Monday, December 26, 2016

The Question is - To Hunt or not to Hunt.

You might think that my attending the annual Boxing Day Hunt outside the Royal Oak in Welshpool and voting Leave in the Last June's EU referendum have no connection. From most standpoints they don't. But from one that is particularly important to me they do. I do not care for being told what I can and cannot do by politicians without good and fair reason. Which is why I find the ban on hunting on horseback, with hounds, and being told what we British can and can't do by the European Court of Justice to be equally abhorrent. Even this paragraph, innocent and non-influential as it is, will lead to some informing me of their disgust that I should write or think in such a way. This is what Brexit is doing to people.

Now, I've never been hunting in my life. I never will. I've never been out shooting pheasants, duck, partridge or other lovely birds either. And I never will. I suppose I did indulge in a bit of ' under the radar' fishing over 50 yrs ago, but mostly to eat the catch. In fact I find it difficult to understand how pleasure can be gained by inflicting death or pain on fellow creatures for no practical reason. But I have no objection to others going hunting or shooting wild creatures if this is what they want to do, and if it does no harm to our world. I love foxes and badgers, but I realise too many foxes cause excessive livestock losses, too many badgers may cause spread of Bovine Tb, while shooting and fishing inject huge amounts of economic benefit into the rural economy. This attitude may seem odd and two-faced to some. Certainly is to a section of our population. But I was a hill livestock farmer who every year sold 1000 lambs, 100 cattle and thousands of chickens/turkeys for eventual slaughter. I may be a bit soft hearted, but the killing of animals and birds as part of human activity is part of my DNA.

Thinking about this today because I went down to show support to the Tanatside Hunt, at its traditional Boxing Day meet at the Royal Oak in Welshpool. Seen more horses in the past, but never more people on the street, who came especially to show support. 40 horses and I'd say we'll over 1000 people. The sound of the hunting horn, clatter of hooves and applause of the crowd as the Hunt moves off and up Broad St is highly evocative.

It seems to me that the antipathy to hunting is based on a desire to control the way people think rather than any impact of what they do. There seems to be no real objection to control of foxes by shooting, which in my opinion and experience is far more cruel. There is no real objection to controlling the density of foxes, as long as no enjoyment is taken from it. What's in the mind of those seeking to reduce the fox population bothers me not at all. What's in the minds of those who pay £thousands per day to shoot tame pheasants doesn't bother me either. What's in the minds of those who sit on the banks of rivers to catch beautiful salmon bothers me not. But it would bother me big-time if these activities represented a threat to any of the hunted species. In general, the land management which supports these activities is hugely positive for the natural world.

I thought it a great mistake on the part of a Blair Govt to ban hunting with dogs, creating a nonsense of a law. Blair himself thought so too. But it is the law, and must be obeyed. If there were to a vote in Parliament, I would vote to repeal the Act. But there's not going to be. I did think there would be a change to the 'flushing out' rules to bring into line with Scotland, but ironically the SNP at Westminster would vote against - so it won't happen. What is likely to happen is that 'drag hunting' will continue, gun packs on foot will do most Fox control, badger culling I fear will go partly underground. The amout of cruelty will be higher than it needs to be. The logic of our law will remain a nonsense. And I'll carry on going down to support the local hunt every Boxing Day.

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