On the 2nd of January I had the
pleasure of visiting Carmarthen, a busy and bustling town in West
Wales. It has a pleasant mix of old - with it's Guildhall overlooking
a traditional town square, and new - smart modern shopping centre
with top name shops and cafes. A perfect destination for day out.
I had gone to meet the West Wales
League Against Cruel Sport supporters group, who had organised a
protest in the town centre. About 25 supporters turned up, with
banners and placards and good spirits. I received a warm welcome,
despite the cold weather.
The reason for the protest was the New
Year's procession by the local hunt.
We assembled in the Guildhall Square,
where the Master of the Hunt planned to address a crowd of onlookers.
Passers-bys wished us 'good luck' and dropped money into our
Soon the Hunt arrived. Fifteen scarlet
and black coated riders, atop beautifully dressed horses. A fine
sight, no matter your views. Then came the hounds and it was a
different vision altogether. Thirty or more pitiful hounds slunk
amongst the crowd; dirty and foul smelling, their eyes dull and their
coats duller still.
The huntsman, who was right in front of
me, blew his horn to summon them and the hounds came to him, baying.
I could plainly see the sores, scabs and crusts on their hind legs.
One hound had a hairless growth the size of a golf ball hanging from
its upper thigh. Another bore fight scars on its face and body. The
young whipper-in (whose job it is to keep the pack together) walked
amongst the hounds, patting a few. More than once a hound started
back from him as if startled or afraid.
The conservation and animal welfare
arguments used by hunters to support their cause are weak at best,
but they are further undermined for me when I consider the way they
treat their hounds. At the end of their working life, at about six or
seven years old, the hounds are shot. There are rumours that some hunts may occaisionally feed the dead dogs to the pack. Moreover, the hunts over-breed puppies each
year and many of these are also shot at age one, if they do not not
make the grade in the pack.
It's no way to treat 'man's best
friend'. Maybe Elvis said it best? “You ain't nothing but a hound
dog, cryin' all the time. You ain't never caught a rabbit and you
ain't no friend of mine.”