by Tim Bonner

One of the many extraordinary features of 2020 has been the juxtaposition between the most damaging crisis to afflict the world since the Second World War, and the continued obsession of single-issue fanatics with their earth shatteringly irrelevant campaigns.

You do not need a poll or a focus group to tell you that the sensible and overwhelming majority of people in this country want our government, at every level, and our public services to be able to focus on navigating through the vast and complex maze that is the Covid epidemic, to keep us and our fellow citizens as safe and as solvent as possible during these extraordinary and unprecedented times. 

Yet anti-hunting ‘charities’ continue to promote motions at council level to ‘ban’ trail-hunting even where the council has no land on which hunting could ever take place, and some councillors actually move such motions forcing utterly pointless debates. Meanwhile, in parliament the MP for Sheffield Hallam, not acknowledged as prime hunting country, asked a Defra Minister whether the government intended to ban the use of ‘multiple trails’ in trail hunting. I have absolutely no idea what she was talking about, and am absolutely certain she did not either, but the fact that she was willing to ask any such question to ministers dealing with food security in the Covid crisis, the Environment Bill and the biggest change in British agriculture in nearly half a century, amongst plenty of other issues, suggests some very strange political priorities.

This blinkered behaviour is certainly not limited to anti-hunting obsessives either. Viewed objectively the legal action brought by anti-shooting organisation Wild Justice is equally bizarre. The case centred around the argument that because Natural England had not been properly monitoring European protected sites the Government could not prove that releasing red legged partridges and pheasant on or near those sites was not causing damage. The legal argument continued that because of the shifting interpretation of the Habitats Directive (which is enshrined in UK legislation) and especially the ‘precautionary principle’ the government was therefore required to prohibit such releases unless it can show that they are not damaging those sites.

The Alliance and other shooting organisations, and much more importantly government lawyers and ministers, have therefore been wrestling with arcane legal points and evidence of the impact of release an various distances and densities whilst the country has been lurching from lockdown to lockdown, people have been losing their jobs, businesses are facing closure, and thousands upon thousands of those infected with Covid have been fighting for their lives.

I am not sure what the moral of this tale is other than it is always important to be on the side of the sensible majority. The comparison during the Covid crisis between shrill activists and those who are simply seeking to sustain their little bit of the countryside is not one that reflects well on the animal rights movement. This is, however, a lesson that goes well beyond the dreaded year of 2020 and we must always remember that retaining the support of that sensible majority requires high standards in all our activities.

This year has been a turbulent one to say the least however, we look forward to continuing our fight for the countryside in 2021 and beyond. You can donate to the Countryside Alliance or one of our more specific campaigns here

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