It says a lot about the priorities of our Tory overlords that one of the first votes in the Commons is to be a vote to legalise the barbaric cruelty of tearing apart creatures they don’t control with creatures that they do control, taking blood stained pleasure from pain, and garlanding themselves in the entrails of entitlement. It’s not just the intrinsic repulsion that anyone with a basic capacity for empathy feels towards the braying proponents of ritualised cruelty to animals, fox hunting is a metaphor for the Conservatives’ view of the lower orders. Davie Cameron’s government seeks to unleash the dogs of woe on all of us, and that has a lot to do with why fox hunting excites such strong passions. We are all foxes now.
Over the past few days there’s been a lot of will they won’t they about whether the SNP will oppose the Tories’ attempts to reintroduce fox hunting in England. It’s the classic example of an England only issue, and was even cited as such by Nicola Sturgeon during the election campaign when she was explaining why the SNP would vote against privatisation in the English NHS. Currently the SNP is the only party which is taking a party line on the issue of fox hunting. All the other parties treat it as a personal vote, and allow individual MPs to vote according to the dictates of their own consciences. The SNP should do exactly the same.
A majority Tory government puts far bigger issues at stake than the rights of foxes, like for example the rights of human beings, the assault that is about to begin on the poor, the disabled, and the disadvantaged. But fox hunting is the traditional pursuit of the British upper classes and their implacable belief that they are born to rule, that they have the right to ride roughshod over anything and anyone which gets in their way. Fox hunting symbolises all of that, and that is what makes it such a powerfully emotive issue.
Standing up for foxes means standing up against the right of the Tories to ride roughshod over humans too. Good politics means recognising the power of symbolism. The SNP stands for an alternative to austerity, for opposition to Trident, for a new way of doing things. Opposing fox hunting is a symbol for that. It means standing up for the powerless against the powerful. Opposing fox hunting sends a message to the left in England that Scotland hasn’t abandoned them, that we’re not just looking out for ourselves. That we care. It’s the symbolism of solidarity with a small ginger canine.
It doesn’t matter that ripping apart foxes with the teeth and claws of dogs is a hoary old British tradition. It’s torture, and torture is not culture. There are no great constitutional issues at stake here, although the Tories and their allies will try to pretend otherwise. What passes for a British constitution is a set of practices and precedent which the ruling classes make up as they go along in order to advantage themselves. Scotland’s representatives in the House of Horrors should do exactly the same for Scotland’s advantage. And defending the rights of foxes in England does bring advantage to Scotland – because it makes us friends and allies on the English left.
Nicola Sturgeon said during the election campaign that Scotland would work to bring progressive politics to the entire United Kingdom. This is a cost free way of achieving that, a small sign that Scotland will make its mark. We’re all in this Union together, and it does Scotland no favours to be in a Union with a country whose legislators don’t understand the difference between torture and culture. As long as we are in this Union, as long as Scots travel the world and are confused with “the English” because the rest of the world doesn’t appreciate the difference between England and the UK, then Scotland has a moral duty to prevent the Conservatives from making England a laughing stock and an affrontment in the eyes of the world.
The SNP have yet to make a decision on how their 56 MPs will vote on the matter, but it won’t be long before Cameron introduces his bill to prevent Scottish MPs from voting on English only issues. He’s already announced his intentions to introduce legislation soon, so what does Scotland stand to lose by taking a moral stance on fox hunting while Scottish MPs still can? If the SNP abstains, the chances are that the barbaric practice will be legalised. However if they vote against there are enough Tory rebels to give the foxes a running chance of escape.
If the SNP were to vote against the legalisation of tearing living feeling creatures limb from limb with a pack of dogs, Fleet Street would scream in unison that the party was interfering in English affairs, like it was a bad thing to be opposed bone crushing bloody pain and gratuitous cruelty to animals. Daily Mail editorial writers would have apoplexy, although to be honest that’s normal for them, the Torygraph would thunder its disapproval, the Times would tut furiously, and the Guardian would be crushed between the weight of their last remaining liberal sentiments and their instinctive hatred for the SNP.
Scottish voters would look on the ensuing collective harrumphment of outraged outdated unionism and say, “Ha ha. Good!” Ensuring that fox hunting stays banned, upsetting the Tories, and pissing off the UK media all in one move, that’s a result. That’s a good day at the office that is. They have their blood sports, and we have ours. Ours are a lot more fun, and don’t involve ripping living creatures apart – except metaphorically. Making the Tories angry and upset is, in part, what we elected all those SNP MPs for. The 56 are not there to make life easy for the defenders of barbaric traditions and the UK’s OK yahs of privilege. So let’s make things uncomfortable for them. I want to see Jacob Rees Mogg cry. Let’s unleash the Scottish dogs of woe on him and the other upper class proponents of pain and privilege.
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