17th January 2016

“To hunt or not to hunt?” – A rebuttal

Alister Pearson offers a reply to Colm Lock’s previous suggestion that the hunting ban should be left in the hands of those that it directly affects
“To hunt or not to hunt?” – A rebuttal
Photo: Beau Considine @Flickr

Earlier this month, Colm Lock presented in The Mancunion his arguments for why the 2004 Hunting Act should be repealed. Whilst his arguments are coherent, and admittedly persuasive for some, it is my view that he fails to understand the motive for why people wish the law to be upheld, and why bringing hunting back would not actually reduce the pest problem that farmers have.

Before I launch my rebuttal, I will say that I agree with my adversary that what he describes as “hunt saboteurs” and their actions are not permissible. One injustice does not cancel out another. Furthermore, I would like to clarify what is up for debate here. At this present time, it is clear that the question is whether the 2004 Hunting Act should be repealed or not, and not whether more legislation should be introduced for hunters. The Prime Minister is quoted as saying he has a “firm belief that people should have the freedom to hunt.”

It is beyond doubt that realistically the next development would be repealing the act, rather than further legislation meaning the title of the article is slightly misleading. Perhaps “to hunt with dogs or not to hunt with dogs” is more apt. Finally, if it helps—which I don’t think it does—I am from the countryside, and I have, on occasion, seen a hunt in action.

In his article, he raises the argument that when it comes to laws that only affect a specific group of people, it should be the case that those people decide what they want. However, whilst this is sometimes true, it isn’t always.

Take, for example, Scotland and their decision to leave the United Kingdom, or not. It is obvious that only people living in Scotland should decide this. However, when it comes to moral choices, it is not the case that only those that it would affect most should be allowed to decide. The Hunting Act is definitely a subclass of laws derived from morals, namely that we should prevent the unnecessary cruelty of sentient beings.

When we speak of things which are morally wrong, we do so in an objective sense. That the killing of innocent people is wrong can never be qualified with an ‘unless…’. It just is wrong, no matter if it is part of a tradition of a small subsection of society. In the same way, unnecessary cruelty of sentient beings is wrong should not be qualified with ‘unless we are talking about foxes and hunting’.

Relatedly, it is interesting to see how this compares with whether halal meat should be allowed to be produced in the way it is, or whether it should be regulated or criminalised. People who want production to be halted want it to be regulated or criminalised because they think the unnecessary cruelty of sentient beings is wrong. They need not take religion into consideration as their objection is a moral one, and thus, not open to qualification.

This debate is admittedly more complicated, as those who support halal production due to their religion will argue that it is morally permissible because of this. However, this does not seem to apply to the Hunting Act, unless I missed that verse in the bible where Jesus went hunting with his hounds in the desert for 40 days.

It is now apparent that the argument that only those who are, or would be, most affected by the Hunting Act should decide whether the law is repealed or not cannot be accepted. Morality affects us all. To those who did obey Colm’s request to “sod off,” you may come back now; your views are most welcome.

Secondly, to argue that hunting should be brought back because we have a pest problem is to provide a misdiagnosis. Currently, a form of hunting is allowed and the rules are available on the government’s website. In short, firearms like shotguns, rifles, and others are allowed to be used with the right certification. Political correctness gone mad? See the United States of America for an example of a country that has limited legislation for who can and cannot buy a gun, and consider how that is working for them. Furthermore, dogs are allowed to escort a hunt but cannot actually hunt, and may only help stalk and flush out prey so long as the prey is shot and killed as soon as possible after.

Having clarified what kind of hunting is currently permissible, it remains to be seen how repealing the 2004 Hunting Act would help with the pest problem. What was criminalised then was allowing dogs to maul to death the prey that they caught. If this was to be legalised again, it is not clear how this would help reduce the pest problem more than now. The act of mauling to death an animal takes longer than simply shooting it, so the current laws clearly allow more pests to be killed in a given amount of time then the laws pre-2004.

With this said, it is also unclear why someone who opposes repealing the 2004 Hunting Act necessarily has to choose losing an entire forest over a few thousand deer. Even the most staunch vegan will have to admit that in some developing countries, animals need to be killed in order for societies to eat. In the same way, some deer do need to be killed in order for us to preserve our countryside, and even the biggest animal lover will have to understand this. However, repealing the Hunting Act would not help the efficiency of this task, and in fact would slow the completion down, not to mention the needless suffering the pests would have to endure as several dogs rip apart their flesh.

Finally, it is my intention to make a film where foxes one day rise up and hunt the farmers that previously hunted them. Yes, I want to be complicit in helping them achieve their goals, and to one day live in harmony with them.

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