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Sunday, November 07, 2004

Is killing habit forming?

The first sign that the whole fox-hunting debate was getting out of hand came when certain supporters of this inhumane sport warned of violence in the countryside if the Government used the Parliament Act to get their way. It now seems that those who live by violence and killing may be prepared to apply their sport more liberally.

Otis Ferry, somebody who has enjoyed a privileged up-bringing, is now warning that "deepening resentment towards the government could result in people being killed." He goes on: "Feelings are running high. People are starting to realise a ban might happen and people might get assassinated. But I would feel terrible if anyone assassinated someone like Alun Michael. It would be a disgrace if anything violent happens." Well, yes!

The Observer goes on to report that "Effigies of Michael, along with Tony Blair, were torched by hunters at bonfires in Leicestershire on Friday. Evidence of the tactics used to intimidate anti-hunt MPs has grown more apparent as the prospect of a ban draws closer. Observer inquiries have discovered that 13 MPs who support the hunting Bill have been targeted by extremist groups. One claims that his family has been intimidated and he has had manure dumped in his garden. Another reported that a lump of concrete had been thrown through a window of his constituency office, while others have stopped holding surgeries or walking out alone at night after being harassed. Michael himself has been pelted with eggs and is routinely heckled by pro-hunt supporters on public appearances."

It is likely of course, that talk of assassination is the result of a fevered imagination on the part of an immature and self-centred young man. It makes headlines obviously. However, the level of intimidation and violence being perpetrated by leading hunt supporters against politicians and others opposed to their view is unacceptable and needs to be reined-in.

These people would be the first to condemn acts of violence by the IRA or some other terrorist group; they would rage against anti-poll tax protestors, anti-war demonstrators or those who use largely legitimate means to make anti-establishment points, however they cannot see that they have overstepped the mark themselves and continue to do so. They are not so much defending a way of life they are seeking to preserve their own sense of superiority and their own privileges. It is they who have invoked the term "fascist" to describe a Parliamentary process and yet, as a student of history, I can see that it is they who are the ones adopting the tactics of such groups.

This is more disturbing because of the links between many of these people and the royal family. Prince Charles seems determined to stray more and more into the realm of party politics by continuing to hunt. In doing so he is merely demonstrating his unsuitability to succeed to the throne. At the same time, although members of the royal family would clearly not condone tactics that lead to violence and law-breaking, a number of them appear to be content to be associated with people who would. Because the royal family are unelected they are not accountable for their actions and some of them at least, believe that this means that they can do what they want. Is it not time that they were made accountable?

By all means let us have a debate but let us do so within the context of the civilised and democratic society that we have championed throughout the World. Let us see not thuggery and criminal-behaviour take the place of peaceful discussion.

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