Print Friendly and PDF
only search openDemocracy.net

Fox-hunting, homosexuality, and protest: a rejoinder to Adam Lent

About the author

Roger Scruton is a philosopher, writer, political activist and businessman. He is a professor in the department of philosophy at St Andrews University and a scholar at the American Entreprise Institute. His home on the web is http://www.roger-scruton.com/.

Adam Lent has impressively clarified, and also developed, his position. I see that I was wrong to think of his reference to those youthful protest movements of thirty years ago in terms of my own recollection of 1968.

I think we agree on the crucial difference between movements of ideologically-motivated ‘protest’, and movements that represent the perceived interests of people who are trying to protect themselves and who are not in the habit of protesting (since protesting is, for them, a real financial, social and moral cost). If I failed to mention the anti-communist movements in Eastern and Central Europe, it was perhaps because they represented my own excursion into the realm of ideological ‘protest’.

Nevertheless, my point stands, that movements among ordinary people in defence of their interests are much rarer, and much more serious, than those promoted by the protesting classes. And the protesting classes often hold back from supporting them – as in the two cases I mentioned, of the proposed nationalisation of the church schools in France, and the proposed criminalisation of fox-hunting in Britain.

As to the question of gay rights and the rights of fox-hunters, it is surely reasonable to point out that gay sex was removed from the register of criminal offences in 1967 – a decision that I entirely applaud. The question is whether fox-hunting should be added to the register of criminal offences. If anybody proposed to make homosexual activity once again into a criminal offence then yes, I would campaign vigorously against this. And my voice would be all the more important, in that I have serious and increasingly unfashionable moral reservations about homosexuality.

By speaking of the ‘right’ of foxes not to suffer, as though the issue about hunting were one of a conflict of rights, rather than one of civil rights versus moral disapproval, Adam obscures the parallel. To me, it is as outrageous to propose the criminalisation of hunting as it would be to propose the (re-)criminalisation of gay sex. I say this not because I take a different line from Adam over ‘animal rights’ (though I do), but because I believe that hunting and homosexuality are both fundamental to the lives of the people who engage in them – even if incommensurable in so many other ways.


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the
oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.