I cannot even claim that some of my best friends are hunting folk though
some are handy with a rod and gun. So far as I am concerned I have never
hunted, fished or shot an animal apart from the odd rabbit to add to the
pot during the restriction of wartime rationing.
The whole question of hunting, revived by the narrow defeat of the
cross-party bill to ban the sport last Friday, does not strike me as a
matter of great political or moral importance, but it certainly shows
how the feelings against hunting have changed over the years.
Mine certainly have and I am now a tepid, if not a full-blown,
supporter of the anti-hunting lobby. If there is one aspect of the
matter, however, that almost drives me back to my old position it is the
anti-hunt's constant reiteration of the old Oscar Wilde epigram (now a
tattered cliche) of the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.
At one time, I supported hunting on aesthetic, literary and historic
grounds, but now feel that the issue does, indeed, come down to the
question of cruelty and also a question of fair play. I know that the
fox is a cruel, sly and vindictive beast but its death at the teeth of
the hounds is a vicious business not distinguished by all the colour and
pageantry of the chase. I also know that the hunt is more than the
killing but the often bloody end does not justify the means.
Yet the question of fair play is equally important. Now it may be
true, as the hunting lobby contend, that the fox has more than an even
chance of escaping from the hounds but this is not the impression that
most of us, not conversant with the expertise of hunting, gain.
We see a lethal game loaded against the fox and, with all our faults,
most English people usually like to see fair play no matter however
vicious the opponent.
That is why so many of us found the Nuremberg war crimes trial of
1946 so distasteful; why we did not support James Jardine during the
Bodyline controversy; why English sailors turned away when they saw the
mighty German battleship Bismark (that had wrought such havoc by preying
on British shipping) finally out of control and, like a sitting duck,
being bombarded by the British guns that slowly sank her.
Admittedly these are cases where human beings as opposed to animals,
were involved. But humans are usually given the chance to be vicious or
not. Animals, so far as I know, are not. A sentimental view? Of course.
Sentiment lies at the heart of the case for both the pro and
From the Catholic Herald dated Friday, February 21st, 1992.