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High Noon

For reasons I cannot even begin to adequately explain, the gatherings of the increasingly angry and militant pro-hunt movement conjours up ‘spaghetti western’ images in my head; the brooding silence, the tumbleweed, the flinty, menacing stares and the ‘man’s-gotta-do-what-a-man’s-gotta-do’ atmosphere of grim resolve.

Yes, somewhere out in merciless, sun-baked badlands, guns are being greased and cheroots are being lit. The Hunting Clan is fixin’ for a showdown:

Thousands of people have gathered around England and Wales to protest against moves to outlaw hunting with dogs.

Organisers said 37,000 protesters at 11 rallies on Saturday and one on Friday, to mark the first day of the new hunting season, signed a pledge to ignore any ban.

Alright, it is actually the middle of the verdant English countryside, but you get the gist.

Having failed in their appeals to reason, common sense and principle, the hunters are still threatened with a government prohibition that will eradicate a centuries-old tradition and the way of rural life that has grown up around it. They are being ‘run out of town’ for no better reason than that they are perceived as an easy target for a government that wants to score cultural ‘brownie points’ with the metropolitan elite.

So the hunters have decided that they are not going to be such an easy target after all. I do not see what else they can do. It is fight or die and they have chosen the former:*

The Declaration is an opportunity for those who support the freedom to hunt to demonstrate to the public, press, Peers, parliamentarians and the Government that we will never accept unjust law. Critically, it aims to convey in an unambiguous way that enough people are committed to either refusing to accept any law that comes into effect (if it does) that any such law would be unenforceable and so fail.

While the language is temperate, the intention is unambiguous: they intend a campaign of civil disobedience. It is an open and explicit challenge to the authority of the British government. What started as protest has become insurrection.

It is still not clear whether the government will press ahead with the abolition of hunting in England and Wales (the ban has already passed into law in Scotland). But, if they do, and these people are good to their pledge, then they are quite capable of making life very difficult indeed for the authorities. In effect, a low-level civil war will be waged in the English countryside.

Regardless of whether or not that scenario comes to pass, I get the feeling that the hunters have started something that will have consequences in the future. The Labour government’s sustained attacks on rural England have led to an awful lot of people getting angry, getting political and getting organised and of such activism are revolutionary movements born. I have no idea how long it will take or what it will become but I do strongly suspect that the countryside movement will metastasise into something much broader and wider than the issue of fox-hunting.

[*The link is to the homepage of the Hunting Declaration where sympathisers can download a copy of the Declaration to sign and send in with or without a donation to the cause.]

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76 comments to High Noon

  • eric

    I guess I’m curious on how ‘loyal’ the rural constabulary is. For if Lord so-and-so is going off and having his hunt, its going to be that local policeman that will enforce the law (or not).

    How are the rabid anti-hunting types received in the countryside? Do they even go and protest there?

  • Julian Morrison

    Really interesting thing about this movement: it’s the first large scale movement in England to put the case that rights are not democratically negotiable and that law which tries to abolish them is not legitimate.

    I don’t think most of them realise quite how radical a position this is, yet.

  • mark holland

    Sadly though Julian, their banners go for the democratic approach.

    59% say keep hunting apparently. Signs carrying this slogan popped up back in the summer. I remember thinking at the time that this was a rocky road to take. What if suddenly only 49% say keep hunting? Then they are screwed. I suppose an explanation about tyranny wouldn’t really fit onto a sign strung up on a stop sign.

  • Tony H

    Julian, I think you’re correct about the pro-hunt grass-roots activists not knowing “how radical a position” they’re adopting. Things have taken so long to get this serious because the Brits are overwhelmingly not politically radical, especially not those in the countryside, whose passivity often makes me want to shriek with frustration.
    In fact, to answer Eric’s question (from the USA?) yes, the anti-hunt protesters, “Hunt Saboteurs” and the like, have long been a menace in the countryside, carrying out acts of outrageous vandalism, arson, threats and assault that have not been echoed by the hunt supporters themselves to the same degree. A few pro-hunt people have been charged with assault, but really, so few that it makes one wonder how much provocation it takes to get people angry here. I’m not a horse & hounds type, and I’m glad – because if I was, I would get into trouble as soon as I was assailed by a HuntSab, for returning violence with superior violence…
    A major problem with Hunts being subjected to attack by these loathsome vermin (the Sabs, not the foxes) is that, as in other walks of life, the police choose to see their role as that of referees between two groups of people with equal “rights” – not as upholders of the peace, protecters of law-abiding people against anarchic thuggery.
    Property rights, and the right to self defence, don’t mean much here anymore.

  • The answer is simple and already in force for other similar rules that target a small but vocal and/or potentially violent minority that the state wants to appease. Once the anti-hunting legislation is passed, all that our New Labour friends need to do is apply it in the same, but inverted way as the current drug legislation – tolerate it in the inner cities, outlaw it in the sticks. Rigourously enforce the fox protection rules in SW4, E14 and the like and allow it in Gloucestershire, Lincolnshire and West Sussex.
    .

    Over to you, Michael Howard.

  • Verity

    Tony H – “… as in other walks of life, the police choose to see their role as that of referees between two groups of people with equal “rights” – not as upholders of the peace, protecters of law-abiding people against anarchic thuggery.”

    Well put. This is exactly what has happened. There is absolutely no thought of upholding the law. In fact, upholding the law seems to be regarded by the British police as being rather repressive and intrusive on lawbreakers’ human rights.

  • Not being British, it’s hard for me to believe that this is really “about” hunting. It strikes me as much more likely to be a spirit-breaker, an imposition of the State’s will over a relatively unimportant item with the principal intention of demonstrating that we can do anything we want to you. Along with that, it removes the last rationale for the private ownership of firearms.

