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November 18, 2008

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Chad Love: Populist Poachers?

For years American hunters have held up Great Britain as an example of what our future might be if hunting traditions continue to die and our political power wanes. I've never really bought into that argument because of fundamental differences in the two nations' hunting traditions and wildlife management models, differences that can be summed up thusly: they have the King's deer, we have the people's deer. Class and title have for centuries shaped the English hunting tradition. And while it makes for a cracking good time if you're part of the landed gentry, it's not such a good way to perpetuate the sport when all those peasants you've been repressing for centuries suddenly have a vote and a grudge. Hunting? That's a cruel, antiquated upper-class tradition. Ban it.

But it seems that hunting is making something of a comeback in Merry Olde England. At least the kind of hunting that not that long ago could get your neck stretched if you were caught doing it.

From the story:

Once, the poacher was a man with big pockets in his raincoat sneaking on to an aristocrat's land to steal game for his family pot. Now he is likely to be part of a gang from town, in it for hard cash, rampaging through the countryside with guns, crossbows or snares.

Police in rural areas across Britain are reporting a dramatic increase in poaching, as the rise in food prices and the reality of recession increases the temptation to deal in stolen venison, salmon, or rarer meat and fish.

Organised and sometimes armed gangs of poachers are accused of behaving dangerously, intimidating residents, causing damage to crops or to gates and fences. Squads have also been out in the countryside "lamping", poachers using lights to transfix animals.

Here's the question that popped into my mind when I read this story: Is a poacher just a damn criminal wherever he happens to be or is there a certain level of poetic justice in the resurgence of poaching in Great Britain, sort of a populist backlash for not democratizing the sport as it was in the United States? Is it worse to steal game that belongs to a person or game that belongs to everyone?  The stark contrast between those models was driven home to me this summer as I walked through the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace during a trip to England. Henry VIII was by all accounts a fanatical hunter, and as I walked through the palace I gazed in awe at the dozens of magnificent stags lining the walls. I thought to myself "I could hang with 'ol Henry, he was my kind of guy." Except of course, that he wasn't. He was part of the nobility, while I and my ancestors have always been thick-ankled dull-witted peasants. And had I been caught hunting one of those stags on the wall I would have been summarily executed.

As romantic and classy as the English hunting tradition is, seeing those ancient mounts made me glad I was an American. Our hunting traditions may be dying, but at least we have them to try and save.

Comments

I'm in school right now

On one side you could say, Geez they're just getting worse in england, but on another side you could say, it's a start hopefully, but either way the justice needs to be brought out.
Also, in australia they did the same thing that our country could be on the way to. They first started off by having a registration. Everyone had to put their guns on the record. They got to keep them, but the government had to know about it. All transactions of guns had to be reported. Then they started outlawing the assault rifles. Now since the govn't had records, they could go to the people who they knew had those guns. Then it was all downhill from there. That's exactly what obama is going to try to do because australia did it.

Nate

Evan!

poaching in order to "deal in stolen venison, salmon, or rarer meat and fish" and "intimidating residents, causing damage to crops or to gate and fences is "a start," is "a start," nate? what the he** is wrong with you?

and what, pray tell, does illegal poaching and selling of poached meat have to do with gun rights?

yrs-
Evan!

Bob

I'm in school right now,
"That's exactly what obama is going to try to do because australia did it."

Sorry, I don't follow your logic...

As far as the topic at hand, I think hunting in the US is much more insulated from a UK-style ban. Our tradition spans all class and economic levels, from the backwoods-types in Appalachia to the Dick Cheney-types hunting at private duck camps. This helps prevent it from being opposed as a class-based issue. (Not to mention that the British government never got addicted to the income stream produced by public-hunting, like our government has.)

One more thought on the story. I found it amusing that people there are poaching due to the high price of food. On a per-pound basis, hunted meat probably ends up costing me about four times more than if I would just go to the supermarket and buy it. (I suppose not having to buy a license would help with that though...)

Tyler (NC)

Nate,
I see where your going, Obama could use it as a map since it was successful in australia. Personally I think the money I pay the NRA and other groups will help keep it from getting to that point. I do see an rise for ammo in the future, even if it isnt taxed because the sellers know they can raise it and we will still pay for it... by this i mean the big dealers (wal-mart, etc.). Maybe just rantings, but its been a strange day.

JohnR

If we lose our hunting rights, it will be because of organizations such as PETA and HSUS. It will most likely be a back door measure like banning ammo, or some lame brained conservation measure. Don't get me wrong, I support wildlife conservation and not just for game animals. It is the pseudo- conservationists we have to worry about.

Mark-1

If memory serves me, hanging a poacher of the King’s deer came about after the Norman Invasion of 1066. The Normans wanted hunting to be their privilege and something not for the conquered Saxon-Britons.

It would also behoove everyone to remember the UK is a monarchy. Monarchies never liked the idea of an armed populous since the invention of firearms. I believe this sentiment transferred to the Elite not wanting the People to be armed nowadays…for the same basic reasons..

…..Power trip and Class Struggle all the way, folks

Steve Bodio

There is a long populist poaching trend in England very different from that of the gangs mentioned. Google up "Show of Hands" [group] music video "Longdog".

I know "poachers" in England who hunted legally with their sighthounds until England banned hunting with dogs-- ar they wrong to continue? All blue- collar background by the way.




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