Hunting, Politics, Royalty and Animal Rights

What to make of the political autobiographies and what they say about the Hunting Act 2004 which banned fox hunting and other bloodsports?

Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote in A Journey that he didn’t ‘feel’ the issue. (305) May be that was why the Labour government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to ban bloodsports.

Today, The Guardian previews Peter Hain’s Outside In which includes the following about Prince Charles and fox hunting.

Prince Charles did, however, have one major disagreement – over hunting with hounds. Legislation to ban it was taken through parliament in 2004 while I was leader of the Commons. Although strongly backed by animal lovers, it was highly controversial. During one of our conversations, the prince suddenly brought up the subject, explaining his support for hunting, very exercised. “It’s a great British tradition,” he said, leaning forward, and confiding plaintively: “Do you know, the best thing is when I join everyone afterwards at the local pub. It’s my only real opportunity to meet ordinary people properly.”

Of course, one feels for Charles’ social life. Or lack thereof. But it hardly seems credible. And certainly an indefensible defence for the, er, indefensible.

Yes, Britain’s Royal Family and hunting, shooting and fishing are as inseparable as, well, as a gin and tonic. However, to defend killing wild animals as an opportunity to socialise with the masses (if, indeed, that’s who they were) is surely stooping to new highs (or is it lows?) in defending archaic and cruel traditions. Truth be know, the Grumpy Vegan has a soft spot for Charles. There’s something about him that is simultaneously intriguing and revolting. There’s so much he champions that is good. But then there’s the indefensible bad.

But these glimpses into the political animal help us who toil in democracy for animal rights discover what happens behind the curtain of power.

All this reminds the Grumpy Vegan of a blog, The Hunting Act’s Inbuilt Redundancy, posted here on September 28, 2004. It talked about how David Maclean, then Conservative MP for Penrith and the Borders, pursued a strategy to ensure the Hunting Act is, in his view, so badly written as to be unenforceable.

We must work on the assumption that, in 12 months time, there will be legislation on the statute book banning hunting with dogs. I think that the banning option is impossible to enforce and, once we stir up the police about its weaknesses, they will be terrified of trying to implement it. However, it is absolutely vital that the legislation is as flawed and sloppy as possible. The Lords must not clean it up. I want every inconsistency, every dubiety, every ambiguity left in. If the law is clear, then we are finished, because most us will not break the law. However, the endgame must be that, on the day that a hunting ban comes into force, we can all turn out with our doggies to go walking, and the police and learned professors of law will all say that probably no crime is being committed because the law is so unclear.

Fast forward to 21 August 2007 and this is what David Cameron, MP, leader of the Conservative Party, said

I am not a big fan of government banning things and I don’t think that the current law is working or even credible. That is why I have said that a future Conservative government would make time available for a vote whether to repeal the hunting ban, but it would be a free vote for Conservative MPs.

And blink back to the last few days when Prime Minister David Cameron lamented on BBC TV that

There has been a tendency in Britain, and all governments have done this, to jump into putting the changes [in place] in advance of the actual legal necessity and, as a result sometimes we’ve actually exported, for example a lot of our pig production, to other European countries. But if we’d put in place the changes at the same time as others, our pig farmers would have had a more level playing field.

From all of this it’s not too difficult to conclude that animal welfare is not going to be at the top of this Conservative led coalition government’s priority list. In fact, it’s the reverse. How is it possible to ensure as little as possible is accomplished for animals? Well, there’s not a fig leaf left defending why a ban can’t be imposed on performing animals in circuses. But don’t wait for this government. (True. The Labour government should’ve acted more decisively when it could.) And killing badgers in the vain hope it will stop dairy cows from catching TB is not the scientific led methodology that it’s all cracked up to be. There’s also the case of the failure of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ensure British egg producers complied with the European Union directive banning the barren battery cage from January 1 this year.

Having said all of that…..the past Labour Government made some significant accomplishments for animals. But there’s also much more to be done to ensure that if Labour are returned to power that they will also achieve as much as they can for animals.

Sadly, the Grumpy Vegan isn’t too optimistic for either party whichever forms the next government (of course, he’s Labour) as the British animal welfare/rights movement fails consistently to elevate its ability in the political arena by making the issue a mainstream political issue. Yes, groups are active on their priorities. But, yes, many other groups despise the political process and fail to understand why political parties could make a major impact on animal wellbeing. But there’s still time for us to sit up and pay attention.

Don’t we want to challenge those who represent the animals’ interests in the political process? It’s not us representing animal welfare in the political arena. It’s all those who profit from the commercial exploitation of animals.

Men and women of England, how long shall these things be?

PS: David Maclean is now Conservative Peer Baron Blencathra. According to the Daily Telegraph he

led the campaign to prevent the publication of Commons MPs’ expenses, spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money renovating a farmhouse before selling it for £750,000.


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