I wouldn’t wish to quarrel with any of the statistics that Tim Bonner of the Countryside Alliance quotes in his letter in last week’s Sussex Express, but to me they point to a completely different conclusion.
Mr Bonner demonstrates that most hunts have continued to thrive since the Hunting Act was introduced, and I know this is true of our local hunt at Ringmer (the Southdown and Eridge).
Surely the correct conclusion is that hunt members are just as happy to ride across country following a trail as they were to chase after a fox, and thus that the Hunting Act has been a great success?
Country traditions and rural employment are maintained. Healthy outdoor exercise continues. And, for participants, more riding and a lot less hanging around waiting for the hounds to find a fox.
Hunting has always been much more about enjoying riding across the countryside than about controlling foxes. Indeed, there were hardly any foxes in our local area until the hunt was established. When the Lord Gage of the day first established the East Sussex Hunt at Ringmer he had to import foxes for them to chase. He also had to threaten his gamekeepers with the sack unless they allowed them to flourish.
We run over far more foxes with our cars each year than the hunts ever accounted for, and the great work the hunts used to do to ensure foxes could flourish in our countryside has gone largely unrecognised.
I suppose there is one other possible interpretation of Tim Bonner’s letter. But surely he is not arguing that the Hunting Act has failed because the hunts routinely ignore it and get away with breaking the law?
If that were his case, then Councillor Makepeace might have a point.