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The Tale of Billy No-Mates

The phrase Billy No-Mates was apparently coined by a couple of jealous tabloid journalists to try to poke fun at a member of one of the Boat Race team members some twenty-plus years ago but could be applied today to hunting with hounds. Before the advent of social, media and instant opinions if you did not know anything about a subject you were likely to keep quiet to avoid the embarrassment of revealing your ignorance. Today however it seems that ignorance about a subject is something to celebrate and not to hide.

Back in the 1970’s and 80’s hunting with hounds was attacked by those loosely federated to something we have called the ‘I DO NOT LIKE IT THEREFORE IT MUST BE STOPPED’ group. Whether it was class-based, personal or loosely based on some poorly understood concept of ‘animal rights’ this small but vocal group of protesters saw hunting with hounds as an example of everything they objected to in their vision of their perfect world.

However, the reality was that hunting was outside the experience of most of the population who therefore quite understandably had no opinion on it. In the days when the pretend, and it has to be said pretentious, urban terrorists indulged their need to illustrate their hatred of hunting people by activities such as digging up graves, or stealing and killing packs of hounds, the activities of this minority were quite rightly vilified by the majority of people and the tabloid press in particular. Today however a brief look at ‘animal rights’ pages and you will see that such actions are apparently perceived as ‘heroic’ and the perpetrators ’heroes’ each act accompanied by emotional appeals for funding on the basis that they are supporting animal welfare.

Reading these reports it becomes apparent very quickly that the events described fall into the ‘Walt Disney’ class of factual reporting but that does not stop them being reported and embellished as they travel instantly through the ether from country to country. This access to worldwide support for any treacle laden emotional statement involving animals means that any statistic (including the antis favourite and much quoted but less than credible ‘80% of people …are opposed to hunting’ A figure which was apparently arrived at by extrapolation from a poll of around 2000 people and is about as reliable as the aged reference to the 8 out of 10 cat owners who stated their felines had expressed a preference for a certain food) must be subject to both verification and qualification- just because I ticked a box in a poll does not mean that I have anything other than a vague passing interest in the issues at hand, and, in today’s online world I certainly do not have to be affected by them to express an opinion on them.

Unlike the battle 40+ years ago, those who follow hounds are now fighting a global battle with emotional support and funding coming from anyone regardless of geography  from those who seem to believe that the animal rights thug element  have an animal welfare agenda. Unfortunately, the organisations we rely on to support hunting and those professionals involved in it are not yet competing in the same arena with apparently a highly parochial view of the current landscape. A push back becomes even more urgent now that social media is providing the keyboard warrior class of anti with a greater apparent reach – for example, a woman in Buckingham who was delighted with the fact that she achieved widespread online support for her highly personal vendetta against he local pack being involved in her local show whilst conveniently ignoring the fact that the vast majority of those people were not even resident in the UK let alone resident in Buckinghamshire.

In this modern world, divisive attitudes in the hunting community such as the Welsh gun packs dismissing mounted hunts as being ‘toffs on horseback that are not wanted’, some who follow bloodhounds taking a public position that because they hunt the clean boot they are fine no matter what happens to everyone else, or people who go hawking stating that hunting with hounds is cruel because the quarry is ripped apart so they go hawking instead- a very odd statement which could quickly be corrected by watching any natural history programme featuring birds of prey. and fishing enthusiasts declaring that hunting and shooting are for rich people not ‘people like us’ .

Regardless of the logic of this divisive position they use such statements in what appears to be a high-risk game of “I am OK you are not OK” a game that no one involved in any field sport can afford to play. If the antis succeed in their attacks field sports, all of us are at risk. Indeed, recent social media stories aimed at shooting where casual walkers on shooting estates are apparently having their animals maimed by evil gamekeepers setting snares! But notice the fact that the dogs owned by gamekeepers, guns and pickers up manage to avoid these same snares is somehow never mentioned, perhaps the smare do exists and working dogs are nolt caught b ecause of to better training or perhaps more careful supervision!

Part of the problem is that many of the emotional and exaggerated statements made by antis are going unchallenged by those organisations who should be standing up for us.
As we know from direct experience our best opportunities for redressing this balance now come at events such as country fairs when we as a community can answer questions and challenge erroneous dogma – such as a schoolteacher earnestly telling her primary school class, who were busy happily romping with hounds, that the hounds will all be shot at 4 years old! However, when discreetly challenged said that she had ‘read it in an educational pack somewhere’ Without constantly engaging with ‘outsiders’ who would not normally attenmd ant hunt event we  risk losing the opportunity to influence educate and inform those potential visitors who do not ‘know,’ but would like to find out the facts.


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