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Huntin’ and shootin’… just why is Tom McGurk so worked up about the Green Party? December 30, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Environment, Environmentalism, Green Party.
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An entertaining (albeit for the wrong reasons) article by the usually somewhat better Tom McGurk in todays Sunday Business Post. Tom has taken it upon himself to worry about:

[a] political cult, a complex 21stcentury miasma of world-enders, global warmers, suburban hysterics and political correctors; they are the new puritans come among us to spread the new materialist guilt. Daily they pronounce on all the new sins, from big petrol-guzzling engines to hunted foxes, one-off houses and the carbon costs of a family holiday in Torremolinos.

Why yes, that’d be the Green Party then.

Under the title “Greens must not be allowed to sabotage our ancient rituals” his ire is raised by;

[the] increasing concern in rural Ireland about the Green agenda in government, particularly among the equestrian and country sports communities.

Early this month, two well-attended public meetings at Slane in Co Meath and at Gowran Park in Co Kilkenny demonstrated the growing unease about the Greens in government and their attitude to hunting and other rural sports.

The Ward Union Hunt in Meath was the first to feel the displeasure of environment minister John Gormley, who delayed for months before finally granting the hunt its licence. In the event, Kafka ruled – conditions attached to the licence were such that to attempt to hunt and obey them was going to be farcical.

The true horror of this situation only brought home to him”

not only by Gormley’s attitude – to a hunt that is over a century old and unique in Ireland, if not the world – but also by the sneering cynicism with which he acted. But then, as someone remarked, Meath’s Ward Union was easier to kick around than Meath’s new highway through Tara.

In rural Ireland, many feel that the Ward Union battle marks the beginning of a campaign by the Green Party and other environmentalist lobbies to put manners on Ireland’s traditional hunting, shooting and fishing community. One Green Party website has been describing all country sports as ‘‘blood sports’’.

Good Lord. A Green Party website ‘describes’ all country sports as ‘blood sports’. Beyond belief isn’t it? So different say to a Sunday newspaper columnist who describes John Gormley as… as… Kafka!

Still, he is right, isn’t he? The ‘ancient ritual’ (Meath Ward Union: estd. 19th century) has been knocked back by the granting of a license.
McGurk further argues that unlike the UK there is no class dimension to hunting. Well, yes and no. Firstly that is to suppose that class issues are unchanging. Sure, no doubt there are many ordinary people who hunt in Ireland… McGurk says:

Hunting in Ireland is enjoyed by the local butcher, baker and farmer; it’s not about killing foxes, but about the enjoyment of horses and the countryside. Given the historic battle for the repossession of the land and our emotional relationship to it, the Greens could be picking a fight with forces they are badly underestimating.

But, so what? The class issue has always been the weakest plank in the argument against hunting. He is on even more contentious territory when he suggests that hunting is part of some integral relationship between us Irish and ‘our’ land. There is a clue in the date of the establishment of the Meath Union. The reality is that land ownership amongst the Irish in a broad sense was a factor of the 19th century (and through into the early 20th century). The sense of alienation was very much a class issue, and one directed against those who had previously expropriated the land. And it is this alienation and consequent identification amongst a broader population, and some aspect of the ethical issue as regards animal rights and welfare, much more than his straw man of:

two and a half thousand suburban votes in Dublin 4 and 6 – thanks to the vagaries of proportional representation – can result in such a threat to the wealth of our rural traditions.

…which leads to a degree of unease about hunting. A rural tradition of hunting on horseback which is a century old is a fairly shallow tradition. I’ve never been overly exercised about hunting, but I have encountered hunts in the countryside (as recently as it happens as last week) and there is something about large groups of people on horseback that raises a, perhaps, atavistic response in me. It’s an obvious response… one borne of the power relationship that humans on horses generate, a relationship not unnoticed by security and police forces the world over.

So, would I ban the hunts? Well, let’s just say that I’m happy enough with the Minister setting conditions. Still, it is later that McGurk’s argument becomes even less coherent.

Where once rural Ireland was seen as the place from which you escaped, there is now a growing sense that the quality of life there far exceeds anything to be found in towns. Communities are stronger, there’s better value in housing, there are superior schools and there is seemingly more space and more time. Perhaps most importantly of all, technology has profoundly reduced the disadvantage of distance to manageable proportions.

I suspect that it is into this new 21st century political territory that the Green campaign against country sports is heading. This is a territory where, as we saw in Britain, prejudice rather than rationality held sway. For example, in a world dependent on factory farming and globalised animal production, the notion that the killing of a small number of wild animals by that minority of the populaton involved in country sports is morally different is simply absurd.

The first paragraph is full of unsustained assertions. Perhaps he’s right to shed a tear for ‘community’, or perhaps not. Others with an equal measure of sentimentality and distance shed a tear for the rare ould times in Dublin’s inner city twenty years back, when said city was plagued by crime deprivation and drug abuse. And no doubt some in twenty years will look back with equal fondness on the present situation urban and rural. But… if – as we see – urban sprawl and a movement of people back to the land through largely unrestricted development, that too generates its own traditions which are at odds with the supposedly ‘ancient’ ones he defends.

The second paragraph contains an odd argument. Purpose is all, or at least it has some traction in this debate. Killing an animal for sport is not the direct equivalent of killing an animal for food. And farming is increasingly regulated to provide for animal welfare. It’s not enough and there are many who find the killing of animals simply abhorrent, but it is a factor. Still, he doesn’t see it that way.

