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Planning for the Future

And so, the cycle continues, and we welcome new, keen and energetic staff into working with hounds whilst saying ‘Good Bye’ to those who move on. But is that it? Are we not missing something here, something that the great and good recorded in the annals of hunting as being self-evident but which has become ‘lost in the cracks’ ? Where is the mechanism that facilitates the capture and dissemination of that huge amount of tacit knowledge about hounds, hunt country, local scent conditions, land owners, other stakeholders and sensitive issues which would be invaluable to the new incumbent? Where, with all the technology at hand is the modern version of a Goodall’s practice or Bentinck? Of course, it is possible that at Baily’s we are not aware of initiatives which aim to achieve this and which may already exist at local level, but, is that really good enough? If they are that successful shouldn’t such practices be widely celebrated, shared as best practice, and broadcast?
Many other professions, much older than hunting with hounds, have developed formal processes specifically designed to ensure the successful transition of those things that combine to deliver a viable future for an activity with utility and welfare at its core but which has an ever-growing list of competing tensions and pain points. Have we become so entrenched in ‘preserving’ a particular vision of ‘tradition‘,  that we have lost the fact that hunting with hounds has always changed to meet new challenging circumstances? For example, who today would understand the critical resentment which faced those in the early years of the twentieth century when trying to improve hunt finances through capping, or those who put pen to paper to complain about ‘new people’ destroying farm livelihood’s in the 1840’s who would be according to the author, the ‘end of huntin’.

To an outside observer, hunting with hounds has a fundamental problem in that it has been allowed to become perceived negatively and we have responded by appearing to be ‘welded to tradition’ as opposed to celebrating a convention that blends the best of the old with new ‘fit for purpose’ approaches. In addition, to a pejorative audience fed negative stories by a media more interested in ‘click to like’ viewpoint, as opposed to a fact based one, we seem unable to learn from mistakes.

It IS true I saw it in Google!”

Every week, regardless of whether hounds are attending shows, following a trail or the clean boot we at Baily’s are certain to receive a number of emails from the nasty brigade in our ‘spam in box’. Most are just boringly abusive, some evidently written by a committee, and some from those ‘who just ‘luv’ all animals ‘because all animals live in harmony’ .
This latter group is made up in part by the sort of person that hides behind the sofa whilst watching yet another television documentary featuring the constant struggle for life and death played out every day in the wild. Thanks to carefully nurtured production values these scenes of the every day struggle for life and violent death are carefully packaged with dramatic music and sanctimonious commentary. One such person took time out to write to us in very emotional terms about things she had been told, or read online. We took considerable time to address all her questions and show that her fears were without foundation (for example all fox hounds are not shot at 4 years old) but suggested she asked some of the more well-funded anti hunt organisations about the sources behind such claims. Most people understand that ‘stuff’ on social media is a tidal wave of unfiltered:- information, dis-information, ‘gossip’ and inuendo, much of which is out of date a few minutes later therefore should be used with caution. However somehow certain mega corporate electronic information systems have convinced a part of the global audience that regardless of the subject being researched they can be trusted.
If an alien wanted to know why masked thugs were generating unaccountable income through endless emotional pleas for funding action against something the thugs found breached their changing moral code, then that alien might turn to a tiny part of the internet called the world wide web (www). In so doing they would be likely to make full use of a very well known ‘trusted’ browser and enter ’fox hunting’. Would the data returned give them a dispassionate and accurate view of the activities behind the term? No. What it would do is give a whole range of negative viewpoints without any form of balance, sanity check or critical thinking. Just snippets from a muddy pool of ‘paid for’ content that the browsers algorithm has promoted over any content which did not generate revenue for the search engine’s owners. The content owner seeks to promote a particular view using emotion over fact within a generation that accepts that ‘it must be true’ because it has appeared at the top of the page and must therefore be the best content. Online information repositories are not required to be able to show that their user generated content is ‘legal, decent, honest or truthful’ and we must not allow ourselves to be fooled into the easy trap of thinking that it is. In fact, it is nothing more than someone’s message which they have paid to have promoted to a wide audience on the basis of  “the more you pay the bigger your audience”- as being the source of a truth. Previous generations did not face this sort of bias in sorting out fact from fiction and it is of great concern that it seems well funded organisations established to support rural viewpoints have not yet decided to support the needs of younger more questioning audience, and start to correct some of the more lurid stories and online reports with fact and paid for rebuttals. Why not, for example, start to counter the negativity with a promotion of the super book Rural Wrongs by Pye Smith and Barrington? Or, is it the case that the online battle for mindsets is not seen as ‘traditional’ and therefore not relevant to ‘our’ audience? If that IS the case, then hunting with hounds has bigger issues than a potential change of government.



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