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16th April 2012

This Is Not A Class Issue

Hare hunting with beagles is a bloodsport which is difficult to defend. Traditionally, ‘beagling’ involved using dogs to flush then chase and  kill hares.

Hares are creatures of the open field. They have excellent hearing and eyesight and, as we all know, an incredible turn of speed. Hares naturally avoid predators with a short sharp sprint. Beagling exploits the exact opposite of this. The small hounds work under human guidance as a pack. They’re quick but no match for a fit and fresh hare. Beagles rely instead on a very sensitive nose to track their quarry and an inherited ability to run relentlessly. The upshot is that hares are frequently subjected to multiple extended chases and eventually, when worn down enough for the dogs to catch up, swamped and bitten to death.

Since beagling was made illegal by the Hunting Act many packs now claim to be following an artificial scent. My observations of contemporary beagling lead me to believe that, sadly, hunting live hares remains widespread.

‘Sporting’ literature of old extolled the virtues of a 90-minute hunt, by which time this most athletic of athletic creatures would be defeated, rendered exhausted and beaten by the dogged skill and determination of the huntsman and his hounds. Language is carefully used these days so beagling rarely even gets a mention. Easier to put the focus on foxhunting, especially if you can confuse the opposition and demonise the fox.

I’ll leave aside recent foxy-phobia in the press for another time and concentrate on the propaganda of confusion, for this is a classic smokescreen used to divide and rule.

If you support the hunting ban you’re labelled as a “bunny hugger” or “anti” and anti’s, so their argument goes, are prejudiced against hunting because they regard the people who do it as “toffs”. Actually, what the average person in the street who I speak to hates about bloodsports is the sheer arrogance which the participants exhibit; arrogance in thinking that animal protection laws don’t apply to them; arrogance in behaving like the countryside is their own private playground to toy with exactly as they like; arrogance in thinking that it’s okay to inflict dangerous chaos and obstruction on the rest of us as we go about our daily business; the arrogance of deliberately causing suffering to animals just for the sake of entertainment.

It’s the pro-bloodsports brigade which loves to stir class issues into the mix because it gives them something to make a noise about which distracts from the shocking truth behind hunting’s glossy façade. Foxhunting, beagling et al are minority pastimes but an unfortunate truth is that animal abuse excites people from all walks of life and ends of the social spectrum.

For me, it is not who the individual is or where they come from that I object to. It’s bullying and cruelty which I think are unacceptable. These reasons, and these alone, are why I support the Hunting Act.

Posted by Joe Hashman

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