Will we ever sort out our relationship with animals?

Either way, it was in February 2002 that Holyrood passed the Wild Mammals (Scotland) Protection Act by a vote of 83 to 36, three years after it was proposed by Labor MSP Mike Watson. He represented Glasgow Cathcart, which isn’t known as a hotspot for red-clad, bugle-armed hunters, but here we go.

That day, members of a pro-hunting group called the Rural Rebels formed a noisy demonstration outside Bute House in Edinburgh. They dressed in orange overalls for the occasion, an interesting choice given the associations these garments would assume when the Guantánamo Bay detention center began accepting long-term guests from Afghanistan later that same year.

The Holyrood legislation stopped activities such as rabbit racing and the hunting of foxes by people in disguise and on horseback – or, as Oscar Wilde memorably put it, ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the unspeakable’.

But we’ve been arguing about that law ever since, gnashing our teeth at its various loopholes. Some of them seem wide enough to have been ridden on a premium hunting mount (for what it’s worth, the most prized of these creatures have “a face like a duchess and an ass like a chef,” according to The Field magazine , established in 1853 for those “who loved to shoot, fish, hunt, and could sniff a decent red wine at 1,000 paces.” Just thought you’d like to know).

A few weeks ago, a bill that will finally close these loopholes received royal assent. The Hunting With Dogs Bill was passed by Holyrood in January and the subsequent legislation bans trail hunting, cracks down on illegal hunting and introduces a new two-dog limit in the course of legal hunting. A licensing system will be introduced to allow hunting with more than two dogs, but only in “certain limited circumstances”.

End of the story? Up to a point. The minister overseeing the law, then Environment Secretary Màiri McAllan, said: “The hunting and killing of a wild mammal with a dog, whether for sport or otherwise, has no place in Scotland.” But she also named the law a “step forward” that strikes a “balance” between animal welfare standards and the practice of what she called “legitimate wildlife management.”

As always, the devil is in the details.

Exceptions to the law are the keeping of wild animals above ground and foxes below ground. The law also permits the use of dogs in connection with falconry, game hunting and stalking. Labor say it means pack hunting could continue in practice, and while the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland has welcomed the legislation, its warm words come with a caveat – that the licensing system is “very strict” – and a warning. “Despite the best of intentions to ban hunting, the determination and ingrained resistance among those who seek to hunt and kill foxes should not be underestimated,” said director Robbie Marsland.


In Beastly, a new book due out April 6th from Canongate, author Keggie Carew delves into the history of mankind’s relationship with animals. “Hunting foxes on horseback was an inalienable human right until it wasn’t,” she notes wryly, before pointing out that farmers once tolerated foxes on their land, largely because of the “sport” they gave their local offered hunts. Now they are more aggressive with foxes to encourage their own populations of grouse and other wild birds.

Carew also cites the Burns Inquiry into foxhunting, launched in 1999 by then Home Secretary Jack Straw. Tasked with examining whether the hunt was cruel, it considered “a tidal wave of testimonies from interested parties and concluded that being hunted by a pack of dogs all day before it disperses seriously endangers the welfare of the fox.” is torn”. Nevertheless, the topic is still “a minefield”.

Which is why it’s predictable that there’s still a strong whiff of culture wars. We’ve been used to it since at least the 1980s, when terms like class struggle and hunt saboteur entered the lexicon (and into the wardrobe, at least for those who donned balaclavas and stuffed the pockets of their surplus army duds with aniseed to throw off the dogs).

But today, the polarities feel even clearer – left versus right, city versus country, young versus old, combat pants versus those weird red cords – while the debate, as it is, has become increasingly toxic.

It will also be dangerous. Generally not backward when it comes to speaking up and speaking his mind on issues close to his heart, Chris Packham has become something of a lightning rod for everything. He is despised by many, both as a member of the “Wokerati” and as a hypocrite, and when not attacked or insulted, ridiculed. Check out the reaction to his Twitter eulogy for a badger he found dead on the street near his home.

Long before the Linekergate riot, he was called out for his perceived impartiality. Counts A, B and C for the indictment are his avowal of support for Extinction Rebellion, his reference to Jäger as “the mean brigade” and most recently his mockery of a grouse shooting party in the Peak District which was disrupted by saboteurs. “Oh my, what a shame,” he tweeted, not meaning a word of it. “More top work from @HuntSabs”. Among the shooters who went home empty-handed was a certain Ian Botham.

But the insults were accompanied by death threats. There was such a thing as direct action – a stolen Land Rover was set on fire in front of his home (he burned down his gate). Dead crows were left lined up against his fence.

Packham is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against the Fieldsports Channel, an online TV channel dedicated to hunting, guns, more hunting, more guns and that camouflage gear you might find in Decathlon or (ironically) on the backs of hunting saboteurs see. He says they falsely claimed he fabricated the death threat and incited hatred against him online. Meanwhile, the rather harmless-sounding Country Squire Magazine has a separate case for defamation. It will be heard next month.

In a video launching a crowdfunding website to help pay for the Fieldsports case’s legal costs, Packham says, “Sometimes I leave or return to my house and wonder if there will be someone waiting there — someone who’s been so relieved by these allegations upset is that he feels motivated to engage in extreme violence.”

At the time of writing, the site had £104,825 in pledges, just short of the £110,000 target. Meanwhile, Chris Packham speaks somberly about what he calls “hate terrorism.” It’s all a far cry from watching baby birds hatch on a nest cam. Actually too far.

In truth, fox hunting, or animals in general, will probably never get us to a shelter. We will continue to eat them, hunt them, cage them, skin them, exploit them and, yes, hunt them with dogs. And we will continue to argue about it. About what our relationship could and should be like—and how our dealings with them reflect our values ​​and serve as a yardstick for our own moral boundaries.

We’ll do that until the cows come home — and if Oscar Wilde has a helpful joke, I love to hear it.

https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/23427742.will-ever-sort-relationship-animals/?ref=rss Will we ever sort out our relationship with animals?

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