This is NOT the official weblog of Mark Thomas; this is a place to post his articles and news to bring them to a wider audience. This blog is in no way endorsed by the activist/comedian Mark Thomas. Most of the posts appeared on - hopefully they won't object to them being republished here.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Warning the toffs that polo is next

After much reading and thought on the matter, and having examined the merits of all sides of the argument, I am inclined to support the banning of hunting foxes with hounds, primarily because I can think of no other action that could spur the railing hoorays and their trusty retainers to such vein-bursting apoplexy as we witnessed in Parliament Square.

This is not only morally right but hugely entertaining as well. To all of those who cry: "You just want to spoil the aristocracy's pleasure!" you are absolutely right. In fact, once we've banned fox-hunting, we're coming for polo. And once polo is gone we'll ban Glyndebourne. Then point to point, fencing and maybe the Cresta Run.

Fox-hunting has always been the activity of the upper class and their emulators. It is absurd to argue, as they do, that because people are employed in the stables and kennels, fox-hunting is open to the working classes. It is like saying the Ritz hotel is egalitarian because it employs toilet cleaners.

Fox-hunting is a truly upper-class activity and the only way to get the toffs to abandon it for ever would be if thousands of working people from south London council estates turned up on horseback to the Horsham Hunt to join in. If hunting were swamped with horse-riding blokes in tracksuit bottoms, smoking Superkings and shouting: "Come on, let's twat the furry fucker!" the upper classes would flee in disdain.

All their talk of protecting the fabric of the countryside is nothing but pro-hunting PR. If they care about rural issues, where are the demonstrations about rural poverty? Surely, Whitehall should be full of bugle-blowing oiks demanding fair wages for migrant labourers and greater controls on gangmasters. The Duke of Devonshire should be hanging off the railings at Downing Street and screaming: "An injury to one is an injury to all!" - or at least his manservant should be.

The British countryside is awash with second homes, purchased by bankers and brokers eager to ape the gentry, picking up the battle-cry that "townies don't understand the ways of the countryside". In many ways they are right: most city-dwellers see no attraction in killing small animals for pleasure and are content to mate with people outside their immediate family. However, the irony of these second-home-owning arrivistes championing the cause of "the countryside" is that it is their eager purchases which have driven up property prices to the extent that many less well-paid country-dwellers can't afford to live where they were born. But these concerns are not worthy of a demonstration or action.

The countryside has been poisoned with subsidised pesticides and herbicides and turned into a monoculture of corporate production, while the culprits claim they are the guardians of rural Britain. The remainder of our green and pleasant land is the plaything of the landed upper class. The ban on hunting foxes is a result of their quest for exclusivity, coupled with the hunt's cruelty disguised as quaint tradition.

What was noticeable about the demonstration in Parliament Square was not the police brutality, but the authorities' continued deference to their "betters". Had an animal rights demo tried to break into parliament, then thrown thunderflashes and smoke bombs at the police or fired shotgun cartridges into the air (admittedly with no pellets in them), the press and the police would have had a field day.

Were the police to treat the hunters as they treat animal rights folk or the Muslim community, they would be stopping and searching toffs under the

anti-terror laws. Newscasters would look stern as they read out: "Earlier today police made a series of dawn raids on the offices of the Countryside Alliance, confiscating a number of computers, files, back editions of Country Life and other extremist literature", before cutting to a police officer intoning: "No one has been charged at this stage, though we are investigating links with a substantial amount of tweed that was found on the premises."

Yet all this would be too much to hope for in our class-ridden land, where the Daily Mail and the Express would happily see a return to the doffing of caps, transportation for poachers and the right of the lord of the manor to claim local virgins. Hunters might drape their cause in the language of civil liberties, but they are on the wrong side for that argument to be taken seriously: they are the elite, not the downtrodden. They are as far removed from the suffragettes or Martin Luther King as it is possible to be.

As for using direct action for their "cause", five hoorays who happen to be mates with royalty entering the House of Commons chamber to shout simply can't compete with the audacious finesse of an abseiling lesbian.


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