    How have British attitudes toward “their” police been trending? Does the average man in the street still see the local constable as a provider of assistance and the maintainer of public order, or has there been a hint of aversion in the air?

    Perhaps I’ve just been feeling particularly rebellious lately, but I see this as a political diode. If the people of Great Britain allow “their” government to fasten this yoke upon their necks, there will be no turning back for them.

  • S. Weasel

    Francis: you might find the reader comments on the BBC News site interesting. There’s a generous dollop of class warfare behind hunt protesters, but it seems mostly that Britain has come down with one hellacious, godawful case of Fluffy Bunny Syndrome.

  • EU Delenda Est

    Francis – you hit the nail on the head. Yes, a lot of Bliar’s unneeded legislation and diktats are to show the voter who is the boss. It has never once crossed the head of Bliar and his confreres that the voter is the boss. Never.

    One reason the figures for burglary are going down in London is not because of better policing. The public has twigged that the police are too busy filling in forms and attending racial awareness classes to do footwork on burglaries and muggings. So they’ve stopped reporting them. Why call the cops and wait four or five hours for them to turn up and hand you a docket for your insurance company and the number of a “Victim Support” line? So, much crime is now going unreported. The police in England make it abundantly clear that they are not there to get involved in other people’s misfortunes. There may be pockets where it is not the case – and other Samizdatas will pile in to correct me if I’m wrong – but no one in Britain thinks of the police as their ally or saviour any more. (Except criminals, of course.)

  • Julian Morrison

    The BBC news site picks and chooses “representative” comments to show. Which means they present their own bias, with a leavening of half hearted “balance” comments for the opposition. I’ve never yet see them post a libertarian comment, or display one of mine.

  • Verity

    Julian Morrison, I agree, but these people aren’t there to promote their own biases. They’re paid out of mandatory, through threat of imprisonment, fees extracted from people who own television sets. Their personal little agendas are not relevant. As has been mentioned so often it’s become a truism, but the people in the BBC defend themselves against being leftists so vigorously because they honestly cannot conceive of the legitimacy of any point of view other than the one with which they were indoctrinated by their Marxist professors at their lefty universities. To them, an intention to vote Tory, or the possession of libertarian beliefs, is a sign of far right madness and should be discounted as not being worthy of being included in the debate.

    This attitude will prevail until the BBC is dismantled or completely, not partly, privatised and people get jobs on merit, not loyalty to the party line.

  • Dave

    Thefts going unreported? I find that awfully hard to believe, its not easy to make an insurance claim without a crime number. One of the reasons crime has increased is because of people reporting crime for insurance purposes.

  • sassamon

    Dave,

    I had a car radio stolen from my car that I did not put in an insurance claim for.

    The value of the radio was less than the deductable on the insurance policy.

    I did contact the police and learned that the thief(s) had cleaned out the entire street of radios that night.

    This was in 1992 and the USA. YMMV

  • JK

    These protests always peter out in the UK. Remember the petrol price demonstrations?

    The reason is as described above: nobody in the UK, from Blair down to the voters themselves, really believes that ‘the voter is the boss’ or that voters have ‘inalienable rights’.

    The only home of true individual rights in the USA (precisely why I emigrated here from the UK).

  • Guy Herbert

    EU Delenda Est writes: “It has never once crossed the head of Bliar and his confreres that the voter is the boss.”

    That, I think is dead wrong. The one thing that never leaves their minds is how to maintain the vote, and thus power.

    That’s precisely why the obsession with fox-hunting. And why, I suspect, TB must be inordinately pleased that it is taking so long to do. It sends a message to two particularly well defined segments of the voting population, class-haters and animal rightists, that New Labour is on their side.

    With hunting actually stopped it will be hard to find another issue that’s both of marginal importance to the way the country runs and has such totemic power.

  • Julian Morrison

    JK, I think these protests won’t peter out.

    The fuel protests were more or less undirected whingeing because nobody seemed to have undersood that petrol is tapwater cheap, pre-tax. They were just “ow, it hurts, somebody fix this”. Then random events lowered the price, and the protests evaporated.

    The hunters by contrast have a definite goal, they know who their enemy is, and they’re about as fed up as it’s possible for britons to get.

    Leading on from what Guy Herbert said, ironically the drawn out nature of this hunt war helps us at least as much as it does Labour – because it’s being hammered into the heads of these “law abiding” people, that democracy doesn’t make right, and that legislation can be anthetical to (natural) law.

  • Bill

    Every pack of hunting dogs should now include a Rottweiler to deal with the 2-legged weasels that might be encountered, eh?

  • Inspire 28

    Perhaps the country folk should demand laws against urban mouse trapping, rat poisoning and fly swatting.

  • Sadly, I think the opinions expressed on the BBC site may actually be the prevailing majority view across the nation.

    A typical case of “Tyranny by Majority” in progress. It’s not just the government. It may be that many people actually do support it in this effort.

  • slowjoe

    To re-state what Guy Herbert said above…

    The fox-hunting issue was on of the very few radical actions in Blair’s first term that would have appealed to the party activists at large. (The constitutional changes would have appealed to the celtic fringe, but not have been much of an issue in the major cities. For the first term, essentially there was no transport policy, and they stuck to the Tory spending targets.)

    The bill is introduced (without a whip being imposed) and then blocked in the Lords, and Comrade Tony gets a little bit of street-cred with the vegan fringe.

  • jimbo

    I think Wobbley Guy may have it right. Speaking as an American, I think one problem that the UK has is an inordinate concentration of power and influence in the metropolis. They don’t have a federal system to disperse power to the hinterlands, so the hinterlands end up ruled by the whim of city dwellers who have no understanding of or sympathy for their way of life.

