“The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable!” so said Oscar Wilde about fox hunting.
My run this morning coincided with the annual Boxing Day hunt from the village green. So in anticipation of a controversial photo or two I tagged along but gave up from shear boredom after an hour during which the hunt were still only a mile or so from the village.
Although the Hunting Act 2004 banned fox hunting in England comments by leading Conservatives have energised supporters into believing the act will soon be repealed. Andrea Leadsom, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said during her Tory Party leadership campaign she would bring back fox hunting to improve animal welfare. David Cameron, in last year’s Conservative election manifesto, had promised a free vote on repealing of the Act and Theresa May has confirmed she is planning to push ahead with such a vote. All this is in spite of the fact that 84 per cent of the public believe fox hunting should not be made legal again.
Back in Great Ayton the pageant set off for their day’s “hunting”. This should take the form of either drag or trail hunting. Both involves the laying of an artificial trail but in one the huntsmen don’t know where the trail goes so have no means of knowing whether the hounds have picked up the artificial trail or a real one. I kept contact with the riders in the vain hope that they would lead me to the action. Their strategy seemed to be to canter for 400 metres or so then stand around for twenty minutes. 65 minutes later we were only at Monument Mine. Boredom was rapidly setting in.
The hounds meanwhile were down in Easby Wood. A lot of barking and horns sounding but no sign of them picking up a scent. If a trail had been laid it was a pretty poor job, surely someone knew where the start was.
I did attract the attention of a couple of redcoats on big intimidating horses who rode uncomfortably close. Perhaps they knew I wasn’t a proper hunt monitor and were waiting for me to give up. Tally ho.