BEN WEISZ questions David Cameron’s opinions on fox hunting, and wonders whether they were shaped by his upbringing.
‘I’m not saying I’m posh, but…’
Cameron gets it wrong again.
Recently, slamming David Cameron’s background has become something of a national pastime. Well, it certainly has among those of us who sponged off the state for our education, which, rather inconveniently for Mr Cameron, includes the vast majority of the population. As a ‘dirty leftie’ myself, I’m getting fed up of it. At a university like ours, it should be blindingly obvious that your class background doesn’t make a pick of difference to your ability to do anything; running the country included. As clichéd as it may sound, it doesn’t matter where you came from; what matters is where you’re heading. All of this ‘toff-bashing’ is entirely counterproductive, because it allows Tories to create a caricature of the Left; portraying their opponents as bullies who, through their obsessive claims, are missing the bigger political picture.
What isn’t acceptable is to let your background skew your view of what ‘normal people’ want. Politicians are supposed to represent ‘the people’ in government, and this cannot happen if they are completely out of touch with what matters to the population of this country.
For these very reasons, David Cameron’s recent comments on fox hunting shouldn’t be allowed to go unchallenged. He may be a ‘country boy’ who ‘grew up fishing and shooting rabbits.’ That’s lovely, Dave. Banning fox hunting with dogs was a milestone for animal rights in the UK, and David Cameron’s arguments against it, I’m sorry to say, smack of someone whose views seem stained by his background. But, his background, however lovely it may have been, shouldn’t matter. And so, David Cameron’s personal taste in pastime shouldn’t outweigh the considerations that the real fox hunting debate rests upon.
Apart from the way it brings back fond childhood memories, our favourite country boy claims that he opposes the ban because ‘the fox population has to be controlled…the methods being used (other than hunting)… are very cruel.’ Right. Let’s agree with him on the issue of the fox population. Let’s even agree with him that trapping, snaring and gassing foxes is cruel. But it is nothing short of ludicrous to suggest that chasing a fox up hill and down dale for hours on end, terrifying it with a pack of dozens of baying hounds before finally allowing them to rip it to shreds isn’t cruel. This is what it’s about folks. The ban on hunting with dogs is a ban on a particular kind of fox hunting: a kind that is unnecessarily cruel. Why does the fox need to be chased mercilessly for hours before being violently killed? Wouldn’t a quick bullet do the trick, if we really need to kill them?
I’m sure ‘country boy’ Dave would love us to share in his vision of a rural nation that is plagued by villainous foxes who cunningly murder livestock before buggering off. As an adoptive ‘country boy’ myself, this seems to me like rubbish (although, admittedly I live near farms and fields; not massive country estates, so am probably missing Mr Cameron’s ‘bigger picture’). Surely there are only ‘too many’ foxes insofar as they are a nuisance to farmers, in which case, it’s the responsibility of the farmers to secure their own livestock. Offensive excursions into the wild are unnecessary.
In calling for the resurrection of a violent, cruel and unnecessary practice, Mr Cameron is also showing himself to be completely out of touch with the majority of Britons. A recent Ipsos-Mori poll (September 2009) showed that an overwhelming 75% of us support the ban. Mr Cameron hasn’t provided a decent argument to show why most of us are wrong. His claim that banning hunting is not ‘somewhere the criminal law should go’ is equally ridiculous. When it comes to cruelty to household pets, criminal proceedings are justified, so what we do to animals can and should be grounds for criminalising wantonly cruel and unnecessary practices. To suggest that banning fox hunting isn’t somewhere the law should go is basically claiming the right to hunt foxes that the law cannot alienate. Funnily enough, the Countryside Alliance have never quite managed to persuade me that stopping their members from using this particular method of hunting foxes is a massive infringement of their basic rights. Try letting Hannibal Lecter argue that he has a right to his favourite pastime. Of course the law has the power to ban fox hunting.
I do not begrudge David Cameron his privileged upbringing, or his inclination for certain outdoor pursuits. What appals me is that our probable future Prime Minister is so clearly biased towards a view shaped by his upbringing, and isn’t willing to put his own prejudices to one side in order to recognise that most of us don’t agree with him.
Best kit out in tweed, kids: looks like hunting season’s coming.