Corbyn’s Labour Party will destroy the countryside



Listening to Luke Pollard, MP for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, announcing Labour’s call for a review of grouse shooting was, if it wasn’t so serious, somewhat laughable. The claim that grouse shooting could be having detrimental effects on the climate and wildlife was obviously a cover for yet another attack on rural communities – in other words people who are perceived to be rich and generally don’t vote for the Labour Party.

Only last year, the Countryside Alliance, working along with the Fabian Society, produced a report, Labour Country suggesting what should be Labour’s priorities for the countryside and warning that all too often some in the party are swayed by animal rights thinking. It didn’t take long for that useful report to be ignored.

Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Sue Hayman, said last year that the Hunting Act would be strengthened under Labour, despite this being a law that is entirely the product of her party when in power and hailed at that time to be robust legislation. One might have thought that if improving animal welfare was the real motive behind the hunting ban, at least a little bit of research might have been undertaken first to see precisely what effect this law has had on those species previously hunted. But no, that, as revealed subsequently by so many Labour MPs and supporters, was not the aim of the Hunting Act – it was a class motivated attack on Labour’s political opponents.

The same Hayman report talks of ending the badger cull and follows that trend of simply banning things without a thought as to the consequences. What, precisely, is Labour’s policy to curb bovine TB? Perhaps she thinks that the real culprits are farmers and their lack of biosecurity and that badgers are innocent victims in all of this? Only those ignorant of the pathology and epidemiology of bovine TB would swallow such a claim.
Or does the fact that well over half a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money spent on compensating farmers for the loss of cattle to the disease matters less than being kind to badgers? The joke is that ignoring bovine TB in badgers is certainly not helping them – they suffer for perhaps over a year, slowly becoming more emaciated while increasingly spreading the disease as they near their end. Vaccination is still not proven, as at least one Wildlife Trust was honest enough to admit recently, and yet many continue to use this argument, probably knowing that the public will naturally lean towards this as a solution, rather than culling.

And so it is with the latest move by Corbyn’s urban-based Labour Party. Jumping on the joint bandwagons of animal welfare and climate change, the call for a review of grouse shooting makes totally false claims of shooting estates draining and drying out moors, public subsidies and the viability of ‘alternative’ use of upland areas. These arguments were easily exposed as rubbish by representatives of pro-shooting organisations and in a damning article by former cricketer Sir Ian Botham in the Daily Telegraph.

The accusation that grouse moors are environmentally damaging and bad for animal welfare fails to recognise that it is the work of gamekeepers in controlling natural predators that creates the conditions for birds such as lapwings, golden plover, curlew and raptors such as hen harriers. Without such control, these birds would simply not exist in such numbers. Of course, there are some bad, even illegal, practices and they should rightly be exposed and prosecuted, but a bigger picture exists that is highly beneficial to conservation and diversity. So why can’t Corbyn and co see this? But we already know the answer to that question – it doesn’t matter to them. The real target is the people who do it.

Therefore, whenever the detail of the Hunting Act is raised with those MPs who support it, they run a mile. They can’t answer basic questions, because they don’t understand hunting with hounds. All they know is that they can claim to the largely uniformed public that wild animals will no longer be ‘terrorised by being chased and killed for fun’. Labour is playing the same game once more, this time with shooting.

Odd that during the passage of the Hunting Act, the then Labour government bent over backwards to avoid attacking shooting. This is why the use of a terrier underground to flush out a mammal is exempt. The section is headed Use of dogs below ground to protect birds for shooting, but not, you will note, to protect a lamb or hen harrier. I wonder what the Hunting Act supporting Chris Packham and Mark Avery think of that piece of ‘principled’ logic?

But under Corbyn and his fellow hard left-wingers, the Labour Party doesn’t have to worry about keeping their class war credential too secret while supposedly caring for animal welfare, they can ditch all such pretence and now moving on to shooting, which was always next in line for banning, and it begins with this ‘review’. If it’s anything like the Portcullis House Hearings into hunting, as organised by Alun Michael, the then minister in charge of the Hunting Bill, it will be nothing more than a farce; a show for the public to convince them into thinking that any move is ‘evidence-based’, when in reality it is simply a mechanism to achieve a ban.

Those naïve enough to believe the Labour Party on matters of animal welfare won’t change their minds when presented with the facts. It’s a situation that’s further confused by groups like Conservatives against Fox Hunting – a body that, oddly enough, seems to mirror exactly those policies advocated by the Labour Party.

What is more important is to highlight to people like Zac Goldsmith, the new DEFRA Minister for Animal Welfare, and the wider team, that in the case of wild animal welfare it is not animal rights thinking that works; but the much tougher route of understanding humane wildlife management that eventually can achieve the desired aims of a balanced, diverse, and thereby healthy, eco-system.

Jim Barrington is a former Executive Director of the League Against Cruel Sports. He is now an animal welfare consultant to the Countryside Alliance. Follow him on twitter @jimbarrington