  • This is not actually the first time in British history that people have sworn oaths to defy laws they saw unjust. It happened before, in a case with a number of similarities: the National Covenant of Scotland. The history underlines just how radical a position is being taken here. More power to them in it, for they are right.

  • richard

    Paedophilia is a “centuries-old tradition”. The vast majority of people are opposed to (in fact, repelled by) paedophilia. A great majority of people are opposed to (in fact, repelled by) killing animals for pleasure.

    I don’t think the difference between “vast” and “great” is sufficient basis for tolerating opposition to the expressed and disproportionate will of society.

    I do that think if paedophiles were massing on our streets and making what they no doubt regard as appeals to reason, common sense and principle, we’d be rounding us up a posse comitatus.

    The difference here is. … what, exactly?

  • The difference is that in your analogy, there are crucial factors that set hunters apart from pedophiles.

    Most importantly, foxes, and other animals, excluding human beings, are not sentient beings capable of rational thought. Children are(or will be).

    In that case, do the rights of the pedophile outweigh the rights of the child? Obviously, they do not.

    Here, do the foxes have any damn rights at all? I do not think so.

  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    It’s not about foxes…not about animal cruelty. It’s about toffs on horseback in red coats. These wretched people are a constant reminder that some people (quite likely undeservedly) have more money, power and privilege than others. They must be punished.

  • Wot, me ?

    Grim (what is your name ?) points out a way in which people who care deeply about something may be underestimated. Here’s another : 37 000 is more than a third of the size of the standing army. And this 37 000 (rural, unimpressed by mainstream politics and already pretty pissed-off with having ludicrous interference in every aspect of thier lives) are more or less to a man (and woman) the few in the UK who still a) hold firearms and b) know how to use them.

  • Julian Morrison

    People own themselves. People own land. People own foxes, or the foxes are unowned. You have to be sapient to be able to own stuff, because ownership is a conceptual disute resolution mechanism, and nonsapient lifeforms can’t conceptualize.

    Ownership is the basis of natural law. All crimes are a variant on trespass, theft, or property damage. Assault is trespass on your self ownership, and perhaps damage to your body. Regulation is theft of your property (letting you nominally keep the use of it, but only if you are obedient). And so forth.

    In the case of banning fox hunting, it is theft of (the owner’s right to freely use) land, theft of foxes, trespass upon the person of those wrongfully arrested for “breaking the law”, theft of whatever’s lost fighting the law, theft of whatever’s foregone obeying the law. While chasing foxes may or may not be cruel and in bad taste, a ban would be an utterly unconscionable mass crime.

    The “view of the majority” is irrelevant. Democracy is irrelevant. They are not normative. Property is normative.

    Now do you understand richard?

  • S. Weasel

    You know what I love about the “animals are as valuable as people and have the same rights” argument? If you point out to its proponents that animals themselves kill one another in perfectly horrible ways…every day…for a living…they almost always respond with, “well, I should hope we’re better than animals.”

    Yesssss.

  • Eric Sivula

    Richard, do pedophiles prevent (or try to prevent) children eating farm animals, or overpopulating themselves? If not then your analogy is pretty inaccurate. Also, how is hunting foxes more inhumane than killing roaches, rats, or microbes?

  • richard

    Most importantly, foxes, and other animals, excluding human beings, are not sentient beings capable of rational thought I have no idea, and don’t really care, whether the pregnant goat thrown from the belltower, the bull driven into the harbour with its horns set on fire, or the eviscerated fox rationalises the sensation. I’m revolted by people taking pleasure in suffering, sentiently experienced or not. And I’m nervous about standing in Tesco next to people who think it is OK to rub the forehead of a pre-puescent girl with the stump of a freshly torn apart fox. What’s sentience got to do with that? {It’s probably grossly bad manners to treat a fellow’s comment facility as a discussion forum, so I’ll thank our host and retire at this point.}

  • Maybe my sci-fi nerdness is showing, but there’s always ET for non-human sentience and rights(property or otherwise)…

    Always good to cover all the bases first. Heh.

  • Julian Morrison

    Nah disputation is what these thingies are for. Or else why have them?

    Basically richard, the cruelness (or not), despicableness (or not) of fox hunting is seperate from the question of right-to-do-it. Rights derive from property. The right to not be attacked derives from self ownership. Foxes have no such right, they have no rights at all, because they are not self (or anything) owners. Ownership requires sapience. Foxes aren’t sapient.

    Hunters and land owners are sapient, and taking away their rights to hunt their own foxes on their own land, or to allow others to do likewise, would be a crime of theft and trespass.

    If you disapprove of hunting there are noncrime ways to oppose it, such as protest, persuasion, shunning the hunters.

  • Sydney P

    The thing is, Richard, that this bill isn’t outlawing hunting, it’s just trading hunting with hounds for licenced shooting and poisoning. It’s as though the government outlawed pedophalia except when performed with mechanical devices by govenment licence. If I may use your repulsive analogy, that is, that equates foxes with children. How do you feel about rats and cockroaches in your own house, by the way? Not so cute?

    What makes this bill so disgusting is that it only encourages the total disconnection of humans from nature. Of course hunting is cruel and terrifying– that’s how wild animals die. And being hunted down by a fellow canid and torn apart is how foxes die– at least, it’s why the fox line fades out when it hits the coyote line out west here. The government, and most of the British population it seems, would like to see something beautiful, chaotic, and natural, replaced by something hidden, ugly, and mechanical, that is shooting or poisoning. The fact is, this bill is anti-nature, and most ‘nature’ lovers don’t love nature at all, or at least don’t love the parts they can’t pick and choose. They would prefer wild foxes were carfully euthanized in a hospital setting, I suppose.

    Let’s hope the theme-park-ization of the countriside stops in Britain. Won’t it be great when the Serengeti lions are fed with battery-farmed chickens by roving veteraniarns?

