Monday, September 27, 2004

on hunting

it is, of course, already illegal for a normal person (i.e. you or me) to do anything the intent of which is to inflict unnecessary suffering on any wild mammal - legislation introduced by the outgoing conservative goverment, to give them some credit. unfortunately (he says, wresting back that credit tout de suite), it is not illegal for such acts - whether mutilation, kicking, beating, nailing, impaling, stabbing, burning, stoning, crushing, drowning, dragging or asphyxiation - to be perpetrated on such an animal if it is done through "lawful hunting". and that is effectively the anomaly that the new bill removes, approx 100 years or so too late, so that those who by historical accident have had and kept the right to set dogs on hares and foxes are to lose that right, as they must always have known they would and should.

the democratic argument is one that it is a little difficult to lose sight of here when the likes of the countryside alliance are seriously proclaiming arguments of "liberty and livelihood" in an attempt to defeat perhaps the biggest acknowledgment yet that the country no longer lords it over the cities and towns we increasingly swarm to, rightly or wrongly. all i can really say is that for the last two general elections i have voted for a party which had a manifesto commitment whilst in government to sort this issue out, and that i feel disenfranchised to the effect that they have allowed themselves to be cowed and bullied since 1997 into bottling out of it, and, indeed, there are still suggestions that they might wimp out of the law despite the overwhelming majority vote by our elected representatives. the house of lords, which has supinely allowed all sorts of truly despicable legislation through on the nod, particularly in those thatcher years, still persists in doing everything it can to stall the wild mammal legislation.

although now, inevitably, hunt protestors are at least starting to learn that they should not be immune from the methods of er, police control that are applied to those from all other walks of life (the thuggishness of hunt supporters when practiced in their "home" territory against saboteurs is more brutal, and of course famously ignored by the forces of law and order). the real problem with the foxhunting defenders is not the beliefs they may quite legitimately hold, nor their wholly laudable desire to state their case (although rather less praiseworthy is their attempt to pretend that rural dwellers or farmers all support the hunt - many farmers have choice words for the redcoats that trample their fields routinely, while others accept that there are plenty of decent products on the market for better protecting chickens from foxes, rather than leaving coops unguarded. and the figures from scotland where the hunt has already been outlawed do not suggest that the fox population has suddenly run rampant) um, but the fact that they don't seem to accept that nowadays, it is one person, one vote, regardless of class or colour (& it is not, as one hunt supporter said on radio, a case of them "taking back this country for the natives"!!), and they, like the rest of us, now have to be subject to the same law.

and yes foxhunting - like most crimes - creates employment and wealth and yes job losses in any case are always difficult - ask not just miners and shipbuilders who are most oft-quoted but any recently relocated or restructured industries in our downsizing-obsessed business environment - but they are commonplace and all of us face them and have to retrain or move to secure employment. at least the hunters have had the distinct advantage of having 20 years' notice that their "profession" would be outlawed - only thatcher's indecently long reign really gave them the luxury of seeing through the last quarter of the century unscathed. indeed, ever since attlee's government in the late 1940s took up cudgels on the fox's (and others!) behalf, that community will have been well aware that their time for the thrill of the chase would be finite. again, it is a reminder to them that they too live in our one multifaith multifaceted nation, albeit with its attendant insecure modern employment environment, subject to all the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of both the free market and the legal constraints that regulate it.

i struggle with the foxhunting issue only to the extent i can't decide whether it is the animal cruelty, or the affront to modern democracy in the countryside alliance's posturing and threatening, that appals me most - in terms of morality, on the other hand, all is supremely black and white. human cruelty, child cruelty, animal cruelty: these are very real issues (and with very real overlaps, as the NSPCC and RSPCA's joint co-operation would testify). we have to take them all seriously in order to build a society which actually does value the liberty and livelihood of all, not just those whose barbarous practices are finally being curtailed.

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