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Mel Stride: Hunting Act and badger cull expose a bitter rural-urban divide

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 18, 2014

Chard's Boxing Day hunt meeting last year emphasises the richest of countryside traditions. MP Mel Stride says the continued growth in the attendance at Boxing Day hunt meets – estimated at around 250,000 people last year – is not only a testament to the depth of rural support for hunting but perhaps a pointer to something greater and more fundamental still – a message from thousands of country folk who, in many cases, want little more from government than to be left alone Read more: http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Hunting-example-bitter-divide/story-20461289-detail/story.html#ixzz2qjWanPIj

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Mel Stride , Conservative MP for Central Devon, on bridging the gap between urban and rural communities in 2014

Perhaps it was ever thus – countryside pitched against the city. In the 18th and 19th centuries there were the tensions of industrialisation sucking produce and people out of our rural communities whilst simultaneously implanting the arriviste landowners of the great new industrial age.

More recently we have the dry but deep division of government expenditure – the on-going battles on school funding, rural transport, policing, how quickly and effectively we roll out broadband to our more isolated communities et al – concerns that occupy a great deal of my time and energy in Westminster.

But in recent years a sharper, more bitter divide has formed, etched out around how country folk should be permitted to run their lives, thrown into relief by the extent to which we are constrained from getting on with resolving our own problems without undue interference from the centre – or from what is often caricatured, in that snide couplet, as the "metropolitan elite". Hunting and bovine TB fall squarely into this space.

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That the 2005 Hunting Act would end up as an unworkable attack on centuries of country living should have come as little surprise. All was perhaps presaged by those MPs (many of them urban) who, at the time of the ban's first stirrings, simply referred to it as retribution for Margaret Thatcher and the miners' strikes. The flaccidity of this Act was confirmed by Tony Blair who, in his memoirs, admitted that his Government's assault on hunting had been a regrettable mistake.

The continued growth in the attendance at Boxing Day hunt meets (estimated at around 250,000 people last year) is not only a testament to the depth of rural support for hunting but perhaps a pointer to something greater and more fundamental still – a message from thousands of country folk who, in many cases, want little more from government than to be left alone.

Or to put it another way, perhaps for them, it is Ronald Reagan's memorable maxim that holds firm and true – that the most terrifying nine words in the English language are "I'm from the government and I'm here to help".

Bovine TB has similarly become something of an urban-rural touchstone and has been the subject of vigorous debate, much of it based upon emotion (with a pinch of celebrity spice thrown in) and with far too little focus on rational discussion. If there is any doubt about the central importance of these kind of issues in the battlefield of town and country then consider the latest spat between the Countryside Alliance and the RSPCA with Sir Barney White-Spunner, the head of the Alliance, making some damning observations of the world's largest animal charity.

Sir Barney, argues that the RSPCA focuses far too much on the more political arena of animal rights rather than that of animal welfare. I am inclined to agree with him – it is surely hard not to find some fault with an organisation that pursued a private prosecution against a hunt in Oxfordshire at a cost of £326,000 – how many people had to rattle tins to raise that?

The judge in the case questioned whether the money could have been spent more wisely whilst the charities watchdog warned that future prosecutions should represent a "reasonable and effective" use of its members' funds.

In another case a judge criticised the charity for spending £10,000 pursuing an elderly lady for her tardiness in taking her cat to the vet. The RSPCA is also campaigning against the control of badgers in the fight against bovine TB, something that has deeply distressed many of our dairy farmers and that will only make getting on top of a shocking disease that leads to much animal suffering, that much harder to achieve.

So there you have it. Perhaps there will never be a moment of complete peace between town and countryside. Perhaps a measure of tension is a healthy concomitant to respectful co-existence. Perhaps.

But whatever the future may hold, let's hope that 2014 is a year of more thoughtful attempt.

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  • Ludmilla  |  January 24 2014, 9:52PM

    NBGooner always either cites the Burns Report which doesn't gauge how humane it is but the effect on the local economy or that the source is biased, despite his narrative being his own speculation or CA pals advice While they go about spreading a conceit of spun stories about the 'vile' RSPCA or anyone who opposes them they do not explain why if more foxes are being killed than ever by shooting there is a need to hunt, poison or snare . Laughing at the ineffectuality of animal rights on their social media then claiming that they are being given terrifying death threats in public media (enter Western Morning News) Sometimes when beforehand they have called this 'sport' a minority pastime or spoken phrases such as 'just because the majority are against it doesn't matter' or even told people , quoting out of context Abe Lincoln that people should not follow the rules they don't agree with, missing out the bit that while they are in place they should be religiously observed Hunting is clearly cruel whether people see the footage or engage their brains http://tinyurl.com/qztgsmy http://tinyurl.com/os3y4mq ???????????

