Thursday, November 26, 2009

it's a dog's life...

We Brits are fond of our pets, but have mixed feelings about using them to characterise people. For example, we might say that a sprinter goes like a whippet, or apiculturists might even refer to Muhammad Ali's stinging like a bee. But to call somebody catty is generally seen as a semi-veiled insult (unless you're into camping it up, in which case it might be a compliment).

Bulldog on flag: detail from a Canadian postcard at Bow City Philatelics Ltd - click to go to websiteBut there are limits in civilised society, even for the master of bon môts Winston Churchill, who, after being accused of drunkenness by a lady, replied: "Madam, you are ugly: tomorrow I will be sober". Another apocryphal story has him confronted by a female politician who called him a "toothless bulldog on a tattered union jack"; he replied that, as much as he disagreed with the lady, he would hesitate to call her a dog.

Yesterday, the Telegraph's Tom Whitehead reported a Government press release stating the principle that "it is wrong to hit girls" would be included in schoolchildren's education as part of an initiative to combat violence againRihanna: click to read Anita Singh's story in the Telegraphst women. Very laudable, of course - witness the high-profile case in the US this year when singer Rihanna, used as a punchball by her boyfriend Chris Brown, briefly returned to him. But given that this comes in Labour's twelfth year of power, I wondered how women were faring against man's other best friend (or at least his equal in terms of dependence and intelligence).

Labour was elected on 2 May 1997, with a manifesto commitment for a Parliamentary vote on whether hunting with hounds should be banned by legislation.

fox, from Jiri Bohdal at - click to go to websiteVulpes vulpes, the red fox, is a member of the Canidae family and is therefore a cousin of Rover, Rex and even Afterglow The Big Tease. Two years after Labour took power, then Home Secretary Jack Straw instigated a six month governmental enquiry into foxhunting, and after great deliberation and an Amazon of documents, hunting with hounds (ie traditional foxhunting) was made illegal in England and Wales in 2004.

It was, of course, a political move: Labour had identified its traditional base as subsisting in cities, and didn't see itself losing many votes in pandering to its those traditional prejudices of its members involving rural matters.

1997 Labour Party manifesto - click to read the manifestoJust so, the 1997 manifesto, while stating that "Labour has taken the lead in proposing action to tackle the problems of stalking and domestic violence" (17 words), also promised that "We will ensure greater protection for wildlife. We have advocated new measures to promote animal welfare, including a free vote in Parliament on whether hunting with hounds should be banned by legislation" (32 words, before a bizarre paragraph on angling).

The 2001 Labour Party manifesto has nothing to say on domestic violence, but continues to rattle the class-war sabre:
Labour Party manifesto 2001 - click to read the manifestoThe House of Commons elected in 1997 made clear its wish to ban fox-hunting. The House of Lords took a different view (and reform has been blocked). Such issues are rightly a matter for a free vote and we will give the new House of Commons an early opportunity to express its view. We will then enable Parliament to reach a conclusion on this issue. If the issue continues to be blocked we will look at how the disagreement can be resolved. We have no intention whatsoever of placing restrictions on the sports of angling and shooting.
Labour Party slogan for 2005 - click to read the manifesto in .pdf formIn 2005, the pendulum started to swing back, with nothing on hunting, but the promise of "Expanding specialist courts to deal with domestic violence and specialist advocates to support the victims of such crime and of other serious crimes like murder and rape" (27 words).

But 27 words do not a safer country for women make. At a recent course I attended on domestic violence, a shocked hush fell over the room a the trainer, a powerful, passionate and energetic speaker, informed us that in Britain there were 300-odd womens' shelters, and over 3000 homes for stray or rescued dogs.

While the question of whether it's better for a fox to be killed by dogs or by snare is a vexed issue by itself, my blood runs cold at the thought of Labour politicians using the issue of violence against women as a vote-gathering stunt, and doing so by the classical Platonic top-down method; by casting every boy as a wife-beater. There are already educational means in place, and all those MPs, including Labour ones, who quietly work to keep them in place and improve upon them must be praised. For example, when I returned from the domestic violence course, the first thing I said to Minora was that if she meets a boy whose last girlfriend does not have a name but is constantly referred to as "bitch" and such epithets, she should walk. "Da-ad!" she replied. "That's what the teachers tell us!"

A friend told me recently she'd had her Chinese Horoscope done, resulting in her being a Dog of some composition. I refrained from commenting, but wondered if she should thank her lucky stars.

