05 Jun 2016

Hunt Saboteur to Master of Hounds

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MilesCooper

The Yorkshire Post describes Miles Cooper’s conversion from Hunt Saboteur and League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) activist to Field Sports participant and finally Master of Hounds.

I know it would be more interesting to say I had a road to Damascus moment, but there were no blinding lights. It was much more of a gradual process. I was living in a market town in Oxfordshire and I came to know many of the farmers who lived there. I guess the more I talked to them, the more I began to question the anti-hunt stance. I spoke to sheep farmers who explained that hunts were a viable way of managing the fox population, that they were more humane than snaring and shooting. These weren’t people trying to twist my mind. They were people who had the countryside and its best interests in their blood. They were simply explaining their point of view and given their wealth of experience it was right for me to listen, to think and to challenge my own views.”

By the time a hunting ban became a serious prospect, Miles had decided that it wasn’t something that he could support. In April 2002, 13 years after going on his first protest he came out publicly as pro-hunting. “I suppose I could have gone quietly, but I decided that I should be open and honest, especially since I’d been so publically critical of hunting in the past so a press conference was organised at Westminster. Of course I had reservations and what I had to say went down like a lead balloon with former colleagues, but I’ve never had any regrets about doing it.” …

Over the intervening years Miles’s pro-hunting stance strengthened. So much so, he learned to ride and went out on his first hunt with the Warwickshire Hunt. He also breeds and works ferrets, shoots and hunts with his local pack of beagles.

“It felt a little surreal to begin with, but for me it was a natural next step,” he says by way of explanation. “Everything I have seen being part of the hunting world has only confirmed that the Government got it wrong and the current legislation isn’t fit for purpose. Take hares for instance: the law says it’s wrong to hunt a healthy hare but okay to hunt one which has been wounded first. It’s ridiculous, a nonsense and just downright perverse.”

Miles moved to Yorkshire for work – he’s a manager at York’s Askham Bryan College, the largest land-based college in England – but it’s also here where his conversion from hunt sab to hunt master was complete.

“A colleague showed me an advert in Countryman’s Weekly magazine which said that a new pack of bloodhounds was being set up in Yorkshire and that anyone interested in helping should get in contact. Not many people get to contribute to starting a hunt from scratch, so I thought what have I got to lose? The answer to that was all my spare time and some of my hair, but I’ve loved it.”

Miles admits that when he sees pictures of himself hunting, whether that be with the bloodhounds or out beagling, he occasionally has to do a double take, but he says he hopes his experience might help dent the long-lived stereotypes.

“Hunting isn’t a sport just for toffs. We are not a bunch of lords. Most people join a hunt because they love riding and sacrifice most other things in their life to pay for the upkeep of their horse. There is a real cross section of society in any hunt that you don’t get in a lot of places. I can tell you from first-hand experience that you don’t get wealthy being a hunt master. In fact, you just get older, greyer and poorer a whole lot quicker, but by God I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Read the whole thing.

All this goes to show that some people are capable of growth and education.

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