Opinion

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We have the date — 8 June. Put it in the diary. Things must be put straight before the day, a decision of the utmost import will be made, the consequences of which will affect the lives of many in the ensuing months, nay years. Yes, 8 June; the Belvoir Hunt puppy show.

The more observant will have noticed that there is also to be a general election that many did not foresee; for the first time in many years, there is a real chance of a large Conservative majority in the House of Commons. To the surprise of many and to their great credit, the Conservatives have retained their pledge to repeal the Hunting Act 2004 in their election manifesto. Exciting times indeed.

I have little doubt the Tories will win. So right now the Countryside Alliance, masters and hunt staff need to be discussing exactly what we expect subsequent to the result. The starting point is undoubtedly a full repeal of the Hunting Act. It is, lest we forget, an abomination, bought with a £1million “bung” from the International Fund for Animal Welfare to the party forming the government of that time, when the cabinet began to look for a third way.

It is also, however, doubtful whether repeal can prove a long-term and sustainable outcome. We may not always have a supportive government, and I have grave concerns as regards an “independent” licensing authority. Who would this comprise? Such associations have a habit of losing their way. The National Trust has eschewed its founding ethos to become a self-perpetuating money-making scheme; the RSPCA — another formerly respectable organisation — has been taken over by animal rights extremists.

Somewhere along the line, we must find a way to return hunting to its rightful place alongside shooting and fishing as a great country sport, playing a full part in the management of wildlife and the countryside.

There is still a risk, however, in complacency of the electorate. The government will need a thumping majority to write this grievous wrong. The hunting community needs to pull together one last time and get behind Vote-OK. If you enjoy your hunting, you can support your hunt staff in a way that really matters — on this occasion it is not good enough to leave it to someone else.

Let’s imitate ‘Elvis’

There are changes afoot in the government benches at Belvoir, too. Mrs Chatfeild-Roberts retires to the bench; her contribution can be judged by the fact she is to be replaced by two! We welcome Justine Smiley-Jones and Kit Henson to complete a Belvoir sextet.

Also handing over the reins is John Martin. He joined the mastership in 1991, retiring in 2004, then like Elvis in Vegas, made a comeback as chairman in 2006. Chairman is probably the most important role in a modern hunt and he has overseen ours with considerable aplomb. Mr Martin has done his bit for hunting. I hope you are ready to do yours.

Ref Horse & Hound; 18 May 2017