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Why all the fuss about hunting? After all, it’s not a vote-loser

23 April 2014

23 April 2014

The last couple of months have seen a huge amount of to-and-froing over the hunting ban from David Cameron. After the Federation of Welsh Farmers Packs published research into the use of dogs to flush out foxes, which seemed to indicate that using several dogs (ie, a pack), was more efficient and, arguably, less cruel than the current legal limit of two, it looked as if he might change his tune on the issue. The PM let it be known that he was ‘sympathetic’ to the idea, and that Defra was ‘considering’ the research. In PMQs in early March, he even said that there might be a vote on the topic…

But that was only a temporary hiccup. Towards the end of March he abandoned his plans to relax the ban and allow farmers to use more than two dogs, and as Isabel Hardman reported yesterday, it has emerged that Cameron has u-turned on his Coalition Agreement promise to hold a free vote on repealing the hunting ban in the Commons.

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But what’s more confusing is why Cameron even considers hunting to be an issue. Each of the parties appears to have convinced themselves that hunting is an issue for their voters, and that their attitude towards it will affect the election result. But is this really an issue that most people are bothered about? An ORB poll earlier this year showed that for the majority of people – whether they lived in an urban or a rural environment – the hunting issue wouldn’t affect their likelihood of voting Tory. And a couple of weeks ago, the ‘online campaigning community’ 38 Degrees, which Fraser has previously described as a ‘leftist pressure group’, decided not to campaign against hunting because a ‘large number’ of their members were against the idea. As an electoral issue, hunting is largely irrelevant.

Of course there are people who are passionately opposed to, as well as passionately in favour of, revoking the hunting ban. But on either side of the argument, the number of people who think that it’s an electoral issue appears to be negligible, to say the least. Around 50,000 people actually hunt on a regular basis. Just over 400,000 marched in the Countryside Alliance’s 2002 Liberty and Livelihood demonstration against the hunting ban, and we can assume that most of them would vote in favour of repeal. Those vehemently opposed to hunting are probably best represented by the League Against Cruel Sports, which currently boasts a membership of anywhere between 5,000 and 30,000 members, though they won’t reveal exact numbers.

So why all the fuss? The current shambles over the hunting ban appears to be a mess of the government’s making. By tying itself in knots over whether to hold a vote, either on repeal or on amending the current law, the Tories have succeeded in making both Labour and the Lib Dems think that it is an electorally important issue, when it really isn’t. A class issue, maybe. Cameron’s probably right that, having filled his inner cabinet with Old Etonians, it won’t do his image much good to link himself to a sport that, rightly or wrongly, has become associated with toffs and the landed gentry. But an electoral issue it ain’t.


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Show comments
  • tigerlily

    Because reintroducing hunting would be a ‘nasty party’ thing to do. There are plenty of important things Labour did people would much like to see reversed. That one would just be petty and irritating and pandering to the Conservative’s wealthy country buddies. That’s how it would look.

  • GeeBee36_6

    I’d love for someone to explain what the point of trying to contribute to this blog is, when the most anodyne of attempts to post are met with a warning they are being moderated, followed by their non appearance. Yesterday I tried to post an excerpt from a Victorian poem. Nope. Speccie blog wouldn’t have it.

    Why is this? It is all so babyish.

  • Conway

    Thinking that hunting is a class issue (other than in the minds of Labour) is misguided. All classes of people hunt.

  • andagain

    Perhaps Cameron feels that if he is going to fight the Liberal Democrats over something, it ought to be over something the electorate cares about, rather than something that a small group of people with wealthy backgrounds care about.

    • Conway

      Not everybody who hunts has a wealthy background.

      • andagain

        No, but on average they have a wealthier background than people who don’t.

        • terrier78

          ^^^ Source? ^^^

          Hunting is a very cheap pastime to get involved in. Even if it could be proven that it’s predominantly wealthy people, there’s no reason it has to be.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      That may be true, but then, why did he bring it up in the first place? Was it to seduce potential voters, only to scorn them later on? It seems so, and that’s reason number 489,454 that Dave’s being rejected these days. People don’t like manipulative hucksters.

      • andagain

        Was it to seduce potential voters, only to scorn them later on?

        No. Because very few voters care strongly about hunting, and the ones who do, and are pro-hunting, and do not vote Tory already, is negligible. As one second of thought could have told you.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          It doesn’t matter how many they are. The point is, Call Me Dave seduced them, then scorned them later on, behavior that is quite common for him, and is why he’s being rejected these days, as mentioned previously.

