Fox hunting is back on the agenda. Don't overreact.
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It is being reported, by The Independent and others, that Theresa May plans to hold a vote on fox hunting when parliament returns after the general election. In fact, the headlines thus far have been slightly misleading. ‘Theresa May plans to bring back fox hunting,’ was the first I saw, though it has since been amended. For what Ms. May has actually said is that she intends to hold a free vote on the issue, but that she would be happy to see the ban repealed. This isn’t quite a ‘plan’ to bring it back, though it will undoubtedly be portrayed as one by supporters of the ban. The Prime Minister was perhaps understating the level of vitriol and hysteria generated by this topic when she said that ‘[t]his is a situation on which individuals will have one view or the other, either pro or against’, but that really is the key quote. For fox hunting – to which I am, for the record, ardently opposed – is one of those subjects guaranteed to provoke long-running and emotional arguments, arguments which will take place in the media, grabbing headlines and important spots in the news agenda. It is, to reuse a particularly fine phrase from Christopher Hitchens, a ‘weapon of mass distraction’. The same was true of gay marriage, which David Cameron put to a vote in 2013, to wide acclaim and much outrage. Now, regardless of what one thinks of the substance of the motion, it cannot fairly be argued that gay marriage, or fox hunting for that matter, is more than a marginal issue. It affects very few people. It is highly unlikely that Cameron cared much about the outcome, just as Blair almost certainly didn’t care about the outcome of the first fox hunting bill.
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