I won’t be voting Labour at the next election. In spite of the fact that they appear to have managed our economy well, I don’t trust them an inch when it comes to countrysports. Indeed, unlike Labour’s previous election manifesto with its intentionally ambiguous pledge on ‘resolving’ the issue of hunting, the new one makes no mention of the party’s continued support for shooting and fishing. Quite how significant this should be taken to be, I’m not sure, but nonetheless, here are my reasons for denying Blair and Co. my cross in their box on election day.
The first is an obvious one, and involves the hunting ban. First a declaration of my prejudices; I’ve been an angler for over 40 years, and started following hounds on foot in the Cumbrian fells seven or eight years ago. I am, of course, spitting feathers about the hunting ban. But whether you approve of hunting or not, in banning it, the Labour government has effectively taken a step which can be interpreted as liberating the campaigning energies that have been thrown at hunting for the last 100 years. With animal campaigners having now got what they wanted, they can now throw their resources at campaigning against other activities like shooting. Shooting is highly vulnerable to disruption and sabotage, and it may even be easier for antis to disrupt, than it ever was for them to really ruin a day’s hunting. Having unleashed the antis onto the shooting world, subsequent disruption might hasten the demise of shooting. At this point the most committed anti’s may then decide to start having a pop at angling. There might however be some light here; the Hunting Act is so badly drafted that hunters will very likely run rings around the ban, and the anti’s will be out there in force monitoring them for the foreseeable future, with a view to grassing them up to the police whenever possible. Nonetheless it was Labour’s choice to force the ban into law, and they must have been aware that among the possible consequences was increased pressure on other country sports. That alone should have stopped them, but it didn’t.
Whilst Blair really can’t be called a left winger, he has a parliamentary party stuffed to the gills with Old Labourites. It is these left wingers who have driven the hunting ban and it is they, and their influence that are most to be feared. Remember, Gordon Brown is their champion, and with Blair now perceived to be an electoral liability, the influence of the Labour left will probably be more prominent in any future Labour administration, than it has been so far.
I’ve been watching the rise of the animal rights movement over the last few years and I’m seriously bothered that this could increasingly become a cause for the left. Those on the left have a tendency to take the side of the ‘underdogs’ and the ‘victims of oppression’ and increasingly animals seem to be identified as some kind of ‘oppressed minority’. Animal rights campaigners came up with the idea of ‘speciesism’ that sits alongside the more mainstream concepts of ‘racism’ and ‘sexism’. Consider how easily ‘animal rights’ sounds like ‘gay rights’ or ‘workers’ rights’, how animal ‘liberation’ similarly echoes ‘gay’ or ‘black liberation.’ All these are causes that push the buttons of those on the political left.
If my reading of political correctness is right, ‘correct’ citizens should always cultivate the ‘correct’ emotions. Anger, bitterness, and vengefulness are not considered to be appropriate. But , of course, soft, feminised notions of ’empathy’ and ‘compassion’ are to be encouraged, and of course when these are applied to the plight of poor, defenceless animals, the ‘correct’ citizen starts to feel guilty about mankind’s relationship with the animal kingdom. This is the invidious, subtle stuff that is so pernicious, and the instincts that produce this kind of thinking certainly come from the left of the political spectrum.
And while we’re at it, even though they are an unelectable rabble of politicised hippy-types, filled with loathing for their own species, I’d certainly locate Greens on the left of the political spectrum. True to form, all their policies relating to animals on the Green Party website still come under the heading of ‘animal rights’, and their continuing commitment to animal rights makes them utterly unworthy of anglers’support. Do you remember how the Greens were recently pressured to removed their anti-angling policies? Well now they’ve indicated that they’d like to ban fish farming. So that’s curtains for most of the UK’s trout fishing scene, then.
But I digress. The third thing that bothers me about Labour is that they are, and have been a government that sees its role to regulate and ban, bringing in more and more rules that make everyday, taken-for-granted activities, harder to take part in. It may simply be that over-regulation will damage country sports like fishing and shooting more than any future outright bans, but the inclination of politicians on the left to meddle and tinker would have done Chelsea’s meddlsome ex-manager Claudio Ranieri proud.
Finally, it should never be forgotten that early in their administration, Labour banned fur farming in the UK, not primarily on animal welfare grounds, but because it was considered morally wrong to farm animals for their skins. There was very little public fuss about this because the few fur farmers in the UK were hoping for a nice dollop of compensation before decamping to set up new operations abroad. But if it is immoral to farm animals for their skins, how ethical do those who drove this legislation consider it to be to kill fish for use as deadbaits, to use livebaits, or to rear poultry for fly tying materials? Perhaps nobody’s ever brought this to their attention, but what if they did?
Being on the political left has changed a lot in my lifetime. These days being left wing seems to be about having a particular set of emotional responses as opposed to the kind of hard-nosed, Marxist scientific socialism that espoused scientific progress, rationality, secularism and human domination over nature, that characterized an earlier era. Those of us who use animals for our entertainment or pleasure should be mindful of such changes and keep a very watchful eye on politicians who lean leftwards.