Town and Country

Town and Country

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I write this as a countryman but I have a passion for London and usually come up at least once a week to meet friends and see my sons. I lived in Chelsea for twenty years but I have been explicitly told not to write about this as the subject of sex is forbidden (do I hear sighs from my readers?) and there was a blissful amount of that during the 60’s and 70’s.

What mostly offends the town about the country are the sports of hunting and shooting and thus I am sure you may be surprised to hear that, as a countryman, they offend me too. The so called sport of commercial shooting is to me revolting as are the people, mostly townies, who take part. I can describe the men who participate perfectly: They dress up for the occasion as Edwardian squires, are something in the City and kill things at weekends. They know little, if anything about the countryside.With shame I admit that I was once hosting one of these days. My only excuse is that I needed the money. It was a mixed partridge shoot with about 90% French partridges and 10% English.

In order to try and ensure that the participants didn’t shoot each other, I stood behind the gun in the middle of the line. He duly killed about six birds. My labrador and  I picked them up for him and I laid them on the ground for him to see. “Oh good,” he announced, “They’re all cocks.” “How do you know? “I enquired. “Do you mean to say that you don’t know the difference between a cock and a hen partridge?” He asked arrogantly. ”Just you wait here and I’ll show you what a hen looks like.” He proudly returned with an English partridge. “There you are,” he said, “that’s a hen.”

During the season the commercial shoots are run six days a week with an average bag of 500-600 birds per day. Because of the incompetence of the guns there are, pathetically, large numbers of wounded who, despite the pickers-up, are not collected and are left to die a painful death. The rearing of these birds does the countryside no good either as the huge amounts of droppings poisons the ground and makes it sterile. This is not shooting as I have always known it, where a group of friends spend a joyous day together dispatching a few pheasants or partridges and, if a bird is wounded, do anything in their power to find it. This is a despicable occupation and has little to do with the countryside or countrymen.

Hunting is, of course the main object of revulsion of the town and yet it is far less cruel than shooting. There is no wounding and the fox is despatched quickly and cleanly. It has never ceased to amaze me that the League Against Cruel Sports, the RSPCA and various other organisations, whose aim is to stop country sports, do not attack shooting far more than hunting. I am not a huntsman but I admit to looking very good on a horse provided it doesn’t move. If it so much as stamps its foot I am found in a state of total terror clinging around its neck.

Since it was made illegal in 2015 it has attracted large numbers of participants and there are nowadays far more people hunting than there were before the ban. To overturn the ban would be madness as it would offend swathes of the population and achieve nothing. The hunting with dogs act is a most classic piece of British compromise. Two dogs are allowed to flush the fox which then can be killed by a bird. Thus, nowadays, many hunts carry a peregrine falcon or an eagle to kill the fox which, if you believe to be true, I am sure that you would also be found putting out food for the Loch Ness Monster. It is an extraordinary fact that, when a fox has been killed, it is often found with the teeth marks of an eagle, having been ripped apart by the talons of a peregrine falcon.

I would not dream of commenting on a hedge fund or the stock market and therefore, unless the townsman really knows about the countryside, he should leave well alone.

By Michael Daunt

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