Thursday, 1 April 2010

Hunting - the big issue for the new parliament?

Tory leader David Cameron has pledged to introduce a free vote in the Commons on whether the ban on foxhunting should be lifted if he ousts Gordon Brown in the coming General Election.
I’m content enough with this position as long as there is no behind-the-scenes arm-twisting by Conservative Whips. I hope the move would be soundly defeated.
I’d rather cut my arm off with a broken bottle than be associated with any body of people who seek the death of an animal in the name of sport rather than food.
Hunt supporters, however, argue that townies such as myself don’t appreciate the importance of hunting to rural economies nor the extent to which foxes are savage predators. There is also the complaint from the pro-lobby that they are always presented as toffs, which isn’t the case, they say.
None of these arguments holds much sway with me. If we cannot protect animals from being hunted to exhaustion and then torn apart by dogs then we haven’t advanced much beyond the days of bear baiting.
I am troubled though on the libertarian case which sets the freedom of the individual at the centre of its ideology. In 2002 the Countryside Alliance brought around 400,000 to London in support of their cause, which includes the right to hunt.
Rock legends Roger Daltry, Bryan Ferry, Roger Waters, and Eric Clapton have supported Countryside Alliance events such is its appeal beyond the landed gentry.
So the question is on what grounds do we deny a large number of people the freedom to pursue their entertainment even if like bullfighting it disgusts an even larger number? The danger is that where there is a lot of local opposition to a rule, it is flouted sooner or later leaving the law in contempt.
Public opinion polls show a majority hostile to hunting. But we can’t rely on the concept the biggest number wins the day, because hanging and corporal punishment would be re-introduced. It wouldn’t be long before we were stoning adulterers.
So we return to our Members of Parliament to search what passes for their hearts to decide on whether hunting should resume. I can see the outcome being one of the hottest issues of the new Parliament if the Tories win the election.

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What do you think? GC