The Fox-hunting ban has been now shown to be absurd.
Hunting continues in Ireland.
While many blame Tony Blair, look at it this way: when the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruely to Animals, patron Her Majesty the Queen, announces that Fox-hunting with hounds is unncessary and cruel, how can the leader of a party supported by all those who either know no better or (see Peter Bradley, April 20th 2005 below) are admittedly engaged in a 'class war', a party which has been trying to ban hunting for years, do much about it until the RSPCA is reformed and depoliticised so that it can once again concern itself with animal welfare. In the meantime, as predicted here from the beginning of the debate, foxhunting is more popular than ever. See entry Nov 5th 2006.



JAN 1ST 2004
Fox-hunting has been a country sport and a means of controlling the wild fox population in the UK for hundreds of years. It has been a popular equestrian activity amongst the others, and an important part of the rural economy and society. The details can be examined in hundreds of documents available in libraries and on the web.

It has been suggested in recent times that fox-hunting is 'cruel' and should be abandoned.
A number of people have gone as far as to promote this idea publicly, taking advantage if the lack of knowledge and experience of modern urban populations. It even became a cause celebre within the RSPCA which became the target of the anti-hunting activists who joined the organisation for the express purpose of subverting it to their own ends .

The present Labour government inadvisedly adopted the abolition of fox-hunting as part of its election manifesto, promising a free vote on the issue. Individual MPs, with little idea of the facts, included an anti-hunting stance in their election platform.

Sensing rather late in the day that if such a fundamental activity, involving horses, hounds, riders and all the trades and businesses associated including several activities that involved the needs of farmers well beyond the control of foxes was to be suddenly abolished on the grounds that it had been discovered, at the end of the 20th century, that it was 'cruel', they had better make sure that this was a correct diagnosis, the government asked Lord Burns to take evidence from all those he could find who had experience that might be relevant. He was then to produce a report.

The Burns report did not come up with any evidence of cruelty other than the highly contested opinion of anti-hunting activists, or aberrant and rare behaviour that was not part of proper practises. The most he could come up with which might be construed to support the case for the abolitionists was that hunting with dogs might be 'prejudicial to the welfare of the fox.' It is therefore of supreme importance now to examine this conclusion to see if it logical and therefore a conclusion on which legislation can be based.

The words 'The Fox', as used by Lord Burns, can mean one of two things.

1.  It can mean a specific fox used as an example, an instance, where the fox is hunted, caught and killed by the hounds. In that case, Lord Burns is undoubtedly correct. In the case of that individual fox its life is most certainly terminated. There are no half measures. A fox caught by hounds is killed instantly. Its welfare might be said to be prejudiced to an infinite degree. However in this meaning of the words 'The Fox', this is exactly what is required. It avoids cruelty to the individual fox. It is worth noting in passing that alternative methods do not satisfy this criterion. If this is the sense in which Lord Burns wished his curious phrase to be understood then he is clearly not intending that it should be used as a reason for abandoning fox-hunting.

2. It can mean 'The Fox' as a species. This common grammatical usage is sometimes referred to as '4-Dimensional' - the fox over time, emerging as it evolves from other species and then settles into a niche in the animal kingdom and a period of quasi-stability during which it plays its part as part of the super-organism that is life on this planet and the particular limb that is life, in this case, in the UK. When we examine this meaning of the words 'The Fox', however, it is beyond all reasonable or possible doubt that Lord Burns did not intend this to be how his words should be understood. It is certain that far from being prejudicial to 'The Fox' as a species, hunting is entirely beneficial, as it is to the horses that take part, to the riders, the hounds, the saddlers and the community as a whole. There is no need here to go into the precise reasons why it is so beneficial, the world is full of biologists who can testify tho this.

The Burns Report can therefore be seen as wholly favourable to the continuation of hunting in the most positive and unreserved terms providing of course that there are no deliberately cruel practises associated that we have not covered here.

What action, therefore, should the Government take? Having discovered that the premises on which a free vote on the abolition of fox-hunting with dogs was contemplated are non-existent, that the abolition would be highly prejudicial to the welfare of 'The Fox' as a species, that the alternatives involve unnecessary suffering for individual foxes, that a hunting ban infringes basic human rights and would bring to an end a healthy and excellent activity, they should explain this to their MPs and withdraw the bill. It is the responsibility of the government in a parliamentary democracy to inform themselves of the facts and not to offer as options the framing of laws which are based on information known to be false.

