Saturday, November 07, 2015

Tim Bonner writes on the need to take hysteria out of the Hunting debate

Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, writes:   
"It is very difficult to have a sensible conversation about wildlife management at the moment – what with proselytising pop stars and TV presenters, the rise of the keyboard warrior and the ease with which local issues become international petitions. There is a great deal of noise, but little clarity.

Early November marks the start of the season for the 289 registered packs of hunting dogs across Britain which were set up to provide an important service for farmers and landowners by managing the population of foxes, hare and deer.

Discussion of this subject, however is almost impossible because of the near hysteria it provokes. Take the small amendments to the Hunting Act that were to come before Parliament in July, which would have varied the number of hounds allowed to be used by hunts when flushing mammals out to be shot. Despite evidence that being able to use more dogs is more effective, and potentially more humane, the response to the tweaks was frenzied.

The Government was “planning repeal of the hunting act by the back door”, they screeched. Brian May started singing, Bill Oddie donned a fox mask, Ricky Gervais tweeted cute pictures of sleeping fox cubs and all sense went out of the window.

The SNP – who until then had cited legislation covering hunting in England and Wales as a prime example of the issues they would not vote upon, as it did not affect Scotland – now scented blood and realised this was a cause they could use to emphasise their new-found power in Westminster. They did not care a jot about fox hunting but wanted to rile the Government. No discussion would be broached and the vote was off.

The knee-jerk nature of these campaigns and the power of social media are also demonstrated by weighing the attention the death of a single lion in Africa can command with the day-in, day-out cruelty to the 54,000 horses that are transported in horrendous conditions for thousands of miles across Europe to slaughter each year, which never gets a mention. We can all get purple-faced with rage about the idea of paying to shoot a pheasant whilst tucking into cheap chicken from the Philippines in our ready meals.

But the Hunting Act was never really about saving foxes – it was about stopping people wearing certain clothes riding around the countryside or having fun. The idea that 10 seasons after the act came in hunts still meet at pubs, hunt balls still take place and on December 26 around 250,000 people will turn out in market places and stately homes across the country to support them, really infuriates the antis.

It’s why a picture of a small child being led by a parent on foot in the hunting field posted on social media attracts suggestions that he will grow up to be a paedophile and why a ferry company has now stopped carrying all day-old poultry chicks after the threat of adverse publicity from an animal rights group, rather than attempting to look at the facts.

Ten years after the Act hunts are still meeting and the Countryside Alliance is still fighting for sense to return to the hunting debate and for proper discussion of animal welfare, wildlife management and the role of the hunting dog in that management to be possible.

We are “still here, still hunting” and will be until common sense prevails.

Tim Bonner
Chief Executive
Follow on Twitter @CA_TimB

This is an abridged version of an article that appeared in both the Western Daily Press and the Yorkshire Post this week. Read the piece in full here."

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