The rich at play: foxhunting, land ownership and the Countryside Alliance

The Rich at Play - Foxhunting, land ownership and the Countryside Alliance
The Rich at Play - Foxhunting, land ownership and the Countryside Alliance

Published in 2002 this small book looks at the links between the then upcoming ban on hunting with hounds, landownership and class relations in the British countryside. Written at a time when the 'Countryside Alliance' were receiving a lot of media coverage the text aims to debunk the idea that fox hunting is solely an animal rights issue and is instead directly related to rural class relations. Written by Red Star Research, Published by Revolutions Per Minute.

Submitted by Jacques Roux on May 9, 2015

Full text also available as a PDF below.

Web Archive version of Red Star Research website.

A review of The Rich at Play is available from A World to Win.


the history of foxhunting and land ownership in Britain
including ‘the politics and people behind The Countryside Alliance’

Welcome to issue 9 of RPM. I think you, the reader, will find the works contained within RPM 9 of great interest and, don’t be surprised if you find yourself informed, entertained, amazed and angry; perhaps even all of them at the same time.

Contributors to this issue are Angus Macmillan of ‘Roots of Blood’, Pippa Gallop of ‘Corporate Watch’, Trevor Bark and Mark Metcalf. Thank you to all of them.

The last two issues of RPM have sold well, especially issue 8 by Brian Higgins, ‘Rank and File or Broad Left – a short history of the Building Worker Group’, and there is every reason to expect that this issue will sell at least as many and probably a lot more. Not enough to become rich, but then that’s not why booklets such as these get printed.

Thanks once again to all those who have taken out a subscription to RPM, and an extra special thanks to those who’ve taken out standing orders – details of both appear at the back. The next issue of RPM will be on ‘The Persistence of Religious Ideas in the 21st century’. If you have got a piece of work you would like to be considered for publishing then please make contact.

Mark Metcalf

Behind those campaigning to keep foxhunting with dogs are the major landowners and the aristocracy. Foxhunting is important to them as it represents ‘their right’ to use land they stole from past generations, in any way they see fit to choose.

The right to go foxhunting with hounds is now in danger. On February 13th 2002 the Scottish Parliament voted to outlaw foxhunting with dogs under the Protection of Wild Mammals [Scotland] Act. This received Royal Assent on March 15th 2002.

Days later, on Monday March 18th 2002, MPs at the House of Commons voted by 386 to 175 in an ‘indicative vote’ for a ban. The following evening, March 19th 2002, members of the House of Lords rejected an outright ban on hunting, voting instead to back the proposal to allow foxhunting under a series of new regulations.

Over the next couple of days Labour backbenchers, fully aware that numerous opinion polls have shown a clear majority in favour of banning foxhunting with dogs, urged the Blair Government to translate their votes into effective legislation. Ministers were urged to use the Parliament Act to force a bill past opposition from the House of Lords. Foxhunting with dogs would be banned. This does not, on the face, of it seem a very difficult thing to do. It isn’t, in fact.

Yet on Thursday March 21st 2002 Alun Michael, the rural affairs minister, announced he was abandoning the previous Hunting Bill, with its three options of an outright ban, ‘the middle way’, and keeping things as they already are. Instead there was to be a 6-month consultation period on a proposed new Bill centred on the principles of cruelty and utility. This would avoid banning specific activities.

This has left those opposed to foxhunting confused as to whether Blair, who voted for a ban but who is thought to favour a compromise, is prepared to take on the House of Lords. To do so he will also have to defeat, ‘The Countryside Alliance’. This organisation was able to mobilise nearly a quarter of a million people in March 1998 and is predicting it will attract up to 500,000 on a demo this summer. The Countryside Alliance has also promised to mount a legal challenge to the Scottish legislation, claiming it breaches the European Convention of Human Rights.

Largely absent from the debate, to date, has been why foxhunting originated and why it has been able to survive. This booklet attempts to provide answers to these questions, and by doing so presents the case not only for foxhunting with dogs to be banned, but also for the land on which it takes place to be returned to the descendants of those it was stolen from.

This booklet provides the most extensive examination undertaken, so far, into the people and the politics of ‘The Countryside Alliance’. Up till now they have largely escaped the glare of publicity. By bringing them into the open and examining what lies behind their politics, we can see whom our opponents are and defeat them.

Those opposed to foxhunting are free to use the contents of this booklet as they see fit. Journalists and supporters of foxhunting should contact RPM for permission to re-produce any of its contents.

RPM Publications – April 6th 2002