Sunday, June 11, 2006

Fox Hunting in the UK

Since February 18th 2005 fox-hunting has been illegal in the UK.

You probably think you already know my opinions on the matter, old leftie that I am.

Actually you’d be wrong. I am almost totally indifferent to the matter. Is fox-hunting cruel? Well, yes, no, maybe. I don’t know. But it seems a lot less cruel, to me, than some of the other ways we treat animals.

Take factory farming for instance. A lifetime in stinking, overcrowded conditions, being force-fed artificial food made from the used body-parts of other members of your own species, never seeing the sky, never breathing fresh air, walking, sleeping and eating in your own effluent, being treated like a factory unit on a production line rather than a sentient being with real feelings, living only for your own eventual slaughter.

Is that humane?

At least a fox is alive before it is hunted down. A least a fox has known freedom, has had a mate, has had cubs, has breathed the wild free air of the countryside, has known the exhilaration of the chase, with itself as the hunter as well as the hunted. And at least the fox has an opportunity of escape.

Most of the dislike of fox-hunting, I suspect, is down to class-prejudice. Oscar Wilde once famously described the occupation as "the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable". It is generally posh people who like to hunt. And anyone who has seen the yah-yah brigade dressed up in their ridiculous costumes, haw-hawing and snorting over their champagne on a Boxing Day morning, will know what a repulsive sight they can present.

So what? They probably don’t like me much either.

What’s annoying is that while the Countryside Alliance (the political organisation of the unspeakable) claim the so-called “right” to go chasing across the countryside following packs of hounds baying after a fox, they spend the rest of their time denying us the right merely to ramble and have picnics where we please. Most of them are landowners, remember. Some of them are major landowners. Some of them are the biggest landowners in the country, and it is still the richest 10% who own 90% of the land. That’s 90% of the land that is unavailable to the rest of us. And you wonder why we feel overcrowded.

So let them hunt, that’s what I say. I don’t care. Just let the rest of us get at least some access to the countryside.

Most of that land they claim to own was once ours in any case. Who gave it to them?

There’s that old apocryphal story about the land-owner and the squatter. You probably know a version of it. The land-owner says: “get orf my land!”

“What makes it your land?” says the squatter.

“My father gave it to me.” “And what made it his land?” “His father gave it to him.” “And what made it his land?” “He fought for it.”

“Right!” says the squatter, rolling up his sleeves. “I’ll fight you for it then.”

So what’s the fox-hunting debate about really, do you think?

I think it is a convenient cover-story and a sop to all those pathetic back-bench Labour MPs who have failed to keep their own Dear Leader in check.

So what that Tony Blair broke International Law with the invasion of Iraq? So what that maybe up to 100 thousand Iraqi people have died so far (and that we can’t even be bothered to keep count)? So what if we break the Geneva Conventions, use torture and imprisonment without trial as a matter of course, create resentment and bitterness amongst Moslems and thereby guarantee an increase in the terrorist threat? So what if we steal their oil, wreck their monuments, ruin their economy, destroy their independence and ignore their history? So what does any of that matter?

At least we saved some foxes.

Excuse me if I’m not all that impressed.

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