  • richard

    Julian: oh go on then, twist my arm.

    Poor fox. One minute it’s OK to disembowel it because it isn’t subject to the human concept of “sentience”, the next it is because it is subject to the human concept of “property”. Neither statement can be falsified. But then, neither statement is particularly relevant and therefore needs to be.

    I don’t believe the issue is founded on the abstract notions of “property” and “rights”. I believe it is founded on the concrete notion of the sensation of acute physical hurt or discomfort caused by injury, and a desire not to live in a society in which pleasure is derived from its deliberate infliction.

    There are noncrime ways of opposing it. Last I checked, voting in a government to pass laws constituted one of those ways.

  • Tony H

    I’m glad that Richard surfaced to voice the “will of the majority” and “paedophilia equates to fox hunting” themes, because he illustrates perfectly the sentimental confusion of humans with animals that explains an awful lot of the opposition to hunting in (overwhelmingly urban) Britain. Walt Disney has a lot to answer for. And his suggestion about feeling unsafe standing next to people who might be hunters is just weird: probably the safest large gatherings of people I ever attended have been the first two big rallies/marches organised by the CA, along with the Pistol Anno Domini meetings at Bisley, filled with fellow shooters armed to the teeth… I felt a damn sight safer there than in any regular city street you care to name.

  • Andy Freeman

    > There are noncrime ways of opposing it. Last I checked, voting in a government to pass laws constituted one of those ways.

    This is one of those instances where “crime” is a matter of definition, without much substance.

    I note that passing laws is a violent act.

    My personal rule is that if stopping someone from commiting some act doesn’t justify shooting them, said act should not be illegal. Why? Because making an act illegal is agreeing to shoot someone who does it.

    So Richard, are you willing to shoot hunters? Do you think that they should be shot on your behalf?

  • richard

    Thanks, Tony. It remarkable what you can tell about a chap from 3 postings, isn’t it? 😉

    My analogy compares the arguments employed respectively by paedophiles and hunters, not their subjects. I harbour no confusion about the difference between humans and animals. I am alive to the dangers of anthropomorphism. An adult would feel nervous and revolted in a rally of paedophiles yet still feel perfectly safe.

    It is hard to avoid language that is not emotive. But when I describe it as barbarous I use the term literally: it is primitive and uncivilised. It impoverishes the society in which it exists. Civilization is, after all, literally a state of cultural and moral refinement, in which this activity is incompatible. I just don’t want to live in a backward society.

    There are those who cannot separate “animals” from “humans”. They do not invalidate the arguments of those of us who can.

  • Jim

    It seems like a typical right-left argument, but you probably don’t want to make it the bellweather reason for Britons to vote Tory in the next election. In America, the Iraq War is probably going to be the reason to vote for Bush next year…in England the Tories need something really good to run against the Liberals with…something that shows their moral depravity as well as their assault on tradition. This issue doesn’t show their moral depravity enough.

  • richard

    … and Andy, you present me with a false dilemma: I’m neither willing to shoot hunters, nor have them shot on my behalf. Same is true of paedophiles. I am in favour, though, of forcibly imposing the collective will of society on them through the legimately constituted constabulary.

  • Harry Powell

    Richard, do you feel the same way about halal butchery? It’s clearly a cruel death for the animal involved, so surely your intentionalism would dictate that halal butchers be watched while they work and arrested the moment they show even a glimmer of satisfaction in their jobs.

  • richard

    Er, yes Harry. But eating a chop and blooding a gel are two distinctly different activities, wouldn’t you say? Please don’t confuse me for a vegetarian.

  • S. Weasel

    Ah, you’re sidestepping, Richard. He wasn’t talking about eating a chop, he was talking about halal butchery, a cruel and unnecessary procedure. You are in favor of banning it by law, yes?

    Or is it the element of pleasure – what goes on in people’s heads when they do things – what revolts you? (In which case, it’s not much different for the poor bloody animal, is it?)

  • Tony H

    Ah, “forcibly imposing the collective will of society on them” hits the spot, Richard. This is the problem: you find it perfectly acceptable to coerce, intimidate, constrain and punish a minority of people simply for conducting a private activity that damages the liberty of no-one else and that is certainly nobody else’s business, seemingly because you don’t like it and you can claim the support of a possible majority in the country, and a definite majority in the Commons.
    “Barbarous..primitive..uncivilised” ? Sounds like the plaint of an urbanite separated by a few years – or at most a generation or two – from his rural origins. People are hunters – it’s in the blood, yours included. Your friends the Sabs hunt fox hunters, presumably for the thrill of the chase, and commit acts of violence against them and their property. Politicians such as Banks & Co hunt the hunters too, fuelled by the venom of class hatred and the urge to destroy their political enemies. Hunters only pursue animals: a structured, rule-governed atavism that channels those instincts we all still possess in a way that is socially harmless – indeed, constructive in the sense that it is a powerful bonding force for rural communities.
    And most of the country people I know regard cities and their blinkered denizens as far more “uncivilised” than anything that happens to a fox in a country field.
    The majority hates hunting? Who cares? Why should it matter? If the majority votes tomorrow to crucify shoplifters, is that OK with you? No, don’t answer…

  • Andy Freeman

    > I’m neither willing to shoot hunters, nor have them shot on my behalf.

    It’s not a false dilemma – enforcing a law requires inflicting violence on violators. At some point, you end up shooting them. (No, jailing isn’t any better, and you can’t get them to jail without shooting them.)

    > I am in favour, though, of forcibly imposing the collective will of society on them through the legimately constituted constabulary.

    In other words, Richard is willing to inflict violence, he just doesn’t like to take “credit” for it in those terms.