          People don’t like manipulative hucksters.

          • andagain

            The point is that you have no evidence for your accusations, no argument except your own self-righteous certainty, and no interest in whether your assertions are true as long as you can express your own petty hatred. Did Cameron pass you over for a job?

            Please bore someone else.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              You are confused, lad.

              Call Me Dave seduced these people, then scorned them, as he generally does to most it seems. That’s not opinion, it’s fact. That’s why he’s being rejected so often lately. Nobody likes manipulative hucksters, even if they are embraced by lickspittles like you .

  • terrier78

    “a couple of weeks ago, the ‘online campaigning community’ 38 Degrees, which Fraser has previously described as a ‘leftist pressure group’, decided not to campaign against hunting ”

    For what it’s worth, I don’t see hunting (whether pro or anti) as a left/right issue. Hunting is, for the most part an activity that is accessible to the vast majority of people, from the landed gentry to the minimum wage factory worker. The cap tends to cost less than a trip to the cinema, and annual subscription for a whole family costing significantly less than a season ticket at any football league ground in the country.

    A pastime that can be enjoyed by rich & poor alike? What’s not for lefties like me to love?

    • andagain

      For what it’s worth, I don’t see hunting (whether pro or anti) as a left/right issue.

      I’m pretty sure the Labour Party disagrees. I notice they don’t denounce people for fishing, so killing an animal is obviously not the bit they object to.

      Rather petty of them, really.

      • terrier78

        I’m pretty sure that the labour party can no longer be regarded as left wing either.

        I agree that they’re petty. I could probably handle their pettiness though if they weren’t so hypocritical.

  • DM Andy

    While it almost certainly is the case that the majority of people are too sensible to have their view on hunting determine their General Election vote that does not mean it’s not a vote loser. From the ORB poll linked to by Camilla Swift, 51% said that the government amending the Hunting Act would make no difference, 15% said it would make them more likely to vote Tory, 26% said it would be less likely. Still, it might not be a vote loser if the only people who don’t like it are people who aren’t going to vote for you anyway, but undecided voters don’t like the idea with 7% approving and 22% disapproving, UKIP supporters are slightly better, 21% approving and 24% disapproving, Liberal Democrats (the ones that are left and can be assumed to be well-disposed to conservative ideas) disapprove by 29% to 13%. There’s nothing in the opinion poll that suggests it’s anything other than a vote loser.

  • Terence Hale

    Hi,
    “Why all the fuss about hunting? After all, it’s not a vote-loser”. It’s something to do with the “The Belstone Fox”.

    • Conway

      It’s all to do with anthropomorphism and the disconnect between people and what goes on in nature.

  • mikewaller

    Unless you have been brought up to consider it normal, the kitting out and maintaining of what sometimes approaches a good part of a cavalry squadron plus dogs, all to pursue a small quadruped unto death, is deeply offensive to the British sense of fair play. What rationality needs to set against this is the fact that (a) there were always more foxes tolerated in hunting counties than elsewhere, and (b), hunts have the merit of not creating the kind of lingering injury that can be caused by guns. Trouble is, emotion usually trumps rationality.

    Nor are matter helped by the belligerence of those who want the ban lifted. I am a Londoner (although now living elsewhere) and took as much offence at the Countryside Alliance swaggering through the capital like a threatening army as I did at the miners pulling the same stunt during their last national strike. Nor do I buy into the crap (pushed by Helena Kennedy amongst others) about it being a class issue. As I have suggested before, imagine the outcry if a charismatic working class man got his pals to adopted a standard uniform, acquire similar dogs and then hunt down feral cats.

    The only way forward I can see with both foxes and badgers is to accept how strongly and genuinely the conflicting opinions are held on both sides and then seek a more widely acceptable solution. Both sterilisation and inoculation seem to me possibilities given that mass slaughter if off the agenda.

    • Tom M

      “..Unless you have been brought up to consider it normal, the kitting out
      and maintaining of what sometimes approaches a good part of a cavalry
      squadron plus dogs, all to pursue a small quadruped unto death, is
      deeply offensive to the British sense of fair play”.
      I don’t know that I agree with that it seems a bit of a sweeping statement. If what we read is true there are an awful lot of people think the exact opposite.
      As far as “maintaining a cavalry squadron” so what? If that’s how the get their kicks on a Saturday afternoon why should you gainsay it?
      And oh yes it is undoubtedly a class thing but probably not how you think. If I draw the comparison with some people’s attitudes to drivers of 4×4 cars you might see the point. Not for nothing was John Cleese the tallest of the group in the famous sketch alluding to class.
      As far as my vote on the matter goes I think townies should keep their noses out of country business. They would never understand it.

