Fox­hunt­ing is il­le­gal; don’t hunters know?

Tra­di­tion be damned. Fox­hunt­ing is a cal­lous pas­time and it is il­le­gal, writes Bar­bara Ellen.

Otago Daily Times - - OPINION - Bar­bara Ellen is an Ob­server jour­nal­ist.

WHY are fox­hunters in the UK still al­lowed to flout the law bla­tantly in a way that sim­ply wouldn’t be coun­te­nanced if some­one dressed up in an­other kind of cos­tume (Bat­man? The clown from It?) to, say, rob an of­fli­cence?

Labour has pledged to close loop­holes in the 2004 Hunt­ing Act that al­low blood sports to mas­quer­ade as ‘‘trail hunt­ing’’. While il­le­gal hunt­ing (of foxes and hares) is re­puted to be as wide­spread as ever, con­vic­tions have fallen to a record low. Gov­ern­ment cuts un­der­mine the ef­forts of the Na­tional Wildlife Crime Unit, while cases have been dropped by the po­lice and Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice, with vi­tal ev­i­dence said to be ‘‘mis­un­der­stood or ig­nored’’.

There are re­ports of hunters cel­e­brat­ing as foxes and hares are ripped apart, in­ter­fer­ence with badger setts (to stop foxes es­cap­ing un­der­ground) and disin­gen­u­ous guff about trail hunts, said to re­quire sig­nif­i­cant amounts of fox urine, or ar­ti­fi­cial liq­uids, that hunts never seem to in­vite out­siders to see be­ing pre­pared.

Oddly, de­spite claims of be­ing ‘‘hounded’’ them­selves, hunters also never seem in­ter­ested in do­ing the one thing that would in­stantly stop all the ac­cu­sa­tions and con­jec­ture: in­vite vol­un­teer rid­ers from, for in­stance, an­i­mal wel­fare groups to join the rides/trail hunts/what­ever. If noth­ing il­le­gal is go­ing on, and it’s just a smash­ing day out, you’d have thought that hunts would be des­per­ate to have wit­nesses along to con­firm it.

It’s al­most odd that fox­hunt­ing con­tin­ues to in­volve such a plethora of di­vi­sive is­sues, ex­tend­ing be­yond class.

Who thinks fox­hunt­ing should be il­le­gal any­way? At least ac­cord­ing to poll af­ter poll show­ing peo­ple are ro­bustly com­mit­ted to the ban (85% in one poll com­mis­sioned from Ip­sos Mori by the League Against Cruel Sports). Theresa May found this out when she pledged to give MPs a free vote on bring­ing back fox­hunt­ing, a plan she later hastily dropped, ad­mit­ting there was a ‘‘clear mes­sage’’ against it from the pub­lic.

In­deed, for such an ar­chaic niche pur­suit in our pre­dom­i­nantly ur­banised na­tion, it’s al­most odd that fox­hunt­ing con­tin­ues to in­volve such a plethora of di­vi­sive is­sues, ex­tend­ing be­yond class: you know, town ver­sus coun­try, moder­nity ver­sus tra­di­tion, nor­mal ver­sus pa­thetic. There’s also the fact that, hey, it takes all sorts and if some peo­ple en­joy dress­ing up in a snazzy scar­let jacket and breeches to re­sem­ble a sex dream that the late Dame Bar­bara Cart­land might have had, the rest of us should try our hard­est not to be mean and judge­men­tal about it.

How­ever, the most salient point of all is sim­ply that fox­hunt­ing is il­le­gal. Even peo­ple who aren’t strongly against hunt­ing would doubt­less baulk at hunters ar­ro­gantly flout­ing laws that ev­ery­one else has to live by. Pos­tur­ing about ‘‘tra­di­tion’’ is an ir­rel­e­vance.

If the law is the law when some­one breaks into a car, or holds a knife to a throat, it re­mains the law when peo­ple hunt il­le­gally. The le­gal sys­tem should not be a ru­ral pick and mix.

❛ The le­gal sys­tem should not be a ru­ral

pick and mix.

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