Related post: Women and children first


  1. I reckon I'll work out who you are pretty soon (you may even be a 'fenny' friend of mine already), but I couldn't resist a comment on your 'draughty old fen' blog, so here goes:

    I think that you are mistaken in your attitude to fox hunting (and, presumably, to hare coursing, too). I take the view that, regardless of party politics, Parliament took a step forward when it banned these so-called 'sports.'

    We British led the way in banning the slave trade and in banning slavery in the Empire, we led the way in banning bear baiting and cock fighting, and we led the way in banning hunting and hare coursing. My preference is not to ban anything more but my intention is to do all in my power to stop the Conservatives and others 'un-banning' hunting and hare coursing.

    That is the issue that may face Members of the new Parliament: whether to 'un-ban' that which has been banned. Surely, we must continue to make progress and not let our civilisation take a backward step.

    Have a look at my own blog: it's at -

  2. I agree with Geoffrey. Regardless of Tony Blair's motives on fox-hunting it was a barbaric practice and many groups had lobbied for decades to have it banned. It doesn't need to be compared to snaring either. There are many humane ways to catch a fox and shoot it cleanly. There are also many ways to control fox populations without killing them at all.

    The point you made about the number of shelters for women as opposed to those for rescued dogs is understandable. Women can go to the police, to family members, call abuse hotlines or go to others for help. Animals are basically helpless when abused or abandoned. Don't get me wrong - both are important - but many people are more willing to help those who literally can't help themselves.

  3. Geoffrey - good site. Good luck in your candidature, but I'm afraid I'll be voting for the Conservative Party candidate. I don't have a strong opinion for or against fox-hunting, but was living in Scotland when Labour was first elected. I was astounded that so much time was being given to foxhunting when we had no shortage of issues involving humans, especially where I lived in an inner-city housing estate in Glasgow.

    Mhayworth, it's often more difficult for abused women to get help than it may seem; especially when, like Chris Brown, Rihanna's abuser, the partner is outwardly charming and popular and even speaks out righteously against violence against women. The Cambridge Rape Centre's funding allows it to open one session a week, with monies breaking down to around £2.50 per caller. Women who stay with their abusers - often having been conditioned to accept that it's somehow their fault - face a huge amount of stigma in society. That, to me, is barbaric.

  4. "I'm afraid I'll be voting for the Conservative Party candidate." [whoever he or she is].

    My party, right or wrong. That's what's amiss with our politics right now. I was a Conservative Cambridgeshire County Councillor and was 'whipped' into voting against my wishes and those of my electors - the people. That wasn't (and isn't) democracy: it was (and is) tyranny!

  5. I wouldn't say it's my party right or wrong - if I personally didn't think the Conservative Party didn't have the right ideas, I wouldn't be voting for them, I'd vote for another party or individual. That's democracy.

  6. Yay, FD!
    If you are not representing your party's ideals, perhaps YOU should join or run on another party ticket. It is fair to choose party first; that is why we have them. IF, on the other hand, a candidate does not claim that which his chosen party represents, then it is HE who needs to re-evaluate.
    That said, it is not the argument whether or not fox hunting is good or bad, but how much energy is used to protect an animal compared to the energy used to protect the human being. Same with the shelters... sure, a person might have the option to go the police or shelter, but anyone who knows anything about battered women knows that a victim of violencs is not always capable of it.

  7. On the proportion of shelters for women vs animals, I've given some thought to aspects of the people vs animals attitudes of the general public, and partly I think it's because the problems of human beings are tremendously more complicated than those of animals. Probably also has something to do with the fact that it costs a very great deal more to care for a human than a dog. Not to disallow the truths you mentioned, of course.

  8. On parties, usually one chooses that party which represents the largest percentage of one's most important personal values, and one doesn't switch parties if one's party disagrees with on one or more values of lesser importance, there being a limited choice of parties. I doubt most people agree with all the values of the party for which they vote. I'd thought this was self-evident....

  9. Thank you again, ladies!

    Linda - you are of course right, a woman is not always capabe of leaving an abusive man. The trainer on the domestic violence course turned it around: "don't ask why she doesn't leave, ask why he doesn't stop".

    Pam - I like what you say about parties. I read in the paper the other day that the Republican party was thinking of imposing a "Ronald Reagan test" on its candidates, based on Reagan's comment that his friends were people who agreed with him 80% of the time. That would be a good idea for the Consrvative Party over here, methinks.


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