This opinion piece was due to appear in the East Anglian Daily Times today, but following the SNP’s intervention the Government thankfully shelved the vote (for now). Anyway, the arguments against hunting and the views put forward by those who supported the amendments to the Hunting Act remain valid – so here is the piece in full:
If David Cameron gets his way today, the barbaric blood sport of fox hunting will return through the back door.
A decade after the Hunting Act came into force, the government has published proposals to allow foxes to be hunted by packs of dogs in England and Wales as long as it is “appropriate” for the terrain and done “efficiently” to protect other animals.
Ahead of a free vote on the issue, English and Welsh MPs are currently said to be split almost equally on whether to approve changes to the law that would bring England into line with Scotland.
In Suffolk and Essex, while several MPs have spoken out against any softening of a hard-won law – a law that Cameron wishes to slyly change with a statutory instrument rather than a vote on full repeal as he fears defeat – others have claimed that not making changes to ensure parity with Scotland would be “silly”
But these undemocratic changes in fact go far beyond anything north of the border.
Hidden in the small print of the amendments are proposals to allow an unlimited number of dogs to be used to flush out diseased or injured foxes and to conduct “research and observation” in the area.
The use of such woolly terms could easily be exploited by hunters who claim to be carrying out a population count or assessing disease.
No such term of “research and observation” exists in Scotland, presumably because it would make the law completely impossible to police.
It seems the whole bogus argument about having the “same law as Scotland” is just a smokescreen to the fact that there is no argument for bringing back hunting. Maybe they should just come clean and say they enjoy ripping a terrified animal to bits?
If further proof were needed, let’s consider some of the other claims put forward by the pro-hunt lobby.
They argue in their recent literature that the proposed amendments will make “pest control” more efficient or effective for farmers. This idea that hunting, with its baying hounds, its by-catch and its damaged fields, is some form of wildlife management in fancy dress is laughable at best – after all, pretty much any method of killing foxes you could imagine is more efficient and (importantly) more humane.
It also seems a trifle ironic that those supporting the hunt claim foxes pose a significant threat to game birds – birds they are probably hoping to blow out of the sky a few months down the line.
Nor do I accept the claims that fox hunting is some venerable tradition that should be retained at all costs.
What about cock-fighting? Dog-fighting? Bare-knuckle boxing? Should we bring them back too? No, obviously not. Our society has made a conscious decision to do away with this savage practice and an arbitrary and romantic use of “tradition” should not become the standard-bearer for its return.
And before I’m written off as some townie who doesn’t “understand country folk”, I should say I grew up in this rural region and know, respect and like many farmers and smallholders – none of whom (I might add) have any truck with hunting or its lobbies. And why should they? This is not farming, it’s blood shed.
Neither is this a class issue. I don’t care if “all kinds of people” go hunting and the “toffs on horseback caricature” is simply that – a caricature. No matter who is involved, hunting is a cruel, unacceptable and throwback practice that 80% of the population rightly reject.
So, today , I hope our region’s MPs will think long and hard before they follow party lines that will fly in the face of the people and leave them with blood on their hands.