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April 13, 2005

Hunting Life - The Hunt AGM

Posted by Jorocs

Since most hunts in Great Britain have relatively democratic structures, the AGM should, in theory, be very important and democratic. The structure of the hunt starts literally at ground level with the farmers who provide the land to be hunted over. In return for this they receive a fox control service and a flesh collection service. Flesh collection includes the collection and disposal of dead animals and the euthanasia of injured and sick animals. The farmers also get a fair slice of the social side of the hunting world: the hunt balls, skittles competitions and point to points etc. Next in the structure are the subscribers, they are the ones who pay a premium to make a spectacle of themselves trying to cross the countryside upon a horse in pursuit of hounds. Their horse skills range widely from fairly reasonable to fairly unstable which provides entertainment for the car and foot followers.

It falls to the farmers and subscribers to elect a hunt committee which runs the hunting country. The committee consists of about 25 people who retire on a rotational basis; every member does a five year stint before standing for re-election. Most of the well-run hunts realise that things function better without confrontation and usually only five people will stand for five places. Newcomers to the hunt who want to join the committee must first wait for someone to die or hope that someone on the committee has such strong, divergent or confrontational opinions during debate that they end up storming-out in frustration and disgust thus making a place available.

The committee, in its turn, appoints a group of masters to run the country under their direction. Usually there is one master for every day of the week that the hunt goes out: a three day week pack will therefore have three masters. The committee provide the masters with a financial budget and from this they are responsible for hiring the paid staff: the huntsman, whip, kennel man, terrier man and stable staff. They spend whatever budget is left over on hunt jumps and hunt horses. They usually work way beyond the expenses account that they are allowed and subsidise it out of their own pockets. They do this for all the adulation, sexual favours and free whisky which they can
respectively entertain, achieve and drink.

As one old farmer tells all newly appointed masters:

you are expected to hunt yourself to financial extinction and many doors will open, but be warned, some doors will be bedroom doors!
It is for this reason that every AGM has a fair sprinkling of ex-masters (or vermin as they are known.) These fellows have exhausted themselves sexually and financially and only attend to complain about how it is no longer like it was before, which is obvious as they can no longer get their leg over. They see the younger masters as getting it all wrong, despite them frequently getting their legs over. It would appear that many ex-masters become ensnared in bitterness and resentment.

I once asked an ex-master who had held the position for some ten years, how he had come away unscathed with his finances and marriage intact, he smiled with a twinkle in his eye, saying:

the family, the firm, then friends and fun: keep them in that order of importance and you will be secure. If the order becomes muddled you will come unstuck.
He did have the advantage of succeeding in business before he succeeded in the hunting field: unlike most masters whose first stab at the limelight is the mastership which usually goes to their heads.

Due to the current political manipulation of hunting, the Chairman realises that when he comes to address the farmers and subscribers at the AGM, the normal glad handing, glad mouthing and the "how well you are all doing at fund raising" will no longer wash. The hunt legal constitution will have to be changed to allow the hunt to continue within the law as a hound exercise pack. For this purpose, a beaming, bumbling, bald-headed solicitor (whose demeanour and denunciation would be more befitting of a monastery,) is extracted from behind office furniture, wound-up, dusted off and set to revising the hunt constitution. It seems that the only credentials he ever displayed to secure this position were when he once happened to sit on a horse in 1948 whilst recovering from a hunt ball.

All hunts are responsible to the MFHA, the Master of Fox Hounds Association. This august body is itself rapidly re-writing its principles and constitution. It is the organisation to which all hunts are answerable. The MFHA committee is comprised of some very good men and some others. Its leader is, for some reason, known as the scarlet pimpernel.

Since speed is of the essence now, as the hunting world must display a united front, the hunt constitution has been rapidly rewritten and presented at the last minute to avoid 250 differing opinions. The nouveau hunters, which 200 years ago would have been the industrialists of the Midlands, who are now the computer buffs of today, see hunting as a way of dispensing their largess through making a spectacle of themselves on a horse. They are anxious to make an impression among their new found friends and spout forth with neither fear nor favour nor consequence. They are the new face of fox hunting. (Had the computer not been invented of course, they would have been sat at Paddington in an anorak taking down train numbers.) It is in these newcomers that we old-timers of the hunting field have to put our faith and hope. We must trust their conviction, (borne of courage or ignorance,) to challenge the system. In order to survive, hunting must change to accommodate these new comers.

The revised constitution is thankfully shovelled through in spite of possible dissention by aggressive pony-club mums (which would love to have given their opinion had they had time to digest it). They must accept that speed is of efficacy. All retire to the bar to ponder the future.

Jorocs writes about hunting life for the Social Affairs Unit. To read more by Jorocs, see Hunting.

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Jorocs truly hits the nail on the head as regards hunting life. This is some of the most entertaining hunting commentary I have read. Bravo Social Affairs Unit.

Posted by: David at April 14, 2005 12:21 AM
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