      • mikewaller

        I think your final line makes my point about ill-advised belligerence beautifully. No least because “townies” both provide the agricultural subsidies and tolerate the higher prices resulting from agricultural protectionism in Europe, only purblind bumpkins would be so profoundly dismissive of townie thoughts on matters rural.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …it’s impressive that you’ve so smoothly transferred your culture of grievance onto another entire region and demographic. Well done, lad.

    • HookesLaw

      Rat catchers wear a uniform. Foxes can be shot, garrotted gassed and poisoned – thats all right for you. But heaven help anyone who does it in a red coat.
      One word sums you up – ‘Pathetic’.

      • mikewaller

        Another bumpkin who does more harm to his cause than a pack of hounds ripping a pet cat to pieces, by his sheer offensiveness.

  • JonBW

    Similarly, it would make sense to amend the smoking ban to allow adults to enjoy tobacco in dedicated rooms if the landlord agreed.

  • ADW

    Read Blair’s account of how the ban came to pass, in his autobiography. He cheerily admits that anyone who reads that part will think less of him, and rightly so. In essence, he blurted out that he supported a ban before he had ever spoken to anyone about it or otherwise bothered to research the issue. When he had, he wanted to change his mind, but because of lame political reasons felt he could not. Hopeless.

    • Conway

      Any evidence that didn’t fit in with the desired result was ignored. The most annoying thing is that, even after several hundred hours of debate, they still managed to come up with an unworkable Act that does nothing for welfare. I suppose that’s what happens when you have ideologically driven legislation.

  • AnotherDave

    Perhaps it will affect the election.

    “12,000 hunt supporters campaigned and leafleted for the Tories at the last election. They were the backbone of the party’s effort”

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9069211/rural-revolt/

    Does the Conservative Party have a new cache of Cameroon supporting Guardian readers to replace those pro-hunting activists?

  • Rupert_Napier

    A curiously poorly informed article. Has the author really not heard of Vote OK?

    Charles Moore explains: “In an age when fewer and fewer people take part in party-political campaigning, the Vote OK activists really mattered. The Tories gained 36 of the seats targeted by Vote OK. In the Labour seat of Stroud, the Beaufort Hunt filled three buses with supporters to canvass for the Tory, Richard Graham, who won. Hastings and Rye, the seat next door to where we live in Sussex, is mainly urban, but I witnessed Vote OK dynamism making a great difference there for Amber Rudd, the Conservative who gained it from Labour with a majority of 1,993.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/countryside/10530707/Why-does-the-Coalition-find-it-so-difficult-to-listen-to-the-country.html

    • DM Andy

      So that would be Hasting & Rye where the Labour to Conservative swing was at 3.3%, significantly below the national average of 4.9%. In Stroud the swing was even poorer, only 2.0%. Vote OK targets generally had lower swings but increased turnout and it appears that Vote OK had success in encouraging pro-hunting people to vote Conservative but also in making anti-hunting people more likely to vote Labour.

      • John Highfield

        In the constituencies near me Vote OK only distributed leaflets.

        As far as people were aware they were just volunteers delivering election literature – I agree that any passionately anti-hunting folk may have been aware that Vote OK were active in their constituency but that is likely to be a really rather small number of people who would in all likelihood have voted Labour anyway.

  • Kitty MLB

    As someone who lives in the country ( although not in the utter bleakness, wild
    and isolated place I used to live) I am hugely fond of our wildlife ( especially bats)
    and its not all tally-ho ( well not here anyway.)
    The point is townies really do not understand the countryside, they think meat
    comes in plastic packages and take a sentimental view that its all ‘ Water Ship Down’
    Unfortunately animals spread diseases and foxes, although very sweet to look at
    are wild animal. Although to be quite honest, the idea of dogs capturing a terrified
    fox doesn’t fill my heart with joy.

    • cartimandua

      But a natural death from foxes is hunger disease or gangrene. Its all much more likely without dispersal and without culling the weakest.
      Being hunted by a predator is a quicker death and after a chase(a natural activity) the fox is filled with pain relieving cortisol.
      The other deaths give no such relief. Shooting (and following up with 2 dogs) leaves up to 60% running away wounded to die slowly and in pain.

