446 Tyranny of Towns

by   David Hancock

"...the end of law is, not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom."

Those words of John Locke, written in 1690, could not be more timely in their recall than September 2004. Locke was an English philosopher, the founder of political liberalism, who opposed what was then called 'the divine right of kings'. He would not have liked the divine right of townees! It is a chilling thought that next year is the first in the history of mankind that more people will live in towns than outside them. There is nothing wrong with people who live in towns but a lot wrong with 'town-thinking'. 9/11 is justly commemorated as the time when 3,000 people were killed in one day of terrorism; 9/15 should now be noted as the time when 20,000 hounds were condemned to death and life in the country changed for ever.

 Aha, cry the enlightened reformists, we must move on, be more civilised and remember how bull-baiting, bear-baiting and dog-fighting became outlawed. What they do not seem to understand is that these three barbaric so-called sports were pursued by townees not countrymen. Aha, cry the enlightened reformists, we must not be cruel to foxes. It is a waste of time telling them that the fox population has remained stable at around 250,000 for the last twenty-five years and that from 9/15 it will not. Why should any livestock farmer or landowner with animals put up with fox-attacks when he can shoot as many as he likes and nobody cares? 9/15 is the biggest single threat ever to the foxes of England and Wales. The British fox deserves conservation and countrymen provide that; our foxes do not deserve obliteration through misguided legislation as a result of irrational 'animal welfare' campaigns.

 Aha, cry the enlightened reformists, it is less cruel to shoot a fox than chase it to death. They just will not answer when challenged by the question: Which is crueller, a death in seconds through the leading hounds or a long lingering agonising death from poison, gin-trap or maiming by shotgun? We are NOT talking about a triumph of rational thought here, we are talking about urban arrogance, ignorance being bliss and town-thinking prevailing. I admire foxes, they are accomplished hunters too. They deserve our best efforts to manage their numbers in the least cruel manner. How can legislation be passed in the name of preventing cruelty when the word 'cruelty' has never been defined?

 Aha, cry the enlightened reformists, this has been a democratic decision and therefore the rule of law must prevail. The imposition of laws by a bullying majority out of ignorance, prejudice and parliamentary blackmail is not many people's idea of democracy. The appeasement of backbenchers is no basis for imposing unjust laws on people who have done no wrong. That's tyranny. But stand by, countrymen, the triple whammy approaches: The Right to Roam walking boots advance, The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act concrete is about to flow freely and The Final Class Hatred Act (thinly veiled as The Hunting with Dogs Act) is barking madly.  

 What to do? Wait for the Conservatives to regain power? They prefer in-fighting to real fighting. Appeal to the anglers and shooters for support? Waste of time, they won't hear, their heads are too far into the sand. Register every countryman as a gypsy and claim persecution? Tempting! Annoy the British public with the slow-driving of horse-boxes? Stupid! Just carry on and see if the Act is enforceable? Has some appeal; how do you prove intent? If you have no intention of breaking a law and exercise your horse and some 'hunting dogs', could you not stumble across all manner of game/vermin/quarry? Stand by clever lawyers, there's money to be made here! It's an advocate's world in 2004.

MPs have voted ten times since 1995 to ban hunting with dogs but the legislation itself has never been formally tested as a human rights' issue. A gifted advocate could successfully argue that if cruelty is the issue, firstly why is a delayed introduction of the Bill tolerable? Secondly, if rats and rabbits can have similar cruelty inflicted on them, and that be tolerated, where is the logic in banning under this Act on cruelty grounds. In my view the pro-hunting campaign has been misconceived and not very clever. I am not in favour of street protests or invasions of Parliament. It just makes some people feel better; it clearly achieves nothing. I am strongly against disrupting public highway travel; the general public is not a target. Before the courts are used against hunters, let's use them against the class-warriors - and test their respect for the law. Hunters don't need balaclavas!