This week's note from Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive.
The Countryside Alliance seems more desperate by the minute. Rather than address the issues, in a recent blog post they resort to attacking the messenger. I suppose in those terms I must be doing something right if they feel the need to attack me personally.
According to Tim Bonner who seems to be the acting Chief Executive of the Alliance, I am a ‘political anti’ who “…will never change sides because their primary concern is not animal welfare but a determined hatred of people who hunt. Their understanding is limited and their views seemingly adopted wholesale from the Socialist Worker, but you cannot help admiring their certainty”. He goes on to say, “what betrays them is an inability to admit that anyone who hunts is not a Tory Toff and more often than not a rapid descent into abuse of anyone and everyone who hunts”. I guess he must have read last weeks’ InfoMail!
What seems to particularly upset Mr Bonner and his chums is my saying that many of the hunts act just like gangs. They bully, they intimidate, they harass, they trespass, they block the roads, and they break the law. If any group did that in the same way in the cities there would be uproar.
Of course I am not saying that everyone involved in hunting is a thug and a bully, but many hunts that are still trying to maintain “traditional hunting” using quarry animal scents to lay trails, contain that law breaking and bullying tendency. Our latest report, published today, shows that very clearly.
The trouble with thugs and bullies is that they attract weak minded followers, who are happy to go along for the ride and to share in the illegal spoils, in this case their opportunity to do something illegal, on a sort of naughty but nice day out, for the slightly daring. By going along with the criminal bullies and the thugs, the weak and the willing collude with the illegality and seemingly condone it, they in fact become complicit with the crimes being committed.
Then Mr Bonner accuses me of adopting my politics wholesale from the Socialist Worker and of thinking that everyone who hunts is a Toff and a Tory. I certainly don’t think that at all. The vast majority of people that I see associated with hunts are clearly not Toffs and I suspect many are not Tories either. The Toffs are the exception and not the rule on most hunts. What the party politics of the individual hunt supporters may be is of no concern to me, it is what they do that I am worried about, not who they may or may not vote for. I am sure that there are supporters of all the political parties on hunts.
Mr Bonner makes the interesting comment that he respects people who he sees as having changed sides, such as Miles Cooper, James Barrington and others. But he clearly does not like principled antis, such as me, who are not going to change sides in this debate. As far as I am concerned, anyone who sets a dog onto an animal for sport is a criminal; it’s that simple. Whether that ‘sport’ is hunting, fox baiting, coursing or dog fighting, as far as I am concerned that is cruel, causes unnecessary suffering and is rightly a crime. Long may it remain so.
The reason that Mr Bonner and others probably don’t like what I am saying is because it puts the people involved in the bloodsport in the frame. It shifts the debate from the ground they like, where they claim that the fox, deer, hare or mink is a pest that must be dealt with, to ground where they are far less comfortable.
It is well worth making the argument about what people should and should not be allowed to do to animals for sport. I think that traditional hunting is a ritualised and serial form of animal abuse for sport; and I use the abuse word advisedly. To deliberately cause an animal to suffer, to make a spectator sport of that suffering, is an abuse. Hunting and coursing with dogs are bloodsports where the field are paying to see a ritualised form of animal abuse being carried out for their entertainment.
If people want to argue that they don’t go hunting to see what happens to the deer, hare mink or fox, they why do they have a problem with the Hunting Act, that takes the quarry animal out of it and allows them to go trail hunting for sport?
Mr Bonner doesn’t even try to defend hunting with dogs for sport anymore. He knows it is a hopeless and lost case. What I am arguing and he appears not want to deal with, is that cruelty is carried out by people. That as far as hunting is concerned that cruelty and criminality is not restricted to animals it also involves crimes against people as well. While Mr Bonner may want to keep on crying big bad fox, he must address the real issue of the slide into criminality of many in the hunting fraternity that he represents.
When it comes to animal welfare our principles are very clear. If man interacts with any animal he owes that animal a duty of care. If something must be done with an animal, it must be done humanely. If it can not be done humanely it should not be done. Hunting and coursing fail both tests, they cannot be done humanely such that there is no unnecessary suffering and there is no necessity to hunt or to course for sport.
The duty of care principle should also apply to the current discussion about badger culls. TB is a problem, both in cattle and in cows milk if it is not pasteurised. There is no doubt that badgers and other wild animals can also get TB. Cattle and wild animals share the same land and on occasions eat and drink from the same troughs. The TB organism can pass from one host to another by saliva / mucus contact and there is no way of preventing that. The risks of animal to animal contact can be reduced but they can’t be eliminated. The science has been very clear that the principle method of TB spread around the country has been by moving infected cattle around the countryside.
The farming lobby oppose further restrictions on cattle movements, but a total clamp down on cattle movements in the infected areas except to a slaughterhouse would rapidly reduce the spread of TB. The big problem is that there is not yet a suitable vaccine as there is for people. Killing badgers is not going to solve the TB problem in cattle and according to the scientists it may well make the problems worse. Management by death, just like hunting and coursing, is not the way to go. The real answers are to be found in changing what people are legally allowed to do to animals, for sport and for so called countryside management. Death is not necessarily the best or only answer to a problem. There are better and more welfare friendly alternatives!