    I so wonder why he’s unwilling to wield the truncheon himself. Is he incompent or is such beneath him?

  • Harry Powell

    Richard writes “But eating a chop and blooding a gel are two distinctly different activities, wouldn’t you say?”

    Actually no I wouldn’t. I’d be interested to know you think the attitude of a hunter or a butcher makes any difference to the morality of their actions, after all it can’t be any consolation to the animal.

  • Cobden Bright

    There seem to be lots of attempts to avoid the crux of the matter here. The attempt to ban hunting is not about point-scoring or class warfare (although a minority may be acting for those reasons), it is about people’s view that fox-hunting inflicts needless and avoidable cruelty and suffering.

    Some have argued that the fox, like any animal, has no rights because it is not sentient, or at least not a rational agent. Clearly this is incorrect, otherwise torturing animals for personal fun and profit (e.g. bear-baiting, staged dog fights etc) would be a legal and acceptable activity. I think most people, libertarians included, accept that animals have a right not to be tortured for the sake of it.

    Now, why is torturing animals wrong? Presumably because unnecessary infliction of pain and suffering on another living thing is viewed as wrong, even if it is not a human being. Hence laws against killing or maiming dogs, cats etc.

    Obviously, we also accept that sometimes suffering is necessary. We may need to kill a dangerous dog, or destroy harmful vermin such as a rat. But just because it is ok to kill a rat, does not mean it is ok to torture the rat for hours for no good reason. So the “it’s ok to kill rats, why not foxes” argument gets shot down in flames. Yes, it is ok to kill a fox if it threatens your livestock, but it is not acceptable to torture it for hours beforehand for no good reason. Again, the concept of *unnecessary* suffering comes into play.

    If we accept that unnecessary infliction of pain is wrong, then it becomes clear where the objection to fox-hunting arises – objectors consider that the level of suffering inflicted is unnecessary, because there are alternative ways to kill foxes that do not require the animal to experience so much suffering.

    Now whether they are correct or not I do not know. I do know, however, that it is not a moral question, but an empirical one. If death by dog-hunting is a lot more painful and agonizing for the fox, compared to death by shooting, then we have to question whether it is “unnecessary”. If hunting is a lot more efficient than shooting or poisoning, or has less harmful side-effects or risk to bystanders, then there is a good case for keeping it. But if there is no advantage to hunting, and it is demonstrably far crueler to the fox, then it falls into the category of inflicting unnecessary suffering on a living being. In libertarian-speak, it breaches the right of the fox not to have unnecessary pain inflicted on it. If one accepts this line of thought, and views the level of suffering as high enough, and believes hunting by dogs to be virtually unnecessary to kill foxes, then it is sufficient justification to consider preventing it by force.

    So I think the question is fairly clear: is hunting sufficiently necessary as a method of killing foxes, compared to the alternatives, to justify the suffering inflicted on the animal? Many people obviously think not. It is then up to the fox-hunters to demonstrate that the protestors are wrong on this *empirical* matter of fact.

    So I would respect hunters who gave evidence showing how death by poison or gunshot was no less painful a way to die for the fox; or how hunting controlled fox populations more efficiently than shooting or poisoning. But I have rarely heard such arguments, and certainly not on this thread. Instead I have seen attempts to assert that animals are mere chattel without any rights at all, or to claim that because animals are amoral, it is ok for us to be too, or to claim that just because something has been done for years, it is acceptable, or that forcing people to give up a tradition must automatically be wrong. This strikes me as nothing more than pure rationalisation.

    Perhaps we should think of the argument this way. If your pet dog attacked a child, would you accept the right of the parent to wrestle the dog off and then kill it? Presumably you would. But what if the parent, after subduing the dog, then started poking out its eyes, ripping its flesh, cutting off its limbs etc, rather then inflicting a swift and lethal blow? If you saw them doing that, wouldn’t you think it was unnecessary and therefore wrong? Or does the dog have “no rights”?

    P.S. regarding animal rights – animals clearly have *some* sentience and rationality – they avoid pain, pursue pleasure, try to survive and procreate, play with each other, rear young etc, all perfectly rational activities pursued with sentience (without both they would not be able to pursue or achieve these goals successfully). Just because they operate with much less intelligence than humans, does not in itself prove that they lack any reason or sentience.

  • Inspire 28

    To kill a fox, one must first catch it. To die from internal bleeding must surely be painful, but to die of rat borne diseases is worse. Fox hunters used to force villagers to chase the fox. Surely substituting dogs was an act of mercy to people.
    If hunt saboteurs were sincere in their beliefs, they would offer to replace the fox running from the dogs.
    The Welch sing better, the Scots dance better, but no one can beat a good old Brit whining.

  • Actually, I don’t really care what animals think. I have tortured the odd lizard to death by electrocution…

    Oops.

    Really, I don’t have a problem if people want to mutilate and dismember dogs in public limb by limb. I’ll frown on it, but that is their own damn business, not mine.

  • John Daragon

    Cobden Bright – Interesting conceptual argument. Delivered (correct me if I’m wrong) by someone who’s never tried to find the fox (in, say, two and a half thousand acres of mixed arable and woodland), let alone shoot it. Fox control in open country is expensive, time-consuming and (without a pack) bloody difficult.

    jd

  • Maureen

    I find it astounding that almost everyone here seems to equate “hunting with dogs” with “rich people going foxhunting”.

    Aside from the obvious point that most foxhunters aren’t rich, you’re ignoring the obvious point that a dog is also an essential ingredient for traditional hunting by poor people. Even poachers had dogs.

    So basically, this law is a strike at poor country people supplementing their diets and continuing one of the earliest useful skills of human civilization. Wow, what wisdom. What respect for the indigenous people of Britain.

