Christmas fox hunts reduced to pantomime.

It is now 17-years since fox hunts were banned, but thanks to what seem purposely included loopholes in the law and the impossibility of enforcing it, illegal hunting continues.

It is now 17-years since fox hunts were banned, but thanks to loopholes in the law and the impracticability of enforcing it, illegal hunting continues under the guise of exercising the hounds and drag hunts.

As entertainment, city and rural folk alike still love the theatre, tradition and fun of watching the hunt congregate and set off and will turn out in their thousands for the Boxing Day and New Year hunts little caring what happens afterwards. In areas that host a hunt it is all Tally Ho, port and mulled wine and of course children just love to mingle with the hounds.

Fox hunts Hound pack

Fox hunts have become pantomime.

There will be cheers and clapping from supporters and jeers and boos from a handful of valiant protestors to give the event some element of spice and a few police officers to keep things orderly.  Sadly the Yuletide hunts have become pantomimes for families looking to get some fresh air after the big day. Everyone will have a good time and the reason for any commotion caused by demonstrators will no doubt pass them by.

Violence is still common between the opposing sides and this state of affairs has perpetuated for nearly two decades and will continue probably for several more until the hunts fulfil their aim of overturning the ban. The more we attend these pantomimes without thought to what they represent the more credence we give to this aim. It gives them the opportunity to point out how much the public love them.

It does appear that the general public are not sufficiently aware of what constitutes a legal or illegal meet or even care. They may also be getting weary of the subject and have come to accept that hunting with dogs whether legal or not is here to stay. They obviously put their trust in the pillars of society who they see before them on horseback dressed in their liveried smart red, blue, yellow or black jackets to do the right thing. But as a recent event has shown this trust is unworthy.

Illegality encouraged by a hunt governing body.

There is no doubt that illegal fox hunting is common and that this trust we appear to have is undeserving, a fact well illustrated by the recent prosecution and guilty verdict of Mark Hankinson, the Director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association on the 15 October 2021. He was found guilty of encouraging illicit meets by holding secret webinars explaining to hunt bosses the best ways to disguise their drag hunts and was fined £1000 with costs of £2500. The judges summing up was quite condemning:

I am sure that the Defendant through his words was giving advice on how to illegally hunt. This was through the pretence of laying trails which it could be said the hounds were following. As he himself said, he was speaking to ‘like-minded people’ and could therefore speak freely. He did not expect his words to be recorded and released into the public domain.  It was clearly advice and encouragement to commit the offence of hunting a wild mammal with a dog. I am sure he intended to encourage the commission of that offence. I find the Defendant guilty of the offence before me.

Regina v Mark Hankinson

This even prompted the National Trust, a bastion of history and rural tradition to vote two to one to ban drag hunting on their land as many other landowners are doing.

Fox hunts Policing a fox trail hunt.

Class war obsession with fox hunts.

There has always been the accusation from hunt supporters that the ban was an attack on rural traditions and was part of a “class war obsession“, but fox hunting with hounds cannot be considered as an inclusive sport by any means.

There is a rather pompous etiquette associated with the sport which both human and equine participants must adhere to and a hierarchy amongst the inner sanctum. You need a sturdy bank balance just to kit yourself out without taking into consideration the cost of owning and caring for a horse. This discounts most normal hardworking people (as Governments like to call us) from being able to partake.

Worst gaffe is to refer to the hounds as dogs.

Among many other things the etiquette stresses that smartness is essential with a tweed, black or navy jacket worn over a shirt with a knotted tie, pale breeches, clean boots and gaiters, and dark gloves and hats. If a body protector is worn it must be under the jacket so as not to spoil the ensemble. For the “girls”, hairnets are allowed but only subtle make-up.

For some strange reason a horse’s mane must be plaited “as a courtesy to those whose land you are crossing,” otherwise you might be sent home like a naughty schoolchild. And most importantly you must smile and politely pass the time of day with the farmer or landowner whose land you are trashing should you come across him or her leaning on a gate.

Among the worst gaffes you can make is to refer to the hounds as dogs, is to overtake the master during the hunt and most importantly after the hunt has ended not to say thank you and goodnight (“which is the traditional way to say goodbye even if it is 9 a.m.”) to the master and secretary.

With all this in mind it is difficult not to label the blood sport as a class and well-heeled person’s pastime, but easy to believe that the present status of fox hunting can only be described as a charade.

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Pet humanisation, the pet trade and fam-jams.

The trend of pet humanisation is making billions for the pet trade and other retailers as they manipulate gullible pet owners to buy unnecessary items like pet pyjamas.

Trends and fads concerning pets come and go, as and when we get bored with them. The most recent fad to pique our interest this Christmas is to dress the whole family including the family pets in matching pyjamas or loungewear. Why? Who knows, but the worldwide pet industry particularly China, the USA and UK is making billions because of pet humanisation.

Not a year goes by without our poor pets being burdened with a new fad created to satisfy our misplaced force majeure or compulsion to demonstrate our love for them. Dogs, our supposedly bested friends that we love so much, tend to endure most of this selfish desire on our part.

Most are fuelled by social media and patronised sadly by our celebrity role models. This idea stemmed from last Christmas when family sets of PJs were on offer, and it did not take long for marketing brains to come up with the idea of including our other family members.

Retailers quick to cash in on our eccentricities.

UK Retailers like Next, Gap, Primark and Pets at Home have all jumped in providing matching festive family PJs sets for animals referred to as ‘Fam Jams’. With the help of Instagram they will no doubt become a short-lived hit. And as with all these types of fads, animal welfare and rights campaigners are outraged. But their protests are always ignored as they are viewed as spoil sports with no sense of humour as its only a bit of fun – isn’t it?

Unfortunately, most of these fads sadly tend to belittle our pets in some way and are done purely for our amusement by supposedly making them look cuter, rather than bringing any benefit to the animals.

Retailers and pet accessory industry have always been adept and quick to cash in on our love for our pets particularly our beloved dogs. Over the years they have invested in market analysts, designers, psychologists and behaviourists to guide them on the best course of action to provide for our whims.

A few years ago they were quick to notice an emerging trend of pet owners who wanted to treat their pets as equal members of the family, little people or surrogate babies and give them similar diets, presents and lifestyles.

Pet Humanisation – an awesome opportunity.

The pet trade soon dubbed this trend “pet humanisation” which they define as:

“Pet humanisation is a natural expression of the “pets as family” trend, whereby pet owners treat their pets like children and are highly receptive to products similar to the ones they use for themselves.”

Petprofessional.com.au

And encourage ‘pet-preneurs‘ to cash in as the:

fur baby phenomenon is providing an awesome opportunity for those ‘pet-preneurs’ willing to take a risk on a new pet product idea.

And so the trade is gleefully obliging us by  producing birthday and Christmas presents, designer outfits, automated food dispensers, mouthwash and even electric toothbrushes and companies can even arrange glittering parties.

Dog, pet humanisation,designer clothes, dressing up animals, animal ethics

Pet humanisation is now the main driving force of pet trade profits.

It is now the main market driver bringing them great riches and is yet another reason the industry is one of the few that avoids all the slowdowns in the world economy and continues to increase its sales and profit margins year after year. Investors rush to get into the market because they know that pet owners are extremely eccentric in their behaviour and easy to manipulate to quickly part with money on fads and crazes.

Behind the scenes they are no doubt having a good laugh as they take all this money out of the pockets of gullible pet owners with perhaps too much love for their animals. It seems sad that we insist on falling for this retail manipulation when it does not benefit our animals in any way.

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