[FOUNTAIN]The dispute over a sport turns seriousThe 1649 death warrant of Charles I is displayed in a corridor in Britain’s parliament. The signatures of the MPs, who were the judges who sentenced the king, clearly remain on the faded document. Oliver Cromwell was among the first to sign the execution warrant. He had led his “Ironside” cavalry into the parliament and drove out the MPs who opposed the execution. As a result, Cromwell rose to supreme power in England.
More than three centuries later, the “second invasion of the Commons” since Cromwell’s revolution took place on Wednesday. It might sound laughable that the disputed point this time was foxhunting. The history of foxhunting goes back to the 13th century, when feudalism prevailed in England. A quarter of the English land used to be the king’s hunting ground. Those who killed deer that were kept as game on the hunting ground would be blinded. The rest of the area that did not belong to the monarch was essentially hunting grounds for the aristocrats. Foxes were the most attractive game for the hunters.
Traditionally an aristocratic sport, hunting was essentially a game of war. Hunters would follow the brass trumpet of the master, donned as an 18th century cavalryman, and move in coordination. Dozens of foxhounds, which were specially bred for foxhunting, would chase foxes just like infantrymen. The hunters would ride horses and chase the game, having the foxes surrounded by the hounds. The tail of the fox is considered a symbol of luck and would be presented to a female hunter. The head and feet of the foxes could be souvenirs, too. The bodies would be given to the foxhounds. Due to its cruel nature, foxhunting has been criticized as a pre-modern practice of animal abuse.
When Prime Minister Tony Blaire took office in 1997, he officially promised that he would work to ban foxhunting. As the House of Commons voted for the bill to ban foxhunting, protesters stormed onto the floor of the chamber. In the past seven years, the bill passed the House of Commons twice and was rejected by the more conservative House of Lords. Compared to bigger pending issues such as the European Common Law, the ban on foxhunting sounds trivial. However, the entire United Kingdom is serious about the bill. The British are prudent in changing traditions and serious about discussions.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.