An employee/friend of my mother's is very pro-Countryside Alliance and has been attending most of the organised demos around the country. She took yesterday off to go and make her feelings felt at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton and, only half-joking, told Ma that she would be in to work today provided she hadn't been arrested.
Ma and I got in to a discussion about the pros and cons of banning hunting and the violence that had happened in London last week. Mum's friend was at the demo and she told her that the trouble had been started by some people dressed in 'country type' clothes that were obviously very new. Nobody else on the demo seemed to know who they were and the pro-hunting theory is that they were plants by some organisation that wants the Countryside Alliance to get a bad name. The mainstream Alliance is apparently very, very keen on peaceful protest and social responsibility, even making sure that they take all their litter home with them.
Conspiracy theory? Lies to get the Alliance out of trouble? The truth? Interesting urban myth?
It makes me very angry that for many people, the hunting debate is not really about hunting - it is a facet of a class war that we should have managed to resolve by now.
Many people perceive people who hunt as 'upper class' and 'rich'. This is certainly not the case in Somerset. The member of the Alliance I have been writing about in this post earns approximately £8,000 a year by working for a variety of different employers, doing jobs that many people wouldn't consider - for example, working in a duck unit, gutting ducks. She hunts because she enjoys riding to hounds, not because she enjoys watching animals get killed.
It is unfair and unjust that so much muddled thinking has informed the debate right from the beginning. There are so many other more important subjects to be debating rather than using hunting to revisit stereotypes that are outdated and incorrect.