The Hunting Act: Is the Tory Party keeping the faith?

At the Fernie Hunt Boxing Day Meet at Great Bowden, with Joint Master Philip Cowan

Today Sara and I went to the Fernie Hunt Meet at Great Bowden.  This is the traditional Boxing Day event, but the Hunt doesn’t meet on a Sunday, so the event was held over until the 27th.  Great Bowden, site of the Fernie Hunt Kennels, is close by Market Harborough, where Emma and I have our UK office.
It wasn’t possible to hunt, because the frozen weather has left the ground hard as a rock.  But the Boxing Day Meet is such a fixture in the local calendar that it went ahead anyway, with the Huntsman and the Joint masters mounted, and of course the hounds.  And as usual, hundreds of supporters and spectators came to take part, and the Shoulder of Mutton on the village green did a roaring trade in mulled wine (and coffee).
I was rather glad that no one asked me about the Conservative Party’s position on Hunting, because reported in today’s press was a deeply disheartening message from James Paice MP, who is the Conservative MP for South East Cambridgeshire, and Minister of State ( Agriculture and Food), Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.  He has dismissed the prospect of any repeal of the hated Hunting Act in 2011, saying that with so many issues on its plate, the government cannot give the hunting issue sufficient priority to justify parliamentary time.  And in the report I read, there was no assurance that repeal would come at all.
“Priority” is a pretty thin excuse, since most people believe that the repeal could consist of a two-line bill, or a one-line clause in a longer bill, and should take very little time.  To be fair, I don’t think many people in the hunting fraternity expected repeal next year.  That is perhaps not simply because all reasonable people recognise that increasing the Overseas Aid Budget and urgently building more wind farms are vastly more important than rural concerns, but rather because the Conservative Party has been busy lowering expectations on the hunting issue.  Some might think that the Party had cynically managed the hunting question to gain the support, and the votes, of the Countryside Alliance and of the 400,000+ people who marched in London to oppose the Ban in 2003.  Now that the Party is in government, suddenly the issue looks less important.
But the government knows that radical steps need to be taken early in a government, or they end up in the long grass.  The argument starts to be “We can’t look at this divisive issue in the run-up to a General Election”.
I personally feel deeply ashamed of the delay.  I have seen over the years the degree of support the Conservative Party has received from hunt supporters.  Sometimes these people are natural conservatives.  Some are largely apolitical, and are campaigning simply for their sport, trusting the promises that the Party has made.  Just one example: I remember going up to Scarborough & Whitby in the 2005 general election to support my former MEP colleague, now MP, Robert Goodwill.  We were canvassing in the dark, and in some of the most appalling weather I can remember.  Howling wind and torrential rain.  And the group campaigning consisted (so far as I can remember) of me, and Robert, and a bunch of hunt supporters.  Frankly the weather was so bad that by myself I might have given up and gone home, but I kept going because the hunt supporters kept going.
We owe them one.  We have made a clear promise, and we have to fulfil it.  I for one won’t feel able to hold up my head at countryside events until we do.

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26 Responses to The Hunting Act: Is the Tory Party keeping the faith?

  1. Whilst I loathe the very idea of hunting animals only for sport (on principle), this post makes some wider points in regard to our use of countryside and the betrayal of many highly dedicated Conservative supporters. Also, the failure of The Conservative Party to address this issue properly (as promised before coming to power) serves as a reminder of the opportunism, broken promises and ongoing obsession with political expediency which tarnish the Government. Furthermore, this is also another example of giving way to Liberal Democrat politicians and appeasing their supporters. As per usual, traditional Conservatives seem to be ignored or marginalised yet again.

  2. There is another opinion, Mr Helmer. I hate equally fox hunting, hare coursing, stag hunting, etc., because I can’t cope with the idea of killing animals cruelly for ‘fun.’ All of these so-called ‘sports’ have one thing in common: they are practised to provide a sick sort of ‘fun.’ And I write this as a former Conservative activist (check out the relevant Cambridgeshire constituency and Central Office records), as a farmer, and as a born and bred countryman.

