The Boxing Day Meet

For many years I’ve been in the habit of attending the Fernie Hunt’s Boxing day meet at Great Bowden, near Market Harborough, and this year was no exception.  The sun shone from a clear blue sky, and some hundreds of people gathered on the village green, with the riders and hounds.  A thaw was just setting in, although I suspect not soon enough to allow serious hunting.  But the tradition of the Boxing Day Meet was maintained.  Mulled wine, coffee and hot chocolate were available from the Shoulder of Mutton on the green.
Strange how historic dividing lines between the generations are becoming blurred in the 21st century.  For the first time in my life, I saw a man with an ear-ring and a hearing aid, in the same ear.
The enthusiastic crowd at this event, and at a couple of hundred Meets up and down the country, serve as a standing rebuke to the envious and embittered kill-joys of the Labour Party, determined to maintain their Hunting Act as long as they can.  Yet this was the day that Environment Minister Hilary Benn chose to launch an attack on what he called the Tory pledge to repeal the Act (of course we are pledged to a free vote in the House of Commons, not to repeal per se).  The Act was always about class envy and spite (“Getting our own back for the miners”), rather than animal welfare, and Benn’s attack was clearly a tactic designed to open another front in Labour’s increasingly desperate attempts to re-open a class war.
It is odd to reflect that Labour’s tactic is based on a misconception.  On the evidence of today’s crowd at Great Bowden, I’d say that ordinary folk were better represented there than the chinless wonders and county squirearchy.  Many hunt followers find it challenging to pay for their winter feed, but they hang in there because they love the sport, they love their horses, they love the countryside and they love the living tradition of hunting.  I used to be an enthusiast for hare coursing before the wretched Act outlawed it, and while some of the owners were well-heeled, the crowd at the Waterloo Cup was always predominantly working class.  Hare coursing has traditionally been popular with pitmen, so it is ironical that Labour’s leftist ideologues imagine that banning coursing is somehow compensation for the miners.
But the most remarkable effrontery of Benn’s attack was his suggestion that with the economic crisis bequeathed by Labour to the next Conservative government, it was an odd priority for the Conservatives to be promising a free vote on hunting.  It was his Labour government that wasted an extraordinary 700 hours of parliamentary time on this vindictive and unworkable Act — and even then they had to resort shamefully to the Parliament Act to get it through.  This is many times the amount of parliamentary time they allocated to debating the invasion of Iraq.
The free vote the Conservatives propose will take very little parliamentary time.  And we will do it, Hilary, because we gave our word to do it.  That seems a good enough reason to me.

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16 Responses to The Boxing Day Meet

  1. “I used to be an enthusiast for hare coursing before the wretched Act outlawed it”

    Shame on you, sir. Hare coursing is a particularly disgusting so-called ‘sport.’ Even my pro-hunting M.P., Mr James Paice, says – somewhat illogically, I admit – that he dislikes ‘hare coursing intensely but would be reluctant to ban it because of my libertarian instincts.’ By that logic, we would still have bear baiting and cock fighting. I hope and pray that the Hunting Act is not repealed or otherwise undone. We British led the way in banning the slave trade and in banning slavery in the Empire, we led the way in banning bear baiting and cock fighting, and we led the way in banning hunting and hare coursing. We must continue to make progress and not let our civilisation take a backward step. And, besides, if Cameron, Hague, Herbert, etc., think that repeal would be a vote winner in rural areas, they are very much mistaken.

    And as for the vile ‘sport’ of hare coursing, please sign my NoToHareCoursing E-Petition at –

  2. ChrisP says:

    Strange…My own opposition to fox hunting, has always been about cruelty. (Not Politics.) I am also a horse lover, (but never felt any need to chase after foxes) And a dog lover (I own a much loved beagle.)
    If you mis understand many peoples motives, for opposing something. how can you claim any great understanding of the subject?

  3. I share your concern about cruelty, which is why I support hunting. Foxes need to be culled. Hunting with hounds is the only method that never leaves a wounded fox to a long slow death. It is the only method that preferentially takes out old or sick foxes, contributing to the fitness (in a Darwinian sense) of the fox population. Remember there are no hospices for foxes.

    On your broader point, I think I well understand the range of reasons why some people oppose hunting. Some believe it is cruel (as you appear to do), but are simply mistaken. But many more regard opposition to hunting as a badge of class loyalty. Others are looking for an excuse to attack people they don’t like — more a justification for class hatred than a concern for animal welfare.

