A Warped Sense of Liberty: On Fox-Hunting

Dan Morrison highlights the absurdity of the Conservatives’ attempts to repeal the fox-hunting ban under the pretext of liberty

In his seminal 19th century work On Liberty, the Liberal political theorist and philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote: ‘the state must engender a state of affairs whereby people have unimpeded licence to torture and kill foxes, preferably by breeding dogs to chase said animals and tear them to pieces.’ It is always good to know that politicians have done their share of reading, with Conservative MP Owen Paterson noting that the fox hunting ban is ‘’bad for the liberty of people in the countryside.’’ Clearly this was a nod to Mill, a man whose Liberal outlook was based around the view that we are not truly free until we can kill foxes for fun. Indeed, it was during a post-hunt trip to Nando’s that Mill coined the phrase ‘just a bit of cheeky banter.’

I am not a great lover of animals. I don’t dislike them, but they can certainly smell my fear and suspicion of them. Do I feel like I am restricted because I cannot freely breed and sanction another animal to murder them though? Not particularly, no. Ideas of liberty and values are thrown around a lot. Essentially used as rhetoric, I tend to ignore a politician who speaks in these clichéd terms. But saying that the liberty of people is restricted by the hunting ban is absurd. Fox hunting, as an act of leisure and ‘culture,’ is one that sees people corrupt the natural innocence of hounds by breeding them to chase foxes to their death, followed by the mauling of the fox. Apparently this is sport.

What kind of warped sense of liberty must you have to think that the fox hunting ban restricts your own? At best, it is to misinterpret liberty as licence and an entitlement to do as one pleases, regardless of what immorality this might involve.

Anything that is bad for liberty of the people in the countryside and for the population as a whole should be challenged. Like proposals to limit the freedom of speech in universities and of people whom do not quite fit our vague set of values, for example.

Liberty is not about the licence to sod the consequences and do as one pleases, to use another being as your ‘sport’. In a very basic sense, it is about being free from intimidation and coercion; free to think and discuss unimpeded and without fear of sanction; it is a respect for you, your life and your possessions. The Palestinians in Israel, Gaza and West Bank; the Rohingyas in Burma and Bangladesh; or Christians in ISIS-held Iraq and Syria- when they wish for liberty, it is a wish for a respect for their rights. When liberty is a question of killing the defenceless, then it is clear liberty is not actually of great concern.

For the benefit of Daily Mail readers, members of the Countryside Alliance and Owen Paterson, I will take the opportunity now to say that the first paragraph is a satire of John Stuart Mill’s political philosophy and your interpretation of liberty; it is a joke. And a liberty that demands the killing of foxes is a joke, albeit a darker joke, only slightly less funny than mine.