In honour of the Countryside Alliance's 15th anniversary, we reproduce Baroness Mallalieu’s stirring and inspiring speech to the Hyde Park Rally, 10th July 1997: Everyone here today has somewhere else where they ought to be. Farmers have left their haymaking, farriers have left their forges, racehorse trainers have left their runners at Newmarket. Doctors, Nurses and vets have changed shifts to be here. Judges have adjourned their cases for the day. Children have taken a day off school and countless country firms and businesses have closed or are running on a skeleton staff. People who are old and people who are ill have travelled many miles; some setting out before dawn. Others have been travelling for days on foot through heat and rain, pain and discomfort from all parts of the United Kingdom and beyond. Great sacrifices have been made by many people who were determined to be here. Some have never been to London until today. Most people have never attended a political rally or demonstration before.
All of us have given a part of our lives to be here in Hyde Park on the 10th July 1997. We have come here for a reason. We cannot and will not stand by in silence and watch our countryside, our communities and our way of life destroyed for ever by misguided urban political correctness.
This rally is not just about hunting. Many people, perhaps most of those here today don’t hunt.
It is about freedom, the freedom of people to choose how they live their own lives. It is about tolerance of minorities and sadly those who live in and work in the countryside are now a minority. It is about listening to and respecting the views of other people of which you may personally disapprove.
Many people don’t want to fish or shoot or hunt – some dislike these things. Let them try and persuade those who disagree with them by reasoned argument but do not try to pass laws to make those you have failed to convince into criminals.
Many of you spend your lives living and working with animals. You see birth and death at close quarters. It is you who must take the hard decisions and bear the responsibilities day in and day out. It is an irony that this rally is composed as it is of people who know, love and live among animals should be the target of abuse and vilification from those who claim to love animals but seldom have any knowledge of, or direct responsibility, for caring for them. The irresponsible seem to feel free and qualified to tell the responsible that they are barbaric sadists and perverts.
The simple truth is that those who hunt and shoot and fish and rear animals for food care for them greatly and probably understand them better than those who regard them sentimentally as quasi-human beings. It is also the simple truth that those who farm and those who take part in country sports control and maintain much of our countryside, preserve its wild places wild things.
Without people like this how many of our wild animals would not exist today. The strong healthy herds of wild deer in the West Country, the finest in the land are there because those hunt have been their guardians and protectors over generations. Take away their protection and you sign their death warrant. The countryside faces a new and immediate threat. A very new MP will try to criminalise many of those here today. What a tragedy that a bill which is dismissive and damaging to our nation should be introduced at a time when its mood on having elected a new government is one of optimism and desire for co-operation, not confrontation.
Do those who support such legislation not know or care that a ban on hunting wold result in more snaring, more wounding and more prolonged deaths which follow? That in some areas the hunt which is on call 24 hours a day provides the only quick and humane means of ending the suffering of casualty farm animals and horses?
Hunting is often described as a sport. But to those of us who have heard the music of the hounds and have loved it, it is far more than that.
Hunting is our music, it is our poetry, it is our art, it is our pleasure. It is where many of our best friendships are made, it is our community. It is our whole way of life. And we will fight for these things with all the strength and dedication we possess because we love them.
Tony Blair has said he will govern on behalf of the whole nation. That is what we want. Those present here today come from every political persuasion and I support Labour and I support hunting too. Our Government has not given support to this pernicious bill (Michael Foster MP’s Private Members Bill) and we hope it will never do so. Our quarrel is not with this government but will individual MPs.
We do not want this fight. It is not of our own making. We not want conflict between the town and the country. We do not want a nation divided. We want others to share and enjoy the countryside with us.
To our newly elected Members of Parliament we say this: we elected you in the hope that you would provide more of our people with new and better opportunities to do more with their lives. We did not elect you to lecture us on morality or to criminalise hundreds and thousands of our decent law abiding people.
Tonight this park will empty. We will be making our way home to all parts of our nation. We will go back and care for the animals and the countryside and its wildlife of which we have been the guardians for generations.
Don’t forget us, or what we have done today. We have made history. The countryside has come to London to speak out for freedom. And many from the towns and cities who understand and share our fears have stood here with us today.
I hope we are not on the eve of a battle. We do not want one. But if there is one, the countryside will fight, and we will win.
To those who have given part of their lives to be in Hyde Park the words of another country man, our greatest writer, addressing a minority on the eve of another battle, says it best:
From this day to the ending of the world
But we in it shall be remembered
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers
For he today who sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile
This day shall gentle his condition
And gentleman in England now abed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here
And hold their manhood cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon the 10th July 1997.