    • Do you know of any more humane way of culling foxes? Is there any other culling method that guarantees never to leave an injured fox to a slow death, or that preferentially culls weak or sick animals? Foxes are not killed for “fun”. The sport lies in the riding and the jumping and the working together of men and horses and hounds. The fox is incidental. You might as well say that the point of cricket is to be sadistic to the ball.

    • Paul Kay says:

      I would have thought anyone who thought they were intelligent enough to stand for parliament would realise data protection rules would forbid anyone to just search old membership records at a whim..but that is as off topic as the point being raised.

      You are a former Tory yet you stood against the party. Well done….. remind us how many votes the electorate gave you and the platform you stood on?

      Born and bred countryman? And? Does it mean you are automatically right? No of course not.

      Some people who are born and bred countrymen also cant stand animals being reared for the sole purpose of feedin humans? Again doesn’t make them right.

      • Yes, Paul, I lost big time, as you know, but I enjoyed standing up for what I believed in without having to toe a party line. And, yes, I acknowledge that being a farmer and countryman doesn’t mean that I am right about such as fox hunting, hare coursing, stag hunting, etc., but I have found that I am believed by doubters because of my background and experience.

    • Brin Jenkins says:

      Perhaps Geoffrey you would like hunt supporters de programmed, much as Scientologist recruits were some 40 years ago? Electrotherapy might also help in the cure.

      I favour a free choice for all individuals to do. and believe what they choose, don’t you hold such an ideal too?

      My wife just hated seeing all of her hens killed by a free range fox. They are out of control now in these days of Tony Blair’s act banning our ancient right to hunt. We no longer keep hens, are the new industrial free range eggs the same?

      Does anyone really think Blair actually gave a damn for foxes?

  3. First, I doubt the necessity of culling foxes. Second, if ‘the sport lies in the riding and the jumping and the working together of men and horses and hounds,’ why don’t you go drag hunting. Some hunting people I know (and like) were asked this. Their response was, ‘It’s not the same.’ I said, ‘Why?’ They said, ‘There’s no kill.’ As to your comment about cricket, all I would say is, ‘Balls.’ Have a good New Year!

  4. Well, if that’s your view, may the good Lord help you: I can’t!

  5. Sean O'Hare says:

    Personally I don’t approve of fox hunting or any other blood sports, but neither do I approve of the government banning them. The hunting fraternity should be able to hunt without the threat of being branded criminal. Hunt protesters should also be able to protest peacefully of course and that should include such distruptive action as laying false trails. The police need get involved only if there is a breach of existing laws (i.e violence). This was the situation we had before the hunting ban became law so I agree it should be repealed forthwith.

  6. You have a friend, Mr Helmer. (I wonder if Sean O’Hare is his real name, and I also wonder if you and Mr O’Hare are also in favour of re-legalising hare coursing).

    • Can’t speak for Mr. O’Hare, but I am absolutely in favour of repealing the ban on hare coursing. I keep a greyhound, and before the hunting ban I was a regular at the Waterloo Cup. I look forward to returning to Altcar when the Act is repealed.

    • Sean O'Hare says:

      No Geoffrey Sean O’Hare isn’t my real name, but does that matter? I used to use my real name on blogs, but received abusive telephone calls as a result. I like to write about my home town (Corsham, Wilts) and my real name is in the phone book. Reasonable no?

    • Sean O'Hare says:

      Oh I forgot to answer your other point. As hare coursing is covered by the hunting ban and I am in favour of repealing the hunting ban then yes I am in favour of legaling hare coursing. Unlike Roger I won’t be going to Altcar, but I will defend his right to do so if he wishes.

  7. mhayworth says:

    There would be no need to control fox numbers if the hunts stopped creating artificial earths in order to breed their quarry. Even Kate Hoey is quoted as saying that foxes would become extinct if it weren’t for the hunts. As for taking out the old and the sick, how then do you explain why these sadists salivate over cubbing season every year? Even the hunters I’ve known balk at the pest control concept.