When the results of passing such a law are as divisive and destructive as the one contemplated here, to proceed with it would lead to nothing less than civil war. Those who think that for some reason that could not happen here are very much mistaken. It would not be the hunting fraternity that would take up arms alone. It would be all those who would refuse to stand by to see such an abuse of the parliamentary system.

In the meantime, it would be sensible if Lord Burns were to make it clear what the words in his report mean so that it is not used by knaves to make a trap for fools, or there for fools to fall into of their own accord.

UPDATE SEPT 5th 2004
Although it is hard to believe, a majority of Labour MPs are still not aware of the folly of voting to ban Fox Hunting. In their manifesto, the party committed not to a ban but to a free vote. Normally, a free vote in parliament is a device used to allow an ethical decision to be taken on a policy matter where the outcome is not linked to an article of faith of the party granting the freedom to its members. Of course it should not produce a totally ludicrous result, putting at risk the reputation of parliament. So it is important to commission expert advice and ensure that all MPs can read it or have it read to them. This has been done, but it appears that the Burns report is not written in language that all MPs can understand.

The report does not give grounds to support the argument that fox-hunting is other than a healthy, proper and excellent activity.
The report does not support the argument that other methods of managing the fox population are preferable, even if they have to be used to supplement hunting with hounds.
The report does not support the argument that cruelty is involved in any part of th activity, unless there are abuses by cruel  or thoughtless individuals, which should of course be effectively punished and thereby prevented in future.

The above arguments would have to be proved, and shown to be tending to the extreme before a ban could be so much as contemplated. The reverse is evident.

If, in the face of this, a majority in the House of Commons were to vote for a ban, I think that is the end of all credibility for the House. Should the ban become law, I hope that hundreds of thousands of people who can ride but have never hunted before, will come to the support of the hunts and swell their ranks to more than double. If the horses are impounded by government, I hope they will take whatever action is necessary to release them, with assistance from the majority of the public, to whom it is clear a ban is abhorrent. There is no way a ban on fox-hunting can be accepted as constitutional, desirable, necessary or, to put it bluntly, sane.

Using the Parliament Act to push through a ban would be completely unjustified. A Fox-Hunting ban has nothing to do with the political birth or articles of faith of any party - it is a bee in the bonnet of certain individuals, based on ignorance. The manifesto commitment is to a free vote, nothing more.  It cannot achieve any social objective. It is not the wish of a majority of the nation. It is not an EU objective. It will never be a global objective or standard. There can therefore be not the smallest justification for using the Parliament Act to override the deliberations and decisions of the House of Lords. If the Lords are collectively stupid enough to vote for a ban, then it must be accepted, but it would wrap up their credibility too for most thinking people.

SEPT 8th 2004
According to yesterday's Evening Standard a 'deal' has been struck with the anti-hunting Labour MPs that the legislation will be enacted as long as they agree that it is not applied for two years. That just about sums it up. On the one hand they claim that use of the Parliament Act is justified to enforce the will of parliament representing the people, on the other hand they say the same people would not vote them into power if they really knew what banning hunting would mean. This is what comes of forming an opinion before investigating the facts and applying some logic. Opinions should come last; and if there are enough facts available, logically ordered, they speak for themselves without the need for personal opinions.

SEPT 15th 2004
Today was a sad day for Parliament. The houses used to be open to the public, a place where people could go to speak to their representatives and watch them in action. Today's fracas will only result in more security and less trust between MPs and the public. But when the representatives betray this trust to the degree they have in voting for this crazy ban, what can we expect. Law and order is only kept in a democracy because the people believe at least to some extent in the sanity and educational qualifications of their leaders. When they realise they are a bunch of chumps, capable of destroying their livelihoods through complete ignorance, equanimity is lost - to put it mildly.

We should not, Frankie Howerd used to remind us, mock the afflicted. No doubt Tony Banks had some bad experiences in his formative years. You only have to listen to him to realised he is damaged goods. But while we should not mock such people there is no call to be governed by them, or people representing the misinformed, any more than one would ask a drunken horseman to pilot a passenger aircraft. Even Andrew Marr, usually a beacon of knowledge and sanity, proclaimed that we were witnessing a battle between freedom and democracy. This would have been a magically wise statement if it had been in any way applicable. But it is not. There is no case against fox-hunting. Those who want it banned on the grounds of cruelty are simply ignorant of the facts of life, of biology, psychology and many other -ologies I can think of. They have been told there is no case by those who know and are not ignorant; and even Lord Burns (who does not know one way or the other) pronounced himself convinced by those who did, as I have already explained at great length here. It is nothing to do with freedom, and certainly nothing to do with democracy. It is the unqualified speaking in the name of people they have themselves misinformed with rhetoric, on this and other issues, designed to win them a seat. It is chaos and it is madness.