    • HookesLaw

      Not only foxes – but ‘feral cats’ who destroy birdlife. Virmin can be legally killed. perversly fox hunting is less concerned with killing but with control. If the lefty dim wits want to abolish fox hunting then I suggest they kill all wild foxes and send them the way of wild boars and wolves. That will be as terminal for fox hunting as boar hunting.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …er, your boy Dave is one of those “lefty dim wits”, lad. That’s the topic of this discussion.

    • glurk

      Kitty, as someone who also lives in the country with a chicken or two, the idea of a fox ripping my chickens to pieces doesnt actually turn me on either. Foxes are wild animals, as you say, and there are so many of them that they now live in towns and suburbia where they excite dwellers who should see them as what they are rather than the rather pretty jolly dogs they look. Ok, prettier than rats but not far removed.

  • Gregory Mason

    It’s just city folk imposing their ridiculous ignorance on people from rural areas.

  • cartimandua

    Its because the hunting ban is bad for animal welfare, the countryside, and it is bad for whole ecosystems and the fox. The ban ignored expert advice. It sought to appease townie ignorance.
    If the fox starts to spread diseases the sentimentality will vanish and that is a real possibility.

    • Realpolitik

      “If the fox starts to spread diseases the sentimentality will vanish and that is a real possibility.” Like it did with Badgers?

      • cartimandua

        Badgers are not all that urban. Foxes these days are. I can see over population near me of badgers. I spent hours one day trying to get help for the 3rd road casualty within a mile of my home. This last one horribly not quite dead.
        We also have no hedgehogs and those charities say it is because of the badgers.

        • Kitty MLB

          We have not seen a hedgehog for years in out
          little spot of the countryside. Like you there
          Are a lot of badger casualties and deer as well
          unfortunately.

          • Realpolitik

            I used to have some swans visit, but some Polish people who live in a shed at a farm a few miles away decided to eat them.

            • HookesLaw

              Ah I wondered when you would bring the Poles into it. First raccoons from America and then the Poles.

              • Realpolitik

                You can’t move for them around my way, cheap farm labour, probably the reason youth unemployment has doubled.

            • Marie Louise Noonan

              Did you tell the Queen?

              • Realpolitik

                Not yet, I will when I next see her.

            • Kitty MLB

              I Suppose they were mute after that.Oh sorry
              that was in bad taste- and so was using the word taste- whoops !

          • cartimandua

            The ghastly thing was I spend hours trying to get the RSPCA to attend the animal in agony. You sit on the phone while they tell you to “take the casualty to your own vet”.
            Not able to pick up a severely injured badger.
            I went home in the end and my gardener offered to hit it on the head with a spade.
            The badger would have been better off than waiting for the RSPCA.

            • Realpolitik

              You should have taken some hair to make shaving brushes,

              • cartimandua

                It was alive and in mortal agony.

                • Realpolitik

                  They spend too much on class warfare, eg, £330,000 on a single hunt.

                  i found an abandoned domestic rabbit at the side of the road, I shoot wild ones, but was feeling kind so took it to the RSPCA only to be told I was the 2nd person to bring that particular rabbit in on that day. they turned me away, thus, spoke to my vet who knew someone who knew someone and had it re-homed.

                • Dutchnick

                  What make you think that the RSPCA is interested in animal welfare? they are yet another lost leftie cause just hating everybody

                • Conway

                  When a squirrel got into a shop not far from where I live, the owners called the RSPCA because the animal was stressed and upset and they wanted to help it. The RSPCA’s response? They didn’t deal with vermin! So why are they so involved with the Hunting Act, then as foxes are vermin? It seems some vermin is more equal than others.

          • Camilla Swift

            The lack of hedgehogs might have something to do with all of the badgers….

            • cartimandua

              That’s what the hedgehog charities say.

            • Kitty MLB

              Not just the badgers, we are also inadvertently responsible.
              Hedgehogs used to like gardens, but what with perfect, tidy
              lawns they have no where to hide, assuming they can get through garden fences. And insecticides kill them- as slugs
              are their favourite food. Hedgehogs also need woodland edges and more dense areas to hibernate but we invade
              those areas too. So the Badger may be a villain in this,
              but he’s not alone.

            • Realpolitik

              And cars.

        • Realpolitik

          Badgers are very urban where I am, I’ve even had a Raccoon going through my bins!

          • cartimandua

            A racoon??? That’s a US animal.

            • Realpolitik

              I know, there have been quite a few sightings – validated by the authorities- in the UK. Our climate is ideal for them.

              • cartimandua

                They used to go for the rubbish when I lived in the USA. They did however sometimes carry or catch rabies.
                They might deal with invasive crayfish species though:).

                • Realpolitik

                  Mercenary Raccoons.

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