Hunting is fun, get over it
Hurry up and repeal the ban already
I fish, I shoot, and I kill animals generally considered to be innocent. I won’t apologise for killing animals, and I certainly won’t apologise on behalf of those who hunt foxes on horseback, and here’s why: it’s fun.
Fox hunting has always been an integral part of the countryside – or at least hunting animals on horseback has been. Earls, Barons, Lords and Kings have been riding out with their entourage to hunt and kill animals in Britain since history began – almost. But it’s not only posh folk who take part in these hunts, even if everyone dresses like they have a distant connection to the royal family.
When quizzed about the ridiculous jackets and hats, a friend with far more hunting experience than myself (he’s been hunting with the Beaufort since he was seven) repeatedly defended the dress code and etiquette of hunts but even he would probably admit they look a bit ridiculous. Despite this, there’s something undeniably romantic about something as British as the hunting outfit, and something incredibly sad about losing it. I blame urbanisation.
People who hunt do so because they enjoy it, because it allows them to see the countryside in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. It’s not the violent blood sport its detractors paint it as: it’s an opportunity to learn about conservation, farming, animal husbandry and people.
It’s also a near-unparalleled high, an exhilarating rush when you’re listening to the hounds and the huntsman in order to work out if the hounds have picked up a trail.
These arguments aren’t shouted in the street like the ones against fox hunting are. Too many of those who support fox hunting pussy around the fact they enjoy it, eventually summoning up the courage to feebly argue foxes are running riot across the countryside, killing sheep and ruining the economy.
What a load of rubbish. How many pest control officers, fishermen or gamekeepers do you see dressed up as though they’re stuck in one of Jane Austen’s daydreams? Hunting horns, beautifully groomed horses and sloe gin-fuelled meets aren’t relics from the get-the-job-done attitude of traditional pest control, and the pro-hunt camp would do a lot better if they stop pretending as if they were.
The inadequacy of this argument is highlighted by the fact you technically can still hunt as long as it’s for pest control purposes and you shoot the fox as quickly as possible. The problem with this is it misses the point: hunts are a balletic act of teamwork, not savage blood-lust. They’re about man and dog working together towards a common goal. Now, the dogs aren’t allowed the kill they used to enjoy as a reward for their hard work, and the team suffers as a result.
My first experience of the rush of the hunt came on Boxing Day 2009, when I was dragged across the countryside by my family as we chased the Beaufort hunt. As we sat parked in the middle of a field in Gloucestershire, a veritable gabble of noise grew louder and louder from a hedgerow to our right. Suddenly, an explosion of horses, huntsman, horns and hounds surged into view. The excitement I felt in that one moment could only have been matched by the riders rushing past us. I have never been so jealous.
Those exhilarating moments became even rarer when Labour decided to ban hunting, a decision they made simply because they had nothing left to do. They didn’t find hunting objectionable, they just wanted to take posh folk down a peg or two. Now we live in a world where violent masked protesters interrupt hunts and the RSPCA waste thousands of pounds trying and failing to prosecute hunstmen. Are we really better off?
Far from an archaic, elitist and inhuman practice to be banned, fox hunting teaches valuable lessons that long ago stopped being taught. A population, full of false hope and ambition in an age of imperial and industrial dominance, flocked to the cities. The resulting demographic could do a lot worse than, and learn myriad lessons from, attending a fox hunt.