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  • barney2  |  January 19 2014, 1:13AM

    NBGooner Even if what you say is true I gave you an example of a poll carried out by a pro fox hunting pro badger cull newspaper . They might have reason to fix the poll in there favour but certainly no reason to fix it to go against them. Also a recent poll carried out by another newspaper in Patersons own area came out at more than 85% against the cull also a pro cull newspaper. So are these polls being fixed as well.

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  • NBGooner  |  January 19 2014, 12:33AM

    Barney – Plus the last time they asked question such as "are you aware of foxhunting taking place nearby" was from 1999. It's not my fault they did not like the answer and not ask the question again. Simple fact is Ipsos Mori sit down with the client and they work out basically which is the best criteria to use that will give the client the best result, From the Ipsos/Moris own guide on rural sampling points " It is vital that if you wish to include a rurality analysis in your tables or a rurality definition into your sample design, you should understand what you are trying to achieve, and ensure that you use an appropriate definition" Stop being "Mugged off" by your own "Big Lie"

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  • NBGooner  |  January 19 2014, 12:20AM

    Barney2- I have, the bit about nobody bothering anymore is 2014.

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  • barney2  |  January 18 2014, 11:13PM

    It's 2014 try to catch up.

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  • NBGooner  |  January 18 2014, 10:41PM

    Barney2 – History lesson for you – Leading up to the ban in 2004 absolutely ever online poll was won by pro hunters, it was never tight but an outright humiliation poll after poll in numbers of voters up to 20 times more than your daft polls of today. Guess what? Your lot though their toys out of the pram claimed they were fixed as we were too well organized and had the bare faced cheek to say it was never e reflection of the majority of the people. Regardless they still banned some parts of hunting, so a pointless exercise nobody bothers anymore. The simple fact remains, the Ipsos/Mori survey asking folk if they oppose hunting or not and claim to live in the middle of the countryside, the results have never been revealed? Can't think why can you? And this says it all another ipsos/mori And the most telling poll of all conducted in 1999, only 26 % of folk who knew of foxhunting taking place in their immediate area was the exact same figure for those who either tended or strongly oppose a ban or had no opinion. So it would appear where foxhunting takes place it is supported.

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  • barney2  |  January 18 2014, 9:35PM

    Correction I think they Know what they are doing.

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  • barney2  |  January 18 2014, 9:33PM

    NBGooner. Polls carried out by a pro badger cull pro foxhunting west country newspaper the WMN indicated that the majority of people are against both. I don't think this newspaper reaches Manchester or any of the other city's you mention. As for the polls carried out by professional poll company's, I this they know what they are doing or nobody would pay for there services and they would go out of business. There have been many polls carried out on the badger cull and fox hunting and they all come out against both but they are all wrong and you are right.

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  • NBGooner  |  January 18 2014, 8:58PM

    Clued up - Yawn , the results please from the self defined survey asking if those claiming to live in the middle of the countryside supported hunting or not? BTW That was an Ipsos/ Mori.

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  • Clued-Up  |  January 18 2014, 8:30PM

    NBGooner alleges behaviour by Ipsos MORI (a nationally respected polling organisation) that if true would entirely destroy the company's professional reputation. In my view, what NBGooner has said is defamatory and he / she should apologise for the libel. Ipsos MORI provide "technical statements" explaining how they organise their surveys to produce accurate pictures of public opinion. This is the statement that covers the hunting poll:- "Ipsos MORI interviewed a nationally representative quota sample of 1,983 adults in Great Britain aged 15+. Interviews were carried out face-to-face, in home, using CAPI (Computer Aided Personal Interviewing Laptops), as part of the Ipsos MORI Omnibus (Capibus). Fieldwork was conducted between 1 November - 7 November 2013. The results have been weighted to reflect the known profile of the adult population. Respondents were asked the following question: Now a question about sports where animals are set on other animals to fight or kill them. These activities are currently illegal in the United Kingdom. For each one I read out, please tell me whether you think it should or should not be made legal again. FOX HUNTING DEER HUNTING HARE HUNTING AND COURSING DOG FIGHTING BADGER BAITING".

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