294 Hound your MP

by   David Hancock

 "I envy not in any moods

  The captive void of noble rage..."

Those words of Tennyson could so aptly be applied to the current unrest over threats to country sports from politicians in government. Feeling angry demands an outlet; feeling vulnerable makes most of us defensive. Those two combined can however lead us to mistaken strategies. In any public debate, it is always those elected who are in fact vulnerable; choosing the best weapon to use on that vulnerability is the key. Angry feelings expressed in print are always immediately softened; politicians who are confronted by very angry people are very vulnerable indeed. The 'captive void of noble rage' is no weapon at all. Make your MP feel vulnerable.

 Know your enemy is an age©old military principle; what do we know of politicians? Generally speaking, politicians are weak shabby opportunists who can't earn a living in mainstream life; they have a pathetic desire to be popular and a perennial need to be electable. They like to hide behind the Whitehall machinery and plead party unity as an excuse for their voting record. These are valuable features on which to base a campaign. The electors don't vote for a party, they vote for an individual, who happens to be a member of a party. Most politicians would run a mile rather than face angry constituents at a local meeting to debate a contentious issue.

 To base an appeal to the better nature of politicians on words like freedom, rights and justice is ill©advised. Politicians the world over thrive on the lack of all three. To plead that say a ban on foxhunting will destroy jobs and threaten the rural economy is pointless. Look at the fishing industry, agriculture and the former mining villages and then tell me that our politicians care about such matters! The most neglected county in Britain is not Durham or Lancashire but Cornwall, which lacks a huge conurbation. Politicians are townees; they know very well where the most votes come from. They also place a high price on continuing in their gravy©train lifestyle. This is another strategy©shaping fact.

 One of the principal weaknesses of the country sports lobby has long been its lack of homogeneity. Although the admirable March of the Countryside to London overcame that, it was a one©off not a sustainable pattern of protest. So what do the antis do? They aim to pick off each country sport one by one, exploiting public sentiment mixed with ignorance and town©mindedness. A fox alleged to have been thrown to slavering hounds gets greater prominence than a field full of slaughtered lambs. A stag at bay on the roof of a bungalow gets more response than one slowly dying in great pain and considerable distress from poor marksmanship at a cull or from poaching.

Emotional blackmail is the first resort of the crafty lobbyist.

 We must face the facts on politicians and make the maximum use of their weaknesses. We must acknowledge the successes of the antis and analyse their methods, methods which are working and not because of the strength of their case. The strength of our case is not being fully utilised and that is not a direct criticism of the Countryside Alliance; I daresay they are already making plans. My aim is to identify ways forward for readers as individuals who cannot always get to marches and organised protests.

 The lack of homogeneity in country sports ”has• to be overcome; no one sport must be threatened without the whole feeling threatened. The animal rights lobby run a ”progressive• campaign, this time it's hunting with dogs, next time it's hunting with ferrets, then it will be shooting and then angling. And how much easier it will be to pick them off one by one. To some extent we invite it; for years and years the foxhunting fraternity looked down their noses at lurcher men, now they need them! Shooting men have not been exactly in the vanguard when stag©hunting was the target. The 'thank God they're gunning for somebody else' school of thought does little for the future of country pursuits generally.

 The passage of the discredited Dangerous Dogs Act makes a point for me. This shameful act, which is contrary to every fundament of English law, was ignored by the gundog, hound, terrier, lurcher, sheepdog and field sports organisations. It has been a few dedicated individuals who have softened it and will continue to work on it. Legislation drawn up by townee bureaucrats on one subject just serves to encourage them to extend their mandate still further. A Hunting Dogs Act will no doubt be attempted, followed inevitably by others. The perverse, lazy and negative attitude of 'my sport's all right, why should I care' plays right into the hands of the antis.

 But what are the strengths of the country sports lobby? In reverse order I would guess: speaking with one voice on ”every• issue, never being isolated on any one aspect; secondly rallying the working class sportsmen right across the board, this isn't a campaign for the well©heeled or the more articulate but for everyone with an interest ”and• a vote, and, in particular the angling community. Angling is especially vulnerable to the animal rights mob on PR grounds alone. A fox can be a menace; what menace can a maggot be! Catching a live creature by putting a sharp barbed hook in its mouth and pulling, what a gift to the morally vain!

 Here are some questions to be put to the morally vain. Is your pursuit of a ban on foxhunting because killing wild creatures is wrong, i.e. morally unacceptable? Further question: What then about the 20,000,000 wild creatures killed each year in Britain alone by the domestic cat? Why are you not pursuing a ban on hunting by cats? Is your wish to ban hunting with dogs based on a dislike of hunting itself? Why then are you not campaigning against the big cat family which hunts every day to devastating extents all over Africa and Asia? The principles are surely the same. Why are you picking on hunting with dogs? Why are you not protesting against hunting in lakes and rivers with maggots? What is different in moral terms? And immediately the word 'cruel' enters the fray, ask which is crueller for a flight animal, being chased or being gassed or being wounded?

 We have allowed the field sports debate to become a class issue, against all the facts. Let's produce the facts and the people behind them. We have shown the high profile to be obtained by a huge well©organised London march. We know the penalties of watching the sport of another being picked off before your own becomes the next chosen target. An attack on one sport ”must• be seen as an attack on a way of life. Rally the anglers, there are millions of them, and they don't seem to realise that they're on the same hit list. And if your breed of sporting dog one day gets listed in the Dangerous Dogs Act, where were you when it was being framed?

 Every single person, as an individual, can take part in the fight for the freedom to take part in country sports. If you accept that politicians are weak vote©conscious opportunists, unprincipled as a breed, but willing to do ”anything• to get re©elected, then realise your own personal power, the power of your vote. Harass ”your• MP in his constituency. Bombard him with letters. Attend one of his surgeries and show anger. Collect a few like©minded colleagues and stage noisy demonstrations  whenever he or she appears at a public event and tell the press that you are going to do so. Don't appeal to his sense of fair play, his conscience or play the local economy card; just embarrass him with physical confrontation, lawful physical confrontation. Get to him, not the posing politician but to the weak individual who places re©election above all else.

 Hound your MP! Every time he opens a fete, visits a local factory or conducts a surgery, confront him, the person, and keep mentioning the vote. Noble rage may be a captive void; the angry man in your face fills any void. Stop being reasonable, the fascists are winning by being unreasonable. Across Europe, opinion polls tell us that 25% are anti©field sports, 25% are for field sports and 50% remain undecided. But in the end it's the proportions in Westminster that will decide the issue. It will be decided by voting politicians, who will be guided, not by conscience, freedom of the individual or facts, but by angry voters with the power to kick them out. Get angry soon, time is running out.