UK Govt. votes to ban hunting in England and Wales.
January 18, 2001 4:48 AM   Subscribe

UK Govt. votes to ban hunting in England and Wales. Browsing the web last night, several national polls were showing that more of the British Public were against a ban than in favour. Will the MPs who turned up to vote but not to debate (not very democratic?) live to regret their decision as the debate turns from animal welfare to civil rights?
posted by nico (29 comments total)
What polls are these? I get the impression that the general public is against fox hunting.

I can't see this being a civil rights issue any more than dogfighting or bear baiting. It's very hard to defend this particular method of killing foxes against accusations of cruelty.
posted by alexfarran at 6:04 AM on January 18, 2001

They are voting to ban hunting with dogs, not all types of hunting. Too bad.
posted by fleener at 6:31 AM on January 18, 2001

nor was I trying to defend it Alex. Here is one of the polls which is still available (unfortunately, most seem to be 'polls of the day') at Sky. Channel 4's poll was clearly against a ban, as was the NOP poll in the Times about a week or so ago.There are far more cruel things going on out there which have not and will not be banned by this Govt. e.g Halal butchering...
posted by nico at 6:44 AM on January 18, 2001

But think of all the foxes it's going to put out of work!
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:49 AM on January 18, 2001

Foxes will always have work :)
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:18 AM on January 18, 2001

Ohhhhhhh, O.K. We must ban the worst things first. Any attempted bans on things that are not at the top of the list shall lose their place and be placed at the bottom of the list. No cutting in line will be tolerated. So says our logic. End of discussion.

Please, send us more unscientific and completely meaningless web polls. More! More!
posted by fleener at 7:28 AM on January 18, 2001

Hey you guys, you know the whole world isn't Great Britain. Do we really have to listen to more of these endless discussions of UK politics? Sheesh!
posted by rodii at 7:42 AM on January 18, 2001

Banning fox hunting won't turn out to be the issue here. The bill will go to the House of Lords, and they'll reject it (they did before).

The major issue is that Mr. Blair will use the Parliament Act 1911 to force the bill through without being ratified by the upper house. This is extremely unconstitutional, and the Parliament Act was only passed in 1911 because the then-King bullied the Conservative Lords into accepting it.

So.. our parliament is turning into a one-house affair. This is extremely dangerous. Hitler had a similar power available to him (similar to the Parliament Act).. and used it to place himself as dicator of Germany. I doubt Tony Blair would ever use the power in this way.. but it's worrying that such an Act is available.

On the fox-hunting topic, I find it hypocritical of anyone without adequate knowledge of the industry to criticise it. Fox hunting is good for the enviroment. If fox hunting is banned, farmers will use pest control methods all year (including mating season) and MORE foxes will be killed (and potentially eradicated). So.. would you rather have humane killing which makes the fox extinct... or bloody killing that is actually environmentally sound?
posted by wackybrit at 7:44 AM on January 18, 2001

If fox hunting is banned, farmers will use pest control methods all year (including mating season) and MORE foxes will be killed (and potentially eradicated).

Hm? Do farmers really lay off the pest control that much, knowing that a hunt's going to be going through every so often and maybe killing a single fox?

So.. would you rather have humane killing which makes the fox extinct... or bloody killing that is actually environmentally sound?

If I was an individual fox, I think I'd go for the former. But it's hardly such a black and white issue - what makes environmentally-conscious humane culling an impossibility?
posted by Kevan at 8:03 AM on January 18, 2001

Shooting critters for sport is not cool. So I support this law on ethical grounds. As a HUGE bonus, it will also piss off many wealthy British men. The only downside I can see is a possible reduction in the number of riding accidents among "aristocrats".

I got your "Tally-ho" right here, Nigel.
posted by Optamystic at 8:59 AM on January 18, 2001

Optamystic - they don't shoot them, that's the problem. They chase the fox with a pack of hounds which then tear it to pieces (or kill it quickly with a quick bite of the neck - depending on who you talk to).

posted by alexfarran at 9:21 AM on January 18, 2001

I stand corrected, alex. All the more reason to despise the bastards.
posted by Optamystic at 9:32 AM on January 18, 2001

I find it hypocritical of anyone without adequate knowledge of the industry to criticise it. Fox hunting is good for the enviroment.