The cruelty argument against hunting has neither a scientific nor a moral basis, given the farming methods by which our species survives. In fact, it is hard to imagine a community whose relationship with animals is closer and more intense than the farming community from which most of the hunting community is drawn.

When prejudice, not to mention hysteria, takes over, and the arrogance that goes with telling other communities – which have spent many generations with animals – how they should treat them, the debate will sink up to its axles in its own pointlessness.

I love this argument. The logical conclusion is that democracy, or indeed potentially any level of animal welfare, should not apply in certain circumstances. But worse again it would sanction any sorts of behaviour simply because it had gone on for generations. Nah, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t believe that.

He concludes with a bizarre point:

Extraordinarily, they (the Greens) are happy to cover the historic landscape of Ireland with enormous windmills, but go berserk at the prospect of someone digging a new septic tank. The now extinct PDs have vacated the moral high ground, only to be replaced by ‘know-all of Sandymount’.

You read it here first – next year all of this will have political ramifications for Fianna Fail and its rural vote if the Greens turn out not to be the house-trained environmentalists that Bertie had anticipated.

Examples perhaps of the supposedly ‘beserk’ behavior? Why none. What is one to make of it? A media keen to find an ‘enemy’ now that the dreaded Shinners have been badly wounded and an election is still 4.5 years away? An excess of Christmas pudding leading to dyspeptic fears for the future?

As it happens I think there are interesting debates to be had as regards the rural and the progressive (including different forms of hunting), and I suspect some may throw up outcomes that are less than congenial to progressive thinking. But… to argue that a rather mild-mannered Green presence in government and response to a hunt is a harbinger of political Apocalpyse and the egregious destruction of all that is rural is no more than hyperbole.

And returning to:

the world-enders, global warmers, suburban hysterics and political correctors

Does one sense that here, as in so many other places in our supposedly ‘liberal’ media, there is a retreat from actual engagement with issues into facile denigration and name calling? Or is it just the rush to make that New Years deadline? Must do better in 2008…

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Comments»

1. Starkadder - December 30, 2007

“Killing an animal for sport is not the direct equivalent of killing an animal for food. And farming is increasingly regulated to provide for animal welfare. It’s not enough and there are many who find the killing of animals simply abhorrent, but it is a factor. Still, he doesn’t see it that way”.

If they aren’t going to eat the foxes, they should leave
them alone.

And why do they call fox-hunting a “sport”? When you see
horse- or dog- racing, you know the losing animals aren’t
going to ripped apart by dogs.

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2. Wayne Smith - December 30, 2007

“Two and a half thousand suburban votes in Dublin 4 and 6 – thanks to the vagaries of proportional representation – can result in such a threat to the wealth of our rural traditions.”

Proportional representation has no vagaries. You get what you vote for. It is first past the post that gives unpredictable results, because of its winner take all nature.

Any voting system can yield a close result. With proportional representation, at least you know the outcome reflects the way people voted.

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3. Leveller on the Liffey - December 30, 2007

Maybe Tom McGurk will also be speaking out for ‘sports’ such as dog fighting and cock fighting, which no doubt have a longer history than fox hunting.

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4. Leveller on the Liffey - December 30, 2007

Almost forgot – maybe Tom McGurk should call for the revival of bear baiting, another traditional ‘sport’ for the butchers, the bakers and the candlestick makers who can’t afford a horse to ride to hounds on.
What fun.
Tally ho!

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5. soubresauts - December 31, 2007

From Tom McGurk, it’s surprising and disappointing. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I’ll put it down to “an excess of Christmas pudding leading to dyspeptic fears for the future.”

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6. WorldbyStorm - December 31, 2007

It is disappointing. And it’s also true that PR is democratic and we have to live with results that upset or annoy one section or another in the society. It’s really easy politics we’re being treated to here…

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7. Barry - December 31, 2007

First of all I think Tom is a grumpy old man… pity really, he is MUCH better than Kenny when the latter takes his LONG summer hols on the radio. He got lathered up when RTE didn’t have the rugby world cup commentary, talking about a second class radio station operating out of an office in baggot street, or something.

As to the substantial point, as a Green member I would subscribe to the view that Gorms hasn’t exactly helped. He has played the political card all along, one of his first outpourings was a thinly veiled ‘I have my head in the trough’ after x years in opposition. He then uses his first speech in the Dail to do a childish yah-booh to FG et al. His only substantial green action was to persuade Cowan to alter the VRT thing, a close call seeing as how a lot of rural FFers drive jeeps. It remains to be seen whether it lasts as long as the next election in its present form. He has made a balls-up of the light bulbs, as has OZ, it needs to be thought through, what do you do for your fridge bulb, for ex?

On the hunting license, a typical piece of political opportunism, or so he thinks. McG could be right, he may well have turned off green supporters, not necessarily party members but sympathisers. I am a member in a rural area and we have some issues with one off housing, nitrate spreading, etc., getting suport. We are seen as middle class do gooders, not serious politically, but there is sympathy – especially for the idea of a clean environment, e.g. rubbish dumping….

IMO Ryan has played his cards much better, more intelligently.

Finally, the question I always have about hunting, etc., is that they say they are getting rid of nuisances, so why not reduce the magpie population??

Bye, Barry

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8. WorldbyStorm - December 31, 2007

Intriguing analysis. McGurk is better than PK and is a more thoughtful individual all round. Interesting that you point to a divergence between Gormley and Ryan. What is significant is whether this is borne of personality, the actuality of the individual Departments or politics itself…

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