Boris Johnson said he ‘loved’ fox hunting in a ‘semi-sexual’ way and encouraged illegal hunts to ignore ban

Article written while prime minister was a Tory MP describes ban on killings as ‘brutal and pointless’

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Saturday 18 July 2020 14:51
Boris Johnson said he 'loved' fox hunting in a 'semi-sexual' way and encouraged illegal hunts to ignore ban

Boris Johnson urged fox hunters to break the law and keep killing animals despite the practice being banned, in an article written while he was a Conservative MP.

In the 2005 piece, Mr Johnson said he “loved” hunting with dogs, in part because of the “semi-sexual relation with the horse” and the “military-style pleasure” of moving as a unit.

The future prime minister argued that the imposition of the ban was “not about cruelty” but “a Marxian attack” by the Labour government on the upper class.

“It is a brutal and pointless liquidation of a way of life. They ban it just because they can; and the people I really despair of are those idiots who say that they ‘don’t care much one way or another’,” he wrote in a piece for the Spectator magazine, which he edited at the time.

“About five or six years ago I went to see Blair, and asked him why he was banning hunting. ‘Oh, I’m not one of those who would go hunting on a Saturday, nor would I go out protesting,’ he said. Is it not therefore doubly revolting that he has imposed this tyrannical measure, and voted for it himself?”

Arguing that hunters should break the law to continue the killings, Mr Johnson said it was unlikely that the ban would be properly enforced.

“I loved my day with the hunt, and hope they have the courage and organisation to keep going for ever,” he said.

“They are going out with the hounds this Saturday, and if the hounds pick up a fox, so be it. How will the poor cops prove mens rea?

“And will they not have to produce a fox in evidence? I hope that the hunt holds up the ban to the ridicule it deserves, that they defy the police and the magistrates and the government, until a new government can rescue an old tradition and restore it for the sake of freedom and freedom alone.”

The Conservative manifesto at the 2019 general election did not include plans for a vote on repealing the Hunting Act, after the party identified the policy as unpopular with voters at the previous election.

Hunts, however, continue despite the ban, with many events claiming to be “trail hunts” that do not chase live animals. However, the League Against Cruel Sports says it receives hundreds of reports every year of these gatherings chasing live animals, as well as trespassing on private property, roads and railway lines and worrying livestock.

A huntsman on a fox hunt in Higham, Suffolk, in 2001 (AFP/Getty)

The league argues that if live animals were not being chased then trail hunts would stick to their designated trails and not find themselves running amok.

Public opinion is strongly against fox hunting, with an Ipsos MORI poll in 2017 showing 85 per cent of respondents support keeping a ban on the sport.

Mr Johnson’s article describes a day spent hunting. He says: “It is like skiing, in that you are personally tracing, at speed, the contour of the landscape, and then there is the added interest of the weird semi-sexual relation with the horse, in which you have the illusion of understanding and control. There is the military-style pleasure of wheeling and charging as one, the emulative fun of a pseudo-campaign.”

Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party told The Independent: “Boris Johnson’s article highlights his dubious enthusiasm for fox hunting and does nothing to address the underlying reasons why the Hunting Act was introduced.

“Hunting is animal cruelty, and should be consigned to the dust bins of history. As he reflects, fox hunting at its heart isn’t about horse riding or being outdoors, it is ultimately about the chasing and death of a fox.

“He also reflects on other cruel ways that animals die. If Boris Johnson wants to genuinely consider the welfare of animals then I suggest he ends the badger cull, grouse shooting, and end the use of snares.”

Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “How times have changed. Where once Boris Johnson wanted to overturn the law, in the last election he ​caught up with public opinion and promised not to change it. Where once the country’s opinion was divided about hunting, now polling shows more than eight out of 10 people are happy it’s been outlawed.

“While it’s easy to see how outdated pro hunt views have become, the rest of the hunting community seem to be slow to cotton on. Politicians should help them by reflecting public opinion and strengthening the hunting act, including implementing stiffer punishments for those caught harming animals for ‘sport’.”

The Conservative Party did not respond to a request for comment.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments