Magazine article The Spectator

Scenting Danger

Magazine article The Spectator

Scenting Danger

Article excerpt

The phoney war is over. With the publicanon of the Burns report and the announcement of a government bill on hunting with hounds, the long-awaited battle has begun. The message from the Countryside Alliance was positively Churchillian in tone: `As of now a sustained and escalating campaign of action begins. It will be relentless, implacable and prolonged . . . Supporters, individuals or groups are asked to stand by. A "call to arms" may be at short notice.'

The local kennels will have to wait for any repairs they may need. Hunts up and down the country are committing their financial reserves to the fight. The sums may be puny when compared to the vast wealth of those foreign `animal welfare' organisations that advertise their views in our magazines and newspapers, but the emptying of coffers reflects a determination to stand to the last ditch. Those who fear their courage may fail them should take heart in the passionate support they are set to get from all sorts of people who have never hunted in their lives.

For some supporters of the hunting community their enemy's enemy is their friend. My husband, who as you may recall is a Master of Foxhounds, has received a pile of hastily typed faxes from farmers saying, `We want to help.' Meanwhile, as The Spectator's `Country life' columnist, I've had letters and cards from urban Tories who tell me that they are looking forward to the next Countryside rally in London (one which the Alliance promises will be `the biggest peacetime march that London has ever seen'). But the hunting debate also invites the wider public to teach New Labour a very particular lesson and I don't expect they will pass up the opportunity.

What then is this lesson? Tony Blair and his Cabinet know that the vast majority of British people disapproves of hunting animals with dogs; that's why the whole damn ban thing seemed like a good idea in the first place. However, they scent danger ahead. They were taken aback by the scale of the earlier Countryside rallies and by the level of support from liberal, non-hunting journalists. …

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