    *Rolling eyes*

    Maureen

  • If we accept that unnecessary infliction of pain is wrong…

    richard asserts that the same reasoning that was used to make bull-baiting illegal could be applied to pack-hunting. I agree.

    But I would add the reasoning expressed above is exactly PETA’s reasoning, and leads quickly to a complete ban on meat. You don’t *need* to eat meat. Humans can subsist entirely on a vegetarian diet. Therefore, all raising and killing of animals is unnecessary infliction of pain.

    But meat is pleasurable. To be honest about it, we trade the suffering of the animals for our pleasure. The only difference between rural fox-hunters and urban omnivores is that the rural man is at least honest about taking pleasure (indirectly) from the suffering of an animal.

  • Sydney P

    When it comes down to it, hunting with hounds IS probably the least cruel method of the control, and the one that is best for the wild population. A hunt does not consist of ‘hours’ of torture, it consists of hours of wandering around the countriside, ten minutes or so of running, and a few seconds of the kill. Unless shooting is likely to kill instantly most of the time, hunting is less cruel– and most people just aren’t good enough shots. Unlike shooting, hunting selects out ill or injured individuals first and dispatches them quickly. Hunting is not outside of any experience a wild fox would ‘expect’ to have anyways.

    In any case, if the real objection is the enjoyment of the hunter, how are we supposed to ensure that rifle hunters don’t enjoy what they’re doing? What about butchers– perhaps some sadistic butchers are lurking around?

    I would be a lot more open to ‘will of the majority’ arguments if the majority wasn’t so ludicrously ignorant about the issues. I’ve never spoken to anyone for more than five minutes about fox hunting without realizing that they actually haven’t a clue what goes on on a hunt.

  • Not even the pet-loving Brits will be able to adopt all the thousands of hounds, who will serve no useful purpose once fox-hunting is banned.

    I assume all the animal rights people, who don’t want the poor ickle fox to die, will help the kennel-keepers destroy all the dogs…?

    No, I didn’t think so, either.

    Animal lovers, my fat African-American ass.

  • Guy Herbert

    Cobden Bright and Maureen seem to be missing my point from different sides. The Government has not spent a great deal of parliamentary time on hunting because it cares greatly about cruelty to wild animals, or because it thinks hunting is for toffs who should be discomfited as a priority, but because it knows that there are quite fanatical people who do hold one or both of these views close to their hearts and will vote accordingly.

    Compare the seizure of property rights in the “Right to Roam” legislation. The symbolic significance of expropriating landowners and cozying up to the Ramblers Association (with its echoes of the mass tresspass at Kinder Scout and other old-style socialist mob heroics) was far more important than the minced bureacratic reform.

    Blairites don’t set out to destroy liberties. They are only dimly aware that liberties (as distinct from rights) exist, and don’t really notice them. Each one that goes is like an ant casually squashed under foot on the path they want to tread.

  • richard

    Andy: No, jailing isn’t any better, and you can’t get them to jail without shooting them. Dorothy, I don’t think we are in Kansas any more.

    Tony: The majority hates hunting? Who cares? Why should it matter?

    The majority also hate anarchists. The anarchist rejects your concept of property and ownership, often, in an amusing parody of your argument, on the basis that we have existed for thousands of years without it.

    I imagine you’d be quite happy to have the collective will imposed on a group that took up residence on your lawn. Suddenly, the will of the majority would matter to you once more.

    “But, but”, you splutter, “that’s different! They are violating my rights, foxes don’t have rights”.

    And there’s the rub. The concept of “property” is as arbitrary as the concept of “animal suffering”. They are real to the extent that society declares them to be. Your rights are only your rights because more people declare them to be than don’t. Society has now declared the concept of animal rights to be real. It now matters.

    Any argument you make to the contrary, however rational from your perspective, has exactly the same basis as the argument the anarchist would make for staying on your lawn, which would be equally valid from his.

    You are the anarchist camping on my front lawn.

    And Harry. Undoubtedly, atrocities take place in abattoires of whatever sort. If killing an animal for pleasure and killing one for food were morally equivalent, there might be a basis for rationalising the suffering in one in terms of the suffering in the other. They aren’t, (or at least, our society doesn’t hold them to be) and the best we can do is ban the one society deems morally repellent and regulate the one it regards as necessary.

  • “I imagine you’d be quite happy to have the collective will imposed on a group that took up residence on your lawn. Suddenly, the will of the majority would matter to you once more.”

    Are you new here Richard? You need to consider how a libertarian in a libertarian society would deal with this situation. There would be no consideration of the collective will and there would be no group on the lawn.

    Anyhow, you are trying to equate the idea of the collective will with “always wrong”.

  • Verity

    Richard – The quote is “TOTO, I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more.” So now we know you’re not gay. No gay man would have made that mistake.

    I will go on record as saying I would ban halal butchery. No reason for some primitive desert belief to be enshrined in British law. We are trying to evolve away from primitivism; not adopt it.

  • Alan

    We should also ban all television documentaries showing lions and tigers and bears chasing and killing other animals. People might enjoy and find pleasure in watching this evil barbarity.

    Bastards.

  • H. Mager

    I think it ought to be drummed into the head of every member of the anti brigade that hunting is not cruel. It is the most humane way of culling a fox. The hounds only take a few seconds to kill it, and the death is always assured. If you shoot it, you might well wound it and leave it to die painfully over several hours. If you leave a wire snare it will slowly strangle itself to death as it tries to escape. As for the chase, more often than not it enables the fox to outwit its pursuers and run to safety in one of its earths. The fox knows its own home territory thoroughly, but in the high adrenalin of the pursuit often prefers to continue running rather than go to ground. The foxes that get killed are the weak and the old, that would probably starve in the winter anyway.

