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Until Chickens Have Rifles ...

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Daily Record, November 19, 2004

 

UNTIL CHICKENS CAN USE RIFLES WE HAVE TO KILL FOXES

 

by: Paul Stokes

 

I AM sure most of you will agree with me when I say I sincerely hope that the looming ban on hunting down south is as successful as the one introduced by our own dear Parliament.

 

It is now two years since Scottish foxes won their historic fight to gain the right to roam our countryside without fear of being chased by packs of dogs.

 

Since when every one of the 10 Scottish hunts that were operating before the ban has .. er ... carried on hunting.

 

The one bunch which did disband, the 150-year-old Dumfriesshire Hunt, has now reformed due to popular demand.

 

Its hunt ball is back on, it is actively seeking new members and, in the meantime, it is charging around on farms and estates where hunting has never taken place before. Hurrah!

 

It is a slightly different type of hunting. As Daphne Thorne, the hunt secretary, says: 'It is not so nice, but it is better than nothing.'

 

Yes folks, the great Scottish ban on hunting has achieved virtually nothing - apart from some bizarre new rules of engagement between man and fox, which benefit neither.

 

In the bad old days, before the so-called ban, the plucky fox would be chased across the countryside, but at least he had a chance of getting away. Under our new, improved pro-fox system once Basil is mildly startled by the hounds he must, by law, be taken out with a high-powered rifle.

 

Of course, if wounded, the law requires he is helicoptered to the nearest vet's surgery, to be patched up, and sent out into the fields again to frolic with the chickens.

 

Only joking. If wounded he enjoys the privilege of being killed by the dogs same as under the old system. But as the various parts of his body head in different directions he can thank the Scottish Parliament for ensuring that he was shot as well as torn apart.

 

That's progress for you.

 

It is, in fact, yet another fine example of the law of unintended consequences, which shows that legislation often creates more problems than it sets out to solve.

 

Hunting in Scotland is now more dangerous for both the hunters and the hunted. In fact, the number of foxes being killed has doubled since the ban.

 

There again, so what? Foxes are vermin that need to be controlled and until chickens are trained to use rifles it is down to us. The fact some people choose to do it on horseback, while having what they think is a jolly good time hardly seems grounds for a new law. It doesn't make any difference to the fox.

 

Still, the problems created by the 'ban' in Scotland are as nothing to those that will be caused by the more severe restrictions planned for England and Wales.

 

Scotland's unhappy - and, no doubt, unintentional - fudge will not be on offer to the far more numerous hunters down south, where any type of fox hunting with dogs will be outlawed.

 

So, while our hunters have learned to live with our law, down south thousands of people have pledged to break their one.

 

As a result, England's already stretched rural police force is now going to be dragged into a major dispute about - wait for it - methods of pest control.

 

The full power of the state is to be unleashed against a small group of people simply because they kill foxes with dogs, rather than with guns, traps or poison.

 

The legislation to enable this is forced through Westminster with powers that were created to resolve a constitutional crisis, not a row about a country sport.

 

Why, exactly, are our politicians so determined to persecute these people? Was there a massive popular clamour for either ban? If there was, it passed me by. As far as I can see they are being punished for being posh - even though lots of them aren't and for not treating animals like cuddly toys.

 

For fox sake, leave the hunters alone.

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