Wednesday, August 1, 2007

'The Right To Hunt Landowners'

From an undated 1990s issue of the Socialist Standard (and also used as a text for a leaflet for a Countryside Alliance march)

The good old English sport of sending hungry hunting hounds to chase aristocrats through the woods, catch them and rip them to pieces, has been slow to take off as a popular pastime. Despite claims that these predatory parasites are a foul rural presence, serving only to infect the countryside with their conceited greed and indolence, it has been hard to find dogs with sufficient brutality to enjoy the so-called sport. Those who favour such hunts claim that it is nothing more than a healthy rural tradition, misunderstood by town dwellers, and that ripping duchesses and viscounts to shreds is the most human way to rid nature of those who have only survived historically by plundering and murdering others. The Royal Society for the Protection of Useless Aristocrats has been long split on the issue, with one section accepting that such blood sport is "just a bit of harmless fun", while others prefer the idea of culling – or permanent quarantine in the House of Lords.

This laboured account would be funnier were it not for the harsh reality that rich, privileged, barbaric bullies, most of whom are brutalised at birth by hereditary right and public-school conditioning, do indeed defend their right to chase around the countryside with packs of hounds in order to savage and tear apart defenceless animals. Their callous defence is mounted in the name of sport. And because it is traditional for these parasitical killers to dress up in the costumes of their class and indulge their pleasure in watching deer, foxes and other animals being ripped apart, they respond with well-rehearsed cries of arrogant immunity to human behaviour when their ritualised sadism is opposed.

These depraved beings, who rejoice in their right to inflict pain on animals, are in the same class and historic tradition as those who proclaim the inviolable right to cast the peasant off their land and into destitution and starvation. The same haters of freedom who smashed down the communal utopia of the Diggers when those early communists sought to hold the land in common as a store of wealth for all; the same bullies who until a century ago enjoyed the propertied right to flog peasants and rape their daughters, and still today treat those who work on the land as if they are indebted to the landowners who steal the fruits of their labour. Looking at this savage minority of ruthless parasites, bleating their message of outrage against those reformists (destined to parliamentary defeat) who dare question their freedom to kill for pleasure, it is hard not to wish on them the fate of a frightened cornered fox, surrounded by a pack of dogs trained for the kill.

That, however, is not the socialist way. Why should we lower ourselves to their brutal customs? As Shelley reminded us: "We are many, they are few." They are not worth the bullets which it would take to shoot them. Nor are they important enough to lead us from our hostility to the cause of violence, however guilty the victim has been conditioned to become. No the aristocrats need not fear our blood sports; the victory of our consciousness of human solidarity over theirs of class oppression will be reward enough for us.

But look what these parasites are doing to the land. They spray it with chemical pesticides, killing off whole species of birds, butterflies and plant life in their quest for profits. They have fed cattle upon cheap and lousy diets, creating the BSE crisis and whole varieties of food adulteration which makes us and our children all the potential victims of their profit-lust. They have dumped millions of tons of soil into the rivers which pollute the water which we are charged to drink. They have pursued, in the name of efficient "factory farming", the most obscene practices of cruelty to animals which are tortured for the sake of making a few more pounds for their avaricious owners. They have contracted out farm management to City firms which seek to push down agricultural wages, casualised skilled farm work, thrown wage-slave-farm-workers onto the scrap-heap of the unemployed, and destroyed whole rural areas in the name of agribusiness.

The landowners, who protest for their freedom to enjoy themselves in exhibitions of collective brutality, remain free to rape and vandalise the countryside. As Graham Harvey observed in his book The Killing of the Countryside, "they [the landowners] favour a countryside devoted entirely to industrial-scale food production, with the products traded on world commodity markets in exactly the same way as coffee and copper…Since this 'progressive' view of farming is supported by big business and the City, it is the one most likely to prevail. If so, the current losses of birds and flowers from our landscape will turn out to be merely the first casualties in a long process of attrition."

The beneficiaries of this rural plunder are the very few. One percent of the population owns half the land in Britain and two percent owns three-quarters of it. A mere 600 landowners own half the land in Scotland. These capitalist-farmers are subsidised by huge grants to support their manipulation of the market. They receive millions of pounds and euros in return for taking land out of cultivation so as to keep profits up. Their protest for the right to hunt and murder animals for fun is no more worthy of support than a campaign to reintroduce slavery or to bring back the deportation of criminals. What is a worthy campaign is the one to rid the world of the parasites we have described above and their counterparts the world over, who will stop at nothing to make a profit, whether through our toil and sweat or the plunder of the natural environment. This same campaign envisages the workers of the world uniting to take control of the planet on behalf of its rightful owners, to free production from the artificial constraints of profit and to establish a global system of society in which each person has free access to the benefits of production. If you agree with us, even only slightly, then please get in touch.
Steve Coleman