The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian network founded in 1973


No doffing caps on this manor!

By Michael Carson

From The Catholic Times, August 3, 1997

A sinner's murmurings...

fellowship of life john gilheany
"Killing fields - the result of a harmless day's country sport; the sort of thing 'townies' don't understand and are ignorant to try and curtail"

When all those thousands of country folk arrived in London on the July 10 to appeal to the better nature of 'townies', they honestly seemed to think that the nation held them in some esteem. Forget BSE, growth hormones, the destruction of hedgerows, the vast prairies of chemical soup they choose to call soil, the subsidies . . . in Hyde Park that day they all saw themselves as The Best of British.
"Banning fox-hunting will cause the deaths of thousands of dogs and take away the livelihood of tens of thousands! This is the end of the countryside as we have known and loved it for hundreds of years!" one man asserted.
To tell you the truth, I yawned.
Piety towards honest toilers in the countryside is a concept that died around the time Grace Archer was buried. They're 'in the country' for themselves. These comparatively few people own most of the land in the UK, and a great deal of the wealth. They have not treated the countryside with respect, but have plundered it for vast profits, for higher yields, for the production of cheap and suspect food. 'Country' itself is now no more than a sentimental harking-back to dear dead days before set-aside and growth hormones and 'battery' pigs. The chemical rich run-offs from Britain's fields pollute rivers, kill fish . . .  and probably people too.
And what does 'Townie' get when he goes off to sample the countryside? At best, a less-than-fulsome welcome, footpaths wired shut, 'Keep Out' signs, and all the manifestations of rural snobbery.
Fox-hunting should be banned for many reasons, most of them well explained already. In my book, however, hunting typifies a group of privileged people running wild and free while the rest of us are corralled into cities and 'country parks'. It is, on the whole, a snobbish pursuit, a doffing-caps practice, a hang-over from a more deferential age. A hunt is a powerful metaphor for 'the survival of the fittest' and all those evolutionary 'facts' which, although they may be true, certainly do not help human society to function.
I wonder how many people were converted by the gathering in London. Precious few, I'd say. Farmers have always moaned. Never have they had it so good. Never has their reputation for 'caring' for either the countryside or for us, their customers, been at a lower ebb.
If I'd been at the meeting in Hyde Park I'd have said, "Go back where you came from! You don't understand what we want! After all, country folk say that to 'townies' all the time.
Perhaps I am somewhat liverish this week because I have been badly let down. Faithful reader(s?) will recall that a month ago I murmured the virtues of gravel. It was wonderful stuff, I said.
Well, I am here to tell you that gravel has let me down. Returning to Ireland after a month away, I found that my trusty gravel had let through any weed that gave the merest hint of wanting to grow.
"Fancy a place in the sun, Thistle? Just hold on a tick while I clear myself out of the way to allow your free passage through me" said Perfidious Gravel.
"I can feel you pushing! I know who you are; you're one of The Sinner's potatoes from last year's crop. You've been dying to grow up through the artful Japanese arrangement of stones for ages, haven't you?" said Perfidious Gravel.
Gravel, I have decided, craves companions, preferably green and weedy. Were I a proper countryman I would saturate the area with weed-killer. The lesson I am learning is that I do not really love my land. I want it to behave itself so that I can carry on with my country pursuits: sitting on plastic chairs, listening to my fountain babble.
Perhaps I should add another six inches of gravel.
Reproduced with thanks.

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