    Hunters don’t ‘take pleasure in killing animals’. They enjoy meeting friends, seeing the spectacle of the hunt, taking exercise in the open air and the thrill of riding fast and jumping over hedges and ditches. If they see the death of the fox (a few hundred yards away) they look on it dispassionately as a part of nature, as anyone would regard a cat killing a mouse (which it will, incidentally, take half an hour to do). The practice of ‘blooding’ a new hunter with the fox’s tail was always meant as gesture of respect to the hunted animal but has now been discontinued as it has been so widely misunderstood. To equate these people with pedophiles is pretty stupid.

  • Julian Morrison

    People do too like hunting, and it’s not just an organized bit of excercise around the countryside. Test: take away the fox, have a “hunt” merely ride around or chase a dragged scent. Equally fun? Hell no! So son’t lie! It is the hunt and yes the kill which people like. The fun of the hunt is in competition and in victory. It’s a mini war (or you might say, war is a macro hunt) and while the opposition is out-gunned, they are neither necessarily out-thought nor out-run.

  • Tony H

    Re H.Mager et al above I am completely pissed off at hearing this crap from so many hunting types (incl. those in senior posts at the CA who should know better) about hunting with hounds being so much more “humane” than shooting, and that the latter often leaves wounded foxes to die a slow death. If they mean casual pot-shots with a shotgun or rimfire, let them be specific, but I’ve shot a great many foxes with high-velocity 22 centrefire calibres, and hit anywhere in the torso with a frangible varmint bullet a fox dies either instantly or within seconds, from massive shock, tissue damage and loss of blood.
    I’m on record (see above) as supporting the Hunt, but really, so many pro-hunters persistently shoot themselves in the foot with this oft-repeated drivel that merely alienates those of us who would side with them even more vigorously were it not for their daft ideas about shooting.
    Get this: the utilitarian stuff about “effective vermin control” doesn’t matter one jot, and just as well, because hunting with hounds is a breathtakingly inefficient way to to control foxes. It’s about liberty – right? Not that Richard would agree, but he’s a rather more articulate than average example of those who oppose hunting out of an unhealthy blend of sentimentalism & authoritarian intolerance.

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    Hey richard, I have a question for you. The ‘collective will’, as you put it, in this comments section seems to think you are wrong. So the moderators should ban you, right?

    “But, but…freedom of speech” you splutter. Give me a break. You are nothing but a scum who has no problem using state power as a bludgeon when it suits you. ‘Collective will’ is your weasel phrase (no offence to S. Weasel) that you use to justify your power grabs.

  • Julian Morrison

    Tony H: the stuff about shooting being cruel was in the govt’s report, their reasoning being: a clean shot kills – but most farmers are amateur shots at best, they’d be lucky to “wing” a fox. Faced with the choice of either paying an expensive pro sniper to come and kill their foxes, or blasting away with a shotgun in the correct general direction and hoping gangrene finishes their job, they’d opt for the latter.

  • R. C. Dean

    I have never hunted to hounds, but I am an avid North American big game hunter. Allow me a few observations:

    Hunting, as opposed to just hiking about, engages a whole new level of awareness in the hunter. It may be atavistic, but hunting creates a connection to nature and especially to the prey that just cannot be understood by those who have not experienced it.

    Killing is an essential part of hunting, but for many it is not the point of hunting. Most mature hunters have got the blood lust out of their system after a few years. A philosopher (name and exact quote will come to me later) said something to the effect that he did not hunt in order to kill, he killed in order to have hunted. This is exactly right. A day spent in the wild with rifle or bow in hand is invariably more rewarding than a day spent walking about in the woods.

    People who think hunting is cruel have absolutely no conception of how wild animals generally end their lives.

    For most prey animals, they have a choice between starving to death when their teeth wear out, or getting dragged down and eaten, possibly after being killed, by a pack of canines or a cat. Often a combination of both starving and wild animal predation. You have not seen cruel until you have seen a coyote pack settle into dinner on a cow that is not yet dead.

    For predators, many die at the claws of other predators (where you have coyotes, you will have few foxes; where you have wolves, you will have few coyotes), or again from starvation as they grow too feeble to hunt.

    Against the baseline of reality, most deaths from hunting are pristine. Most hunters attach a very high value to a quick and humane kill. To characterize hunting as cruel is to advertise your ignorance.

  • R. C. Dean

    Sorry, xposted with Julian. This remark begs rebuttal: “most farmers are amateur shots at best.”

    Maybe in England, but some of the best shots I know in America are ranchers and farmers. Something about getting lots of practice, I suspect.

  • Tony H

    Julian, I don’t think you should place an awful lot of reliance upon the “government report” you cite – this is in fact the thing entitled “Welfare Aspects of Shooting Foxes” put together by the so-called Parliamentary “Middle Way” group, published in June. It contains a lot to disagree with, for anyone involved in fox shooting as I am.
    BTW most of the serious fox shooting that goes on around here – and from my knowledge, elsewhere in UK too – is done not by the farmers themselves, but by keen riflemen who do it for sport, as a service to farmers, and who are called upon when there’s a particular fox problem.
    R.C.Dean, you put the case for hunting succinctly and accurately, agree with every word you write.

  • R. C. Dean

    I imagine you’d be quite happy to have the collective will imposed on a group that took up residence on your lawn.

    I think having my will imposed on the trespassers would be quite sufficient, thanks.

    The fact that the group on the lawn would ounumber me seems to indicate that the “collective” will in on their side, not mine. I doubt this would affect the outcome, though.

  • he’s [an] example of those who oppose hunting out of an unhealthy blend of sentimentalism & authoritarian intolerance.

    Tony, it’s an interesting debate. Am I being sentimental? I honestly don’t think so, in the sense of being excessively emotional about the fox. I’m bothered by the fox’s distress, obviously, but the greater emotion is associated with the revulsion I feel at the idea of what it means to be a person that takes pleasure in the manufacture of that distress. That’s not sentimentality, at least as I understand it.

