Exasperated Indeed


Isn’t it interesting to see what gets flushed out once you put the dogs in?

Following the joy of seeing so many wonderfully attended Boxing Day meets the length and breadth of the country, what was completely absent was any evidence of the alleged 85% of the population who are so rabidly opposed to hunting. That is because that figure is a total myth of prejudiced spin by those who fundamentally hate the people for whom hunting is a central part of their way of life. It’s just the lie that keeps being repeated until timorous politicians begin to acknowledge it. Thankfully, real people, like Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, isn’t bowing to that tripe, keeping Larkhill racing going and stating “the only people who should be masked and camouflaged on MOD land are armed forces personnel training to defend the UK. People who intimidate and threaten other users are not welcome”. Well said Sir.

But you could forgive them. The lobbying by the enemies of our way of life has been pretty effective, whereas ours has been like witnessing an out-take from ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’, watching General Melchett and Dougie Haig plan their spring offensive for the ‘Big Push’.

As the hounds pushed further on into deeper cover, out popped something totally unexpected.

To set the scene, the Boxing Day Telegraph ran a superb article based around some of the views of Daniel Greenberg KC, the soon to be Parliamentary Standards Commissioner. Mr Greenberg had drafted the articles and bills for the Hunting Act 2004 and still possesses a significant degree of unease in that “I felt that the act was driven more by a moral outrage angle than animal welfare, and that troubled me,” he told The Telegraph. “The difference between a parliamentary democracy and a parliamentary dictatorship is respect shown to minority opinions and rights.”

He further went on to say that he was “troubled” by the law as it did not show enough respect to the “minority cultural opinions” or traditions of those in the hunting community.

He told The Telegraph that he felt that the law was introduced for moral reasons and, as a result, it was ineffective and there is an argument that it is “unfinished business”.

Now the interesting bit is when the hounds then turned onto what one would have hoped to be more familiar ground. The Spectator followed the Telegraph article and on seeking the opinion of Nick Herbert (photographed), Chairman of the Countryside Alliance, the erstwhile correspondent ‘Steerpike’ reported ‘an exasperated Nick Herbert of the Countryside Alliance told Mr S that ‘Labour’s position is utterly illogical and the large number of prosecutions under the Hunting Act only shows that the legislation is perfectly effective’. 

I can’t write an earth-shattering silence but if I could…………………..

One can only guess at what left him so ‘exasperated’!

Compare and contrast Greenberg’s ‘it was ineffective’ with Herbert’s ‘legislation is perfectly effective’.

The is the Hunting Act 2004 we are discussing here. Widely regarded as bad law that was based on ignorance and prejudice more than anything else. The single most devastating law ever to have affected the countryside or at least the hunting element of it. Even Sir Tony Blair, under whose tenure this dreadful act was passed, invoking the Parliament Act to avoid any input from the House of Lords, has subsequently admitted that it was one of the episodes he most regretted during his time in office. To give some perspective to that admission, he also led this country into the war in Iraq, let’s not forget!

The Parliamentary Counsel who drafted the Bills for the Hunting Act and who is now soon to be the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, has declared significant moral unease with this legislation and that because it was introduced for questionable moral reasons, it was ineffective.

And yet here we seem to have the Chairman of the Countryside Alliance passing it all off as perfectly effective legislation! No doubt the explanations might follow. It would seem to me that the first step towards any recovery is a sound admission that there is a problem. And now it further seems that we know where the problem lies. And he’s exasperated. What on earth does he think about the exasperation levels of us hunting folks, having witnessed this shambles for 17 years? Maybe its time to step aside from the failure to settle ‘unfinished business’ and leave the people to whom it actually matters to get it sorted.

Now I get it. The public face of hunting, its PR and ineffective political lobbying has utterly failed. Ben Wallace, as a former military man, would know well that you don’t reinforce failure and keep sending more men ‘over the top’, unless of course, you’re happy to accept defeat.

So instead, you look to assess options for success and fix a strategy. Which is what we are doing.

Waiting until the next general election to seek reassurance from a party pledged to further tighten the Hunting Act is possibly not the best plan, although healthy dialogue is always a sound concept.

Shuffling the deck chairs and lining up your old ‘rockets’, not especially convincing.

Not grouping together and fixing strategy with all those with whom we have common cause, probably not the brightest move either.

All those hunting kind of people who enjoy working hounds, lurchers, ferrets, longdogs, terriers, horses, falconry. Farmers and landowners, racing, ordinary decent rural people all constitute the army waiting in the wings, from Northern Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland. Let’s see the real 85% step up, the quiet people of these islands of ours.

Assisted, supported and delivered by PR professionals and people who not only understand but actually want to lobby. What a refreshing change that would be. We have another chance now that we’ve clocked our main delivery problem and this time, we’ll get it right.

The meltwaters are slowly beginning to run after the thaw of the 17-year brain freeze that had seen hunting all but end. It’s been more than intriguing to see what flushing through the cover has produced this Christmas and we will run with that in mind. We will never give up now and will forge on hard to ensure that our way of life remains true to itself and our animal companions, our culture, heritage and tradition.

Ed Swales represents Hunting Kind in association with This is Hunting UK.