As usual I managed to park at entirely the wrong end of the Great Yorkshire Show on Tuesday morning, which meant walking through almost the entire showground to reach the Countryside Alliance stand. That has never really been a problem, however, as it means passing a fabulous array of horse and livestock classes where wonderful examples of so many breeds are being presented by brilliant stockmen and women. In fact, as I wandered ever more slowly amongst show hunters, cattle, shire horses, sheep and goats I started to wonder if my parking ‘error’ was actually a subconscious plan. Especially after the last year and a half of restriction and isolation it was wonderful to see so many proud owners showing their splendid animals. The Alliance stand was handily placed between the country sports arena and the hound show. Birds of prey zoomed over enraptured children, gundogs displayed their skills and beagles, harriers and foxhounds all proudly competed for rosettes.
The return of country shows is a reminder, if it was ever needed, of our love of every sort of animal. Further evidence of this phenomenon will be on show on Wednesday at the Festival of Hunting at Peterborough, which is an event created for the worship of hounds of every type. The Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show may be the centrepiece of the Festival, but there will be as much pride taken in the showing of harriers, bassets and beagles, and as much joy in victories.
Then at the Game Fair on Friday and through next weekend the focus will turn to gundogs and also to the wild quarry, which we conserve and which we hunt. The fact that many of us so love the thing we hunt, whether furred, feathered or finned, is a more challenging concept for those who are not involved than the love of domestic animals, but it is no less true for that.
It is something of an irony that despite this obvious and deep attachment to both domestic and wild animals we currently face the unprecedented challenge of a raft of animal welfare legislation in the government’s animal welfare plan. Ministers may believe that these proposed new laws reflect the concern that all of us have for animal welfare, but there are undoubtedly many who see such legislation as an opportunity to restrict how we keep domestic species and manage wild animals.
On Monday I will be giving evidence to the Environment Select Committee on the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill which has already faced significant criticism in the House of Lords. As those who attended the Great Yorkshire Show may well have read in today’s Yorkshire Post, our Chairman, Lord Herbert, believes that “the danger with this legislation is that it will become a vehicle to glue up government with an animal rights agenda that…at its extreme is, frankly, bonkers”.
How we get from the proud farmers showing their stock at Harrogate to government proposals which would enable those who want to end their way of life in less than a week I am not quite sure, but I am quite certain it is wrong and that the Alliance will oppose it.
Pictured above: Foxhound Judging at the 2021 Great Yorkshire Show