playstations instead, would be heard from here to the Amazon squealing about Western cultural oppression – it bugged me to hear these same people cheering on the Western cultural oppression of their own tribesmen.

As well as rejoicing to see these puritans discomfited, I will rejoice because the repeal of the ban is a retrograde step. When one has gone in a wrong direction a backwards step is a good thing. Every generation or so the progressives have the presumption buried in their name for themselves knocked out of them and the whooshing noise is pleasing. Yet for most of the my lifetime their presumption has been justified. The progressive ratchet slips a little but mostly it moves on. What a liberation it would be to see the clock turn back, just to show it could! What strange new vistas it might open if one bad law were repealed. We could repeal some more. The smoking ban… the European Communities Act 1972… it might even have an effect overseas; at present most people seem to assume that President Obama’s historic achievement in passing the US healthcare bill is just that, historic. A historic change is a change that stays changed. But history turns round sometimes, as the original puritans found out to their cost in 1660.

So the repeal of the hunting ban will be a fine thing, and on that morning even I shall hear something of the

..long-drawn chorus
Of a running pack before us
From the find to the kill.

But the end of a bad law and the good example its end sets will not be the only reasons to rejoice. Sure, repeal will annoy the progressives but – as the fox understands the huntsmen – a law going against them for once in a while leaves their worldview intact. What I really will value in the repeal is that it will be symbolic completion of a process that has already happened. The Royal Assent on this one may be good fun for her Maj, and me, but the really subversive thing is that people will say, “Oh, they’ve got rid of that law… didn’t know it was still on the books, actually. I’m sure I saw Horse and Hound on sale on Waitrose.”

29 comments to The hunting ban might turn out to have been a good thing

  • Samizdata Illuminatus

    Natalie: We have missed you. Please blog more

  • Alice

    Repealing an intrusive unnecessary unpopular law is always a good thing.

    But wouldn’t it be an even better thing to have the sort of Political Class that would not pass intrusive unnecessary unpopular laws in the first place?

  • Alice,

    Intrusive and unecessary, yes, but not unpopular. I haven’t got time to check it now but I believe that a majority favoured the ban at the time of its passing. I don’t know if anyone has done a survey of recent opinion. Repression of other people is often quite popular.

  • F0ul

    I remember getting quite shouty at the TV back in the early 80′s. I was only 12, but I remember how unfair it was at that time that people should pass their beliefs and standards onto a lifestyle and tradition which didn’t involve them.

    I will be a happy bunny the day the hunting ban is repealed -but I won’t actually go hunting, because I would prefer to use a bow – and that is still illegal – regardless of who is in power.

    This is possibly because they know that if you allow hunting weapons in the hands of the people, they might one day change their targets from the rodents on the land to the ones in the house!!

  • RAB

    More people go hunting now than before the ban.

    I drop in at the Rudry Hunt on Boxing day if I can. I dont ride well enough to hunt, but my farmer cousins do. I just have a few pints at the Maen LLwyd and catch up with family gossip.

    Dont suppose Waitrose also carry a number called The Crusty and Treehugger do they? Na thought not, it didn’t really take off. The target readership tended to shoplift it rather than buy ;-)

  • thefrollickingmole

    Ive never understood the appeal of foxes as a symbol.

    I raised chooks for money as a kid, and still have a few for bumnuts now. The whole mysterious “nature kills only what it needs” is crap. A fox will kill and continue to kill every chook/rabbit it can till its either run out of puff or theres nothing left.

    A lot of animals are like that.

    The fox sufferes exactly what it would suffer if packs of wild dogs were around, no more, no less.

    The bonus is it is a thumb in the eye of the bansturbators.

  • There are people who still read printed magazines? Weird.

  • I haven’t got time to check it now but I believe that a majority favoured the ban at the time of its passing.

    Yeah, people usually opposed hunting when a loaded question was forced down their throat by a pollster. Otherwise, most people couldn’t care less about fox hunting.

  • Michael, I’d buy Country Homes & Interiors if I could afford to… lurking around the magazine stand and seeing if any of the posh house magazines didn’t have those pesky plastic bags round them so I could peep at the pictures is how I came to notice Horse and Hound in Waitrose.