Unless this bill is defeated at a later stage of Parliamentary scrutiny and discussion, what happened today in the way of disorder will be nothing to what will happen later. I would dearly like to tell you here what will happen, as that is my business here, but in this case I will button my lip for the moment and say only it will put previous experiences of disorder since the civil war into perspective, because respect for parliament, the most important element of stability in a democracy, will have been trashed and all trace of trust in the intelligence and integrity of a majority MPs (not all, I emphasise) has evaporated.


SEPT 18th 2004
So, let us set to and see how we can avoid this absurd and unnecessary catastrophe. History is not predestined. There are attainable goals for life and for humanity to reach. They may or may not be reached here on this planet, but that is up to us. Not every acorn becomes an oak, but the potential is there. The way forward on this issue is to take advantage of what has just happened. It looks like a set-back for both sides: so we must turn it around and use the events for good to both sides. That means looking at the arguments on that these events will have raised to a higher level than before. By examining them, the truth will emerge.

Let us look at the arguments of those in favour of the ban and treat them seriously.

"A practice is either cruel or it is not, and if it is we should outlaw it."
Lord Burns
"Naturally, people ask whether we were implying that hunting is cruel... The short answer to that question is no. There was not sufficient verifiable evidence or data safely to reach views about cruelty."

Fox hunting is not cruel, but Widdecmbe's statement is anyway defective from start to finish. There are degrees of stress, and/or pain involved in all activities which range over scale from 0 (imperceptible to the agent) to 100% (unbearable and likely to bring about local or general insensibility as a relief). That has little to do with cruelty, which is:

The infliction of unnecessary stress or pain either for gratification or because a known alternative, less painful procedure
within the means of those involved, to reach a properly justified, accepted and desired end, is not employed.

From this we can see that a practice cannot be classified as either painful or not, only more or less painful; and cruelty depends on a scale of knowledge of the agent as well as the availability of alternatives. Those with knowledge that under such a definition an action is cruel, are entitled to campaign for laws to stop those who are unaware of it, as well as those who are knowingly cruel, from such actions. It this case, the complete reverse has come about. Those with no understanding have campaigned against a practice which is not cruel under any meaningful definition, to abandon it in favour of alternatives which are.

 Widdecombe cites bear-baiting, cockfighting and badger-baiting, obviously cruel activities under the criteria I have set out above, as precedent for a ban"If we let minorities carry on with any sport regardless of it ethicality, we would never have banned these" she proclaims. So let us look at her reasons for supposing fox-hunting is unethical.

"1. Causing fear to an animal is cruel, causing prolonged fear is wickedly cruel."

No, because we are not talking about fear as Anne Widdecombe imagines it in humans. A fox being hunted by hounds is not the subject of any cruelty, any more than the chickens a fox may chase and kill are the subjects of any cruelty by the fox. There are those who say that because a fox kills more than he needs or carries away at the time, it does it for fun. That is not the case. It kills them because the opportunity is there. It may not have the chance to come back and pick up the others, but that is not known or considered by the fox at the time who has to take every opportunity on the spur of the moment.

The riders who follow the hounds do indeed get enjoyment out of the ride, whether a fox is found and caught or whether there is nothing found all day. A prolonged chase by hounds often means that the fox escapes. It is the older or less healthy ones that are caught. This is the same for all animal life. Widdecombe thinks now that humans are in control it is time to take the words 'The lion shall lie down with the lamb' literally.

I am reminded by the extraordinary statement of Father Trevor Huddlestone the famously selfless priest who worked tirelessly in South Africa to help the poor and abused. Interviewed on his religious beliefs, he professed a profound problem in reconciling a loving God with a world that included pain and suffering. There may be others who have a problem here, but this was from a man who was a luminary of the faith that above all others proclaimed the immanence of the creator in creation, as well as the means of transcendence. If he ever did read the New Testament (and I assume he had), he sure as anything did not understand it. Widdecombe seems to be in the same state of confusion. We should be grateful that she is literate. Many seriously confused people cannot explain their confusion. She has laid it out for all to see. It is a useful object lesson. We should also be grateful she is not on the pro-hunting side as she would probably so confuse its thinking as to convert people to antis, as she is inclined to do with other reasonable causes.