    Am I being authoritarian? Only to the extent that surrendering certain of our freedoms to a legitimate authority in return for a measure of protection is essential if we are to avoid a life that is nasty, brutish and short. Wishing to be protected from the consequences of lawlessness is not the same as being authoritarian.

    Am I being intolerant? Only as intolerant as I’d be of someone fly-tipping in my village.

  • Andy Freeman

    > I imagine you’d be quite happy to have the collective will imposed on a group that took up residence on your lawn.

    I’m willing to do the work myself. Was Richard thinking otherwise?

    I note that he hasn’t told us whether he’d wield the rod. Or, is his (false) suggestion that I’m unwilling to intended as an answer, that he’s unwilling?

    We still don’t know why.

    > Suddenly, the will of the majority would matter to you once more.

    My feelings on most subjects, including this one, don’t depend on whether the majority agrees.

    It seems like something of a bother to be consulting them all the time, and isn’t much of a guarantee that the right thing will happen.

  • I’m willing to do the work myself. Was Richard thinking otherwise?

    Half a minute, I’ll just tell that to granny, in who’s garden they’ve just set up squat.

    goes away….comes back 5 minutes later

    Granny said they told her to f*ck off, and what is she to do next?

    My feelings on most subjects, including this one, don’t depend on whether the majority agrees.

    How nice for you. Your feelings are your own business. Your actions, however, are mine. Assuming you mean actions, the difference between this interesting statement as uttered by you, and the same uttered by a paedophile is …?

    I think you have no basis for claiming unique dispensation from respecting the majority’s wishes simply on the basis that your viewpoint makes sense from your perspective. But we repeat ourselves.

  • Alan

    …the difference between this interesting statement as uttered by you, and the same uttered by a paedophile is …?

    Oh come on! The obsession with linking people you disagree with to paedophiles is pretty pathetic.

  • R. C. Dean

    Granny said they told her to f*ck off, and what is she to do next?

    Get her shotgun? I would be happy to loan her mine, for that matter, and even happier to assist with evicting her trespassers. (Opens gun safe, peruses contents . . . hmm, nothing says “puts big holes in people” like a .45, so grab the Para. Perhaps the Sig 9mm for granny. For a longarm, what to take, what to take – just sold the HK 91, blast it, so I guess I will have to settle for the semiauto 12 gauge.)

    Your actions, however, are mine.

    Not until they affect you directly, they aren’t.

  • steph

    This is an excelent example of some things being more fundametal than politics. What is revealing in what Richard has writen are the second sentence of the first graph quoted below and the last sentence of the second paragraph.

    “The concept of “property” is as arbitrary as the concept of “animal suffering”. They are real to the extent that society declares them to be. Your rights are only your rights because more people declare them to be than don’t. Society has now declared the concept of animal rights to be real. It now matters.”

    “Undoubtedly, atrocities take place in abattoires of whatever sort. If killing an animal for pleasure and killing one for food were morally equivalent, there might be a basis for rationalising the suffering in one in terms of the suffering in the other. They aren’t, (or at least, our society doesn’t hold them to be)”

    Richard is more than a democrate, he is a believer in the idea that reality, including ethics, is socialy created. He believes that the only reason the molestation of children is wrong is because most people think it is wrong. Their is no point in argueing with this metality.

  • rmaxwell

    I agree with R.C. Dean for the most part except that hunting “is invariably more rewarding than a day spent walking about in the woods”.

    The 2 are different to be sure. I’ve done both. For those that have never hunted, you don’t know what you are missing (really). Evolution surely created the conditions that generate pleasure in the hunt since this was a necessary survival strategy. There are many activities which promote the species and tend to generate pleasure for the individual (funny how that works, eh). To deny this or suggest that it is “uncivilized” is to utterly deny nature.

    I think we’re a few more years away from evolving to that higher plain of consciousness that anti-hunting types think we should occupy.

  • SydneyP

    I wonder, Richard, how you feel about the stoning of adulterers. In a country where the majority feel that this is great, well, IS it? Death penalty for homosexuals? Is the will of the majority REALLY the only arbitrator of right v. wrong? Was hunting right when most people supported it a hundred years ago, and wrong now? And heck, as pedophelia was acceptable in ancient Sparta, was it morally right then? What about the killing of undesirable newborns?

    But the will of the majority is clearly not your reason for opposing hunting– moral discomfort with the pleasure of the hunters is. The will of the majority is just conveniently on your side at the moment.

    Just to get clear on this– if you’ve taken the time to find out a little about fox hunting (as I assume you must have, if you are so passionate about it), you know that the avarage hunt may not even feature a chase, and that a considerable proportion of hunters never see the hunted fox, never mind actually seeing a kill. How then can the chief pleasure of hunting come from torturing foxes? Surely a true sadist would get much bigger kicks from legally buying rats from a pet store and slowly feeding them to his boa constrictor. You probably imagine that most fox hunters do this as well, and as member of that evil fraternity I guess I can’t really convince you otherwise.

    And where do you stand on fishing? Oh, I forgot, the ever-correct majority thinks literally torturing fish for hours isn’t a problem– good thing you don’t have to come up with an argument on that one.

  • Sydney – an interesting misdirection and slippery slope fallacy.

    There is one thing that would make me more uncomfortable than a majority supporting the stoning of adulterers and the death penalty for homosexuals … a minority perpetrating it and declaring themselves outside the law on the matter.

    Alan – what you regard as an obsession, I regard as a simple device for conducting an enquiry into the differences between two situations in which the activites of a minority are sufficiently repulsive to those of a majority that the majority wish to see them suspended.