George Bowyer, National Director of Vote-OK talks to Horse & Hound about the importance of the General Election to the future of hunting, and what you can do to help
There are 34 days until the General Election. Vote-OK, the countryside campaigning organisation, is asking all hunt supporters to devote just 12 hours to active political campaigning for candidates who support our rural way of life. Forget the excuses, everyone who cares about the future of hunting needs to do this.
Some people ask why the government have not done enough for the countryside in the past five years. The answer is plain – it was a coalition government and we did not have enough MPs of the right persuasion within that coalition to repeal the Hunting Act, or carry out a number of other desirable measures.
However, that is in the past. We now need to look to the future, and the future under a hostile government after May 2015 would look bleak indeed. Along with often repeated threats to maintain or even strengthen the Hunting Act, the Labour Party has also declared war on other rural activities, such as shooting, with their latest pronouncements about “cruelty on shooting estates”.
The Campaign to Strengthen the Hunting Act certainly want Labour to do more, including to impose a six month prison sentence as a penalty for an offence under the Hunting Act, to introduce a new offence of “reckless hunting”, which would penalise anyone whose dogs hunted a mammal accidentally, and finally to make it an offence to lay a trail anywhere, and I quote, “where wild mammals are likely to be found”. The lack of understanding of how animals and the countryside work that is demonstrated in these proposals is stunning.
So, even if you do not believe the politicians who say that they are prepared to repeal the hunting act, even if you do not believe that they will make things better – still you need to consider the merits of campaigning against politicians who do wish to make things worse.
For those who talk about sticking with the current status quo, consider this: under a conservative administration, the current status quo will be the floor, the base level from which things might improve. Under a Labour administration, the current status quo will be the ceiling, from which we dangle precariously from our fingertips.
You may feel that the Ban has not affected your life very much – but none of us should sit back and say “I’m alright, Jack. It doesn’t affect me”. Do you want to retain a law passed to discriminate against people who hunt, or get rid of it and replace it with something that actually improves animal welfare and wildlife management?
The outcome of this General Election is going to be crucial to the future of not just hunting but many other countryside issues. Rural people often complain that the Government is always too urban-centric. One of the mottos of Vote-OK is “Don’t just complain – Campaign!” We all have the opportunity to set to work and help to choose who will be making the laws which protect and preserve our countryside. We owe it to ourselves, our children and the countryside itself to make sure that we pick people who actually understand the countryside and how it works.
So what can you do to help? The answer: get involved in the political process. Don’t just vote – although that is crucial, so make sure that you are registered and get a postal vote if you will not be able to vote locally on May 7th (https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote) – but get out and engage in the political campaign. All candidates need volunteers to deliver leaflets, put up posters, stuff envelopes, make telephone calls and many other things.
If you are in contact with your local hunt, they can advise you of a local constituency where your help might make a difference, or you look at the website of Vote-OK (www.vote-ok.co.uk ) and volunteer. Don’t sit back and wait to be asked. There isn’t enough time for that. Be pro-active – contact them and ask how you can help.
12 hours to save hunting, the same as two days hunting: can you afford not to make that investment?