"2. Chasing an animal until it can no longer outrun its pursuit and then letting it be set on by a pack of dogs is scarcely the hallmark of civilisation...."

Note the careful choice of words to disguise and distort the truth. A technique used by those in some form of denial. The truth is that the hunt sets up the search for a fox. The hounds scent the fox. They chase it. If they catch it, they kill it. The hunters on horseback are there to keep up and control the pack rather than have it out of control, going anywhere. Others follow as best they may, learning and practising the art of horsemanship, so that the art and science can be maintained across the generations for the good of all concerned.

" argument can be made for tolerating such ungodly conduct if there was (sic) no other way of controlling the fox population. Yet Burns found that only six per cent of all fox destruction is done by hunting. In other words hunting is a most ineffective from of pesticide and there is no utilitarian, let alone moral, argument for its retention."

Here she has shot herself not just in the foot but in the heart. I will pass on the absurdity of the invocation of her god, as whatever it, he or she is, it has certainly nothing to do with any church she has stumbled across in her confusion. The reason only six percent of foxes are 'destroyed' by hunting is that there are too few hunts, and they hunt too little. Hunting and the keeping of horses could be a lot cheaper if riding was more popular. Horses do not have to be owned by their riders, they can be shared or rented. But since we tend towards becoming a nation of obese armchair pontificators like Widdecombe, or urban troublemakers with nothing to do because the state does not take an initiative to encourage them to ride and hunt, there is shortage of good people and true to do a good job on the weekend and enjoy the exercise and fresh air.

The moral case for fox hunting is solid - it is the way the fox has evolved to expect his threat to individual survival. It is what it has the right to expect, the right to pit its wits against the pack, and follows the proper laws of natural selection for wild animals. Widdecombe complains it is ineffective - it is not. It is the only right way to control foxes in the countryside that is able to select its victim by the combination of luck and skill and performance on both sides. As for urban foxes, it is not practical to unleash a hunt through our crowded streets and back alleys. If it were, Widdecombe would find out the moral case was unassailable there too.

As for Widdecombe's claim that passing the bill was a triumph of democracy, I have dealt with that in many previous paragraphs. So far, it is an example of how parliamentary democracy can be abused. Should the Parliament Act be invoked, it would be the most unbelievable abuse of that Act that can be imagined.

JOHANN HARI writes:"Country life is only possible because of townie generosity"
How little he knows. Yes, 'we townies' (as he describes himself and, patronisingly, his readers) do indeed give more than 5 billion directly to farmers every year. Perhaps he might take the trouble to find out why. It is a tangled web of historic intricacy in which the people who actually do the work of maintaining the countryside and farming crops and livestock are the only heroes. There have indeed been some abuses, manipulation of flawed agricultural policies by landowners, by banks and investment companies on behalf of trade unions as well as other investors. In the competitive scramble for security or profit there have been all sorts of massive movements of funds, sometimes by government, sometimes by others. The movement from the search for food security after the war, through the drive for efficiency through economics of scale and mechanization, to the creation of surpluses that took tax payers money to flood world markets and hurt the producers of what we called the Third World, it has not been a blameless story. But the 'townies' do not these days pay any more to farmers than they have to, and well they know it.

Farmers and other country dwellers have stuck to their essential tasks, on which the town dwellers depend utterly without knowing or understanding. Town dwellers throughout the world are destroying the planet, running out of water, and inventing ever more inessential occupations in their race to make money.Their lifestyles are totally unsustainable. Their activities have only been made possible by the increase in efficiency of farmers which enables so many people to be other than farmers. If it were not for this, growing enough food to survive would occupy every family in the land. If the countryside were not there, life would not be sustainable for other reasons. The health crisis afflicting this country and about to bankrupt the national Health Service is an urban  disease. Of course there are some country people who are objectionable, and Mr Hari may have met a few, but this is no excuse for his rant in Friday's Independent which he ought not to be proud. He makes a lot of noise for such a young man who would be advised to find out a bit more about life. It is not generosity that causes money to be paid to farmers and others to maintain the countryside. It is the knowledge that the without the countryside and its working inhabitants they could not survive, and there is no reservoir of young townies coming on who have the great variety of skills and knowledge required who could be to encouraged or even forced to take over the vital tasks.

