17 Aug 2006

Fox Hunting Defended

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Joseph Pearce identifies the real issue underlying Britain’s hunt ban.

The urban proletariat and its Labour Party representatives perceived hunting as a preserve of the rich and as an archaic throwback to the days of feudalism and privilege. In fact, hunting is enjoyed by all social classes in rural England and is an expression of the community spirit that still survives in the countryside, even as it has long since become extinct in the cities. This fact was made glaringly obvious by the sheer enormity of the size of the pro-hunt demonstration by the Countryside Alliance before the ban became law. The rural rich and poor descended on London expressing the unity of the countryfolk of England against the stripping of their ancestral rights by an urban tyranny alienated by the very notion of cultural roots and traditional notions of communitas.

The central issue is not, however, merely a question of tradition versus modernity, though this is doubtless a key and important factor in the tension between town and country. The central issue is connected to what the Catholic Church has termed “subsidiarity.” The principal objection to the banning of hunting is that the urban proletariat had no right to override the wishes of the majority of people in the countryside to pursue their ancient traditions unmolested. No foxes are hunted in Hampstead or in Birmingham. No stags are pursued through the streets of Liverpool or Manchester. What right, therefore, do the people of these areas have to dictate what the people of Much Wenlock or Moreton-in-the-Marsh can or can’t do in the fields surrounding their villages? Why should the tradition-oriented folk of the English shires be forced to conform to the conventions of what Evelyn Waugh described “as our own deplorable epoch”? Why should the civilized remnant of England be forced to practice the new barbarism of our modern cities? These, as I say, are the key questions raised by the banning of hunting.

We have the same thing here already with respect to gun ownership, and our traditional forms of field sport will sooner or later inevitably also face threats of legal prohibition inspired by urban intolerance.

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Hat tip to Steve Bodio.

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