Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Foxy Locksie Loses Again

Oscar Wilde: Foxhunting... the unspeakable pursuing the inedible.

Dozens of illegal foxhunts are taking place each week in defiance of the government’s ban on hunting with dogs, hunt supporters have admitted.

On the eve of the first anniversary of the Hunting Act, The Sunday Times was last week allowed to accompany a hunt that used a full pack of 18 dogs to chase down four foxes, which were then killed. - Times 13 February.

A year later the reality in the countryside is not what was predicted. Those who said they would carry on as before looked guilty of bravado but they have been as good as their word. Every week, up and down the country, dozens of illegal hunts are taking place; foxes are being hunted with hounds and killed by them. Those who perpetrate this “crime” appear to do so with impunity. Not a single police prosecution has been brought under the Hunting Act and only one other prosecution, by the League Against Cruel Sports, is before the courts. Hunts make little effort to conceal their activities despite breaking the law, and the police have little or no stomach to pursue people who are generally regarded as law-abiding. - Times (editorial 13 February)

Prime time TV on Sunday night was devoted to the ballyhoo surrounding the first year of the ban on fox hunting in England. What an interesting program. Apparently, the fox-hunting fraternity – having only lately realised that no-one, especially the police, has the slightest interest in actually enforcing the law against fox hunting has simply carried on more or less as normal. Lots of foxes have been and continue to be killed. The anti-hunt supporters are more or less powerless to stop hunting.

Personally, I have no interest in hunting foxes. I also, have no interest in fishing, ice-dancing or origami – but I don't think my prejudices should be a good excuse for banning these activities. Despite all the efforts to portray it as a county pursuit beloved be all members of the countryside community, it still appears to Joe Public to be an exclusive activity designed to continue the socially divisive divide between toffs and plebs. Is this a reason to ban it? According to Labour MP's, it is. They should know, Parliament devoted over 700 hours in debating the ins and outs of the question. Never mind that the Iraq crisis was degrading down and down towards its inevitable, costly and useless waste of human life – the elected representatives thought that the spectacle of foxes being chased and killed by dogs was more obscene. Shame on them.

Having voted to ban hunting with dogs – well, actually they didn't ban hunting with dogs – they just made it more problematical and difficult to police. Trail hunting (following a man-laid scent), exercising hounds, rabbit and rat hunting and using no more than two dogs to flush out a fox from cover to be shot are not banned. Neither is riding horses through fields whilst the dogs do any of the above. Result: fox hunting has not really been banned at all. Nor is it likely to be banned in practice for a long time. Why? Imagine the hounds, accompanied by the fox hunters, following a man-laid trail and running into a real fox. Of course, the hunters will decry this accident – but it is inevitable and unavoidable. Couldn't those idiots in Parliament see this when they framed the law? Of course they did.

What the Labour MP's were actually interested in was mollifying their supporters without really dealing with the real problem – you can no more ban fox hunting than you can prostitution. Well, that's not actually true. You could ban fox hunting and prostitution. All you have to do is shoot the horses that fox hunters ride and the chaps who ride the prostitutes – or the prostitutes themselves and the chaps.

In any event this was not likely to happen; therefore, the con is complete. The public think fox hunting is banned. The hunters continue much as before. Parliament (not for the first time) is made to look foolish. And, apparently no-one, including the Ban Foxhunting Brigade, are much interested. The League Against Cruel Sports has launched one prosecution – still before the courts. It is bad law and has no chance of working. That suits some politicians. Silly!

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