HELEN BURTON: Fox hunting tradition should stay in the past

Helen Burton SUS-150709-171138001
Helen Burton SUS-150709-171138001

After Christmas I was shocked to find out that 300 hunts around the country met to parade through town and villages, continuing the tradition of a ‘boxing day hunt’. The Countryside Alliance encouraged supporters of hunting to attend in full force in order to show that the ban on fox hunting should be repealed, as promised in the Conservative manifesto during May’s election. I wrote earlier in the year about the attempt by Cameron to repeal the act and his subsequent withdrawal of the free vote on the issue when the SNP announced they would block it. Nicola Sturgeon used the situation as an opportunity to “remind the government how slender their majority is” claiming that Cameron was “out of touch with majority English opinion”. The current sports Minister Tracey Crouch stated recently that “foxhunting is a pursuit from the past and like the overwhelming majority of the population I believe that is where it should stay”.

Despite a large attendance at the hunts by pro-hunting supporters, this year’s annual survey by Ipsos MORI found that people in the UK overwhelmingly want the ban to remain in place, 84% in rural areas and 82% in urban areas.

There are hundreds of registered hunts in the UK, and as the law stands they may only ‘drag’ or ‘trail’ hunt where a scent is laid over several miles and the horses, riders and a pack of hounds follow the scent. Whilst this may in itself seem harmless the whole sport still leaves me feeling uncomfortable, and there is evidence that illegal hunting still also takes place. Foxhunting is often quoted as being an important tradition to maintain, but there are many traditions in this country that we would not allow today, slavery and state-sanctioned bigotry spring to mind. Let’s not champion traditions simply because they are traditions. Let’s make a decision as to what is right and what is wrong and base our decisions around that. I have no objection in principle to people, horses and hounds galloping across the countryside together following a person or a scent, but the image of the red coats and the ‘tradition’ that it stands for makes my skin crawl. I have lost chickens and two of my beloved ducks to the foxes that visit our garden but I understand that foxes are a part of our countryside and although they are a danger to my pets I still love them.

Violence (described as ‘scuffles’ in most of the press) broke out in Lewes as pro-hunt and anti-hunt protestors clashed, as predicted by the Deputy Mayor of Lewes who had unsuccessfully tried to ban the hunt from the town. Hopefully next year the council will not approve the road closures that allow the parade to take place.

If you feel as I do there is currently a petition to strengthen the 2004 Hunting Act which you can sign and share at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/105997

You can also join the League Against Cruel Sports at www.league.org.uk