False trails laid as hierarchy rallies to a cause

As racing's top administrators line up with the hunting lobby, Greg Wood questions the connection with field sports

There is a fundamental truth about fox hunting which its supporters are desperate to obscure. Strip away all the blather about tradition and pest control, ignorant townsfolk and respect for their quarry, and there it is: people go fox-hunting for the simple reason that it gives them great pleasure to pursue a wild animal to its death. Admit this fact, however, and their argument is lost, since hunting is exposed as just another relic of more brutal times, which has as much place in the modern world as cock-fighting or badger-baiting.

As a result, the hunters take refuge behind whatever scraps of cover they can find, and it is for this reason that the growing debate over Michael Foster's Wild Mammals (Hunting With Dogs) Bill should be of interest to anyone who follows racing. As ever when the subject is discussed, the hunting lobby is trying to embroil racing in its argument, claiming that a ban on one would be to the detriment of the other. What is particularly disturbing this time around, though, is that the sport's most senior administrators appear to have swallowed it.

Lord Wakeham, the chairman of the British Horseracing Board, and Tristram Ricketts, its chief executive, will both attend the "Countryside Rally" in Hyde Park on Thursday, part of the concerted campaign being mounted by the hunters now that it seems likely that Parliament will finally put an end to their "sport". Of Wakeham, the Rent-A-Nob who manages to find time for numerous directorships in addition to his duties at the BHB, we can perhaps expect nothing more, but Ricketts, an intelligent man who is employed to act in the industry's best interests, really should know better.

For there is not a shred of worthwhile evidence to suggest that the abolition of fox- hunting would have the slightest effect on racing. True, we might see the back of hunter chases, but for this many punters, notably any who have ever seen a Placepot doomed by a sack-of-potatoes amateur rider, would be thoroughly grateful, while there should still be sufficient drag hunts to continue the tradition if anyone is really bothered.

There are claims too that point-to-pointing, which is run principally to raise money for hunts, would all but disappear, yet the passage of Foster's Bill could instead be a new beginning. Just as steeplechasing has grown far beyond its origins in the hunting field, so too could pointing become a pursuit in its own right, not least once the financial drain of the hunts is removed. Amateurs will surely still want to ride and race, while the knowledge that their entrance money will not be used to support the hounds could attract more spectators to watch them.

The idea that top-class chasers will no longer progress to racing under Rules via hunting and pointing is equally ridiculous, since common sense and basic economics suggest otherwise. Quite simply, a talented racehorse is too valuable to be left munching grass in a field, and one way or another, those with real talent will always find their way to the top tracks. Market forces demand it.

If hunting were to be criminalised this evening, racing would carry on tomorrow afternoon just as it always has. Yet Ricketts and Wakeham are apparently content to allow the hunters to use racing as a shield, to soak up some of the punishment on their behalf. They should perhaps take a moment to study their job descriptions before leaving for Hyde Park on Thursday, and consider whether it is in the interests of the business which employs them to associate themselves, publicly and officially, with an activity which a large majority of the British population regards with disgust.

Hunting no longer offers any benefits to racing, and racing owes it no debt. It is now time for the hunting fraternity to leave us alone and fight what is left of the argument on its own dubious merits. Nor is it too late for Lord Wakeham and Tristram Ricketts to check their diaries and decide that when it comes to the unfortunate clash between Thursday's rally in Hyde Park and the July Cup the same afternoon, the sprinters at Newmarket should have the first call on their time.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent