You may not know this, but I'm not a great fan of the Kennel Club. I'm sceptical about their commitment to working dogs and to the working dog community. They act rather like a petulant child; behave badly in public and then when confronted with their less than exemplary attitude, they adopt a position of denying everything and throw a tantrum.
There is whiff of something unhealthy in the way that they conduct their affairs. I don't propose to get into a debate on allegations of corruption in Spaniel Trials or the fact that the KC response to the Panorama expose was anything less than PR disaster. It still remains that these issues, rightly or wrongly, shouldn't be associated with one of our representative organisations. It’s their job to represent all corners of the dog community, including working dogs, in an unbiased fashion. Are the fistfuls of money they get from the working dog community somehow worth less than from those who show dogs or those who have a passion for fly ball? It certainly seems to be. Working dog issues seem to be depressingly low on the KC agenda. The KC remained ominously silent when the government attempted to ban docking across all types of dogs, in the face of incontrovertible evidence that this is absolutely in the best interest of the health of the working dog.
There has been a good deal of column inches in the shooting media over the last couple of weeks concerning the censorial attitude of the KC to the Bavarian Mountain Hound Society stand, at this year’s Crufts. Following a complaint from a member of the public, a KC official "raided" the stand overnight and took down a variety of pictures depicting the work of the tracker dogs, particularly those containing images of dead deer. They also felt fit to confiscate a trophy head mounted on a shield.
The whole issue of the KC censorship of the Bavarian Mountain Hound Stand @ Crufts this year has got me thinking more about field sports and the insidious threat from doing nothing on our part.
It’s not the government or the antis or the KC that are the biggest threat to the future of field sports, but ourselves. Our own complacency. On the whole, the field sports community is slow to get its hackles up. Why not? It's far more enjoyable to have a day’s fishing, shooting, hunting ... insert your own passion here, than sit and brood on those who would deny us our pleasure.
The BMHS debacle with the KC at Crufts this year is, in reality, small beer. A stupid, frightened, overly bureaucratic organisation acting heavy-handedly against a small well-intentioned group, whose only crime was a wish to share a little more information about their passion, with the profoundly ignorant general public. The real irony here is that these guys are all about prevention of suffering – without tracking dogs, wounded deer are possibly lost or not dispatched as quickly.
This sort of thing however, is the thin end of the wedge; if we collectively allow our representative societies and governing bodies to pander to the whims of bunny-huggers and people who would like nothing better than to see the dismantling of our way of life, then we may as well hand in our firearms and shotgun tickets, shoot all our working dogs, and destroy our firearms. In ten years, we won't need them. No, “need” is not the right word - we won't be allowed to have them.
Isn't it ironic that "country" matters are one of the most popular subjects on TV - Countryfile, Julia Bradbury, Lambing Live, Whatever The Season Watch, Odd Billy, Chris Packham and Kate Humble - all command huge audiences for their armchair pastiches of country life. In their rose-coloured world, foxes are cuddly, raptors only live on carrion, the countryside sprang up just as it is today, without any input from farmers or gamekeepers, and no animals die cruel, painful deaths at the hand of predators. Theirs is a sanitised "8pm on the TV" world where poachers are "characters", the countryside is a theme-park for the town, and the rural economy isn't on its knees. Gamekeepers, as they all know, are evil killers of birds of prey, farmers are greedy, moaning and insular and fox-hunting is conducted solely amongst the upper classes.
However, if you dare to show what some aspects of country sports are really like - show a little blood, you get censored.
The more worrying thing is we sit back and let it happen - all in the name of political correctness. Better that hundreds of years of tradition are put to the sword, than offend the sensibilities the cosseted ignorant public. We seem to be so bloody scared of being labelled as politically un-correct – it’ seems to carry the same stigma as the phrase “bankrupt” and used to do when I was a kid. Well, I for one am heartily sick of it.
I am fed up to the back teeth of political correctness. Never mind Bollocks to Blair – Bollocks to PC. I don’t care if the general public are upset by images of dead animals. I don’t care if you feel ill at the sight of blood. I don’t care if you don’t like the idea that I derive pleasure from killing animals. I don’t care if I am out of touch with commonly held sensibilities – just because it’s a widely-held belief, doesn’t make it correct. In fact, I don’t care what you think at all.
I care passionately about my sport and preserving it and its traditions for the future. My children may or may not want to pursue my passion for field sports. It would be great if they did, but I'm not going to get bent out of shape, if they don't. I do passionately believe however, that they should have a choice. It's their choice to make an informed decision whether to follow me into an outdoor life; not the choice of some individual idiot or pressure group, whose only knowledge of country ways and traditions comes ready filtered by the media.
Confiscating a few photographs isn’t the end of the world. In the end, it’s a rather small, petty and pathetic action. But these small blows all add up to a torrent. In the end, it’s not going to be the actions of some madman on the rampage that drives the final nail into the coffin of shooting; it’s the drip, drip, drip of anti-shooting propaganda from the media, combined with our seeming inability to stand up for what we love.
In my mind sitting back and seeing my way of life dismantle by attrition isn’t an option. It’s time we took notice of these small incursions into our liberty. It’s bad enough when they are the result of antis. When it’s an organisation like the KC, who even if they can’t bring themselves to support our sport, should at least adopt a neutral stance, it’s time to bite back against the enemy within.