BY CAPTAIN ED SWALES
Rural Britain is being eradicated, quietly, in the back halls of Westminster, Stormont, Cardiff and Holyrood, by the sour ingredients of a damaging cocktail of misguided urban political correctness, ‘virtue signalling’ and woke agendas.
As they used to say in the Army, when unexpectedly under attack…. “Stand To!”. In reality, this threat is from a tiny minority of animal rights extremists, disproportionately influencing an unwitting political class. Our ability to deliver effective PR based on the science of the matter and our political lobbying are sadly lacking teeth and so these injustices become law.
How many of us really had any idea that 3 months ago in Northern Ireland, a bill that would have ended all forms of hunting with dogs and trail hunting was rejected by MLAs in Stormont, the best piece of news for rural and hunting people in 20 years? Sensible and practical MLAs rejected prejudice and voted for proper wildlife management, minority rights, the rural economy and the preservation our cultural heritage. Politicians here need to follow that lead if they are sensible enough to realise the importance of rural votes.
‘Hunting Kind’ aims to represent hunting from hunting’s perspective from now on and that means those of us who care for scenthounds, terriers, gundogs, lurchers and longdogs. ‘Hunting Kind’ represents all of us because the review and replacement of the anti-hunting laws affect us all.
Please have a look at the website www.huntingkind.com to see what we’re all about and register your support. Pass on the link to any like-minded friends or family and use the flyer or simply the website link to let your MPs know how you feel about our rural way of life. I encourage any brave souls amongst you to go further and get the flyer printed and hand them out at Point to Points, race meetings, country shows, within your organisations, it doesn’t cost much to print 500 copies and get the message out.
Why would the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management, an organisation comprised of 400 members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons state “Hunting by hounds is the natural and most humane method of controlling the population of all four quarry species, fox, deer, hare and mink, in the countryside” if they didn’t believe that to be the case? Surely, they would know, specialist professionals whose continual function is in support of reducing animal suffering?
There remains today a staggering number of rural folk in Great Britain who for some reason or other, whether ignorance, apathy, blind faith or just plain refusal to see things for how they really are, think that the preservation and continuity of our rural way of life is being well represented politically and that all will be fine if we just keep our heads down and leave it to those who know best. I’m reminded of the Iraqi PR spokesman during the Gulf War, dubbed ‘Comical Ali’ sending live reports from Baghdad as the Allied tanks rolled past behind him, incredulously reassuring everyone that everything was going according to plan and that he couldn’t really foresee any problems ahead. Well, you had to admire his optimism and possibly his epitaph would be ‘he meant well’. But we are all painfully aware of how his game played out in the end.
Take a quick overview of the situation facing hunting now. England and Wales continue to labour under the nonsense of the bad law that was the Hunting Act 2004, aiming to slip through the loopholes and smokescreens of an Act that has done nothing for the welfare of the wildlife it purportedly attempted to protect and really was ‘revenge for the miners’ as Dennis Skinner put it.
It was nothing other than a thinly veiled prejudicial move to persecute and prosecute the way of life of a decent law-abiding rural minority, which the then Prime Minister Sir Tony Blair conceded had been ‘one of the political decisions he most regretted’. Daniel Greenberg, the Parliamentary Counsel who drafted the various bills for the Act is on record as saying that the Hunting Act 2004 is really the only piece of legislation in his career that still gives him a sense of moral unease and that it was really, just “an act of what today it has become fashionable to describe as ‘Virtue Signalling’” Among his achievements has been drafting the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, to put that comment into context.
Senedd Cymru has been savage in its onslaught on its rural constituents, banning game shooting and trail hunting on NRW land. Scotland faces serious challenges – even last week when a Bill was proposed by the SNP/Green Party coalition to further restrict hunting with hounds to an ineffective number of 2. And everyone knows about the pantomime villain, Chris Packham, like a dark presence in the wings of his BBC HQ, influencing people like Carrie Johnson, Ben and Zac Goldsmith and more worryingly, Conservative MPs like Sir Roger Gale and Henry Smith.
But we know all that, or do we?
Following the, admittedly, appalling hand of cards dealt from the leaked Hunting Office zoom meeting 18 months ago – a shot below the waterline indeed – the MFHA has worked hard to consult on and scope a way forward for hunting and has at least gained a clear view of the reality of where we stand currently. I remain quietly optimistic that things will get better, having really got about as close to the bottom as it is possible to be without being utterly scuppered.
But in order to do so, we don’t need to reinvent the currently failed strategy, representing hunting from a shooting perspective. We need a solid stance to represent hunting in all its forms, from a hunting perspective. We don’t need to reinforce failure and a track record of failing to succeed, by trotting out the same old lines by the same old crew wearing a slightly less offensive shade of cherry-coloured cords.
We need sharp, bright, agile people, who understand political lobbying and how to engage with our MPs to show them that rural voters are capable, as a collective, of changing Governments. We need people who are good at strategy, PR and Communications and can reach across any divide because they are sensible, sympathetic and effective. People like Anna Ernsting at ‘This is Hunting UK’, brilliant and tireless in their love of and support for hunting, who at the click of a button can engage with her 45,000 followers and reach many tens of thousands more. Warriors like Sir Johnny Scott Bt, who have campaigned effectively for decades for the countryside and still does with his rural ‘black book’, Dom Wightman of CSM, Peter Brook at Bailys, Michael Sagar at Hounds magazine, Louisa Cheape from the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management, Jim Barrington, Charlie Pye-Smith, Barry Wade of the National Working Terrier Federation……. the list is endless. Over 400,000 country people marched on London back in 2002, the largest protest in British history. With today’s technology and communications, that figure would be nearer 2.5 million.
So how do we get that done?
Make your voice heard and if there’s only ‘one thing you do in ’22’, then register your support on www.huntingkind.com and click on whichever category you support – Scenthounds, Sighthounds, Terriers, Gundogs, General Support. If we don’t stand up now and stand together, our beloved rural activities will be banned and to a politician, it is all the same issue.
With the right level of support, yes about 2.5 million of us, we will proceed to Westminster and encourage like-minded MPs to lobby the Law Commission to properly review and, where necessary, replace wildlife management laws and bills that are currently in motion Animal Welfare (Sentience) and (Kept Animals), including the disastrous Hunting Act 2004.
We may have lost a few skirmishes but the battles and the war remains there to be won. The first step in turning the tide rests with you, the rural voter. The most important thing is to act and DO something now, be part of the ‘Hunting Kind’.