Cannon TONY CHESTERMAN writes in the Independent:
"Fox hunting is about having fun, and killing a creature, any creature for fun is wrong in that it erodes our moral sensibilities. It dehumanises those who engage in the practice. Fox hunting is the adult equivalent of pulling wings off flies. It is basically and fundamentally wrong, end of argument."
I have known a few masters of foxhounds. They were remarkably human. In fact they were exceptionally human and humanitarian, artistic and animal lovers. I particularly remember the late Dorian Williams - I recommend Tony Chesterman to examine his life and works. Riding to hounds can be 'fun', I suppose, but most who do it would describe it bit more respectfully. It is quite risky, it can engage a great deal of skill, and involves a complex and admirable relationship between a great many people and animals. The death of the fox is not fun, it is quick but important and a central symbolic event if it occurs. As for the comparison of pulling the wings off flies [has anybody actually ever done this??] which is not a physically or mentally uplifting exercise, nor necessary, the absurd and pompous Tony Chesterman will no doubt come to realise what a foolish letter he has written. I must thank the editor for publishing it as it can only help the hunting cause, but with clergy like this, I think the church is in for a poor time.

THEN THERE ARE THOSE WHO COMPLAIN BECAUSE HOUNDS THAT ARE PAST THEIR USEFUL WORKING LIFE ARE PUT DOWN. They say that this cruel. It s the very opposite. Though their is nothing to stop someone who wishes to keep a fox-hound as a pet after its working life, it would probably be a very great disappointment to the animal, used the companionship of its fellow and a disciplined an active life. I suggest those who think a foxhound has an unhealthy, unhappy life take a close look at them before during and after a hunt. No, the breeding, handling and management of fox-hounds is a worthy occupation that should be supported wholeheartedly by the RSPCA and kept to a high standard. If their are any abuses they should indeed be curbed. Putting hounds down after their hunting days are over is the right procedure. The alternatives would be either intolerable, unmanageable, unaffordable or cruel if attempted on any significant scale.

who claim (I paraphrase) "We are told the protesters include people from every walk of life, but the protesters turn out to be upper class" or words to that effect. So are some people excluded from all walks of life? Are the so-called upper classes not a life form? Should those who are well off and support and take part in hunts leave the protesting to those less well off whose income is threatened? I rather think not. It was the duty of those who entered the House of Commons to do so, If for no other reason than to expose the lack of intelligence of those who thought it was impossible without inside help. It was also their duty as leaders of the active hunting community to stand up and be counted. They are to be congratulated. It cannot be said that they made fools of MPs because the voting on this bill proves beyond doubt a majority of them were fools already.

I will not go on, there are so many confused, pompous and ignorant people who have joined the anti fox-hunting lobby that they speak for themselves. The more they talk, the more they fall down. You can judge the worthiness of the cause either by those who represent each side, or by the quality of the arguments they present. There is Steve Jones, the self-publicising so-called expert on genetics who has used arguments rather like some of the above. A 'journalist's scientist' - he makes more money that way, and journalists are such suckers, knowing (understanding) no science themselves. It is no contest.

So there you have it dear reader. Good will come out of the bad happenings inside and outside Parliament because we will now REALLY start to here the arguments of the ant-fox hunting lot, and that will be what sinks them, the exposure of their poor education and/or their utter confusion and/or their blatant lies to support their own state of denial.

25th SEPT 2004
It is vital now to avoid negative tactics and turn all the energies of the supporters of fox hunting to promoting the activity. Young people need healthy outdoor activities. Riding could become much more popular and hunting is exciting riding and could become much less expensive if more people took it up. Protests against the Bill should concentrate on getting MPs to understand the valid points raised by Kate Hoey, and then on why they should actively support hunting. Hoey's speech during the debate was described as brave. I would describe it as accurate and the least she could do, knowing what she does.about fox-hunting, parliament and her colleagues. Here is the link to it, in case you missed it. 

Now at least it is clear. The commons has been unable to face the facts - well how could they? The 'facts' now include admitting their own stupidity and ignorance and nobody will ever admit to that. If they use the Parliament Act, they will be challenged in the courts for abuse. There are those who say the Parliament Act itself is unconstitutional and was never properly instituted. But even if it has been, it was never designed or intended to force through legislation based on a free vote of misinformed members acting against the evidence of the enquiry they commissioned, on an issue that does not carry popular support in the country as a whole. It is better, in a way, to have avoided the compromise bill that had been proposed. Let's finish with this rubbish.

