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Monday, November 19, 2012

David Cameron, part of the blood-sport elite

There is no way around it -  David Cameron is part of the old school of Englishman who indulges in the sport of shooting.  He grew up in the country and he and his father, now deceased, were seasoned shooters. But he knows that city electorates abhor the sport, so he's understandably coy about it.

Deer stalking is the only form of control, or culling for the six wild, feral species of deer in the UK.  But it's not a sport for the faint-hearted. Traditionally, when a young deer stalker shoots his first stag, he is "blooded" - smeared with the animal's blood before it's butchered.

British red deer stag

The deer stalkers insist that for the sake of the health of the herds, and the environmental damage too many deer can do, they must be culled.  And out of respect to any animal killed in a sporting pursuit, none of its meat, offal or hide should be wasted.

The Prime Minister was also part of the elite fox hunting clique before the Labour Party banned it in 2004.  The Tories have promised to give MPs a free vote on repealing that ban.

In 1993, before he became an MP, a younger Cameron was invited to join a shooting party to stalk red deer with a group of up-and-coming Tories in the Scottish highlands.  When the venison was served one evening - cooked as it should be, so rare it was swimming in blood - it was reported that Cameron was "squeamish" and hid his portion under some salad leaves.

Not true said chef Rose Prince who prepared the meal.  "I know because I cooked the dish myself - I served the plate to Cameron full and it came back empty.  Moreover, there was certainly no salad on the future Prime Minister's plate."  She also remembers that Cameron was the only young person in attendance who cleared away the plates and helped with the washing up.

I remember Princess Dianna was appalled when her young sons had to be "blooded" on their first kill, it seemed like a ritual out of the dark ages.  It's a practice that has continued for centuries and looks likely to continue for many more.

When the story emerged about the PM being "squeamish" and hiding his offal under the salad, anti blood-sport Labour MP Kerry McCarthy said it spoke volumes about the Prime Minister.  "I think most people would find this (deer stalking) pretty disgusting but the old school, elitist, hunting, shooting, land-owning, aristocratic classes have these bizarre rituals that most people wouldn't indulge in."

Thankfully we don't induge in this class-dividing practice in Australia but country and city folk continue to misunderstand each other.  While culling and the slaughter of animals is cruel and disgusting to some, it's normal country practice for others.