Just 24 hours ago, there appeared to be a strong likelihood that foxhunting would make a return in the United Kingdom.
The alleged “sport” of chasing and ultimately killing terrified animals was outlawed by the Labour Government more than a decade ago. However, only two months after winning a surprise overall majority in the 2015 General Election, the Conservative Party wasted little time in calling a vote to revoke this ban, seemingly sneaking this in through the back door.
Ten years ago, such a tactic may well have worked – but in today’s always-on media environment, where the people have a genuine voice and can use it to bring about social change, moves such as this do not go unnoticed.
As soon as the news became public, social media users opposed to foxhunting took to their favoured channels in droves to add their voice to this debate. I was proud to be one of them. One of my earliest childhood memories was being involved in anti-foxhunting demonstrations in my hometown of Suffolk on Boxing Day each and every year. Even from a very young age, I knew that the concept of intentionally causing distress and pain to an animal was inherently wrong and a far cry from what I would ever consider to be a form of “entertainment” or “sport.”
The #KeepTheBan hashtag swiftly picked up momentum on Twitter, in particular, with animal rights organisations such as PETA and the RSPCA engendering support from high-profile personalities including comedian Ricky Gervais, who summed up the counter-argument perfectly with the below tweet.
Reporting the news of the vote’s postponement earlier today, media outlets cited that the Scottish National Party’s decision to vote against the change was the primary rationale for the Conservative’s abrupt U-turn. That, however, is likely only half the story.
David Cameron stated that the SNP’s stance was “entirely opportunistic,” and that may well have been the case, but in this instance the SNP realised what the Conservatives have so clearly overlooked: that the voice of the people should be listened to and heeded in a democratic society, and the people now have channels at their disposal to share their views very, very widely. The national media has already leapt upon the announcement with relish, with The Guardian describing “the climbdown [as] a major humiliation for Cameron”.
The future of foxes in this country is currently far from certain – it is anticipated that the Government will look to reintroduce the vote later this year, if and when rules have been introduced to prevent Scottish MPs to vote on England-only matters. However, regardless of your stance on the controversial subject of foxhunting, today serves as a powerful demonstration of the power that we all now yield to have our say and to influence the activities of society’s leaders when we strongly disagree with them.
Social media can, and often is, a powerful force for good, and the UK’s foxes can at least sleep soundly tonight, safe in the knowledge that the public was only too happy to speak up on their behalf.