Originally written in 2014 this post is as relevant as ever as the British Conservative party look at ways to overturn the UK hunting ban.
The hunters are today attempting to negate the anti-hunting argument by inferring that banning hunting has nothing to do with a love of unmolested wild life, and everything to do with spiteful bullying and jealousy of the upper classes. What they omit to mention is that they themselves are not strangers to some horrendous upper class bullying and hatred of the plebs who dare to stand against them.
The Protection of Wild Mammals Bill, a forerunner of the hunting Act we have today, was a modest but welcome step which had to be critically defended in the face of a seven-year counter-assault by the forces of a militant tendency in upper class Britain. The introduction of the Bill saw venomous resistance in the House of Lords and fierce extra parliamentary attacks with direct action and civil disobedience.
Building on the Wild Mammals Act, and to give UK wildlife the right not to be hunted and torn apart by a pack of dogs, came the hunting Act, and if we had seen sedition in the upper echelons with the forerunner of the Act, it was nothing to the mayhem and anarchy that prevailed in town and country alike when the toffs thought their cruel pastime was about to be snatched away for good.
Notoriously, a plummy mob of violent protesters hijacked Parliament Square in London, and members of the 'Ledbury set' led by their pro hunt pin up boy Otis Ferry, broke in onto the floor of the House of Commons to protest about what they thought should be their human right to kill for fun.
*The old aristocracy and the parvenus who ape them and their bloodthirsty ways, bile-belching reactionary journos, the Tory Party's front bench and backwoodsmen, along with a rag tag army of retainers, hangers-on and village idiots, took to the proverbial barricades in rebellion against townies, democracy and the 21st century.
And the battle for the British countryside began, but it wasn’t started by the common decent folk. It was started by that privileged minority who had never in their lives before been told that they must defer to the rule of law and desist in pursuing that nefarious and cruel pastime known as fox hunting. That symbol of aristocratic privilege and the natural order of things where the upper classes ruled and the surfs did as they were told, or at least didn’t argue back, had come to an end. Their God-given right to do as they like had been challenged by Labour party upstarts no less and they were jolly well going to see about it. They immediately declared the Act a waste of time and unworkable. They called it an unjust law, and on that premise they took their grievance to the Court of Human Rights where they were promptly told that it is not a human right to kill.
Bloody-nosed but undeterred the hunters signed a declaration to break the law, and they hoorayed and trumpeted their defiance, dressed in hunting pink, the length and breadth of the land, killing and chasing foxes as before whilst pretending all the while they were following trails of foxes which had long been turned into American fur coats.
Then the RSPCA successfully prosecuted the Heythrop for illegal hunting, and the toffs turned really nasty. The aristocratic and land-owning elite and their right-wing middle class allies, aided and abetted by the right wing press, orchestrated a prolonged, vicious and scurrilous attack on the RSPCA, the League Against Cruel Sports and any other animal charity that dared voice an opinion against hunting. Sir Barney White Spunner, recently erstwhile CEO of the Countryside Alliance, wrote in the Telegraph saying that the RSPCA was a sinister organisation. Simon Hart MP, himself an avid hunter, who it is rumoured entered politics specifically to fight to repeal the ban, wrote to the Charity Commission complaining that the RSPCA had over stepped its remit and the prosecution was politically motivated. The Charity Commission ruled that the RSPCA had no case to answer. Mr Hart went so far as to discuss the matter in Parliament, but again the RSPCA was vindicated, with the Attorney General adding that the Charity performed an essential and valuable service which could not be easily picked up by the police or the CPS.
Undeterred and still charging over the fields on horseback, and still breaking the law whilst at the same time declaring themselves Martyrs and decrying the infringement of their basic human rights, they attempt to align themselves with heroes like Nelson Mandela and Martyn Luther King. As if these hunt apologists ever lifted a finger to protest at the true injustices visited on the working classes during the miners’ strike or the present day hardships of those on zero hour contracts and people that are made homeless because of the bedroom tax.
Odd that these very same people who admit gleefully to breaking the law are ardent supporters of law and order when it comes to prosecuting hunt saboteurs for aggravated trespass. (A law brought in specifically to stop our sabs entering private land to record video evidence or prevent illegal hunting. Aggravated trespass carries a stiff fine, a criminal record and may incur a term of imprisonment.)
When it comes to defending their privilege, whatever it takes becomes their credo and violence against anti-hunt people and property is common place. The battle is not just about foxhunting. Fox hunting is part of a long class war and the toffs are determined to show the rest of us just who runs Britain.
