Earlier this month, heralded a new low for the recently elected Prime Minister as an overwhelming outpouring of public, political and in-party support against the proposed repeal of the 2004 Hunting Ban saw Cameron, unable to guarantee that his back-door 'amendment' to the act would be passed in a 90 minute Parliamentary session, opted instead, as protesters & speakers including Dr Brian May, Angus Robertson of the SNP and the former Green Party leader, MP Caroline Lucas gathered outside along with members of his own party (Conservative anti-hunt group 'Blue Fox'), to postpone the vote indefinitely.
So why is this issue so passionately debated, and why now?
A variety of public opinion polls consistently show that roughly 80% of U.K. residents are against any form of repeal, an overwhelming majority in our supposedly democratic society. A petition on Change.org that I administrate has, at the time of writing, 567,000 signatures in favour of keeping the ban.
The hashtag #keeptheban is trending heavily on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, with celebrities such as Ricky Gervais, Sir Paul McCartney, and Sir Patrick Stewart amongst many others voicing their support to this cause.
Some say this is the PM's attempt at diverting the public's gaze as his party strip them of their welfare, NHS, and right to protest, amongst many other things. Others see it as direct repayment for the support of the hunting community in campaigning to get him elected; certainly the pro-hunt group Voteok.org, chaired by none other than Samantha Cameron's stepfather; were so instrumental in his election campaign they received 'thank you' texts from the PM himself which have since been leaked to the media. One has to wonder, with the state of Britain and the recent austerity measures, why this of all things is first on their bucket list. Interestingly, it wasn't first and foremost on their agenda in the party's manifesto.
If pest control is the argument, then the fox is a friend, by controlling rabbits alone, foxes benefit the agricultural industry in this country by £7million a year. Their impact on lambs is also wildly overstated - less than 1% of lamb deaths can be attributed to foxes, the rest die from inclement weather and/or poor husbandry. But the hunters don't want people to know that.
Controlling the fox population - The fox is a territorial creature, drive one out and another will move in, or, as we are seeing more frequently, they will relocate to urban areas to survive.
Most frequently argued - hunting with a pack is the most humane way to dispose of this predator. Forty hounds or more at any given time, themselves destroyed by shooting or stamping death for displaying lack of hunting aptitude, exposed recently in front page press by a member of the hunt, as was the use of terriers for digging the hidden fox out of its hole, sustaining horrific injuries from the cornered fox.
Then the fox itself, exhausted and terrified, ripped to pieces when captured after hours of terror or, upon their unlikely escape, crippled with an agonising build up of lactic acid in their muscles...doesn't sound very humane to me.
None of these arguments explain the recent discovery of sixteen cubs raised for hunting in a barn adjacent to the kennels of Middleton Hunt, or false earths built to trap foxes for later hunting. Why so many rural communities and farmers are willing to go on record as anti-hunt, seeing no significant change to their livestock or profits since the introduction of the ban over a decade ago, or indeed why, in a recent BBC Radio Leeds phone-in, in which I participated, the first pro-hunting comments after my interview mentioned 'a good day out' and 'a bit of fun'. Why, I ask, after the shattering news for Cameron from the SNP that they would not only vote against amendment or repeal of the ban, should they also announce their intention to amend Scottish laws on hunting to bring them in accordance with our current law?
The answer of course, is again nothing to do with what the public wants - animal welfare, what is humane, supporting the rural economy or 'British Values'. It is simply a return of a jolly good day out on horseback, satiating the blood lust of the despicable minority whilst causing untold damage to British countryside, protected hedgerows, farmland, fences and livestock. The word 'tradition' is oft used to validate this sadistic practice by various pro-hunting groups such as the Countryside Alliance, tradition itself meaning the passing on of customs or beliefs - such as the owning of slaves, capital punishment, the subjugation of women and the imprisonment of homosexuals, all of which we, thankfully, as a civilised society in the 21st Century have moved beyond.
So, what next? This issue will not disappear anytime soon; it's no time to take this postponement as a victory. No doubt at the onset of the hunting season the vote will once again rear its head. With recent legislation to approve breeding of beagles for animal testing and use of pesticides guaranteed to destroy the declining and invaluable bee population, the Conservative government are showing their intention to regress animal welfare laws and move us, despite our best efforts, backwards as a nation. Don't let this happen. Make your voice heard and #keeptheban.
Nicola Waterson is a teacher and writer living in Saltaire, West Yorkshire. She has been a vegetarian and passionate supporter of animal welfare causes since her teens.
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