Someone remarked to me that ‘The Church of England has as much to do with God as fox hunting has to do with the control of the fox population!’ It is a comparison worthy of some thought. Last Boxing Day was reported as the last time for the traditional Christmastide meets. Since then the practice of hunting with hounds has been outlawed, and yet hunts throughout the country confidently predict that there will be more people hunting this year than last. What has happened?
It would seem that the crusade to outlaw hunting has only succeeded in hastening the development of other kinds of hunting. True, a few less foxes will be killed by hunts, but nevertheless the hunt continues to operate, horses follow hounds even if the hounds do not always follow foxes. All this no doubt will be tested in the courts, but it does appear that the long and passionate debate, which ended in legislation being forced through by the Parliament Act, has failed in its objective.
As someone who has never sat on a horse, I have no brief to defend hunting, but I am aware of the complexities involved in the debate and I would defend a right to hunt. My interest in the present hunting predicament relates to the parallels I see with the current debate on the issue of women bishops in the Church of England.
This too is a passionate debate of great complexity. The majority in the legislature (General Synod) are in favour of reform, and there is a vociferous minority looking for an all-out ban on the opposition. The majority, it would appear, in their burgeoning sense of being morally right, are not much interested in what their opponents might think, or the consequences of the proposed legislation. As in the case of hunting, there is to be no compensation – the victims will have to suffer the temporary consequences of social change. It all looks to be the familiar kind of fascism-by-democracy.
The evidence for this judgement has been the total disregard for considered and weighty reports. In the case of fox hunting, the recommendations of a Parliamentary Commission were overlooked in the search for a politically acceptable final solution. In the case of women bishops, the Rochester Report and Consecrated Women? have not been given even a cursory once-over by General Synod – the chorus of ‘rights’ and ‘justice’ have driven out reason. As is the case with fox hunting, the result is almost predictable. The majority will have its way, paying lip service to the needs of the minority, and a great celebration will ensue.
We shall continue as before
Despite the legislation and the failure of two legal challenges, the hunters vow to continue hunting, and they will. They hope for the day when what they see as ignorant injustice is overturned. The majority failed to grasp the essential point of their opponents. Hunting is not just any leisure activity – it is not bridge or golf. Hunting is part of the warp and weft of rural society and economy; furthermore, it is a deeply rooted tradition, and the huntsman cannot betray his forefathers nor sell the birthright of his children and grandchildren. Furthermore, it is deeply rooted in the human psyche – deplorable though it may seem to the liberal urban mind.
This brings me back to the kill. If the majority in General Synod think that they can outlaw orthodox practice and belief in the Church of England, they had better think again. There are thousands of us who will keep worshipping and witnessing, there will be men ordained to Holy Order, and the next generation will be nurtured in the tradition. For like the hunts, we will push and prod at every legal loophole, and bring every energy to bear to mock any law that would seek to constrain the Truth and the Englishman’s right to live in it.