The Boxing Day meet


There could be no finer way to blow away the cobwebs left by Christmas indulgence, than to get out of doors and along to the Boxing Day meet.  So Wednesday Dec 26th saw the Helmer tribe (including grandsons George, 4, and Thomas, 1) going along to the village of Great Bowden, just outside Market Harborough, at eleven in the morning.  Great Bowden is home to the Fernie Hunt kennels.
Driving into the village, it was heartening to see the steady stream of local people heading on foot towards the village green.  Few of them, perhaps, were hunting people.  Few of them kept horses.  But they went for the fresh air, for the spectacle, for a sense of occasion and of continuity.  Many could be called hunt supporters only in the loosest sense, if at all.  Yet all clearly felt that hunting was a natural and proper activity on a winter’s day in the Leicestershire countryside.  Many would have taken comfort from a sense of place, of continuity, of tradition celebrated determinedly, a fixed reference-point in a world of bewildering change.  The event was packed.  The pub was doing a roaring trade in drinks of all kinds (including hot chocolate and soup).  Clearly the Fernie Hunt is in good heart.
Of course the BBC saw fit that morning to give airtime to the strictures of the “League Against Cruel Sports”.  But this League should have nothing to say about hunting, since hunting clearly does not qualify as a cruel sport.  The anti-hunting lobby has something in common with socialism: that its core proposition appears at first glance to be self-evident, but on closer inspection proves to be nonsense.  I have made the case for hunting often, but it bears repeating.
First, hunting with hounds is the most humane way there is to cull foxes.  It is the only way that ensures a clean kill — if the quarry does not get clean away, as frequently happens.  Every other culling method, indeed every other end that a fox may anticipate, leaves open the strong possibility of a lingering death from a bullet or shot wound, from a road accident, from disease or old age and starvation.  The hunted fox will certainly never lie for hours with gangrene in a ditch, agonised and terrified.
And hunting is the most ecological culling method — the only method that preferentially takes old, sick or unfit foxes, and leaves the healthy ones to breed.  It mimics Darwinian selection, and ensures a fitter and healthier fox population.
Consider for a moment the work that hunts do on forestry and fencing; creating and protecting wildlife habitat for a wealth of species; remember the local industries that benefit — vets farriers, tack shops, tourism — and the social networks that the hunts support and nurture.  The benefits of hunting to rural communities, to the countryside and landscape, to wildlife and biodiversity, are beyond dispute.  The anti-hunting movement is based on woolly thinking and mis-placed class prejudice.  It is easy to form the impression that anti-hunting activists are more concerned with their hatred of people than their love of animals.
Hunting, formal and ritualised as it is, provides a tenuous link with a hundred thousand generations of our hunter-gatherer forebears.  In our modern, frenetic, technological, consumer-driven society, such links are precious.  We break them at our peril.  We can take comfort from the growing strength of hunting in England, and for the self-evident failure of The Hunting Act.  It must be repealed, and the sooner the better.

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1 Response to The Boxing Day meet

  1. William Cross says:

    Roger Helmer has once again demonstrated his passionate support for one of Britains’ great traditions, The Boxing Day Meet. He has also highlighted the valuable work undertaken in the countryside and the contributions made by our all the hunts to our rural environment. Thank you Roger.

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