Foxhunting is illegal; don’t hunters know?
Tradition be damned. Foxhunting is a callous pastime and it is illegal, writes Barbara Ellen.
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.