Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Despite Ban, Fox Hunts Still Thrive, and Divide, in Britain; Hunt Clubs Adapt, and Decade-Old Law Has a Few Loopholes That Help Hunters

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Despite Ban, Fox Hunts Still Thrive, and Divide, in Britain; Hunt Clubs Adapt, and Decade-Old Law Has a Few Loopholes That Help Hunters

Article excerpt

IBSTONE, England * The horses wait in the farmyard, tails braided and manes gleaming, while huntsmen in brightly colored coats marshal the eager hounds, straining to chase the scent of a fox.

To some, the start of a fox hunt is a quintessentially English scene, steeped in tradition. To others, it's a barbaric rite preserved for the rich. Oscar Wilde dubbed fox hunting "the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable," and a decade ago Wednesday lawmakers banned the centuries-old blood sport, which has many opponents in Britain's cities and deep roots in its countryside.

"People who live in the country support hunting," said Mike Murray, who has come to see off the hounds and riders of the Kimblewick Hunt in Ibstone, a village tucked into the wooded Chiltern Hills an hour outside of London. "It's as simple as that."

When hunting with hounds was banned, pro-hunting groups feared the sport could disappear, endangering thousands of rural jobs, from dog breeders to stable hands to blacksmiths.

But hunting has survived, and even prospered, by adapting to the new rules or, opponents claim, by flouting the law. Thousands of people still attend organized hunts each week throughout the winter, and only a handful of hunters have been convicted of breaching the ban.

Some opponents of hunting say that's evidence that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. Hunt supporters say it's the result of a bad law motivated by social hostility. Sooner or later, all debates about fox hunting come to the c-word: class.

Tim Bonner of rural lobby group the Countryside Alliance said the ban was motivated by "a class-war agenda."

"It has nothing to do with animal welfare," he said. "It was about politics. This is the chosen battleground of those who want to dismantle the rural way of life."

Many rural people reacted with fury when then-Prime Minister Tony Blair whose Labour Party is strongest in urban areas announced plans to outlaw hunting. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.