418 Time to Reload

by   David Hancock

 Our quaintly structured parliamentary system has delayed the passage of legislation to outlaw the use of dogs in some sporting fields, but this is no time to unload. It is a time to reload with better ammunition. So far, those wishing country sports with dogs to continue have not won the battle or obtained a postponement; they have been given a brief respite by the slow machinery of government. But delay itself rarely satisfies anyone, the threat remains; the case for avoiding legislation can always be strengthened. So far facts have not got in the way of prejudice and that has to be acknowledged. A number of key questions have to be asked if better ammunition is to be loaded for a second shot.

 For me, mass rallies make those taking part feel a whole lot better. There is comfort in parading with like-minded people; there is a definite lift in seeing and hearing mass support for what you yourself hold dear. But exactly what good in shaping public opinion and influencing government legislation do mass rallies do? When I lived in London I found mass rallies extremely tiresome, even when I felt they were well-intentioned. The battle for the continuation of country sports is NOT going to be won on the streets of London but in the corridors of power; there is some difference between the two. Everyone of us is represented in Parliament; few of us lobby our representative on issues which matter to us. How can our elected representatives actually represent us if we don't tell them, face to face in their own constituency surgeries, what we feel and why? 

 Rudeness to MPs and especially Ministers of State at public functions by country sports devotees achieve little but public distaste and a distinct feeling that there's a time and place for everything except rudeness. How can you win the hearts and minds of town-dwelling citizens if they see and hear vulgar tasteless behaviour towards public figures. It's really not very bright. Few campaigns are won by those who shout the loudest or behave in the most loutish manner. This is a time for cool heads not hot heads. As Francis Bacon remarked four hundred years ago: "No term of moderation takes place with the vulgar". Let's raise the level of discussion to the highest level not the lowest.

 If the best campaign badge we can come up with reads BOLLOCKS TO BLAIR then do we deserve public approval? Do campaigners wearing such a coarse message expect to be taken seriously? By insulting your leaders and offending public taste, what do you achieve? Why use precious resources on playing the race card when the class card could be played to much greater effect? A half-page advertisement featuring a charming photogenic black lady in hunting dress blurs the message. Why not focus on the thousands of ordinary working class voters who take part in country sports? Which is the bigger catchment area of opinion? And why spend limited funds placing such adverts in sporting papers only seen by country sports supporters?

 The biggest single issue in the debate over country sports is fox-hunting; it arouses the greatest emotional response and allows every other country sports outlet to be marginalised. Allowing that to ensue is a terrible tactical mistake. The whole debate has been allowed to dwell on 'hunting with dogs', but most country sports do not involve 'hunting' in the true sense. No countryman going out with his lurchers and terriers says that he is going 'hunting'. Those coursing their sighthounds never state they are 'hunting' when they do so. Why on earth has this debate been allowed to become monopolised by hunting? Is it any sense at all to put the very word which creates the biggest backlash on every poster and banner? It's simply idiotic.

 The word 'hunting' is misconstrued by the general public, it is misused by the media, it is abused by the opposition. Why not draw attention away from such a diversionary term? In a nation fond of its dogs, why not campaign to save the sporting dog? 'SAVE DOG SPORT' will always sound better to the ears of fair-minded citizens than BOLLOCKS TO BLAIR! And why leave the best use of words to the opposition? The antics of hunt-saboteurs and many opponents of country sports are those of fascists. When we refer to them and whenever we mention them this is the word to be used. They are attempting to seize the moral high ground -- by using immoral methods, and they are getting away with it. They listen to no arguments but their own. They tolerate no discussion. They resort to violence to get their way. They are extremists. They demand total submission to their views. They are totalitarians. They are fascists. In any democracy fascists are unwelcome, especially here. Call them what they are!

 We have the chance to reload and to harden our resolve, but we need to be a lot harder-headed, better focused and take better aim if the second shot is going to count. The first shot is so often a sighter. I wish to see dog-sport saved from the fascists; perhaps the British people do too.