FEBRUARY 16th 2005
Tomorrow the law comes into effect. The appeal against the validity of the Parliament act has failed. The Parliament Act is indeed valid legislation, but a ban was not a manifesto pledge, only a free vote after an examination of the evidence. The evidence was ignored, there is not a majority in the country in favour of a ban, so the use of the Parliament Act was wrong even though it is a valid act. If it going to be abused in this way it should be repealed by a future parliament. I would prefer it to remain and not be abused. However Lord Wolfe's judgement was correct, the use of a valid Parliament act is a matter for Parliament. I hope the next election will be fought on the basis of voting for MPs who are for or against the ban, regardless of which party they stand for. That way will get sane MPs, which is all we need to ensure they refrain from voting for insane legislation on any matter.

UPDATE APRIL 20th 2005 - The General Election looms...
The enlarged italics in the Reuters report below are mine. I never realised that there really was a class-war element here. I thought it was just ignorance about animal welfare. But it seems not

Wednesday April 20, 07:04 AM

Labour braced for hunt ban anger at ballot box

WROXETER (Reuters) - Rural Britons are in revolt and mounting a determined but almost certainly doomed bid to stop Tony Blair's Labour party winning an unprecedented third term in elections next month.

Never admirers of Labour, the hunting, shooting and fishing brigade have been finally spurred to action by a deeply divisive ban on fox-hunting with dogs that came into force in February.

"The ban typified everything that is wrong with this government. It is an unnecessary and cowardly attack on a minority," said Patrick Webster, chairman of the 170-year-old Albrighton Hunt in the northwestern county of Shropshire.

"It has been a catalyst, turning a reservoir of pent-up anger over the foot and mouth disaster and the loss of public services in rural areas into a pool of energy," he told Reuters in his home, an old farmhouse set amid yellow oilseed rape fields.

That is not to say that this historic rural haven 150 miles northwest of London no longer echoes to the hullabaloo of hunting with blaring horns and baying hounds. It is just that they now have to shoot the foxes if they find them.

Blair, his personal standing in tatters over the Iraq war, goes to the polls on May 5 in the hope of entrenching his Labour party's 161-seat majority but with some pundits predicting that huge margin could be as much as halved.

Galvanised by the hunt ban, a body calling itself Vote-OK is targeting more than 130 marginal Labour constituencies to support opposition pro-rural candidates.

"We assist within the constituency when asked to," said local organiser Clare Sawers. "We are not putting forward any candidates of our own. At the moment it is mostly leaflets."

Although the majority of these opposition candidates are from the right-leaning Conservative party, small regional parties are also being supported -- the aim being to evict the sitting Labour member.

Labour has always been an urban-based party, springing out of the industrial heartlands while the Conservatives -- who ruled Britain for a large part of the 20th century -- have found their support among the landed gentry and middle classes.

It is hard to see tiny Wroxeter as a battleground, but the area is no stranger to strife, sitting on an ancient crossing of the River Severn next to once warlike Wales and below the ruins of Viroconium -- Roman Britain's fourth largest city.


The stench of the funeral pyres of millions of cattle and sheep slaughtered to stop the foot-and-mouth epidemic that briefly delayed the last election in 2001 has gone.

But it has been replaced by smouldering anger over what is seen as a blatant attack on the rural way of life.

Some 400,000 people took to the streets of London in 2002 to protest at the coming hunting ban and the dilapidation of public services in rural areas -- a particularly sore point with pensioners who form a significant part of the electorate there.

The anger is deep in Shropshire's Wrekin constituency -- the model for Middle Earth in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings -- where Labour member of parliament Peter Bradley is a keen supporter of the ban and also seen by many as unashamedly anti-rural.

"We ought at last to own up to it: the struggle over the Bill was not just about animal welfare and personal freedom; it was class war," he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph last November.

And, as with the reasons for going to war with Iraq, trust is also a rural concern.

"They lied to us. They said it was all to do with animal welfare but then Bradley admitted it was part of the class struggle -- them against us," said farm college student James Tyler-Morris.

However, Wyn Grant, professor of politics at Warwick University said the hunting ban could play well among urban voters for whom animal welfare was an emotional issue.

"It is an emotive issue that could bring Labour voters out," he said.


But it is not just local issues that are fuelling the fires of resentment in the countryside.

Rural Britons are just as concerned over the election's big issues like schools, hospitals and law and order.

"We are not fooling ourselves. The farming community is just one percent of the electorate. But there is a deeper malaise in the country too," hunt chairman Webster said.

"We can make a difference in the marginal constituencies, and maybe elsewhere."

"I don't think the Conservatives will win this election. But I think there is a real chance that Labour can lose it," he added with a fervent gleam in his eyes.


So, we shall see...

