You don't need me to tell you that hunting is no crueler than shooting or farming or fishing - that in a matter of seconds the fox's neck is snapped: seconds of fear, no pain, instant death.
Seconds? Really? That's how long a hunt takes? Well, technically, yes: after all, dinosaurs roamed the Earth seconds ago.
Many are willing to give the proponents of a ban the benefit of the doubt on this one - they may be wrong and ignorant, we are told, but their hearts are in the right place. "They act out of misplaced concern for the animal, not hatred for the hunter." This is rubbish and we know that.
Well, we can argue back and forth about whether the concern is misplaced, but that's not what Peter's doing here: he's just flat-out denying that any such concern could exist. I'm concerned about the treatment of foxes, and I couldn't care less about class. According to Peter, that can't be true: I must be lying. Topically enough, here's Oliver Kamm on Noam Chomsky:
Chomsky is of course not making a serious claim about economics. Rather, he is employing a rhetorical tick of the form "the person I'm attacking can't possibly believe what he says". He does this often, and even had the gall to try the tactic explicitly when supposedly responding to Christopher Hitchens' criticisms of his stance on the destruction of the Twin Towers:I have been asked to respond to recent articles by Christopher Hitchens, and after refusing several times, will do so, though only partially, and reluctantly. The reason for the reluctance is that Hitchens cannot mean what he is saying.
This is a dual-purpose expedient of arrogance and intellectual disrepute - a means whereby Chomsky can avoid difficult questions in favour of attacking his critics' probity.
Quite. Now back to Peter.
The bill that will soon become law will not save a single fox, nor spare it a violent death of some sort.
Of some sort, no. But people distinguish between sorts. I buy free-range or barn eggs. I have no problem with stealing the infants of chickens and dunking them in boiling water, but I believe it is immoral to keep chickens in wire cages smaller than they are, where their wings and feet rub against the bare wire, giving them cuts and sores. I have no problem with killing animals, but I do have a problem with torturing them prior to death. The issue depends, too, on what the benefits are and what the alternatives are. I have no problem with medical testing on animals. My wife is diabetic, so she would be long dead if it weren't for animal research, and, contrary to the claims of animal rights activists, there aren't any real alternatives yet. But, when we do one day develop alternatives, of course we should use them. And I'm dead against injecting hairspray into a rabbit's eyeball. Hairspray's just not that important. Any lives being saved by fox-hunting? No. Any alternative, more humane, ways of killing the fox? Yes.
If these Labour people cared only for the fox, why would they accept that it be shot instead - as if a shotgun is as precise and quick a death as a quick break of the neck by a pack of dogs?
It's not just a quick break of the neck, though, is it? I don't have any problem with foxes being killed by dogs. I do have a problem with foxes being chased for miles until they collapse of exhaustion, when the only purpose of that chase is enjoyment. Peter's speech doesn't even contain the word "chase": listening to him, you'd think the fox was ambushed.
By the way, "these Labour people" is a nice touch. Peter insists on making out that this is a purely party-political issue. It isn't. There are lots of anti-hunt Tories, whose existence Peter simply doesn't acknowledge.
Some of them know how the sport originated in its modern form in the first place - as a way for aristocrats to persuade farmers not to annihilate foxes completely by allowing them and their labourers to join in the fun of the hunt. This was in the 17th Century, and hunting was already helping to break down the barriers of class.
So what? That something was a great idea in the Seventeenth Century doesn't make it good now. Times change. Society has changed. And Peter is implicity recognising the value of change here: he's pointing out how the introduction of hunting brought benefits to Britain over three hundred years ago. Fair point, but, if you recognise that change can be good, you must recognise that banning hunting could bring benefits to Britain today. Are foxes going to be annihilated? Nope. Apart from anything else, most of them now live in towns, and townsfolk love them. So the Seventeenth-Century problem that Peter mentions no longer exists. Well, if the problem's no longer there, why do we need the solution?
Look, this has nothing to do with animal rights: they have none. It's to do with human responsibility. We have power over animals, undoubtedly. It's up to us how we use that power, and our choices tell us what kind of people and what kind of civilisation we are. Kipling believed that black people were inferior to white people. He was wrong about that, but he was very different to the modern racist, in that he believed that white people's superiority gave them a moral duty to help black people. I agree in principle: the strong should help the weak, not abuse them. It's the human's burden.
All that being said, Blunkett's plans to use the hunting ban as yet another excuse to divert yet more police away from stopping thieves, burglars, muggers, rapists, vandals, and murderers should be opposed at every turn.