Outreach, Blandford Forum Friday 23rd March 2018

Blandford Forum 23 March 2018 – Outreach stall

This was a very good day indeed. For once, the sun came out.  Our leaflets remained unsoggy, and so did we.

Four of us rocked up at around 10.30 am and we set up our table not far from the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s stall. There were three of us from AAF (Pip, Lucy and Madge) and then there was Jac, who represents the League Against Cruel Sports and often joins us on our outreach.  Brenda, a fourth AAF member, arrived shortly afterwards.

We had several things to offer passing locals: a leaflet from LACS explaining why “trail hunting” is non-existent, another leaflet asking why hunters seem to be above the law and of course, our wristbands. We flogged the first wristband to Jac (well, we saw him coming). To be accurate, Jac kindly gave us a donation, and we kindly gave him a wristband in return.

We at AAF have a clear way of operating. We don’t approach the public; we don’t get in anyone’s way; and we don’t ask for donations.  We show our faces and we give our names. All we do, is stand there looking approachable ourselves – and if anyone does make eye contact, we offer them a leaflet. If someone refuses, then we accept it immediately.

It wasn’t long before we began to attract some interest. A few passers-by warily asked if we were pro or anti foxhunting, and when we said we were anti, they seemed relieved and began talking to us. Later, we reflected as to why the locals thought we were pro-hunting, given our customised hi-viz jackets and our AAF banner. We concluded that they were surprised to see anybody standing up in public against the hunt. Clearly, this is not a common sight.

Many, many people stopped to talk to us.  We received a surprising number of donations; some of them were so generous, we felt humbled.  Children enjoyed putting coins in our bucket. People loved our wristbands and they were delighted to be given one of them in return for a donation.

However, our main purpose was to educate the public about the realities of foxhunting, and this we did. We explained why it is incorrect to say that foxes need culling. (They don’t; they regulate their own population).  We explained why trail hunting is a lie. We explained that many farmers like foxes because they control the rabbit population. We explained that foxes take very few chickens – and many of those losses are avoidable with the correct fencing. We explained that foxes are responsible for just 2% of lamb losses – that 98% of lamb losses are due to other reasons. We explained that hunting with dogs is one of the cruellest things anyone can do. There was one thing, though, that we couldn’t explain.

Person after person said that apart from the obvious cruelty, the main reason why they “hate” the hunt (and that word was repeated throughout the day) was because of their unbelievable arrogance. Why did the hunts think that they had the right to do whatever they please, whenever they please? The people of Blandford don’t like the fact that the hunt block up country lanes with horses and hounds, park 4X4s all along the verges, unload and load horseboxes wherever they choose, allow their hounds to run all over the place (including in their gardens) and then, in return, they smile sweetly, raise their hats and continue doing what ever they please anyway, regardless of the effect they’re having on everybody else.  No – we couldn’t explain that.

A lady from Norway stopped to speak to us. She said that in her native country, hunters shoot elks and that all hunters have to go on a course and pass a test before they are allowed to take part. They do this because while they want to hunt, they don’t want to cause unnecessary suffering. She said that when she first came to England, she was appalled to find out that the hunts here set out to cause unnecessary suffering, by the protracted chase and the less-than-quick, brutal death.

An elderly gentleman went past. We all clocked him. We knew from his clothing (how prejudiced are we?) that he probably belonged to the ‘other’ side.  However, he turned round and stopped to talk. Here was a man who had been brought up to think that hunting was the thing to do; that foxes deserved a brutal death and that it was fun to see it happen.  He had been hunting several times himself.  But – some years ago, he realised that the cruelty involved was totally unacceptable and he refused to take part in it any longer.  He went drag hunting instead, and found this more satisfactory because it was still fun and didn’t involve a brutal killing. He gave us a donation. After he’d gone, we realised that we really would like to hear more from him, so Lucy chased after him, gave him her number and asked him if he’d contact us.  We do so hope he does.

Another man went past.  He waved his hand at us and went on by, saying (politely) that he was “pro-hunting”.  A few minutes later, he returned and started asking us questions.  When he departed, not long afterwards, he had changed his mind. He had finally heard the truth, and realised that his pro-hunting stance was based on some seriously false assumptions about foxes. He too gave us a donation.

If anyone is ever in any doubt at all about the fact that the vast majority of the public oppose foxhunting, then they should have been with us in Blandford on Friday. This was a town in rural Dorset, in the heart of hunting country. The message was absolutely clear.