    Looking at the spreads online just ain’t the same. It’s the smell and touch of the glossy paper or something.

    Most annoyingly our local doctors’ surgery, to whom some kind person used to donate old issues of posh house magazines for the waiting room, when I was last there had thrown them all away as a precaution against swine flu. I must get sick again and see if this is still the case.

  • APL

    NS: “Even so, it must be galling for the anti-hunting activist community. ”

    ‘Community’, pleeeze.

    The ‘community’ suffered a setback when Linda McCartney died and stopped funding the ‘movement’.

    The ‘community’ was her creature, good riddance to both.

  • It is also worth pointing out that IMO the anti-hunting lobby was nothing to do with animal rights. It was pure class war! If people want to do class war, fine, at least have the guts to admit it instead of hiding behind some false concern for animal welfare.
    Tally-ho!

  • While it makes sense that some considerable disturbance (horses, horns, possibly hounds) is likely to be necessary to flush the nasty Mr Reynard into the open, it’s still likely to be more humane (and almost certainly more interesting and challenging) to introduce him to the hereafter, via a small, high-velocity piece of lead, rather than a pack of hounds.

    Such a shame that, even before the hunting ban, it became so much harder to obtain a licence for a rifle!

  • RAB

    The law was never about animal welfare Dave, it was all about Class War.
    And believe me, it may be messy to watch, but a pack of hounds will make swift and certain work of a fox. Shooting is tricky, they are not large animals and you may miss or wing them, then they will suffer even more.

    Actually, probably more hunters are killed or injured every year than foxes, it is a bloody dangerous pastime!

  • Machine-Longbows.

    Tomorrow’s solution, looking for today’s problems.

    For people, and for The Children.

  • To RAB:
    “The law was never about animal welfare Dave, it was all about Class War.
    And believe me, it may be messy to watch, but a pack of hounds will make swift and certain work of a fox. Shooting is tricky, they are not large animals and you may miss or wing them, then they will suffer even more.

    Actually, probably more hunters are killed or injured every year than foxes, it is a bloody dangerous pastime!”

    It was never about people, or about the hurts they suffer in doing it. It was, is, and will be, about erazing a culture they hate and despise and fear, for it contradicts their world-view. The really dangerous thing for GramscoStalnists is that “ordinary people” (with “no money”) mostly are the sort that go hunting. This makes it much much harder for them, and they now know that they will really, really, in due course, have to use violence.

    Like Pol Pot against people who wore spectacles.

    The danger is that they really believe what they are saying, and not enough of us realise it.

  • RAB

    It was never about people, or about the hurts they suffer in doing it.

    ‘fraid you missed my point there David, which was an aside.

    The Hunt Sabs and the promoters of the Anti Hunting Law, couldn’t have cared less how many Hunters were hurt, killed or seriously injured, the more the merrier as far as they are concerned!

    I once went undercover for a national newspaper on this issue, so I know a lot more about these cunts than I am prepared to discuss here. Suffice it to say that if any violence occured or was threatened, well you know from which side it came from dont you?

  • Nuke Gray

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again- Britain could do with a third chamber in Westminster, devoted solely to repealing laws! Call it the Delegislative Chamber.
    Just an idea.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    On the issue of repeal, I must say I like the idea of a General Repeal Bill to overturn all of the major domestic legislation introduced by the current government. MPs would have to set out which laws they would exempt from such a repeal, and why. Also, all laws should contain sunset clauses in them.

    I read somewhere that under the present administration, thousands of new criminal offences have been created and that the situation is so out of control that ordinary coppers cannot keep up with the number of offences for which they can arrest people. Madness.

  • My terrier will kill a rat at the drop of a hat. Many dogs will kill other creatures because it comes natural to them. Many other creatures kill other creatures. Nature in the raw is rough and tough. It’s when supposedly superior human beings get dogs/hounds to kill foxes, hares, stags, etc., for their own fun and amusement that it becomes plain disgusting. I am pleased that the Hunting Act 2004 was passed. It represented progress. The Conservatives are daft if they think that un-banning the ban will do them any good. And I write this as a countryman born and bred.

