Today marks the 10th anniversary of the passing of one of the most iniquituous, divisive and unnecessary pieces of legislation in recent parliamentary history: the 2004 Hunting Act, which effectively made hunting with hounds illegal in Britain. Here are ten reasons why the ban should be repealed now.
1. It’s unworkable. Foxhunting (and staghunting) are as popular as ever, with at least 45,000 people a year either riding to hounds or following by car or on foot. To comply with the law, hunts now have to go through the rigmarole of following a trail created by a rag soaked in fox urine. But sometimes – whoops – the hounds have a terrible accident and follow a fox, opening the hunt up to the risk of prosecution. Every week and especially every weekend inordinate amounts of police (over)time are wasted pursuing country folk who just want to be left alone to enjoy a sport that has been part of rural life for centuries. The state has no business preventing them from doing so now: this is the Tyranny of the Majority of which John Adams first warned.
2. It’s character-building. Hunting is one of the world’s most dangerous, exciting sports and encourages: courage, endurance, horsemanship, good manners, personal responsibility, quick reactions, an ability to read the landscape, a love of and kinship with nature. Never mind banning it: it should be made compulsory for every teenager in the land. Not only would this enable us to win every war going (the Duke of Wellington insisted that his officers should be foxhunting men) but it would also create the sense of national pride and cultural cohesion that Britain sorely lacks.
3. Women just look really hot in hunting kit. Even the hairnets are sexy, somehow.
4. Apart from darts, hunting is the only sport where your performance is actually improved by alcohol consumption. Drinking cherry brandy followed by sloe gin followed by kummel followed by port at 11am isn’t normally recommended. But on a bitter day in November in a frozen saddle surrounded by like-minded convivial folk it makes total sense.
5. No one loves and respects Charlie (that’s the fox, btw, not the stuff townies hoover up their noses) more than hunting folk. It’s just that, being country people rather than ignorant, sentimental townies they recognise that it is perfectly possible to be a magnificent, splendid fellow with a bushy tale while simultaneously being a terrible, chicken-eating pest. Most foxes get away: respect and fair play. Some (usually the unhealthier ones) don’t: and that is nature, red in tooth and claw.
6. Hunts bind rural communities; enable farmers to dispose of deadstock; repair fences; create rural jobs (kennelmen; huntsmen; vets; farriers; stableyards, etc); provide entertainment in places where entertainment is often sorely lacking.
7. It’s thanks, in part, to hunting – and similar country sports – that the British landscape looks as beautiful as it does. It’s why we have stone walls and hedges, for example, rather than wire fences; covert for foxes and game birds.
8. The “animal rights” argument against hunting presumes that wild animals are sentient beings like humans. But they are not. Foxes do not have sleepless nights worrying about the imminence of death. They live in the moment. When chased they are responding to atavistic stimuli, nothing more. It is absurd, mawkish and dishonest to grant a pest – whose numbers must perforce be controlled in one way or another – should be granted the same rights as humans.
9. Foxhunting is the greatest sport ever devised. It takes place on a wildly uneven pitch perhaps 100 miles square, in often fiendish weather conditions, involves extraordinary team work and cameraderie between man and beast, with, instead of a football or a rugger ball, a living, intelligent quarry often more than capable of outwitting its pursuers. If you haven’t hunted, you really haven’t lived.
10. The best advert for hunting are the people who are against it: joyless vegans; vindictive class warriors; the noisome RSPCA; dreadlocked inner city crusties with dogs on ropes; mimsy unmarriageables with a dozen cats; Nick Clegg; Ed Miliband; the Green party; everyone who works at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Wales; townie tossers.