Saturday, November 20, 2004

Gone to ground

After 700 hours of debate, 10 votes in the Commons and 7 years since it was a manifesto commitment for Labour, hunting with dogs is finally to be banned.

Don't try and convince me that it is a traditional pursuit - badger baiting, dog fighting, cock fighting and bear baiting have all been illegal for a while. Tradition is a poor argument for anything.

Licensing was a cop out. If we're banning it because it is cruel, then licensing it does not reduce the cruelty.

Ban it and be done with it.

And you lot in the Countryside Alliance? Stop whinging about it being a bad law and that the use of the Parliament Act was wrong. Ten votes in favour of a ban by the elected house in a democratic state, with a general election in the middle suggests to me that democracy has triumphed.

The only reason that they want to keep hunting is that they enjoy killing the animal - why can't they be honest? No part of the law will stop people gathering to dress as they like, ride their horses and use the hounds to follow a pre-laid scent. And as for the hounds being put down as a result of the ban, remember that if these are working dogs, not household pets. When they are unable to hunt, either through age or injury, they are taken out and shot.

Is is it a class thing? Well, the other 'sports' listed above were primarily the preserve of the rural working-class and there was precious little defence for those. Anyone who has seen how the hunt rampages across land - including private gardens, sometimes - knows that the landed gentry have always had the right to roam that has only just been granted to us poor unfortunate ones. The boot seems to be on the other foot for a change and they are VERY unhappy. This is not how the system is supposed to work, in their minds.

Never mind, eh?

So what are they going to do about it?

Well, the army is finding that some landowners are denying them access to land for training purposes - forcing the military to seek overseas locations for training. Some farmers are reconsidering allowing the rail, power and water companies access to their land to maintain their equipment (although this access is generally protected by law). They also plan to campaign against vulnerable Labour MPs in the upcoming general election. Bring 'em on. Let's see what sort of support the hunting fraternity can muster. I suspect that a campaign like that would energise anti-hunting support on a grand scale in most vulnerable Labour constituencies.

What is interesting is the initial legal challenge, which attacks the 1949 amendment to the Parliament Act. If that were to be brought down, the War Crimes Act would fall, as would the laws lowering the gay age of consent and the act that established the party list system for European elections. Watch this space.

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