AUGUST 5th 2006
The law has been enforced for the first time. A legalistic decision which might be reversed on appeal but, the law itself  has to be repealed..

Man to appeal foxhunting conviction

The Press Association Friday August 4, 05:36 PM

A huntsman is to appeal following his conviction for illegally hunting foxes.

Exmoor Foxhounds huntsman Tony Wright was prosecuted after he was filmed chasing two foxes across Exmoor with two hounds. The 52-year-old was fined £500 and ordered to pay £250 costs by District Judge Paul Palmer at Barnstaple Magistrates' Court, Devon.

Wright, of Exmoor Kennels, Simonsbath, pleaded not guilty to the charge of hunting a fox on April 29 last year, contrary to the Hunting Act 2004. The private prosecution

by the League Against Cruel Sports was the first in England against a fox or stag hunt under the act.

Wright claimed he was operating under an exemption in the Act, with two dogs and a marksman. The exemption stipulated the fox had to be shot as soon as possible after it was flushed, and the hounds had to be closely controlled to enable the shooting to take place.

But district judge Paul Palmer, who watched two League videos from April 29, when two foxes were seen to be followed, told Wright: "What I saw was not exempt hunting."

He said reasonable steps were not taken to shoot the fox as soon as possible, and hounds were not closely controlled as required by the exemption. The judge said long after the foxes were flushed they were being followed by the hounds - hunting in his view.

Richard Furlong, for the League, said their costs were £65,000.

After the case, Wright said he did not feel like a criminal and added: "I can assure you we will be continuing and trying to stay within the Act as I always have done."

The Countryside Alliance (CA) said they would be supporting Wright's appeal. Ca president Labour peer Baroness Ann Mallalieu, said: "If this judgment is to stand it would be impossible to use dogs of any sort to flush foxes from almost anywhere. The Act has got to be repealed and will be repealed."

The League's head of public affairs Mike Hobday said: "This case makes it clear chasing foxes with hounds is a criminal offence. Those people who still get their entertainment from being cruel to foxes are being put on notice their activities have been found illegal."

NOVEMBER 5th 2006
Fox hunting ban 'boosts support'
Fox hunters meeting in Kent at the start of the new season say the ban which came into force last year has made the sport more popular than ever.

DECEMBER 27th 2006

We're still here and we'll carry on: hunts put on Boxing Day show of strength

· Thousands turn out for traditional gathering
· Opponents promise to use Asbos against lawbreakers

Matthew Taylor
Wednesday December 27, 2006
The Guardian

As supporters gathered near the Balmer Lawn Hotel in Hampshire to toast the start of the traditional Boxing Day hunt yesterday morning, master of the New Forest hounds, Paul Ames, issued a rallying call which was repeated across the country: "We are still here and we shall carry on."

Two years after the Hunting Act was introduced - supposedly signalling the end of hunting with hounds - supporters put on a show of strength, which organisers claim saw as many as 300,000 people turn out to support the UK's 314 hunts.

The Countryside Alliance claimed the level of support - which was disputed by animal welfare campaigners - proved the two-year-old ban had become irrelevant.

"We think we've had a record turnout this year," said spokeswoman Charlotte Fiander. "We are seeing people who have never hunted before going out and that is certainly boosting the numbers. It just shows that this law needs to be changed."

Anti-blood sports campaigners hit back, questioning the Countryside Alliance's figures and unveiling a new prosecution unit which they said would use antisocial behaviour orders (Asbos) to tackle hunts and huntsmen that flout the ban.

The League Against Cruel Sports chief executive, Douglas Batchelor, said: "We hear every week of hunts behaving in a profoundly antisocial way. They allow their hounds to rip apart a family's pet cat or rabbit and then think all they need to do is say sorry.

"We have been advised that scores of hunts are prime candidates for antisocial behaviour orders and our unit will be actively assisting the victims of such behaviour to take appropriate legal action. Asbos are not just for hoodies, as many hunts are about to find out."

The Hunting Act, introduced almost two years ago, made hunting with dogs a criminal offence, although hunts have used a series of loopholes to keep going. Yesterday countryside supporters said the legislation had had little impact.

Jo Aldridge, spokeswoman for the Beaufort Hunt, said: "There were more than 2,000 attending the hunt today, with around 150 of those on horseback. The hunt was extremely well attended - it took us by surprise to some extent.

"The ban has not affected the popularity of the hunt at all, in fact we seem to be being supported in greater numbers than ever, so the ban hasn't worked from that viewpoint ... Quite often a dad who used to hunt but gave it up some time ago will now come out again with the rest of the family, just to support the hunt."