    Most of us celebrated Christmas peacefully with friends and family without the need to kill anyone or anything for our own amusement.
    How sad that some people still aren’t capable of evolving into decent human beings.

    • No one who hunts “kills for amusement”, and if you think they do, you are too ignorant to comment. How sad that some people can’t see that the whole of nature (broadly speaking) consists of predators and prey. They’ll eat meat if someone else kills it, but they’re so squeamish that they want to ignore the reality of nature entirely.

  8. So far as hare coursing is concerned, you have an enemy, Mr Helmer, and that enemy is me. I have witnessed hare coursing, both ‘legal’ and ‘illegal,’ for more than five decades and, to my mind, there is not a lot that is more despicable. Even the ‘Minister for Hunting,’ Mr James Paice, M.P., has said to me (in a letter): “I personally dislike hare coursing intensely …” And, having read your response to mhayworth (above) alongside your response to me about sucking a sweetie with the wrapper on, I believe that you and your sort enjoy your ‘kills’ as ‘the real thing’ and some pretty disgusting amusement. In my opinion, you and your views are beyond the pale and are probably succeeding in getting the Conservative Party a worse reputation than it already has.

    • Sean O'Hare says:

      With regard to this comment and your replies to my previous comments. You may well be right that hare coursing is despicable. I have never taken part nor watched it and do not wish to. If I did I would probably feel very queezy. However as a libertarian I do not think the answer is a ban because that is authoritarian in the extreme. I would even go as far as saying that a ban is contrary to true conservatism. You and I may disapprove of blood sports, but that doesn’t give us the right to stop others participating if that is their wish. In the final analysis it comes down to animal rights I suppose, which is a mine field for a libertarian, but in my view there are equally barbarian activities undertaken by humans, not least of all the ritual slaughter of animals for religious purposes. Labour didn’t dare pick on Kosher or Halal butchery, they picked on hunting simply to be vindictive to country people because they aren’t Labour voters anyway.

      • My M.P. Mr James Paice, claims also to be a libertarian, but by his and your logic we would still have bear baiting and cock fighting. A line has to be drawn somewhere, even by libertarians. BTW, I couldn’t agree more about such as ritual slaughter ‘cos it just isn’t British, is it (or it wasn’t).

      • Mr. Woollard cannot get away with his knee-jerk attempt to link country sports with bear-baiting. Bear-baiting does indeed involve the intentional infliction of suffering on a defenceless animal for the amusement of spectators. Country sports do not.

  9. “Roger Helmer is a Conservative Member of the European Parliament. He was first elected to the European parliament in 1999, and has been kept very busy ever since representing the interests of his 4.1 million constituents from in the East Midlands.”

    And now it seems that he spends much of his time promoting cruel so-called ‘sports’ and writing at length in opposition to those who oppose his out-dated opinions. What about those ‘4.1 million constituents,’ Mr Helmer? I reckon you’ve pulled a fast one on them.

    • Brin Jenkins says:

      Geoffrey one might be forgiven for thinking you’re an anti hunting bigot who only wants complete compliance with your own narrow views.

      Roger spends much of his time on the vexatious question of our energy supplies, and is it ineptitude or malevolence to destroy our economy? I believe the later and wonder at those who are seemingly anxious to now rubbish our ancient ways and culture.

      Is it your common purpose perhaps?

  10. It’s so sad how so many public figures wrongly assume that foxes need to be controlled. If you would take the trouble to learn about the subject before engaging your mouse, then you might take a very different view and support the ban.
    I have yet to see a single hunt supporter who could tell the truth – I doubt they could lie straight in bed.

    • Brin Jenkins says:

      I do Judith, and as straight as I can. The fox is a very wiley chap and over time we learned how to control them. You really don’t need to get involved at all! Unless you feel the need to jump all over others who differ?

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