Wednesday 15 September 2004

Monbiot is wrong.

Badly, badly wrong.

I could, but shan't, go on for days about how he appears not to have recovered from the shock of the Norman Conquest's wicked trampling of the Saxon proletariat. Instead, let me say yet another word about the corruption from within of Socialism.

As I understand the principles of wealth redistribution, the idea is to take money and land and property from people who gained it for no better reason than that their great-great-great-great-great-grandfathers were friends of the King, and give it to people who are piss-poor simply because their ancestors were slaves. As it happens, this is an endeavour I approve of, if only as a temporary measure. Libertarian politics would be a cruel joke if a minority of people were still wielding thousand-year-old advantages gained through decidedly non-Libertarian methods. And wealth redistribution has undoubtedly worked, though reasonable people can disagree over whether we need any more of it (I don't think we do). But Monbiot's not talking about any of that:

There is one thing on which both sides agree: hunting is not a class issue. The hunters claim that it's no longer the preserve of the aristocracy. Labour MPs insist that their determination to ban it has nothing to do with the social order: it's about animals. Both sides are wrong. This is class war.


In the thunder of the hunt today we hear echoes of the joust, the tourney and the cavalry charge. As if to remind us of its military associations, the hunters wear the uniform of the 18th-century soldier.


The Norman lords' superiority, Shoard writes, was established by two features of feudal society: the castle and their "association ... with the horse, which enabled them literally to look down on the serfs, who walked".

As an animal welfare issue, foxhunting comes in at about number 155. It probably ranks below the last of the great working-class bloodsports, coarse fishing. It's insignificant beside intensive pig farming, chicken keeping or even the rearing of pheasants for driven shoots. But as a class issue, it ranks behind private schooling at number two. This isn't about animal welfare. It's about human welfare. By taking on the hunt, our MPs are taking on those who ran the country for 800 years, and still run the countryside today. This class war began with the Norman conquest. It still needs to be fought.

For the record, I oppose fox-hunting, on anti-cruelty grounds. I do not believe that animals have rights, but I do believe that humans have a responsibility not to treat animals with unnecessary wanton cruelty. But Monbiot's not even going near that debate: he doesn't think it's worth opposing hunting on grounds of animal cruelty. Neither is he arguing that the property owned by hunters should be redistributed to the poor. He merely hints at an environmental argument. No, his problem with hunting is that it's the wrong sort of hobby. He believes that it's not enough merely to take money and power from the aristocracy; we must dictate what activities they may take part in. Even more than that: since he acknowledges that not all hunters are aristocrats, what he's really saying is that everyone, even the working classes, should be banned from practicing a hobby simply because it is historically associated with the aristocracy. By Monbiot's logic, we should also ban polo, show-jumping, croquet, fencing, contract bridge, and the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.

Since when is this a part of Socialism?

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