Monday, July 10, 2006

Ann Widdecombe on Hunting

Iain Dale invited readers of his blog to suggest questions for him to put to Ann Widdecombe for one of his podcasts. I suggested 'why is she so wilfully blind about hunting with hounds?' Knowing her abrupt, judgemental and rather arrogant manner, and with hindsight I ought perhaps to have suggested she give her judgement about the quality of the Hunting Act 2004 which she consistently supported; or whether she would revise her view were it to be clearly demonstrated that a ban was in fact detrimental to the welfare of the wild rural fox (both actually rhetorical Q's), but no matter. Here is her reply:

"I am not wilfully blind; this is a very arrogant man [that's me ed] who obviously believes that anyone who disagrees with him must be wilfully blind; I have weighed up the evidence; brought my experience to bear (it may interest him to know that both my parents hunted) and I have come to a view which is different to his"

Wow! - where to begin?

For anyone who knows me there's no need to comment on the 'very arrogant man' bit (Deeply hurt, bitter, angry, cynical and disillusioned with what passes for due political process and constitutional safeguards - yes, but arrogant?) other than to say that she, of all people is hardly in a position to make accusations of arrogance against anyone.

She has weighed up the evidence? - Her public utterances on the subject, both in parliament and elsewhere, make it crystal clear that she has done no such thing. She entered the debate as a committed anti and, as she admitted to Iain in the question immediately preceding mine, she cannot recall an instance of having changed her mind about anything in the light of new evidence - quite so; sounds just like Widders doen't it? If she HAD weighed up the evidence produced by Lord Burns in his Inquiry report (95% of the 5,000 submissions to which were opposed to a ban), she would agree with Lord Burns that, in animal welfare terms a ban on hunting is at best marginal and at worst detrimental to the welfare of the wild rural fox population, not to mention the communities involved. That leaves 'morality' which, as usual with Ms Widdecombe, is no doubt the nub of the matter. She thinks it is immoral and is intent on forcing her own 'morality' on others. She really ought to be a bit more circumspect about what she thinks goes on in the heads of other people (specifically hunting people) because it reveals a great deal about what goes on in her own head - In spite of her conversion to Rome, Authoritarian-Puritan sums it up nicely.

She has brought her experience to bear? She claims her parents hunted. Well, quite simply, I don't believe her and I challenge her to name the hunt(s) concerned. Subscriber records going back over 200 years are scrupulously maintained by all the 250 or so hunts in the UK. If they really were subscribers it is traceable. If they were not, then they were simply playing at it - probably for the social cachet that wannabe social climbers used to believe (some still do!) attached to hunting. She has NEVER engaged with the other side of the debate. She has received numerous invitations to visit hunt kennels, meets, puppy shows etc. and, to my knowledge, has never once accepted. Clearly hunting people (her sainted parents excepted of course) are simply too odious to have any truck with eh? - a bit like being asked to meet openly gay people 30-50 years ago - they are/were simply BEYOND THE PALE.

She has come to a view which is different to mine? I would have no problem whatsoever with that; except that she has done (and continues to do) a lot more than come to a view. 'Live-and-let-live' is clearly an alien concept to Widders as is the meaning of the word 'tolerance'. Everything is black and white. If she is opposed to something then something MUST be done about it. In the case of hunting she has provided high profile campaign support for criminal legislation on a matter which does not even register on the priorities of 99% of the population but which is far more important to those she seeks to criminalise than, for example football is to an ardent football fan. In doing so she has consistently refused to engage with those same people.

On the anniversary of the farce that is now the Hunting Act, she went on record with - I paraphrase -

"people riding out in red coats with hounds are clearly hunting and
should be prosecuted"

which does rather beg the question "would it be OK if (aka the 'saboteurs' that continue to plague hunts) they rode out in Combat fatigues and balaclavas carrying baseball bats?". Is that the standard of evidence she thinks will secure a conviction? - evidently so. Or does she think police should spend time gathering the evidence that the act really DOES require? Would that be a good use of police time? or might catching terrorists (including the animal rights/grave desecrating/hunt saboteur kind pandered to in this legislation) carry a slightly higher priority?

For information there has still not been a single prosecution (let alone conviction) of a hunt in spite of there having been over 5,000 meets involving over 1/2 million people attendances since the Act became law. However, far more foxes have been killed; far more wounded; and few if any of the wounded have been located and dispatched quickly by hounds as used to be the case - because to do so would put hunts at serious risk of prosecution. It's simply a ridiculous dogs dinner of an act, inspired by pure prejudice, bought and paid for with £1.25 million donated to Labour coffers by the animal rights movement, and delivered though a combination of malice, class war revenge and political expediency or, in the case of Ann Widdecombe and one or two others, puritanical outrage.

It is clear that she is as ignorant of the detail of the legislation she so diligently supported, as she is of both hunting people and hunting itself.

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