Near-carnage in Parliment Square

So, yesterday was the Commons vote on whether or not to ban hunting with dogs. The vote, as everyone knew it would, was hugely in favour of the ban, but the protests outside (somewhere upwards of 10,000 people) got a bit nasty, with bottles and fireworks getting thrown and the police using their batons on people.

So what of it? The ‘countryside’ folk claim the ban is violating their human rights, it’s taking jobs away and is yet more evidence that this goverment (and preceding governments) don’t give a shit about rural Britain.

The last bit is definitely true – agricultural policy, fuel tax, the closure of local post offices, the way out of town supermarkets have trashed village life, and myriad other laws and societal changes, have made life in rural communities, particularly farming, really really difficult. Something definitely needs to be done about that, and they have my full sympathy.

However, I don’t think that’s what this is about at all. If it was, the hunters would switch to drag-hunting, keep the hunts open and carry on as normal, chasing across farmland with their packs of dogs. In fact, it would probably be better for the farming communities, as they’d be far less likely to end up trespassing on someone else’s land and ruining SSSIs or whatever. The route could – at least by the person doing the dragging – be somewhat planned.

But no, that’s not the same, we’re told. You have to have that marvellous moment where 40 dogs rip an exhausted terrified fox to bits and the tail is then removed and used to ‘blood’ kids on their first hunt. Without all that blood and guts and carnage, it’s just not the same.

Too f-ing right it’s not the same!!! That’s the whole point! The running jumping climbing over fences bit is the same, it’s just the chasing foxes til their lungs explode and then tearing them to pieces bit that’s not. That’s the bit we want to get rid of. And before I get accused of being an out of touch towny (after all, I do live in London), I also grew up in Berwick On Tweed – one of the most remote towns in England, given that the nearest city is 60 miles away. I’m aware of and scandalised by the plight of rural communities, but I don’t think protecting the right to have packs of dogs rip foxes apart has anything to do with it at all, any more than someone who makes their living selling child porn can claim that the government are ruining their livelihood be arresting people for having it.

Tradition is a dreadful excuse for loathsome behaviour. It’s the kind of rubbish that men come out with to justify abhorrent behaviour towards women, and that racists use to try and justify throwing immigrants out of the UK or elsewhere. There’s no defence for the levels of cruelty involved in hunting.

So what’s the next argument? The other ways of getting rid of foxes are even crueller – so that means we allow this one, rather than legislating further???? In Scotland, the hunts are still going on, despite there being a ban on hunting with dogs there, only now the fox is shot at the end, and apparently that’s a slower death than being mauled by dogs. Why the hell not take the fox out of the picture altogether, eh? why not drag hunt? It’s certainly not even close to being an efficient way to control the fox population, given that I can drive round the country lanes near my mum’s house, and see any number of foxes that if I were a trained marksman I could pick off without too much trouble. No chase, no terror, just a clean shot. Even if the first shot injured it and the second one killed it, it’d be a cheaper, less painful way to control the fox population. Clearly the fox population doesn’t need that much controlling, given that there’s this supposed reliance on the inefficient method of hunting as the way to do it.

No, the attraction is clearly some ‘traditional’ significance put on killing for fun, for sport. The more bloody the better, apparently. And that, I’m afraid, is morally indefensible, and as just about all opinion polls show, out of step with the values of the electorate, and clearly with our elected members of parliment.

Something definitely needs to be done to buoy up the failing rural economy in Britain, but it’s clear that the behaviour of the big supermarkets in driving down the prices of milk, dairy and veg in this country and failing to support organic farmers despite the demand for organic food outstripping supply by 2:1 is having a far far worse effect on the countryside than asking the huntsmen to switch to drag hunting for their sport, and using a far more effective, cheaper and humane method to control the fox population.

soundtrackClatter, ‘Blinded By Vision’; Julie Lee, ‘Stillhouse Road’; Pierce Pettis, ‘Great Big World’.

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