Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:
Today many of you will have been out with one of the 250 hunts that met in every corner of the country. From town squares in Cornwall, to working mens’ clubs in South Wales, from stately homes in Leicestershire to village pubs in Cumbria, groups of people from a few dozen, to many thousands have come together, as they have done for generations, to celebrate their communities and their hunts.
The idea that this traditional activity should have become a national political issue is fairly ludicrous wherever you are viewing it from. The fact that somewhere in the 20th Century the eradication of hunts and the 40,000 odd people who follow them became, in the words of a leading Labour politician “totemic to the Labour party” is utterly bizarre.
As we all know the ‘totemic’ ban was passed in 2004, but it has little to do with animals or their welfare. The Chairman of the Government Inquiry stated very clearly that hunting was not cruel, and it remains perfectly legal to shoot a fox, trap a fox or snare a fox. In fact research has shown a big drop in the UK’s fox population since the ban on hunting came into force.
Meanwhile, in the countryside, support for hunting remains undimmed. Young people continue to take up hunting and despite the encroachment of housing and infrastructure hunts still operate in nearly every corner of our island and remains strong in some of the most marginal of rural communities. From the West of Devon to the Cumbrian fells, hunts plays an important social role in times of challenge and change.
The real shame is that this issue continues to soak up so much energy that could be used for something positive. If ever there was an example of a pointless political issue this is it. All the hours of parliamentary debate, the millions of words and endless media scrutiny have achieved exactly nothing. Yet it seems from the images of huntsmen and hounds repeated endlessly on pub signs, paintings and the Boxing Day media, hunting remains as totemic as it has ever been.
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