It's not an industry, it's a sport. It's true that hunting supports a certain amount of ancillary employment, but then so does bull-fighting, for instance.

As a method of 'pest control' it's unreliable, a fact which the Quorn Hunt freely admit in their submission to the Burns Inquiry:

The thrill of riding a pack of hounds, on a good horse on Quorn Monday or Friday cannot be surpassed. One of the great joys, and charms of foxhunting is its uncertainty, which cannot be substituted by drag hunting.

At least they're honest enough to accept that the only reason to join or follow a hunt is that it's a bloody good laugh.
posted by ceiriog at 9:37 AM on January 18, 2001

wackybrit: Godwin's Law should apply here, but I'll knock down your paper foxhunters, one by one.

The 1911 Parliament Act was designed to offset the Tory majority in the Lords (they're Lords, after all). Even after losing the hereditary peers, that skewing is still there: the kind of fogeydom which leads to debates on equalising the homosexual age of consent turning into five-hour exchanges of anecdotes on "buggery" at public school.

The Lords is an unelected house, and because of this, it should be considered a "revising chamber" and no more. It has no mandate to legislate. It certainly has no mandate to dismiss legislation that was put forward in the ruling party's manifesto. (AKA The Salisbury Principle.) What it does best is iron out the flaws in legislation -- that's why the RIP Act, while still a piece of shit, is less of the festering turd that Jack Straw presented to them. Blair has done plenty of things to dilute the authority of Parliament, but the more heinous of them affect the Commons, not the Lords. Complain about the use of press conferences rather than parliamentary statements, or the quangoisation of executive powers, not the restraining of the Lords.

As for hunting itself, its status as a civil right is questionable: hunts engange in trespass and damage to property in a way that few protesters could even hope to match; and in spite of organisations such as the National Trust banning them from their land, they continue to do so. The defence of "well, we had to follow the fox, didn't we?" usually goes down well when the sitting magistrates are all members of the hunt. It stinks.

Secondly, it's not a "rural tradition". Foxhunting only goes back to the 1750s, and the enclosure of land, when it was created as a fashionable pursuit by nouveaux riche middle-class types from the city. Hunting deer on horseback (without hounds) goes back to classical times; hunting boar and badgers, bear-baiting and cock-fighting to medieval times. Many of these traditions are ones we're glad to be rid of. (Barker-Benfield's The Culture of Sensibility has a good discussion on how the first hunts were created by London beaux as a kind of male beauty pageant: a display of urbane virility in a natural setting.)

Finally, the "countryside lobby" has emerged as the equivalent of the Freepers in its ability to manipulate polls, dominate phone-ins, and manipulate other media. In fact, farm employees are frequently ordered by their bosses to go to London and participate in the rallies they organise. As someone said on the radio today: "We subsidise farmers more than any other profession: they should stop protesting, stop hunting, and get back to work."

Before the invention of the hunt, foxes were simply culled as vermin, rather than made the supposed object of an idiotic social pursuit. And if farmers in the early 1700s could control foxes, then I don't see why they couldn't now.

In short: environmentally sound, my arse. I'd sooner hunt the inbred fuckers on horseback.
posted by holgate at 10:00 AM on January 18, 2001

The difference between the UK and the US: foxhunting isn't a tradition, b/c it only goes back to 1750.

In America, tradition is defined as a Will Smith movie on the 4th of July.

posted by lileks at 11:33 AM on January 18, 2001

Well, whatever. I don't particularly like fox hunting, but I think they have the right to do it. I'd hate for some political morons to ban something I enjoy.

I think they should ban football though. Plenty of innocent people get hurt by the inbreeds who go to the grounds/pubs every week.

There are far more important things than banning fox hunting. However, it seems a lot of people disagree. We should worry about foxes and building stupid badger crossings on the roads before we even bother to look at the double digit percentage increase in violent crimes in the UK over the last 12 months. Yep. Labour are soooo good!

posted by wackybrit at 12:44 PM on January 18, 2001

Man, if this turns into a Brit web site, I'm leaving.
posted by fleener at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2001

I've noticed that roadkill is different in different places. In Oregon, where I grew up, roadkill is mostly 'possums with an occasional raccoon. In New England, it was mostly squirrels. Here in San Diego it seems like it's mostly skunk. Is it badgers in Merry old England?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:54 PM on January 18, 2001

lileks: I know. To me, it doesn't count as a tradition unless it was a tradition to the people I write about. When you've got a couple of thousand years of history to play with, you can afford to take the long view.

