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Take the bastards on Mr Hart - by WR Thom

There were times during the third reading of the hunting bill in the House of Commons that I almost felt sorry for Alun Michael. This was especially so when he was cowering under the accurate machine-gun delivery of James Gray backed up by the heavy artillery of Nicholas Soames. Even when the poor soul turned to his own side he was caught by the friendly fire from Tony Banks. In the end he took the only course open to him - he surrendered.

It is a shame about Mr. Banks: on the odd occasion when he is not talking about football (where he regularly bores for England) or hunting (where he shamelessly reveals his complete ignorance of the subject) he is a very humorous speaker and is certainly a consummate parliamentarian. As for Alun Michael; I wouldn’t put him in charge of a rest home for retired gerbils.

The following week Mr. Michael was in his element. All he had to do was to say what was going to happen and not bother about the consequences. In this respect he was in auspicious company as only Oliver Cromwell and Adolf Hitler have found themselves in the same situation. The Germans still do not hunt, but Cromwell’s decision was overturned soon after his death: I would hate to think that we have to wait until Mr. Michael hands in his dinner pail before we can get on with our lives.

At the moment our future depends upon the deliberations of the Lords and Ladies in the Upper House. It is unlikely that they will be as unstatesmanlike or as illiberal as their commoner colleagues, but we cannot just rely on them.

How did we get into this situation in the first place? Some blame must be accepted by the leaders of the Countryside Alliance for sacking the ebullient Janet George and for imagining that they were dealing with honourable men. It’s a wonder they still have all their fingers in place.

And some blame must be accepted by all the spokespersons for hunting that time after time put forward the limp excuse that hunting must continue because foxes kill lambs and chickens. Of course they do, but that is not hunting’s raison d’etre. If it were then there would be no defence of stag hunting or hare hunting or coursing. Stags and hares don’t eat chickens. I don’t hunt but some of my nearest and dearest do and they don’t hunt to save their neighbours’ chickens: they hunt because they love it and because their whole social life revolves around it. You cannot defend your sport in such a limp-wristed way. Certainly, if something I was passionate about - like compost heaps and losing favourites - were threatened I hope I would have jumped up and down a bit more than the C.A. have over the past couple of years.

And what if the House of Lords cannot save hunting? I do hope there will not be a general skulking back to tents and acceptance of fates. Remember what the great man said in a far, far worse situation - "this is only the end of the beginning".

Hunting cannot be successfully policed. Therefore, the best step the hunting organisations can take is to meet and compose a letter to the Prime Minister in which they state that they cannot accept such impractical and divisive legislation and will, therefore, carry on with their affairs as usual.

They might also paint Mr. Blair a picture of all the hunts on Exmoor meeting on the same day but on different parts of the moor. It would take all the police in Devon and Somerset to try to find them. Especially if there happened to be the odd strategically placed tractor parked here and there.

Come on, Mr. Hart, take the bastards on.

Bill Thom, July 2003

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