Tony Blair has said one of the biggest regrets from his time in office was the Hunting Act of 2004. While Mr. Blair is not one whose opinion I hold in any sort of esteem, I think that like many people, when he decided to push through the hunting “ban” he did not look at the consequences the decision would have on the fabric and traditions of rural England. Ten years later, the Conservative government is offering a modest and sensible proposal to allow people to hunt foxes with more than than two hounds. There are three top reasons why the Tory MPs should not chicken out and should support the government’s proposals.
1. Fox Hunting is very important to the traditions of the Rural Community. Urban and suburban Englishmen were very shocked with the scale of protests to the proposed hunting ban from the rural community last decade. Protests attracted hundreds of thousands of people. On Boxing Day 2014, 250,000 are believed to have come out to observe and support the traditional hunt. Why is that? Because fox hunting is associated with the local fabric of rural England. Just like say deer hunting, fishing, or any other type of outdoor activity, rural people enjoy sport in their lands. And I say this as an urbanite who has never once hunted in my life and do not own a gun. Simple respect for the countryside means allowing them to conduct their hunts in a traditional way – with a pack of hounds.
2. The campaign against fox hunting came about out of class envy rather than concern for animal welfare – There is no shortage of foxes in England and Wales. In fact, the number of foxes in the United Kingdom is exploding, and the number of foxes in cities (not even the countryside) now numbers in the tens of thousands and they have attacked people. Most Tories who are being squishy on the issue, the so-called “Blue Fox” group which include undersecretary for Sport Tracey Crouch, Sarah Wollaston MP and newly elected MP Andrea Jenkyns (the woman who unseated Ed Balls), I know oppose change to the current law for animal welfare reasons. As do the a plurality of the British people (down from a majority in 2004). But what the anti-hunting moderates and conservatives seem to forget is the reason Labour attempted to ban the hunt in the first place was because it is a sport associated with “toffs.” There are numerous examples of this class envy about foxhunting on the internet for you to read yourself, but I think this one from the Metro today says it all. The author “makes no bones” about it, he doesn’t like the sport because he thinks its a sport for rich people. In his own words: “I hate posh people.”
3. The law as it stands now is silly, hypocritical and stupid. Left-wing Scotland has a less restrictive fox hunting law than England and Wales. But even that does not fully show how idiotic this law is. First of all, there is the huge self-righteous hypocrisy that anti-hunt adherents fail to acknowledge i.e. the fact that most of them scarf down meat and use animal products on a regular basis. If you are a Vegan and back a hunting ban, I understand and respect that. But a meat eater? Read Melissa Kite‘s brilliant piece on the matter in the Spectator to get example of the hypocrisy. But even putting aside the self-righteous urban “reverse” snobbery, the law itself is flouted, unworkable, and a waste of government resources. It is estimated that ten years after the ban 45,000 people annually still engage in fox hunting whether through the legal scent trailing (drag hunts or trial hunts) way or the illegal old fashioned way. Furthermore, it is very hard to actually convict someone of this law because it is so difficult to prove someone is breaking it. Since 2004, of the prosecutions for violations of the hunting rights act only 29% have resulted in convictions. That is less than one-third. Furthermore, of those prosecutions that have resulted in convictions, the amount spent prosecuting vastly outweighs the amount received from the fines. One case from 2013 had the court spend £320,000 on the prosecution to hand out a £6,000 fine – that was paid after being divided four ways. Surely people can see how ineffectual this law is?
I implore Tory MPs to stick to their guns and back the government’s measure on fox hunting with hounds. Earlier, Isabella Hardman estimates that the amendment would pass, if the SNP don’t break their pledge to abstain on purely English matters. However unfortunately, in the SNP’s typical underhanded and hypocritical fashion, SNP has broken their long-established practice and will now vote against the change in the fox hunting law for England and Wales. Conservatives, have some guts, say no to the urban celebrity shrieks and support sanity in fox hunting. If you are a “blue fox” and can’t bear to change the law, then abstain to prevent the SNP from gaining their first ever UK parliament victory. Either way, Conservatives, with their majority, should not be responsible for defeating something so small and yet that their supporters hold so dear.