About a month ago I wrote an article, in which I lightly prodded the League Against Cruel Sports about their current stance over Trail Hunting. I thought I’d give it a few weeks to lend a little distance and give me time to mull over the various replies I received in relation to it, but this has only reinforced something I already suspected: You can’t wade into the hunting debate without being on a particular side. It’s just not allowed.
My first port of call was an article on the 10-year anniversary of the ban in the Guardian (I know, I know, I’m a mung-bean eating, sandle-wearing Pinko). I dropped in to say hi, do a light bit of shameless self-promotion of Adventures in Conservation and popped in a small query relating to my article but also to something else I was trying to write at the time:
‘I’m genuinely interested what role hunting for subsistence and people’s preconceptions about those that take part in fox hunting has to play in people’s views of it. There’s a wider psychological point here about generations of hardwiring to gain satisfaction in a hunt successfully completed – how well are we able to incorporate that atavistic, analogue hardwiring into our digital, hyper-civilised modern brains? Can we, should we, attempt to completely deny this part of ourselves?’
(And OK, reading that back it does sound rather po-faced. Atavistic? Hyper-Civilised?)
This gathered a predictable melange of unrelated posts and it soon degenerated into the usual tit-for-tat. No one bothered to actually answer the questions I posed, but it didn’t take long for me to be labelled as ‘pro-hunt’ because of my desire to probe the human side of the issues rather than the canine, to couch my questions in terms of psychology rather than animal cruelty – an issue that I am not, as some have suggested, looking to ignore, it’s just not what I currently happened to be talking about:
As a short aside here, this is a constant theme, and one that particularly irritates me – the sheer whatabouttery of that 80% stat thrown in there and also the charges of ignoring animal cruelty. This is not what I was talking about and yet there is the sense that by not talking on their terms, I am somehow being neglectful, sly even. One of my least favourite phrases in the world is ‘there’s people starving in the world and you’re talking about this?’
‘That’s my point well emphasized right there – it’s such an entrenched and opinionated topic that to some, you can’t be neutral, in the middle, or have the capacity to argue, understand and have sympathy with both sides. As soon as you’re in the debate, you’re immediately seen as falling in one camp or the other – and as long as that kind of viewpoint prevails, you’re all doomed to just keep banging your heads against each other for the foreseeable.’
There were no further responses, either because of the astounding insight I’d just delivered or because the comments section had closed. You decide.
And so I ventured on to twitter with my article and held my breath…nothing. Where were all these virulent anti-hunt Sabs that the pro-hunt movement had led me to believe were ready to pounce (and visa-versa)? Maybe I’d done them a disservice in my piece; maybe I’d misrepresented them. And so I left it. For a while at least. But I can’t help prodding things; maybe I’m just a bit of a git.
So to the image that dragged me back in, just when I thought I was out…(Warning – has naughty words)
If you’ve read my previous article, you’ll know the point I have been trying to make is about the aggressiveness demonstrated (by both sides) and that I think there’s a real need to deescalate before there is a fatality. Images like this, images and phrases that promote the dehumanisation of a section of society…well, viewing a certain class of person as ‘less than human’ has always worked out so well in the past, hasn’t it? I couldn’t really let it pass and so I engaged the tweeter. Tweetee?
Later in the conversation, with absolutely no sense of hypocrisy, I was tweeted the below image, demonstrating just how mean pro-hunt types are (and yes, it isn’t very nice). I retweeted the original image that kicked the whole thing off, just as a reminder…I’ve yet to receive a response.
More than anything, I think what has stoked my ire is the willingness to throw out utterly sweeping statements and generalisations, the inability to see things in anything less than black and white – Sabs are non-violent angels and the hunt are all thugs, Sabs wear masks and intimidate the hunt who are just defending themselves. I was startled by the unwillingness to believe that it is entirely possible to have a foot in both camps, which led to (quite tame) abuse and blocking (I’m still not entirely sure what I did to deserve that).
I may have charged in on Social Media and Below the Line comments knowing what I was potentially letting myself in for, but what surprised me was that the thing that most riled, most irked people was my neutrality.
I’ll leave you with this final, charming tweet I received and the thought: What do we normally call people who wish a violent death on those who do not subscribe to the same ideology as us?
(I was then mocked for my use of the word ‘jeez’. Fair enough)