The Sports Minister, Tracy Crouch is particularly vocal against killing for entertainment, and with a growing army of opponents the poor old Countryside Alliance who, in spite of the bluster, are floundering in a shortage of funds and a lack of enthusiasm for their blood thirsty pastimes, can only fight back with smears and insults.
Tim Bonner took to Twitter again in a flurry of annoyance and accused Ms Crouch of having a sugar daddy in the form of Dr Brian May; Dr May is an important campaigner against fox hunting and the British badger cull.
With so many MPs, and 83% of the public, against cruelty to UK wildlife it is looking increasing likely that even with our pro-blood sports front bench, David Cameron will be unlikely to muster the numbers required for a free vote to repeal the hunting Act.
It’s far from over, however, and it would be a mistake to be too complacent.
We have just over four more years of Tories like Mr Cameron in power, and if we want to ensure the legislation to protect our wild heritage stays in place we must remain ever vigilant.
[The fight is far from over as "Ministers consider new body to prove hunting helps animal welfare to win over anti-hunting MPs"]
Boxing Day Hunting
The traditional torturing of harmless wildlife is almost upon us once again.
The Boxing Day hunt is the biggest event in the hunting calendar.
It’s a culmination of the cruelty, and hunts up and down the country will be parading in town squares and pub car parks getting drunk on their stirrup cups. Immaculately turned out horses and riders in their scarlet jackets and tight white pants, the dogs, tails up, milling around, looking every bit the chocolate box scene.
The images will be in all the pro-hunt press, with captions describing how noble is the tradition of hunting, in a bid to convince those of us against the sport that it is a humane and popular part of wildlife management. Of course this is all staged, like a hall of mirrors, nothing is real or as it seems.
Behind the pomp and the spectacle lies a sinister truth which the hunters and the Tory government prefer to keep secret. These deceitful people have tried every sleight of hand to overturn the hunting ban and to date every trick has failed. It has failed because hunting is a cruel and vicious blood sport which has no place in modern Britain.
Pre-ban hunts killed about 5% of all of the foxes that die in a season, and almost half of those animals are killed during cubbing when hunts encourage new fox hounds to be savage with their quarry. There are actually many less foxes in Britain than there are hedgehogs. At a static quarter of a million animals, they are not overbreeding and they are no real threat to poultry or lambs. DEFRA (Department of Environment & Rural affairs) says foxes are no more than grade 2 pests, not even pesty enough to be grade 1.
It’s not only foxes who suffer in the war for Britain’s wildlife. Anyone who stands against the cruelty is labelled an extremist or even worse a terrorist. They are mocked and humiliated on social media and even sometimes threatened. The hunt saboteurs, who will be out in force on Boxing Day, are often beaten and bullied by the hunt stewards (terrier men and women) and sometimes the riders themselves like to join in too. To avoid reprisals many saboteurs cover their faces, a practice emulated by the hunt minders who cover up so they cannot be recognised when committing acts of violence or damaging cars or stealing cameras etc. from the saboteurs, many of whom are young females.
The terrier men, or hunt heavies, who accompany the hunts and who act as their personal police force, won’t be around at the Boxing Day spectacle. To allow them to parade on their quads would spoil the image the hunters are trying to portray. Their job is to intimidate saboteurs and block pathways in order to prevent them gaining evidence of illegal hunting. The terrier men also block up badger setts so that the poor fox has nowhere to hide. If the unfortunate animals ARE able to go to ground, the terrier men dig them out and either shoot them, bludgeon them or they are thrown to the dogs.
Eighty per cent of the population, including people in rural areas, are against the horror and the cruelty of hunting, yet in spite of this the hunting ban is in great danger of repeal because most of MPs on the Tory front bench are hunting enthusiasts themselves. David Cameron has promised repeal before the end of this parliament, yet how can we let this barbaric practice become legal once again? The legislation we have today was 10 years in the making and when the Bill was eventually brought before the MPs for discussion, it took over 700 hours of Parliamentary time and so powerful and determined were the hunters that in the end the Labour Government had to use the Parliament Act to force the legislation through into Law.
So what can we do?
The first thing and the most important is to join the League Against Cruel Sports and join or support the hunt saboteurs. It is also vital that everyone against this vile form of entertainment writes to their MP and explains why we must keep the ban on hunting.
Tradition is no excuse for this savage cruelty; we must fight hard because the hunters never give up.
Lamerton Hunt - Illegal Hunting? https://youtu.be/m98BSocqkfI via @YouTube
An open letter to EFRA, Mr David Cameron, Simon Hart MP and Mr Neil Parish MP
A great many of us are seriously concerned that the EFRA [Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] committee is using its position in government to curtail or remove the right of the RSPCA [Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty cases, and that the motive for this move is more about preventing fox hunting prosecutions than any real concern for animal welfare.
