Brits play cat and mouse with legislation to ban hunting of foxesDEUTSCHE PRESSE AGENTEUR
LONDON, July 26: Riders dressed in scarlet hunting jackets, commonly known as `hunting pink', sit in the saddle sipping brandy waiting for the off.Soon the hunting horn sounds the start and horses and riders move off on the chase surrounded by a pack of yelping dogs.
Paintings showing such scenes of rural charm hang in many country pubs in the land. Many pubs are even called the fox and hounds.
But now a Labour Party Member of Parliament is threatening to introduce legislation which would ban this age-old custom as a cruel and barbaric practice.
For the first time since fox hunting took on its present form in the middle of the 18th century the onslaught on fox hunting has a chance of success. Two attempts in the past to ban it have failed.
But this time the large Labour Parliamentary majority might be enough to push the animal-protection lobby over the top, even though MPs have a free vote.
Voting on legislation is due in November and already the battle lines have been drawn up between the pros and cons. The issue took on a new dimension when a huge protest aimed at generating support for preserving the country as a place to live attracted about 100,000 defenders of country sports in Hyde Park in London.
One of the proponents of the new legislation, Mike Foster, the MP for Worcester, says the pro-bloodsport mob have slyly managed to turn their case into a defence of country life in an attempt to broaden support for their case. The Financial Times weighed in with the comment that the British have always been a nation of rural sentimentalists.
The Daily Telegraph, traditionally Conservative on most issues, said: ``No one has ever asked the British public -- at least 70 per cent of which the polls show to be opposed to hunting of all kinds -- whether it is prepared to accept the corollary of abolition, which must be a massive erosion of the tradition of tolerance in Britain.''
For many in the anti-blood sport lobby, the very issue raises reflexes associated with class warfare. They see the hunt as a privilege of kings and noblemen, a form of leisure pursuit for the upper classes redolent of the era of Queen Victoria.For them, the demonstration in Hyde Park was a gathering of swished-up snobs surrounded by lackeys.
Paul and Linda Mccartney call fox hunting ``a barbaric, upper-class thing''. The former Beatle said horses were vegetarians while hounds would much rather be pets than chase around crazily over other people's land.A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said every year 100,000 animals living in the wild were killed in utterly dreadful circumstances.
Specialists doubt that hunting has much influence on the number of foxes. By one estimate, of the estimated 500,000 foxes in Britain, 100,000 a year are killed by traffic on the roads while a mere 12,000 are killed in hunts.According to the British Field Sports Society, in 1996 more than 180,000 riders belonging to 187 hunt clubs attended hunts and if hunts were banned, the result would be disastrous.
No fewer than 13,910 jobs are directly dependent on fox hunting, it says. Farmer and hunter Mike Dickinson said:``We are doing something for the balance of nature and that is important.''
Copyright © 1997 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.