On January 17, the United Kingdom’s Labor Party followed up on a long standing promise by pushing a bill to ban fox Hunting with dogs through the House of Commons. The bill calls for fines of up to five thousand pounds for those who break the law.
The bill passed in the Commons by a margin of 387 to 174 after several compromise bills, that would have involved new regulations but no outright ban on hunting with dogs, failed.
The passage of the bill doesn’t necessarily mean that hunting with dogs will be illegal in Great Britain soon, however. The bill first has to make it through the House of Lords where pro-hunting advocates have vowed to do everything possible to stop the bill. General elections are scheduled for May 2001 in Great Britain, and it is unlikely that the bill would become law before then.
The debate in the Commons over the bill was a fascinating slice of the general debate over animal rights and welfare issues.
Bill Etherington said, for example, “I consider that fox hunting is as barbaric a method of destroying a fox as it would be possible to imagine.” Apparently Etherington has never taken the time to closely watch a nature show. In fact many of the anti-hunting statements seemed to reflect extremely romanticized views about nature. As James Paice retorted at one point, if you want to see vicious killers in action, one need look no further than the many cats in the UK, and yet no one is suggesting a ban on cats due to their barbaric methods of dispatching prey.
Several Members of Parliament expressed outrage that at a time when violent crime is surging in Great Britain, the Labor Party wants to bog police down by turning hunters into criminals. “It beggars belief,” said Michael Howard, “that any serious Government, faced with an explosion of violent crime, would even contemplate distracting police from tackling that problem by imposing on them these large, uncertain and impractical burdens.”
The most unintentionally amusing comment came from Tony Banks who voted for the ban on hunting, but insisted that for some reason fishing was completely different from hunting. “You don’t hunt fish with dogs,” Banks said, “and if you are a decent angler you put the fish back. I am a coarse fisherman, as you would expect, and I don’t think angling can be compared with fox hunting.” This is the sort of self-delusion that is the animal rights movement’s greatest opening for winning.
Rather than think in broader philosophical terms about the implications of banning a form of hunting, Banks and others instead focus on technical issues such as whether or not the hunting occurs with or without dogs (whether hunting is moral or not, the use of dogs seems to be completely irrelevant to the matter). This attitude is seen over and over again amongst erstwhile supporters of animal rights initiatives. In this way medical researchers end up attacking hunting or meat eating while farmers express their horror at medical research. It is always the other guy who needs to be stopped, but hands off my use of animals. It is a divide and conquer strategy at its most basic level.
Ultimately the real effect of the hunt ban will be to further embolden animal rights extremists in the UK, where there have already been numerous acts of violence perpetrated by animal rights activists over the last couple years. As David Lidington told the Commons, “We are dealing with people outside this House who have shown they are prepared to use intimidation, threats of violence and actual violence in order to achieve their ends.” The Commons just voted to give those folks a late Christmas present. The activists won’t sit idly by, satisfied with this meager victory, but instead will see it as evidence that this might be the best shot they ever have at putting their program into effect in Great Britain.
MPs vote for total ban on hunting. George Jones and Benedict Brogan, The Daily Telegraph (UK), January 18, 2001.
Shooting and fishing are next, MPs told. Michael Kallenbach, The Daily Telegraph (UK), January 18, 2001.