Richard Gurney: Kicked around like a political football *H&H VIP*

  • Well, they say a week is a long time in politics and now we can add hunting to that statement.

    “Hunting to return by back door,” they said. The free vote on the amendment to the Hunting Act 2004 was to bring English and Welsh law into line with Scotland. When Scotland passed the law in 2002, it was welcomed by our opponents. Flushing a fox to a gun or guns with hounds was considered a good way to manage the fox population and a sensible way forward.

    Now, fully 14 years later and with no opposition to that law from the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), or anyone else, it has been as if the government has suggested something truly outrageous. After a lengthy “love-in with the SNP”, the Labour Party, Brian May and a very few activists convinced them to take part in the vote after a manifesto commitment that they would not vote on English laws.

    With all 56 SNP MPs voting against the bill it would have left the outcome too close to call, therefore the government has postponed the vote. This would have been a starting point to full repeal, which I fully support.

    Be assured this had nothing to do with hunting or animal welfare and everything to do with politics and the SNP seizing a cynical opportunity to give the government of the day a bloody nose.

    Once again, the hunting community has been kicked around like a political football. I can’t imagine another minority group in our society who would have had to take the political beating that hunting has.

    I took part in several interviews and debates and one stuck in my mind. BBC Radios Sussex and Surrey conducted a one-on-one debate between the LACS’ Tom Quinn and myself. Two things stood out. Tom Quinn suggested: “Eighty per cent of people wanted to see hunting remain banned.” Not true, and I would have thought that after the last general election, it’s a good thing LACS’ is resorting to opinion polls because it is clear they are not accurate. YouGov conducted a poll in February that stated 51% to 49% in hunting’s favour!

    It totally depends on what question you are asking and of whom.

    After the debate, a lady called in from Hastings to say that she thought hunting should remain as it is because “they are all toffs”. The presenter asked her: “You want hunting to remain banned because they are toffs?” She replied: “Yes.”

    Well, we at the Old Surrey Burstow & West Kent are a broad church and we count among our supporters builders, plumbers, chimney sweeps, doctors, nurses, tree surgeons, farmers, City workers and people who work at Gatwick Airport. For my part, my mother was a groom and my father a salesman — hardly Rothschild lineage!

    Crank up the PR machine

    The hunting community needs to spend the time and money between now and any future vote — which the government has promised — on a PR exercise telling it how it is and explaining to the British public who we are, what we do and why we do it.

    We must be proud of hunting and educate those who may not understand how it really is.

    For example, there is in fact just one person who blows a hunting horn in each pack of foxhounds, which he or she does to keep control of hounds. It is not about several Hooray Henrys shouting tally-ho while galloping wildly across the countryside.

    Many will be surprised at this, and they will have other preconceptions of hunting and those preconceptions will be wrong.

    If we don’t embark on that now we may lose the next vote, whether the SNP is involved or not.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 23 July 2015