It’s officially begun, Cameron is making swift work of destroying a rare political victory for animal rights activists, Britain’s decade old hunting ban. The decision to have a parliamentary vote on whether to ‘relax’ the ban next week has left critics accusing Cameron of trying to sneak hunting in ‘through the back door’. There has been nothing under the radar about this announcement and it would be naïve to think that Cameron didn’t foresee this. This fresh news on the hotly contested fox hunting debate is creeping up on the Budget for the top spot on the political news agenda.
In terms of public political debate there is something so refreshingly simple about blasting countryside toffs for killing foxes or being a countryside toff defending your right to kill foxes. This is a public issue that has such prominence that it merited the implementation of the rarely used Parliamentary act which pushed through its ban in 2005. This puts it right up there with matters such as trying Nazis for war crimes and realigning the sexual offenses act to make the age of consent the same for same sex and inter sex couples.
So what is it about fox hunting that creates such a wave of emotion and indignation amongst the British public? Dean Burnett recently wrote a piece for the Guardian suggesting it is due to a human tendency to prioritize animals over humans. Burnett claims our unique human ability to empathise with other species makes us aware that ‘an animal, no matter what the circumstance, is always “innocent”, as they simply lack the ability to do anything to deserve suffering at the hands of man’. Although Burnett taps into the British public’s absurd appreciation for ‘cute’ animals and disregard for species that do not meet these meaningless aesthetic standards, his claim that humans cannot accept the suffering of innocent animals at the hands of humans is quite frankly bizarre.
Although fox hunting is a cruel and dirty practice cowering behind a veil of tradition, its merited outrage does not demonstrate a national sense of empathy towards animals. This is the country that banned cock fighting in 1895 yet still sheers off the beaks of birds and grounds up live male chicks in the egg production industry. This is the country that needlessly slaughters over a billion animals per year, yet unites in a collective sense of outrage at the Halal meat production process. In terms of how we treat our animals we are a nation saturated with hypocrisy and the fox hunting debate is a prime example of this.
Bearing this in mind it seems that the fox hunting debate and the undeniable divisions that it ignites cannot logically be attributable to a nationwide outcry in support of animal welfare. We are living under a government that is increasingly attempting to crush the poor, the unemployed, the disabled and even young people and students. Is it any wonder that in the week that a budget encompassing this injustice is announced Cameron steers our attention to a much simpler debate. Let the nation hate the posh folk who are at liberty to prance around their countryside wonderland killing cute foxes. Give the aggrieved masses that old steadfast enemy and distract them from the fresh wave of new injustices coming their way. This week was just another victory for that sly and cunning media machine.