  • It’s when supposedly superior human beings get other human beings for having fun and amusement that it becomes plain disgusting

    . There, fixed.

  • Andrew Duffin

    I now trust Call-me-Dave so little, that in the (unlikely) event of him managing to acquire a working majority, I fully expect him to find something in EU Law that requires the ban to stay in place.

  • Let’s see what would happen if “hunting wild mammals with dogs” was fully-banned.

    (1) Some hound-packs’ bloodlines will go to Ireland, France, Poland, Russia, Germany, Canada and other friendly places. So little loss here except to the lives of hounds sadly caught in England while being alive today.

    (2) Lots of angry “country people” and even (tell it not in Gath) “local people”. I don’t know what the difference is between “people” and “local people”, but the GramscoFabiaNazis do seem to know: I would value their input here, from any that are listening in. Jobs will be lost, but that’s just what socialism does. Less fun allowed from chasing furry nasty chicken-murdering-animals across muddy fields, which I have to say sounds almost as much fun as strapping a Spitfire on your bottom and becoming a flying gun.

    (3) All foxes in the UK will be shot, terriered-in-their-holes, gassed, poisoned or snared. or crushed by spades/shot by airguns and stuffed into dumpsters in Battersea and Clapham. There are currently about 2 million foxes in the UK at any time, of which 400,000 a year become road-kill, 200,000 die of disease (usually painful and prolonged) or old age, and about 20,000 are killled by hunts or other predators. the fox will become functionally-extinct in the UK. the fox will not benefit from absolute legal protection: only from being treated as wild game/vermin to be controlled in an orderly and social manner.

    (4) hunting with hounds preferentially culls older, tired, diseased or slower foxes, which improves the species by natural selection. it is good for the fox species in the UK, good for vibrant multiculturalism of diversity among local people, good for wildlife, good for horses and hounds, and good for liberty.

  • MicroBalrog

    It’s when supposedly superior human beings get dogs/hounds to kill foxes, hares, stags, etc., for their own fun and amusement that it becomes plain disgusting. It’s when supposedly superior human beings get dogs/hounds to kill foxes, hares, stags, etc., for their own fun and amusement that it becomes plain disgusting.

    <- ON this logic we should all become vegetarians. You don’t genuinely NEED meat of any times. So anytime you buy a hamburger, you’re sponsoring the killing of a cow for your own amusement.

  • Rob H

    I think you are very optimistic if you think Dave will repeal.

    All he has offered is a free vote, which with only a slim majority would fall at the first hurdle.

    Sorry to dash your expectations.

  • JohnK

    I read somewhere that under the present administration, thousands of new criminal offences have been created and that the situation is so out of control that ordinary coppers cannot keep up with the number of offences for which they can arrest people. Madness.

    They thought of that, the police can now arrest you for anything. Got to populate the DNA database somehow.

  • Giles Bradshaw

    The law is that animals can only be flushed out if they are shot. This might make a certain amount of sense for red foxes which are territorial animals and will return.

    However Red deer are herd animals and roam far and wide. I flush Red Deer out with dogs but I don’t want to shoot them.

    While I support people’s right to shoot deer surely I should also have the right not to shoot the deer I flush out.

    Once I have flushed the deer out they simply move on. It’s completely wrong that this should only be legal if they are then killed

    I am proud to stand up and openly flout such a fatuous law passed by deeply ignorant MPs.

  • Sunfish

    It’s when supposedly superior human beings get dogs/hounds to kill foxes, hares, stags, etc., for their own fun and amusement that it becomes plain disgusting.

    What about supposedly superior humans who shoot elk and birds and fluffy little bunnies without the aid of dogs? Are we bad and disgusting people too?

    I could try using help from dogs, but my lazy-ass dog is no help at all. She doesn’t like loud noises and a can for a shotgun is money that I just ain’t got this week.

    Only shot one fox in my life. Little bastard was killing my neighbors’ chickens. No dogs involved there either. Is that okay with you?

    Or do you have what it takes to let someone else kill an immobile cow for you, but not enough sack to do it yourself?

  • but my lazy-ass dog is no help at all

    What about the cat?