It will be impossible to prosecute if the Charity is not allowed to investigate, and it will be difficult to investigate if the Charity then has to rely on the CPS to bring up the thousands of cases in Court. It should also be remembered that it is the right of every private citizen to seek justice through the UK Courts.
Of course there will be times when the RSPCA gets it wrong, but in the thousands of abuse cases which reach Court, there is only a handful which have been stopped and deemed not to be in the public interest. I would point out that for every case which does go to court, there are hundreds more that don’t. The problems are sorted out with RSPCA support and education and the cooperation of the animal’s owner. Sometimes the animal’s owner is reluctant or refuses to improve or take advice and that is when the RSPCA must step in for the sake of the animal.
The Charity spends around 5p in the £1 on prosecutions and the rest of the money is spent on animal housing, veterinary treatment, education and of course paying inspectors salaries. The RSPCA also saves the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds every year which it is doubtful could be matched by the CPS, especially in these times of austerity and swinging cuts to services.
The pro hunting press, ably abetted by the Countryside Alliance, are also guilty of a steady build-up of accusations of RSPCA misuse of power. The Telegraph and the Daily Mail are particularly aggressive in accusing the RSPCA of radical campaigning, promiscuous legal actions and the underhand use of funds. Yet this is at odds with ALL of the RSPCA reviews which have found the RSPCA to be acting within its remit, which is to prevent animal abuse. The Charity Commission has said on at least two occasions that the RSPCA has no case to answer.
The Heythrop prosecution is often cited by Mr Hart as a scandalous waste of money, which he claims was undertaken for political motives to embarrass the Prime Minister who has associations with the hunt. But it has never been political to uphold the law, nor is it political to prosecute cruelty. Perhaps if the Heythrop themselves had been more mindful of Mr Cameron’s reputation by association, they would have not broken the law in the first place. (Oddly the Charity’s prosecution of cruelty to horses in 2008 on Spindles Farm cost over £2,000,000, and the RSPCA was praised for their dedication and compassion.)
It is of especial concern that animals will not get the protection they need after reading Lord Ashcroft’s expose of David Cameron, who he claims, when in opposition, used his influence and asked the CPS to drop a hunting case against a member of the Heythrop hunt, and if that allegation turns out to be true, not only was Mr Cameron’s action undemocratic, but it could also be viewed as an attempt to pervert the course of justice. The CPS dropped the case against the hunter, which in the light of recent news reports of Mr Cameron's personal intervention does not give people confident in the CPS or the law.
The RSPCA is as respected and it is respectable, it is also unique. Britain has a reputation of being a nation of animal lovers and the majority who care do not want to see the RSPCA rendered useless because another backdoor attempt is being made to prevent hunt prosecutions.
If the EFRA committee rule that the RSPCA can no longer investigate and prosecute animal abuse, then perhaps EFRA would tell us what it intends to put in place of the Charity, and where the money will be found to carry out the investigations and to fund the court costs so that no animal is left to suffer.
Sources and resources;
Western Daily press
The Telegraph story was pretty similar adding that the man who fell off his bicycle lost his glasses and the club members had to barricade themselves in the building as the fox stalked them outside. The woman who was bitten tried to distract the fox with food so the others could escape apparently.
A pest controller was called but when he tried to approach the animal it "went for him" and chased him back to his car. The animal was eventually caught and destroyed but there is no comment on how or when that happened. The only pictures supplied were a generic picture of a fox totally unrelated to the story, and another picture allegedly of the offending fox taken through the window of the sports centre. Apparently the terrified crew inside the building watched the animal casing the joint on the CCTV but no footage has been supplied as yet.
The May / Portillo interview was equally bizarre, with Dr May explaining carefully why hunting should stay banned and Mr Portillo replying that hunting and bull fighting were both great traditions and as such should be allowed to continue as before. He even went on to claim that his practising Catholicism impelled him to hold that view. Animal souls, Mr Portillo said, were not as important as human souls.
Of course we know that those in favour of blood sports twist what has gone before to suit their arguments too, but I have never heard the Catholic Church cited as a reason for enjoying eviscerating those small red cousins of our dogs. The excuses the hunting fraternity come up with for continuing fox hunting are quite similar to the excuses put forward by the slave owners when the Abolitionist movement first came into being, and indeed tradition, when deployed in this manner could be a cover for almost any disgusting and oppressive fetish held by those in power.
