Anyone who has saddled a horse heady with anticipation on a keen January morning, watched the hounds ecstatic at the meet, nipped the hip-flask and followed the riders galloping unfettered through the finest countryside in costumes fit for a Gainsborough, will testify that hunting is the excuse for one of the best parties they will ever go to.
For fear of playing into the hands of the antis, the pro-hunting lobby goes out of its way to stress the 'acceptable' aspects of the sport - conservation of landscape, necessary culling, support of rural industry - but heaven forbid that they actually say they enjoy it. In like manner, the antis emphasise their compassion for the fox and other ways of controlling their population, and steadfastly avoid stating the obvious - that what really upsets them is that the hunters actually appear to love the chase.
If it is accepted by both sides that it is necessary to cull foxes, and arguable that hunting is equally, if not more effective and 'humane' a method for achieving that end than shooting, gassing and poisoning, then the fundamental issue can be seen to be a philosophical one; should a human being be allowed to enjoy participating in an activity which usually leads to the killing of a fellow creature?
And if the answer is no, then where does that leave the meat-eaters at Anna Pavord's lunch party?
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