Hunters are not a lost cause. An AAF member explains why it is so important to include them in our outreach.
For many years now I have been an animal rights activist and vegan. Things were not always this way though. I come from a background of being a very keen foxhunter/hunt supporter. I rode out with my local hunt, went beagling, went out with the terriermen , helped out at the hunt kennels, helped out at BFSS (British Field Sports Society, the forerunner of the Countryside Alliance) stalls defending hunting, shooting and angling. It was individual sabs who planted the seeds with me to reflect and when I did a couple of them were there to listen to me non judgementally. Over many conversations and reading around the subject of animal rights and veganism I was looking at myself in horror and had to not only stop but speak out publicly and become vegan myself in opposition to the abuse of all sentient beings. It was 1994 and the then Tory government were introducing the offence of aggravated trespass aimed directly at criminalising hunt sabotage and roads protests in their highly controversial Criminal Justice Bill. The Hunt Saboteur’s Association held a press conference in the House of Commons at which I participated. The League Against Cruel Sports also published an article by me named “from venery to veganism” and I began to be active.
Since then I have been an activist. Anyway, my point is that people are out there who may just need their conscience pricked, those questions put into their heads and a route for getting out of the abuse cycle. The majority will walk away in a huff, be aggressive, take the piss but there are so many who are involved with supporting hunting who either have no idea what it is they are supporting, or have seen it, done it, got the t shirt and are at a stage where they have had enough and are capable of changing.
It has happened before. Robert Churchward was master of the South Shropshire hunt and he wrote “A master of hounds speaks” in the early 60s committing his life to speaking out against hunting. Richard Hall was a harbourer for the Quantock staghounds who when out one day picked the stag to be hunted, had an immediate road to Damascus conversion and realisation of what he was doing and committed the rest of his life to animal welfare and being anti hunt starting with a long letter to the Times in the late 60s. Clifford Pellow was professional huntsman to the Tredagar Farmer’s, he was ordered to use bagged foxes and rebelled after becoming sick of the practice also spending the rest of his life speaking out publicly against hunting and helping anti hunt people.
Many others have quietly realised, stepped back and retreated from hunting without saying a thing. Imagine if they all spoke out?
All in all the Action Against Foxhunting outreach events are an excellent opportunity to change hearts and minds. Even if you don’t seem to get anywhere remember that a debate always teaches how to do it better next time and that sometimes people are really defensive because they know that they are in the wrong. Ask lots of questions and let them answer e.g “why do you think it is not cruel to dig out a fox?”, “What does happen to hounds when they are too old or injured to hunt, or will not enter into hunting?”, “Why do you think that non human animals are different to human ones when we all have a central nervous system?” etc. This is all a learning curve of course and continuing to learn and improve on what we do is all part of being active against bloodsports.
Being Polite to a Pro
An AAF member talks about how important it is to stay polite when faced with someone who shoots foxes
If you’re reading this I’m sure, like me, you love foxes. Iconic beautiful wildlife who just want to live their lives without the abuse and cruelty inflicted by the people who think they’re above the law.
I’ve joined AAF for a few Outreach stalls where most people stop to talk to us and perhaps sign petitions to MPs, National Trust etc. Most people are in agreement with what AAF are aiming to achieve and really care about the welfare of animals. Sadly not everyone does.
At the last outreach, I was watching videos on a member’s phone about a gorgeous little vixen who had befriended his cat showing them playing together. He told me this little fox would visit him and he’d give her food – once she was delighted to run off with a whole chicken he’d left for her and there were also some apple pies in the dish. I was then told the sad news that because an unkind neighbour had seen this little vixen paying her visits she decided to tell the local hunt. That hunt went out looking for the little vixen, found her, cornered her against a wall and let the hounds rip her to pieces. She had done nothing wrong! Heartbreaking! Her little friend the cat really missed her and passed away shortly afterwards.
I was feeling tearful about this when a man came to the stall and started talking about how he shot a fox because he had attacked his chickens and he agreed with fox hunting for this reason. Other members were asking him how he could be sure a fox killed by the hunt could be the same fox who tried to kill his chickens. He said it didn’t matter as they were ‘vermin’. That was a trigger for me and, when he went on to talk about badgers spreading TB, I turned on him and became very aggressive towards him, demanding he give evidence about what he was claiming.
He walked away shortly after this. I realised I had acted on my emotions instead of realising this man was ignorant of the facts about foxhunting and I hadn’t given him the chance to learn the truth. That’s what we were there for – to tell people what really goes on and hopefully to gain their support. He came from a completely different perspective and although I may not agree with shooting foxes, we were there to inform the public about illegal fox hunting and how these cruel people are killing our wildlife for fun.
The next time I feel angry when somebody says something like ‘they’re vermin’, I want to protect my chickens etc I’ll take a step back because we can win people over with the truth but never with anger!
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