More than 2,000 supporters attended the Worcester Hunt in Droitwich. Joint master David Palmer said: "The crowds were as large as we have ever known them. Most are people who we might not see for the rest of the year, but who come out on Boxing Day to show their support for the hunt."

Two hundred people gathered at the Murray Arms, Gatehouse of Fleet, to support the Dumfriesshire and Stewartry hunt, which re-formed this year and was meeting for the first Boxing Day since 2002.

Its chairman, Jamie Blackett, said: "It's wonderful to be out with the Dumfriesshire and Stewartry on Boxing Day again. The support here today shows exactly why we had to restart the hunt and why I'm confident that we will be out for many years to come."

The Vale of Aylesbury with Garth and South Berks had 3,000 at their meet near Berkhamsted in Buckinghamshire.

Huntsman Gerald Sumner said: "Support like this so close to London shows that hunting isn't some sort of weird rural tradition that is dying out. Hunting is more popular in the south-east of England than it has ever been."

The Cottesmore Hunt met in Oakham, Rutland. Phillipa Mayo said: "There was a crowd of 1,600 to send us off. One person told me that he had never even thought about coming out until the ban, but now he wouldn't miss the opportunity to show his opposition."

The League Against Cruel Sports said that a team of senior QCs would advise its new prosecution unit on how best to use both civil and criminal law "to control the behaviour of those hunters who believe they are a law unto themselves". The move follows the league's first successful private prosecution against Tony Wright, a huntsman with the Exmoor Foxhounds, in August.

Yesterday Barry Hugill, a spokesman for the league, said the focus on the hunts would continue into the new year. "Because of the media attention most hunts do not break the law on Boxing Day. but we will be monitoring them throughout the year and that is when we anticipate that Asbos may come into play," he said.

The Hunting Act, which came into force in February 2005, made hunting with dogs a criminal offence, although exercising hounds, chasing a scent trail and flushing out foxes to be shot are still legal. Hunts have continued despite the ban and it is estimated that around 25,000 days of hunting have been carried out by around 300 hunts since it came into force. Some hunts lay artificial trails for their hounds while others have invested in golden eagles and eagle owls to exploit falconry clauses in the act. The first successful private prosecution took place this year when Tony Wright, of the Exmoor Foxhounds, was found guilty of hunting a wild mammal with a dog.

Hunting ban tops 'unpopular' poll
The Countryside Alliance has admitted conducting a drive to get people to vote for a repeal of the laws banning hunting with dogs, in a Radio 4 poll.

The Hunting Act took 52.8% of the votes to top a Today poll of the act people would most like to see reversed.

The alliance said it used its website to encourage pro-hunt activists to back an end to the ban in England and Wales.

The programme's panel had considered excluding hunting because of evidence of a campaign to affect the outcome.

Radio 4 presenter Ed Stourton said there had been "suspicions that there was an organised campaign at work".

Panel 'hesitation'

Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, who was on the panel which assessed nominations for the poll, told Today: "Undeniably, the Countryside Alliance pulled out every last stop to get this result.

"We did hesitate on the panel to put this one forward because there was already evidence of links from the Countryside Alliance - encouragement etc - and of course we had the Boxing Day meets, when just about everybody who actively supports hunting would have been out and could have been reminded."

Whatever your views on hunting one way or the other, this act is a fiasco and it is not surprising that it received a mass vote
Countryside Alliance president Baroness Mallalieu

Countryside Alliance president Baroness Mallalieu said she was not surprised by the result.

She said: "What we did was to notify people on the website that this vote was taking place and suggest that they vote.

"The truth of the matter is that, of all the acts on the list, this is the one that no case can possibly be made for retaining, because it has been a total failure all round.

"Whatever your views on hunting one way or the other, this act is a fiasco and it is not surprising that it received a mass vote."

The vote for the Hunting Act was well ahead of the second-placed European Communities Act of 1972 which took Britain into the Common Market, which gained 29.7% of the votes cast by telephone and online.

Other acts voted for included the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, which requires police permission for protests in Parliament Square, which attracted 6.2% of the vote, and the Human Rights Act, which got 6.1%.

There were also votes for the Dangerous Dogs Act and the Act of Settlement.

JUNE 23rd 2011
Here is another example of great ignorance about animals. Circuses should be regulated and kept to very high standards, cruelty to animals in inexcusable, but banning animals in circuses is an admission of human failure of truly awful proportions. Fortunately ministers are certain to ignore this vote.