Fox hunting

OSCAR Wilde famously said that fox hunting could be defined as the ‘unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable.'

There certainly seemed to be a significant presence of the ‘unspeakable' outside the House of Commons this week.

Several thousand pro-hunting demonstrators turned up in Westminster and staged a violent protest against Alun Michael's Hunting Bill.

Police officers were attacked. The gates to parliament, which have to be kept clear at all times to allow MPs in and out, were blocked. Powerful fireworks were thrown at Police horses, and even at a female Labour MP trying to get into the House.

I couldn't help but think what the reaction would have been from Mrs. Thatcher's Government if thousands of miners had turned up during the 1984 Miner's Strike, and tried to storm the gates of parliament. I suspect they would have been stopped and arrested en route, and accused of attempting to destroy parliamentary democracy.

On this occasion, the Police around parliament showed tremendous professionalism and restraint, in dealing with the thugs who turned up to defend hunting with hounds.

Surprisingly they must think that in some way their antics will intimidate MPs into changing their minds. If they do think that, then they are even more ignorant than their loutish behaviour suggested.

MPs who were open to persuasion that some form of licensed hunting with hounds might be permitted, seem more determined than ever now to support a complete ban.

The amount of heat that is generated over this issue is astounding. In fact it comes down to simple logic. Do you or do you not believe that hunting foxes with hounds for sport is cruel?
If you do, and you believe unnecessary cruelty to animals is wrong, then you ban it.

That leads to the question ‘do you believe that it is necessary on occasion to cull foxes for pest control purposes?'

If you do, then it should be done in the least cruel way possible.

It is nobody's fundamental human right to inflict cruelty on an animal like a fox, with a highly developed nervous system, simply for amusement.

At the moment, the bill would allow some licensed hunting with hounds in areas where this is the least cruel method of pest control. I am not convinced that this is necessary, but I am pleased that the bill completely outlaws stag hunting and hare coursing.

MPs have a free vote on this, which means that the parties do not attempt to marshall their members to vote one particular way.

It means that on this occasion, I find myself in complete agreement with Ann Widdecombe. She says that arguing that you shouldn't outlaw hunting with hounds because some jobs might be lost, is like arguing that you shouldn't try to abolish ill health because doctors would lose their jobs.

As Oscar Wilde might have said, in Ann Widdecombe we have an example of the indomitable in pursuit of the illogical.