Charles Moore Charles Moore

The Spectator’s Notes | 20 November 2004

Passing laws just because you don’t like something is foreign to the upper-class mind

Although hunt supporters are right to point out that people of all classes hunt, Labour MPs are equally right to see their ban on hunting, now at last being enacted, as a great blow against the upper classes. Very occasionally, you meet an upper-class person who is against hunting, but this is usually because of being made to do it by disliked parents, practically never because he or she considers it cruel. As for actually banning it, that way of thinking — passing laws

just because you don’t like something —

is foreign to the upper-class mind (perhaps instinct would be a better word). Hunting is close to the heart of an aristocratic approach to life because it is communal, dangerous, unintellectual, non-commercial, ceremonial, hierarchical and depends on a love and knowledge of animals. When Mr Jorrocks — famously unaristocratic — says that hunting is ‘the image of war without its guilt’, he is hot on the scent. The idea of a lord, a knight, a squire, a gentleman is closely related to leadership in war, for centuries conducted on horseback, and hunting is its recreational equivalent and sometimes its training ground. Above all, perhaps, it is to do with the word ‘country’. Hunts, naturally, exist only in the country, but they use the word specifically to describe their own patch — ‘our Thursday country’ — and knowing your country is the prerequisite of good sport. If you know it, you will love it. For classes traditionally defined in part by their ownership of land, all this comes naturally. And from it flows a love of country — in the sense of nation — which exerts a powerful hold on the imagination and explains why the British upper classes were so rarely guilty of the draft-dodging shown by their equivalents in some other countries.

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