For the past week or so newspaper have indulged in an advertising
feeding frenzy as both sides of the hunting lobby have moved in for the
kill over Michael Foster’s Private Member’s Bill. But it has been an
unedifying spectacle for observers like me who have little sympathy for
On the one hand the country lobby argues that foxes and deer need
culling to protect stock and crops, while on the other the usual bunch
of killjoys allied to the RSPCA want to kill off centuries of tradition
in the name of cruelty.
Both sides have a point and at the end of the day it’s a question of
whether it’s kinder to give the animal a sporting chance and a lingering
death at the hands of the hunt or a quicker but more certain death by
gun, gas or poison.
But have the two campaigns influenced the outcome in the slightest? Is
the only real winner the newspaper advertising departments which have
benefited from an early Christmas?
From the outset there were two known quantities in this debate. First -
the Government was not going to give up Parliamentary time in the near
future to such a controversial piece of legislation. Second - that the
sector of the British public which rarely visits the countryside and
loves animals is instinctively and overwhelmingly against hunting.
One thing we were never going to get in this great debate was rational
argument - and we were not disappointed. Yes, the Countryside Alliance
tried. The trouble is that demography’s against them. Most people live
in towns and the closest they get to green fields is an evening’s drive
out to a village pub.
They don’t have a clue what happens on the non-road side of a hedgerow
although in recent months the Countryside Alliance has whipped up a
commendable cross-section of country interests and, against the odds, is
making progress in educating people.
The opposition have replied with the predictable cheap shot - from ’the
lowest common denominator, the mutilated animal picture’ school of
Let’s not bother with rational arguments when rotting corpses can do the
job for you. We have to take on trust the accompanying captions.
Thank goodness there are only a limited number of campaigns that can
feature aborted foetuses or dead animals. It’s all a little
stomach-churning at the breakfast table for an audience that will never
knowingly let arguments get in the way of a good bit of emotional
But with a majority of 260 in the Commons to bar hunting, we will have
to face the photographs, and a few arguments, all over again soon