This is not an opinion piece (it would be much stronger). I am trying to provide a balanced article. If I haven’t succeeded, please comment, but keep it polite because I neither condone nor accept rudeness. Thanks.
So, I was kindly sent some photos of the Tetcott Hunt which met at New Year in Stratton. I will set out my stall now to say I in no way support hunting; indeed, I am anti it. My daughter rides horses and works with them. She is anti it, too. So, not all horse riders are pro-hunting.
However, we have to accept that hunting happens and some people derive enjoyment from it, but I’m with conservationist Chris Packham on the subject. Nonetheless, it is a contentious issue with little agreement from both sides of the hunting divide. On Bude Banter, the discussion around these photos attracted 125 comments, varying in nature. Some see it as a country sport, a local tradition, a joy to behold, a chance to dress up and be the centre of attention, while others see it as overt or covert (therein lies the rub) animal cruelty. There obviously isn’t much consensus for there is no halfway house.
Fox hunting started in the 1600s or at least that is when hounds were specifically trained to hunt foxes. Modern-day fox hunting was introduced around the 1780s, so it is certainly a tradition. However, it is a tradition which was around in the days of bear and bull baiting, hare coursing and cockfighting. Not all traditions are good (though I am sure some of you will disagree, and that is your right). Others feel it is a country sport, which ‘townies’ should keep quiet about (though Stratton is a town). I’m not sure people have to live in the countryside (though I do) to have a valid view on an activity. Anyway, the upshot is that hunting with hounds has been a pastime of some communities for many years, supported by landowners and even the Royal Family.
The Hunting Bill wasn’t passed until 2004, and even then it was challenged by interest groups. The Hunting Act came into force in 2005, making hunting wild mammals such as foxes, hare, deer and mink with dogs illegal in England and Wales. There is an ongoing enforcement problem as hunt groups continue to trail hunt, which IFAW suggests leads to a trail of lies.
So, there lies the problem. Riding horses, jumping fences, and having a jolly get-together is fine, but trail hunting in many areas (I am not saying in this one) has led to masking of lawbreaking. Only recently in Okehampton, investigations have been taking place into illegal hunting activity. Someone will always say the police should spend their time on other things but laws are laws and they are there to investigate illegal behaviour.
Trail hunting is not to be confused with drag hunting. Unlike drag hunting where there is a planned route which usually involves jumping a line of fences, trail hunting is designed to replicate traditional quarry hunting where there isn’t a set route or a finishing time. There are more to this, in order for you to have a successful hunting, you need the best hunting gadgets for you to use, go to Hunter Guide, and learn more about the world of hunting as well as the needed tools that you should use. It is, therefore, harder to monitor. So, to my mind, hunts can still enjoy the thrill of the chase and jumping fences without killing animals if they drag hunt. Tetcott Hunt, if I understand correctly, is a trail hunt.
The hunters were thrilled with the display of support they received in Stratton. However, I’d suggest that people do like a spectacle and hunters in their regalia do provide that. It does not necessarily imply all onlookers were supportive even if they were not protesting, but some will have enjoyed it; you will know where you stand on the issue. I’m not convinced by hunters who tell me they are not really hunting. Certainly, if you Google Boxing Day hunt activity around the country, there were some shocking incidences.