For instance, there's been a long-standing campaign to "save England's hedgerows", because they encourage a more diverse flora and fauna than the wider fields most farmers would like to create for their machinery. But the hedges were only planted as a result of the Enclosures Act: a particularly nasty piece of legislation that led to the fencing off of five million acres of common land, made possible the Highland Clearances, and created the conditions for the Victorian workhouse and the Tolpuddle Martyrs. (Described by E.P. Thompson, in The Making of the English Working Class.) So, the "traditional English countryside" is a relative newcomer on the scene: the English Civil War was fought on land closer in character to the battlefields of Gettysburg than the farmland of the English midlands today.

(That's not to say that I want to see the hedges pulled up, as their precursors -- common grazing -- can't really be restored.)

I'm reminded of the great action sequences in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a poem that dates from the 13th century. On the first day, the Green Knight goes out and hunts a stag -- the traditional quarry of the aristocracy, as it's regarded as a graceful and noble beast. At the same time, Gawain resists the advances of Mrs GK. On the second day, he hunts a boar -- the quarry of the gentry, sturdy and arrogant -- and Gawain starts to have his doubts about this virtue lark. On the third day, Gawain gives in and accepts a kiss and a token from Mrs GK; in the meantime, hubby is out hunting again, and can only come back with... you guessed it, a "foul fox, and may the devil take him."

Steven: Hedgehogs.
posted by holgate at 3:04 PM on January 18, 2001

Oh, and wackybrit: I know we don't have a clear separation of legislative and executive powers, but there are differences. Parliament makes law; the government deploys executive authority. You can't legislate a more effective police force, or a lower crime rate, or a more reliable transport network into existence.

Is it a waste of time? I don't think so. Not after year upon year of private members' bills that get filibustered. How many legislative days have we lost to debates on hunting that had no chance of becoming law? Plenty. At least now, with the assistance of government-sponsored parliamentary time, there's the opportunity to get something done one way or the other.
posted by holgate at 3:13 PM on January 18, 2001

yes, well, unfortunately some stupid homesick poms decided that they'd like to hunt rabbits and foxes in Australia. So they "introduced" them in the 19th century. Environmental havoc followed.
posted by Graham at 3:51 PM on January 18, 2001

Even worse than the expat who released starlings into Central Park, because he wanted the US to have every bird mentioned in Shakespeare. I kid ye not.
posted by holgate at 4:01 PM on January 18, 2001

From the BBC, so it must be true ;)

"It is estimated that 50,000 badgers meet their deaths in Britain through road traffic accidents every year."

Which shocks me.
posted by holgate at 5:05 PM on January 18, 2001

Man, if this turns into a Brit web site, I'm leaving.

We're having an election in a few months........
posted by Markb at 1:04 AM on January 19, 2001

We're having an election in a few months...

Oh, it's so payback time. MetaEuroScepticFilter ahoy ;)
posted by holgate at 5:11 AM on January 19, 2001

Steven: I've run over a fox, and a rabbit. Infact, foxes are -especially- common on the roads at night in Southern England. Most people I know, who drive at night, have killed a fox or two.

Other than that, rabbits are very popular. Once had at least 50 running across the road in front of me at one point. Dodged em tho.

Never seen any hedgehogs.. guess they're too small.
posted by wackybrit at 6:57 AM on January 19, 2001

Man, if this turns into a Brit web site, I'm leaving.

You mean, as opposed to a California website, like it is now?
posted by dagnyscott at 1:14 PM on January 19, 2001

So, clarify for this American -- the trouble is that people set packs of dogs on the foxes, which then kill them, as opposed to allowing the fox's natural predators to kill them (and eat them) at some other "natural" time?
posted by Dreama at 9:21 PM on January 19, 2001

Dreama: yeah. It's the manner in which the dogs are deployed that raises hackles. As someone said on the "News Quiz" today, we don't object to the hunters getting off their horses and ripping the fox to pieces with their own teeth.

But: "The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable." -- Oscar Wilde.
posted by holgate at 7:42 AM on January 20, 2001

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