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Hypocrisy and class warfare: the case against fox hunting

Friday 10 September 2004

Our weary country commentator John Sheard, who has never hunted and heartily dislikes horses, recounts once again the real reasons why fox hunting is to be banned - and it has nothing to do with animal welfare

OH DEAR. Here we go again. Another month of lying politicians, hypocrisy, and bleeding-heart townies calling for honest country folk to be hunted down and punished without mercy. The fox hunting ban is back on the agenda.

Like many people, I had seriously hoped that Tony Blair had forgotten his promise to ban this centuries-old rural tradition, which he made on the spur of the moment at a televised press conference because he knew it would deflect attention from much more serious problems concerning the governance of the world's oldest true democracy.


But no, he has put the backs up of most of his left wing MPs and a general election is looming, possibly as soon as next May say the pundits. So to get them back in line, he has tossed them a juicy slice of old-fashioned class warfare:

We will make criminals out of the nobs - the honest, tax-paying, law-abiding country folk who go hunting - and we will pretend that we are doing so in the interests of protecting poor little Reynard, that pretty red animal with a big bushy tail.

What drives me to the point of tears on this is that millions of people will actually believe him: that he actually feels some sympathy for the poor creature which, given half a chance, will kill a whole henhouse of poultry just for the fun of it.

In fact, almost every adviser with some knowledge of the countryside - admittedly, very rare amongst Labour ranks - will have told him that when hunting is finally banned, tens of thousands of foxes will be shot, gassed or snared, many of them doomed to die slow and painful deaths.

In the prairie wheat fields of East Anglia, where fox hunting has virtually died out from natural causes because huntsmen do not trample through fields of crops, the fox is virtually extinct. Blair probably knows this - but who said this argument had anything to do with animal welfare?

No, this is simply a matter of power politics and, once more, the legitimate interests and demands of country people will be sacrificed to pull in the townie vote. With such a huge majority, Labour can afford to lose the 50 0r 60 rural or semi-rural seats it won virtually by mistake eight years ago and still form the next Government.

As I have said many times before, I have never hunted and have disliked horses ever since my daughter had a Welsh mountain pony which bit her, kicked her and unseated her on a regular basis whilst draining my bank account for feed, tack, vets' bills, farriers etc etc. Nor, for that matter, am I particularly fond of horsy people.

But what truly sickens me about this latest attack on a legitimate activity which employs tens of thousands of country folk - not to say, many thousands of dogs and horses which will have to be put down - is the sneaky, sinister, cynical way in which it is to be done.

If the House of Lords try to oppose it, the Parliament Act will be introduced to force it through. That Act was meant for emergency use in times of great national threat. Reynard may be a nuisance, but he is hardly a menace to national security.

But traducing parliamentary procedures doesn't matter either because it will help Blair further along with his plan to destroy the Lords so that he can stack it with his own cronies and become the most powerful man in this land since Oliver Cromwell.

And if, in the meantime, new legislation of vital issues like pensions and child welfare are pushed aside to make way for the hunting bill, who cares: the hounds of the Labour Left are baying for blood and must be satisfied.

So Blair will toss them a few hundred thousand country folk whose social lives will be torn to pieces - and millions of townies will be conned into thinking it has something to do with protecting wildlife. Whither democracy now?

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