The Countryside Alliance is never shy of debating controversial issues and is especially keen to expose the hypocrisy and bigotry of arguments against hunting. There is a point, however, in some debates when prejudice is so fixed and arguments so illogical that there is no point engaging. Strangely Winchester University has managed to create just such a scenario with a ‘hunting symposium’ on 28th November which is confused in its inception and ludicrous in its content.

The symposium is apparently designed to ask the question ‘Should the Government repeal the Hunting Act?’, which would be perfectly legitimate if the preamble did not include discussion of the ‘worldwide outrage’ when a bow hunter killed a lion called Cecil in Zimbabwe. The fact that the first listed speaker is a renowned primate researcher and African conservationist does not help to clarify the aim of the debate and I am not sure either how the Chief Executive of the ‘Born Free Foundation’, which according to its website protects a range of species from lions to turtles but none covered by the Hunting Act, will help with discussion of hunting with hounds.

What I am absolutely certain of is that many of the other speakers listed to contribute are a million miles from being the ‘experts’ Winchester University promises, either in terms of practice or research. There is a Spanish anti-bull fighting campaigner who has admitted he knows nothing about hunting, a hunt sab, an employee of the League Against Cruel Sports who apparently has a particular interest in rats, a barrister who doesn’t seem to do much advocacy but does write books about animal rights and a motley collection of ‘academics’ who have neither researched or been hunting with hounds, but are willing to share their views on it.

The finest contributor, however, who encapsulates the dire nature of this event is a man called Adrian Miles. I have no idea who Mr Miles is but I am certain that claiming expertise on the basis that “he has spoken out against hunting on Twitter and Facebook and has engaged with Ricky Gervais, amongst others” should not justify an invitation to a tea party, let alone an academic symposium.

Our Animal Welfare consultant Jim Barrington, a man with immense experience of hunting from both sides of the argument, was willing to speak at the symposium. Jim debates hunting all over the country and recently argued the case with the RSPCA at Liverpool University Veterinary College. We have taken the decision, however, that there is no point giving this event the credibility of his presence. Also due to speak was Brian Fanshawe, an experienced hunt master, and Dr Tony Mudd, a wildlife veterinarian, both of whom have now pulled out. We believe it is best to leave this strange mixture of contributors to the ‘hunting symposium’ talking to themselves.

Follow Tim on Twitter @CA_TimB