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Rod Liddle

The law doesn’t change just because you’re on horseback

2 February 2013

9:00 AM

2 February 2013

9:00 AM

I’ve just sent off a cheque to the RSPCA in the hope that they will put it towards the costs of bringing another prosecution against those arrogant pink-jacketed psychopaths who continue to hunt foxes with hounds despite the fact that it is against the law to do so. It’s a small contribution towards the upholding of law and order in our increasingly fractious society. I’ve always been in favour of law and order; tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime and so on. If society passes a law saying we shouldn’t do something, then we shouldn’t do it. We can protest our right to do it, we can petition MPs, we can rail from the pages of expensive magazines. But we should abide by the law of the land, no matter how absurd we consider it to be.

I feel very comfortable making this point in what is, of course, a conservative publication, because I know that you all share this conviction with me, this requirement to abide by the law. You’re with me on this one, all the way. Even if you disagreed with the outlawing of hunting with hounds, you would not be so hypocritical as to assert that the law should not be obeyed.

The law is not a buffet at your local Harvester — you cannot pick and choose the laws to which you intend to adhere and those which you will flout. That sort of thinking smacks of the blinkered absolutism of the liberal-left, doesn’t it? I assume Melissa is on her own with this one. Oh, and those Tory MPs who have been sticking the boot into the RSPCA. And some district judges… so, quite a few people then.

Hell, maybe I’ve got wrong. Maybe hypocrisy and blinkered, bone-headed absolutism is alive and well on the right, too. Or maybe it’s an even more delusional thing than that. Perhaps it’s more the case that while fox-hunting is against the law, they hold that prosecutions shouldn’t be brought against the people who continue to do it, simply because they don’t like the law. Now there’s a coherent argument, huh. It reminds me a bit of the metro-left and its attitude to those charges against Julian Assange.

I sent the cheque off, also, because a district judge called Tim Pattinson criticised the amount of money the RSPCA had spent on a prosecution which came before him. ‘Members of the public may feel the RSPCA funds could be more usefully employed,’ he said, having found members of the Heythorp Hunt guilty (his only option, really, as a consequence of the wealth of evidence).

Well, up to a point, Timbo. I would prefer that the £326,000 it cost to compile the evidence came from the public purse, rather than from the coffers of a charity. But that’s the system we have right now: the RSPCA, rather than the police, is charged with compiling evidence. And obviously it’s going to need a hell of a lot of evidence to draw a grudging conviction from the likes of Pattinson.

Actually, if I’m honest, I would like the police to get a bit more involved with this side of their work. I would like to see them treat fox hunters the same way they treat other criminals, or even law-abiding protestors; I would like to hear the cleansing swish of the nightstick and the jangle of handcuffs. Yes, I’m an extremist; I believe in taking a tough line with offenders.

I have to say, I find the gibbering from Tory MPs highly amusing and I hope the RSPCA takes not the slightest notice of it. Sir Edward Garnier, for example, thinks it wrong that the RSPCA is ‘using the weapon of state prosecution for political causes’. No, Ed — it is using the weapon of state prosecution to uphold the law. We will be getting ourselves into all sorts of trouble if we start to carp about laws which we believe were brought in for ‘political’ reasons and those which are simply there to stop the poor nicking stuff. The Hunting with Hounds legislation was not motivated by political or social spite; as I said at the time, the fact that a goodly proportion of those who engaged in such a pursuit were braying high-born halfwits was simply a bonus. The reason it was brought in is that the overwhelming majority of the country’s population, and a very large majority of MPs in the House of Commons, were repelled by the utter savagery and cruelty of this supposed sport.

Now, fine; you disagree with me about these last assertions. You don’t think it’s savage or cruel at all. You may even attempt to persuade me — as several tried, back when the proposed law was being debated — that the foxes actually rather enjoy it all, bloody good fun, what? Fine — cleave to that point of view, and petition the rest of us, and your MPs, to change the law. But don’t carp simply because an organisation charged with the task of upholding the law — which, in this case, the RSPCA is — actually does its job properly. Or better still, just grudgingly accept that fox hunting’s day has gone, that the country rightly loathes it for its cruelty, and that it might be better to take up billiards, instead. Either way, horrible though it may sound, the laws of the land apply equally to upper-middle-class journalists with nice horses and a tangled love life as they do to sink-estate muggers.

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