Monday, December 15, 2008
Blood Sport : Hunting in Britain Since 1066 by Emma Griffin
If you've ever doubted that hunting is all about class warfare, this book provides the historical proof. The Anglo-Saxons regarded wild animals as res nullius, property with no owner, but, as Emma Griffin shows, the arrival of William the Conqueror changed all that. The hunting-mad king claimed vast tracts of land as royal forest, forcing whoever lived there to move out. Any poor man caught killing the king's game, even outside the royal forests, was blinded and castrated. Peasants were cast in the role of poachers, while the wealthy, the powerful and the privileged went hunting. Foxhunting was held in low esteem by the aristocracy, but over time it became the ultimate toff pursuit. Griffin's gripping account follows the "sport" all the way up to the Hunting Act 2004, which spawned a spontaneous grouping of blood-sport enthusiasts, rich landowners and shotgun manufacturers known as the Countryside Alliance. It's not about cruelty to animals, concludes Griffin (more foxes are killed by motorists); it's about two contesting visions of Britishness.