Defenders of slavery argued that slavery had existed throughout history and was the natural state of mankind. The Greeks had slaves, the Romans had slaves so why can’t we have slaves etc.. Hunters frequently assail us with similar reasoning, stating that because Richard Martin (a founding member of the RSPCA) was a fox hunter, it makes it okay for us to be fox hunters too.
Traditionally apparently two wrongs always make a right.
I wonder how Mr Portillo feels about defenders of slavery righteously quoting that in the Old Testament, Abraham had slaves. They even cited the 10 commandments saying, ‘Thou shalt not covert thy neighbour’s manservant, nor his maidservant.” So of course that must mean having servants, i.e. slaves was okay. The New Testament was also hauled up to bear witness that Paul returned a runaway slave and Jesus never uttered a word about slavery.
Just like animals today, slave owners said black people, (not just slaves) had no legal rights. They were property, and being property meant rights were not bestowed upon them. They could be used and abused as their masters saw fit. The slavers fought the Abolitionists in the courts and the Judges ruled in their favour. The slave owners were adamant that they had God on their side.
I’m getting a strange feeling of Déjà vu here.
Welfare is another claim made by the Countryside Alliance to persuade the rest of us that they are killing animals not just for fun, but mainly for their own good. Hunters are apparently saving the hunted from growing old and dying from natural causes.
Defenders of slavery argued that slavery was a good thing for the enslaved. John C. Calhoun said, “Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually.” That is almost something James Barrington could have included in his pro hunting blogs as he often infers that hunters are doing foxes a massive favour by killing them.
The slave owners also said that they would protect and assist the slaves when they were sick and aged, unlike those who, once fired from their work, were left to fend helplessly for themselves. Now here I think the slave owners had one up on hunters morally, because hunters never claim to protect the old sick animals. In fact chasing and killing old sick animals is doing the species as a whole a great service according to the Countryside Alliance. (I’m minded here that Dr Shipman had the same idea about the elderly under his care in the NHS) It’s not mentioned of course that there won’t be many old foxes because although they can live as long as our dogs in captivity, a wild fox is lucky to see his second birthday.
Next we come to the labels. James Thornwell, a minister, wrote in 1860, “One party to this conflict are not merely Abolitionists they are Atheists, Socialists, Communists, Red Republicans, Jacobins. The slave owners are the friends of order, religion and regulated freedom.”
Similar insults ring in my head about those of us against hunting cruelties today.
We are supposedly not just against blood sports, we are also jobless, scroungers who don’t wash and who spend our time thinking up terrorist plots to thwart the innocent hunters who after all are only abusing animals for their own good. We are called ignorant townies, which is meant to convey great insult. Only those who live in the countryside should have any say in what is allowed to live and what must die.
Throughout history, when a society forms around any institution, as the South did around slavery, it will formulate a set of arguments to support it. That those arguments don’t hold water didn’t seem to matter to the slave owners at all, and similarly the hunters don’t care that their reasons for the continuation of their barbaric and outdated tradition don’t hold water among the more empathic of their contemporaries.
Hunters talk about horrific cruelty to animals not associated with hunting, and in those cases proudly carry the RSPCA banner, then in the same breath they want that organisation cast down for prosecuting hunting abuse. A bizarre situation where it’s impossible to know if the hunters have managed to brain wash themselves, or if they are hoping that by repeated repetition of a lie, the rest of us will come to believe it to be the truth.
If hunting is a tradition that must be upheld, then it’s only fair that that great old RSPCA tradition of prosecuting those who kill for fun must be upheld too.
It became evident, that once Burns submitted his report, that the Hunting Bill was going to be presented in Parliament, and hunting wild mammals with dogs would be against the Law. Michael Foster MP Presented his Bill to outlaw sport hunting with hounds, and it might be worth mentioning here that when certain self-styled guardians of the British countryside in the form of fox hunt supporters, got wind of his plans, they threatened to murder him. The threats were taken seriously and he was given police protection.
Of course the hunting set did not sit around idly waiting for their unsavoury pastime to be snatched away from them by a law which would forbid them to chase and kill an animal with a pack of dogs.
In an attempt to circumvent the necessity for an outright ban, Lord Donoughue, a pro hunting peer, was working on a compromise which he was hoping would be incorporated as an amendment to the current Wild Mammals Protection Act (WMPA) of 1996. If Parliament had agreed to his proposals, there would have been no need to even think about banning hunting in its entirety.
On March 9th 2001 Lord Donoghue presented his Bill to the House for discussion.
