WHILE the rest of the inhabitants of West Yorkshire were Christmas shopping last weekend, we paid a visit to the Royal Armouries in Leeds.
We appeared to be the only visitors that afternoon and had the undivided attention of a young historian who took us on a guided tour through the hunting gallery.
It is, she says, one of the least popular sections of the armouries. “Most visitors are quite happy to stroll through the war gallery, with its displays of weapons to kill people,” she said, “but they don’t like looking at weapons to kill animals.”
In the 21st century old-fashioned hunting for sport is a controversial topic. I read somewhere this week that 80% of the British public is against this activity.
And yet the Government’s manifesto included a commitment to hold a free vote on whether the ban on hunting with hounds should be overturned. The only reason this has not yet been held is there are doubts the Government could get enough support.
So, ordinary members of the public don’t want hunting and the majority of MPs don’t want hunting. Who does want it?
The answer came to us from the words of the Armouries historian: “Hunting was the sport of kings, noblemen and landowners.”
Such people could spend small fortunes on the very latest in weaponry, falcons, horses and all the paraphernalia that went with them. They had teams of people employed to keep their hunting gear in perfect condition and whole wardrobes full of expensive hunting clothes.
It would be comforting to think we’ve moved on a bit from the Middle Ages but it seems we haven’t. The recent successful prosecution by the RSPCA of a hunt for killing a fox – and subsequent half-hearted punishment, which left the charity £300,000 poorer because for some reason the Crown Prosecution Service didn’t take the case to court – would seem to indicate that the establishment has other plans.