  4. “Others are looking for an excuse to attack people they don’t like — more a justification for class hatred than a concern for animal welfare.”

    After that silly comment, I don’t think that I like you very much, Mr Helmer. It’s nothing whatsoever to do with class. It’s all to do with our attitudes to other people and to wild animals and our standards of civilisation.

  5. “Foxes need to be culled.”


  6. ChrisP says:

    As you say, mr Helmer, the real world can be very cruel. It seems, we are both at least, concerned about cruelty. One of us, however is ‘simply mistaken’, about whether the Fox hunting ‘sport’ is cruel or not. For myself I prefer fencing, both as a sport, and in every other meaning of the word. I hope there are not too many unfortunate incidents involving pets that fail the ‘Darwin speed test.’ (Or do pets sometimes, like foxes perhaps, just get cornered?)
    It is not, completely unknown, for people to care (in the ‘hands on’ sense) for foxes. Along with almost every other living creature that we share this planet with. (You may be right though, about a shortage of Fox Hospices)

  7. Mr Helmer or somebody is censoring this site.

  8. Foxes need to be culled because otherwise they take excessive numbers of chickens, new-born lambs and other livestock. And regardless of the law, they will be culled — if not by hunting, then by shooting and other methods. And as I’ve said, all those other methods will leave a proportion of the culled foxes to die in agony in a ditch over hours or days, as gangrene sets in to a wound.

    Oh and by the way, Mr. Notoharecoursing: Hare coursing takes place whether you like it or not. The only effect of the ban is to ensure that all hare coursing is illegal (and therefore arguably more damaging, and less beneficial to the hare’s habitat, than legal coursing).

    • I farmed until the mid-1990s some 900 acres and never found a need to cull foxes. I kept a flock of sheep and never, so far as I am aware, had lambs taken by foxes. Neither my other livestock nor my household pets were harmed or taken by foxes. There are foxes in the first-class farming area where I live now and nobody, so far as I am aware, takes any action against them.

      I am only too aware of ‘illegal’ hare coursing, having suffered on my land from it for at least forty years. I recently took the opportunity to ask my local Police Inspector if he and the force had the same opinion as I, namely, that, following the banning of hare coursing in 2004 and the initiation of ‘Operation Dornier’ by the Cambridgeshire Police against illegal hare coursers, the incidence of this so-called ‘sport’ had greatly diminished. The Inspector confirmed that this was so.

      And it’s only the Conservatives (of which I used to be one) who are planning to bring fox hunting and hare coursing back.

  9. Tragically, vermin is better protected under New Labour than people are.

  10. Richard Hyslop says:

    Two interesting things have taken place since Labour made hunting with hounds illegal a couple of years ago: one hunting is more popular than ever and two, more foxes are being killed now than were killed when hunting with hounds was legal.

    Whether you are pro or anti hunting, it must be agreed that the Act itself is a very bad piece of legislation that has lead to only a handful of prosecutions, some of which have later been overturned on appeal.

    The numbers of foxes, rabbits (the hunting of which is still allowed), dear, hares etc need to be controlled as they cause untold damage to livestock etc. It is for this very reason alone that most farmers allow hunts onto their land in the first place. Foxes inparticular kill on an indiscriminate basis, you only have to view a chicken coop after a fox has been to see this.

    Even a former director of the League Against Cruel Sports said that foxes would be worse off if hunting with hounds was made illegal, for publicly saying this he was sacked.

  11. If anything, the Act needs strengthening so that we can be sure that chasing and killing wild animals for fun is clearly and for ever unlawful and regarded by all with well-deserved revulsion. If they know what’s good for them politically, Cameron & Co. should, at the very least, promise to let sleeping dogs lie.

  12. ChrisP says:

    As ‘notoharecoursing’ says, the act needs strengthening. And the law should be respected, or civilisation breaks down. I imagine the Foxes introduced to the larger nation of Australia by English immigrant fox hunters, for their cruel pleasure, are now causing the Australians similar concerns? Am I to conclude from this, that fox hunting sports people are the best people to be protecting us from ‘a problem?’ (this sounds like a scam)….I keep my Beagle well away from chicken coops, I suspect he would disgrace himself, in similar fashion to a fox, if he got in one. Should I conclude from this, that my Beagle is to be despised? Or that Chickens should be well protected from these possibilities? As indeed my goldfish have to be, from herons (which, in addition are a protected species, that I cannot harm in the protective measures I take)

  13. Pacquiao says:

    Animals have life and we should respect them. They are food but not to the extent of just simply having fun to kill them.

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