He introduced his legislation by saying,
“The present arrangements for protecting animals from abuse are complex and incomplete. They reflect nearly a century of sporadic legislation, especially the Protection of Animals Act 1911, which absorbed earlier legislation dating as far back as the 18th century and which has itself since been amended nine times. That was concerned primarily with captive and domestic animals where humans have responsibility, not with wild animals, and hunting and coursing were exempt. Cruelty was defined as "unnecessary suffering".
Lord Donoughue said he was concerned that the WMPA was, in spite of many amendments over the years, too rigid in its approach to protecting wild mammals from cruelty. He felt their interests would be better served by his all-encompassing legislation which would make it an offence to be deliberately cruel to any animal, wild or domestic.
In his own words, Lord Donoughue went on to describe his intentions,
"Any person who intentionally inflicts, or causes or procures, unnecessary suffering on or to any wild mammal shall be guilty of an offence".
That’s sounds marvellous at first glance, but then he went on to say,
“The Bill does not assume or establish that the simple pursuit of properly organised hunting, without specific acts of cruelty, such as digging out and so on, set out in Burns, is committing an act of cruelty. However, it would be for the courts to decide, as Burns suggests, with which I would be happy. I do not believe that that is a disadvantage in the Bill. It is quite normal for legislation to be tested in the courts and we should all be happy with that.”
In other words, hunting would NOT be deemed cruel in the first instance. It would be up to the Courts to decide if a particular hunt had killed an animal in circumstances which may possibly be construed as deliberately cruel.
Lord Donoughue’s amendment to the WMPA was not adopted at that time and the Hunting Act which bans hunting with packs of dogs came into UK Law in 2004.
The Countryside Alliance claims, that in spite of many successful hunting prosecutions, that the hunting Act is simply not working, and to adopt Lord Donoughue’s Bill is a simple and effective way to reach a workable compromise.
What they don’t like to mention is that to adopt this legislation will see the return of legal hunting with full packs of dogs and little scope for prosecutions of cruelty.
Let us take a look at Donoughue’s Bill in a little more detail.
The Wild Mammals Protection Bill Amendment No 2 (Printed 7th January 2004)
Presented by Lembit Opik and supported by Kate Hoey, Gwyneth Dunwoody and no less than ten others who are all staunch supporters of blood sports.
The statement reads,
‘Any person who intentionally causes undue suffering to any wild mammal shall be guilty of an offense.’
There are exceptions from offense which Lord Donoughue’s Bill seeks to insert into the existing legislation.
•A person shall not be guilty if they are acting in accordance with a recognised code or normal, humane, lawful, customary activity.
This means that as long as hunters are operating within a recognised code, hunting foxes, deer etc. will not be deemed as causing unnecessary suffering. The ‘code ‘will be a set of rules drawn up by a panel, (which Lord Donoughue calls ‘the Authority’) comprising mostly of those with a vested interest in seeing the return of legal hunting. The RSPCA will be invited to supply a representative, as will the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, but the rest of the Authority will be made up of representatives from the pro hunting/shooting groups listed below.
•Country Land & Business association (Formerly known as Country Landowners Association)
•The National Farmers Union of England & Wales
•The Game Conservancy Trust & the British Deer Society
•The Council of Hunting Associations
•The British Association for Shooting & Conservation with the national Gamekeepers Organisation
•The Joint Nature Conservation Committee
•Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.
There is also a clause in Donoughue’s Bill which allows for the removal and replacement of an Authority member if it is felt necessary at any time. Otherwise each member will serve a term of three years and will be either re-elected or replaced by another from the same organisation.
If Lord Donoghue’s legislation was to be adopted and incorporated into the Law as it stands today, the Hunting Act, which took ten years in the making and over 400 hours of Parliamentary time, would become in effect useless. There would be a loophole big enough to drive a train through and the work and effort that went into the Act we have today will have been entirely wasted.
The rules for hunting would be drawn up by a panel of hunters and they would decide what would be construed as ‘unnecessary suffering’. The token RSPCA and veterinary representative would of course have a vote, but it would be always a minority vote which would have no real bearing on the final set of rules.
What the Authority would deem as undue suffering is anyone’s guess, but what would be certain is that this Bill would be a ‘get out of jail free’ card. No one would ever be prosecuted, and hunters would be given Carte blanche to chase, terrify and disembowel British wild life once again without fear of prosecution.
James Barrington has claimed recently that Lord Donoughue’s proposal has been revisited and ‘tweaked’. He is reluctant to say to date what the amendments actually are, but we can be certain of one thing. Whatever they are, they will bode ill for hunted animals and those of us who don’t want to see hunting with hounds made legal again in our UK countryside.
Political skulduggery and the Countryside Alliance
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Country lover, amateur naturalist and fox lover fighting to preserve the ban on hunting