W3C Pete and the Hunting Act DO U KNOW?

Pete settled himself in the chair, took a pull from his pint, wiped the froth from his mouth and belched. Outside the pub it was pitch black and a wind drove hail against the windows, but inside a fire burned in the hearth and its warmth filled the room. “Job’s buggered,” he said, “hunting isn’t coming back”.

I looked at him. “Bonner, Barney and the Countryside Alliance to name but a few would disagree,” I said. Pete took another pull on his pint and sat considering. Finally he spoke.

“What would happen if it did?” he said. “T’ hunt monitors will go back to being sabs, never be like it was in our day.”

Jack looked at him. “Would that not be such a bad thing?” he said.

“I don’t know,” said Pete, “it wasn’t all stirrup cups, laughter, and sing-songs. There were good parts and bad.”

The door to the pub opened as somebody came in and briefly brought the night in with them. Pete chucked another log on the fire. “In the fells it was different,” he said. “Foxes need to be controlled and the only humane way to do it is with hounds.”

I nodded in agreement, the memory of the gunshot-killed fox came back to me and I recalled the day on the high fell.

“It wasn't difficult to find the fox; the stench of decay was quite overwhelming. Nearby in the 19th century the "old men" (quarry expression for men who had "gone before") had driven a heading into the fell in search of some mineral or other. They had thrown the spoil down the fell side and it was towards this that the fox was heading when it died. It hadn't moved far from the place where the bullet had smashed into its fore shoulder, you could see what had happened after the bullet had hit it. Badly wounded the fox had tried to make it to the spoil heap where it could rest up for a while in the boulders, but death had beaten it and now it lay covered in flies. No one will ever know how long it took the poor bugger to die, but its final seconds or minutes must have been spent in agony. Long ago I came to the conclusion that for every clean shot there is perhaps one that isn’t and this was a graphic example.

Of the shooter there was no trace save a cartridge case or two on the fell side and some quad bike tracks.

I covered the carcass up with stones and climbed up the spoil heap to the heading.”

“You with us then?” The question awoke me from my memories.

“Sorry, I was miles away,” I said.

“Look,” said Pete, “that fat barmaid will have nowt to do with you, this is a serious conversation, put your mind to it.”

Jack smiled and went to the bar for another round. On his return Pete warmed to his subject.

“You see, in the fells it was a sport for the working man,” he said, “there was little money, times were hard and the hunt did a service to the local farmers. For many it was a break from a pretty miserable life.” Jack and I looked at each other; in all the years we had known him we had never heard him like this.

“With the mounted packs in the main it was different,” continued Pete, “a majority wanted to follow hounds in order to ride across country, no other reason. You could have put the hounds on quad bikes, it would have made no difference, they would not have noticed.” Another long pull on his pint and Pete continued, “Trouble is the two got lumped in together and together we went down.”

“So where do we go from here then?” I asked, “Cameroon has promised a free vote in time.” Pete looked at me.

“Bloody waste of time,“ he said, "the country is against it and every time those pillocks on Autumn Watch or Countryfile give a name to some mange-ridden fox it hammers another nail in our coffin." He wandered off to the bar and returned with three glasses of whisky, he gave us one each and began to sing...

“I’ll give you a toast lads to all the fell packs,
To masters, huntsman and whips of all macks,
You can keep your athletics and games of all sorts,
Hunting is surely the greatest of sports.”

His voice carried across the fell to a wandering fox; it paused for a moment, cocked its leg and trotted away.

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