Various members of my blogroll such as Harry's Place, Norm Geras, Samizdata and "An Englishman's Castle" have weighed in on the UK moves to ban hunting with dogs. I have some probably contradictory thoughts here.
On the whole I am against hunting with dogs. And I can't see why, if foxes are vermin, they shouldn't just be shot, likewise mink and coypu which are definitely vermin. However I think that banning hunting is a bad idea for a whole host of reasons.
The main reason I dislike the ban is that the ban is being pushed by partly groups who are, in my opinion, intolerant, hypocritcial and uneducated. I am refering of ocurse to the morons in the various extremist animal rights groups. It worries me that such people, who seem to be unclear on the concept of cause and effect as it relates to (for example) animal testing and their hopes for a long life, should ever be seen to be victorious because it will only encourage more idiocy, such as banning fishing or forbidding any harm to the "poor cute wild animals" whatsoever.
Secondly there are some obvious cause and effect issues with regard to baning hunting. In a country that has practically banned shooting and has now banend hunting how, precisely, are vermin to be kept down? Most of the alternatives such as Poison or traps are well known to be indiscriminate killers that frequently cause as much or more harm to other species than the target one. Another cause and effect issue is the state of forests, woodlands and pastures. In places where there are hunts someone has an incentive to maintain, to some extent, these lands whereas without hunting they will probably go completely wild. As anyone who has paid any attention to the wild fires that have swept the US over the last few years, total wilderness is generally a fire hazard which eventually burns uncontrollably and causes masses of damage.
Thirdly this is a matter of property rights and the encoachment of the bureaucratic superstate. Due to the CAP and the related idiocies promulgated by Whitehall, rural land owners have already lost considerable rights to do as they please on their own land. Now another pastime has been banned. Eventually rural land-owners are going to find that everything they do is regulated by some idiot on an office in a city a hundred miles away. This is a bad thing
Finally, from what I can see, the ban applies to all riding with dogs, even drag hunts are to be banned just incase they upset the nerves of the poor ickle cweatures. This is, essentially, the wrong solution to the problem. It is the solution made by bureaucrats because it is easy to enforce rather than the solution that ought to apply. Surely a drag hunt would be a reasonable alterntative and one that removes at least two of my three objections by focusing on a particulalr cruel act - killing a fox by a pack of dogs - rather than a series of non-cruel acts that sometimes culminate in a cruel act.
One last thought - cities are dangerously vulnerable. As a reader of military SF I am frequently reminded of just how delicate a city economy is since typically cities only have on hand a few days of food and a limited supply of water and have only a few main routes in and out. The French habit of going en grève and blockading places shows this principle well. If countryside protestors wanted to cause chaos in London (for example) they could affect millions probably causing food shortages, unemployment and massive increases in the cost of living very very simply. Any number of farmers have the fertilizer and diesel they would need to create ANFO explosive and cause severe structural damage to the motorways and railways around London. I reckon that just hitting the M1/M25, M4/M25 and M40/M25 junctions would be sufficient to cause major trouble for the SE economy. Taking out a few other junctions on the M25 and a couple of major railway lines/stations would of course also help to this end but probably would not be essential. The countryside however is not so vulnerable since population densities are lower and there are fewer chokepoints.