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February 20, 2005 - The Sport of the British Aristocrats (Aristos) Saved by the Perfidious French

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"The world may be divided into people that read, people that write, people that think, and fox-hunters."
- William Shenstone, Works in verse and prose (1764)


Are we thinning the overpopulation of foxes, or the ranks of the aristocrats?  Consider this.

Threats of defiance greet incoming ban on fox hunting in England, Wales

17 February 2005


- Fox hunting and other forms of hunting with dogs will be banned in England and Wales from Friday, amid threats of defiance amongst blood sport enthusiasts.


The Hunting Act, which takes effect at midnight (0000 GMT), is the result of years of campaigning by those who regard fox hunting -- a part of English country life for centuries -- as cruel and inhumane.


Put forth by Prime Minister Tony Blair's government, it was adopted by the House of Commons last year, with special legislation being pressed into service to override opposition in the unelected House of Lords.


The Countryside Alliance, which failed Wednesday to get the Court of Appeal to declare the Hunting Act invalid, said up to 500,000 hunt supporters could turn out to defy the ban this weekend.


"I have no doubt things will go wrong," said Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance.


He said on Wednesday that it would be "nigh on impossible" for the police to distinguish between lawful hunts -- those in which dogs merely chase the scent of a fox or other animal -- and unlawful hunts.


The ban most vividly affects fox hunting, in which red-jacketed riders on horseback gallop in pursuit of foxhounds hot on the trail of a fox which, if caught, will be killed by the dogs and ripped apart.


… The blood sport's premier event, the Waterloo Cup, established in 1836 and held in Lancashire, northwest England, concluded Wednesday with emotional scenes among many of the 10,000 fans who attended over three days.


"This is my family being ripped apart," said hare coursing enthusiast Audrey Corbett. "Hunting is our religion. It brings people together and the government is destroying that. It is such a sad day for us."


But the French come to the rescue –


Just in from Paris – byline Ric Erickson of MetropoleParis -


Plot Against Aristos?


On Friday the French hustled to fill a yawning vacuum left by Thursday's ban on fox hunting in England and Wales that followed a last appeal and a seven-year legal battle. According to reports in Le Parisien, fox hunters of all political stripes are welcome to continue chasing foxes in the forest of Ecouves, near Alençon in Normandy.


Also fast off the mark, the hunting club at Pau, founded in 1840, once patronized by Edward VII and Winston Churchill, also welcomes new blood, and money. The club, with about 20 members, has fallen on hard times. Foxes in the region are thriving according to the head of Pau's tourist office and the tradition only needs a wake-up call. "We've already been contacted by several hunt clubs," a spokesman said.


A few English settled in the area are also willing to help out their fellow countrymen in need, and make some money. Hunt leaders in Suffolk and Essex expect that they'll be sending 25,000 hunters with families and dogs to the Pau region, "Within five or six years," one said. The idea is to keep the hounds in France, because board is cheaper here. Plus, flights to Pau from Stansted are available for as little as 30 euros.


Taking a continental attitude, the mayor of Pau is reported to have asked the European Union for a subsidy to restore Pau's hunt club to its former glory. As a fox-control measure, it could hardly be more appropriate than to have the English do it in the name of Europe.


However it is fairly well-known in France that the highest rates of mortality among the aristocratic classes are due to riding accidents.  Statistics are vague but it is thought that horses have directly or indirectly killed more aristos in France than all the revolutions combined.


Nevertheless English hunting fans are unlikely to be deterred, possibly because health care in France is efficient and far less costly than in Britain. France also boasts of considerable advances in the care of the totally handicapped as well as laws favoring their access to public transport and employment.


On Thursday in Britain hunt clubs were reported to have fielded between 150 and 260 hunt packs. Hunt spokesmen did not indicate how many foxes had been brought to earth, and declined to guess. Massive flaunting of the new law, by up to 70,000 hunters, is expected on Saturday. Police are readying their measures of repression.


Hunting has been going on in the British Isles since 1660, and in good years and bad, about 21,000 to 25,000 foxes are torn to bits by hunting hounds. Spokesmen have said that the new law is 'so bad' that it will be ignored by 'all who are concerned.'


Anti-hunting efforts have been continuing for 80 years, and the ban was first established in Scotland, before being applied in England and Wales on Thursday. Reports suggest that hunting is supported by many who have no access to it, and that the ban may prove embarrassing to Labour leader Tony Blair.


Clarence House spokesman refused to confirm that Prince Harry, Princess Anne and her daughter Zara, as well as the future wife of Prince Charles, Camilla Parker-Bowles, would be participating in Saturday's pro-hunting manifestation. Prince Charles is a vegetarian and an accomplished polo player.


As I mentioned once, I taught the grandchildren of Averell Harriman back in the seventies at that fancy prep school in upstate New York.  Nice kids, and the family did run the oldest fox hunt in America, yearly, on their big estate down in Geneseo.  None of what one supposes passes for aristocracy in America was injured, as far as I know, and if they were, I doubt they were whisked off to France for expert medical treatment.


But there is something curiously Darwinian about the notion that the highest rates of mortality among the aristocratic classes are due to riding accidents, higher than from any revolutions, and fox hunting may play a part in that.  Is this the revenge of the lower species, or just natural selection?


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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