Letters to the Editor
Here are some ideas about letter writing from our founder, Mike Huskisson:-
When I started working for the League Against Cruel Sports back in
1981 the importance of the local letters pages as a guide of local
opinion for politicians was stressed to me and I believe it to hold
as true now as it did then.
It is easiest to get your letter published when you are writing to
your own local paper but you can also write to papers outside your
area. Of course there are problems writing letters from outside the
circulation area of the paper concerned. Firstly, as you are not even
a reader of the paper why should the editor publish your views?
Secondly, when your letter is sent to many papers the editor knows
that your letter is in some way devalued because it is a mere copy of
many letters sent to every paper; so he is not publishing a unique
insight into local life. For all that campaigning letters sent to
many papers can be published.
Local paper editors, if fair, might print in proportion to the
numbers of letters received. So if they get 50 against hunting and 25
for they might print 2 against and 1 for. This is why we urge people
to write; even if your letters are not published they will almost
certainly help others from our side to be printed. Of course there
are some pro-hunt papers that just never publish letters from our
side but it is still worth writing to them. If you don't they an
excuse their bias by saying that they never receive anti-hunt letters
anyway and perhaps more importantly it might do them good to read the
truth about bloodsports!
Letter-writing is a highly effective form of "armchair
campaigning" that needs to be conducted with a changing focus,
rhythm and a climactic end. The theme throughout must be to hit the
abusers hard but avoid libel at all costs. Sensible papers would
never print a potentially libellous letter anyway but there have been
problems in the past - and legal arguments are very expensive. As a
general rule don't write anything that you cannot prove and don't
name people, organisations or hunts. General terms such as "hunter",
"bloodsports enthusiasts", or "hunting fraternity"
will be fine. You also need to consider the timings of letters. Local
papers can be published daily or weekly and most weekly papers will
need your letter on their desk in good time. Letters also need to be
concise; aim for no more than 200 words. A good technique is to write
a draft, then knock out words and phrases that are superfluous. Most
literature benefits from being tightly edited.
Because my own letters are written as a campaign I avoid getting
involved in debates with hunters on the letters pages. It is hard to
"win" with them because they have a seemingly inexhaustible
supply of myths, distortions and half-truths! Far better than getting
embroiled in a crossfire of letters is to just lead off with attack
after attack and let them flounder with their "answers". It
was an astonishing fact of this election campaign that the hunters
were largely silent on the letters pages. It was as if they were told
that hunting was to be a "non-issue" and they were to keep
quiet. That left the field open for us!
My letters were all sent from the AWIS, that is the education and
information side of our campaigning work. That of course had our PO
Box address for publication but I also added our home address and
phone number along with the request that our home address be withheld
My letter about Afghanistan was obviously sent privately and I could
hardly expect my home address to be withheld, but where it was
published the editors contacted me and we agreed to run it as "M.J.
Huskisson, Halesworth". I include this information because you
need to think about having your full address put to an anti-hunting
letter; it may be useful if you are seeking local support but it can
generate some vile and vindictive responses from hunt fanatics.
My letters below were sent out as part of our campaigning work for
the 2010 General Election in the UK. Each letter was sent to some 240
local and 15 national newspapers. This is not the full complement of
local papers but we could only e-mail letters where we had a direct
e-mail address for the editor. Some papers expect letters from
readers to be submitted via their web site and that is a much more
difficult and protracted business and to be honest we just lacked the
time to do so. My first letter was circulated on Sunday April 11th
2010. It was designed to remind voters that repeal of the Hunting Act
would bring back hare coursing, a pastime so brutal that even
Margaret Thatcher had voted to ban it!
Hare coursing was a barbaric pastime that was a
curse on our countryside until banned by the Labour Government. The
inherent cruelty of coursing hares is opposed by the vast majority,
indeed no less a Conservative than Margaret Thatcher voted for its
abolition prior to the 1970 election. The humane alternative of lure
coursing thrives yet David Cameron has pledged that should his
"modern" Conservatives win power he will provide the
opportunity in Parliament to make live hare coursing legal again. Can
I ask your readers to think carefully before helping David Cameron to
inflict this new style of callous Conservatism on our wildlife.
Callousness towards harmless and helpless hares is symptomatic of
similar attitudes towards other vulnerable elements within
The second letter was sent just over a week later. By then the
Conservative Manifesto had been published and I was able to quote
from it the part relevant to the Hunting Act. I also attached an
image of staghunting to remind voters (and newspaper editors!) just
what repeal of the Hunting Act would mean for our wildlife.
When every vote counts it is astonishing that
David Cameron flaunts his contempt for animal welfare. The
Conservative Election Manifesto includes the following:
Hunting Act has proved unworkable. A Conservative government will
give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free
vote, with a government bill in government time."
bring back foxhunting, hare hunting and hare coursing, staghunting,
some form of summer riverside hunting and all the havoc associated
with these cruel pastimes. Some hunters have too easily flouted and
ignored the Hunting Act but surely that is reason to close the
loopholes and better enforce the Act, not to repeal it and thereby
reward the criminals?
This plan for a return to bloodsports is not
in the environment or animal welfare sections of the manifesto;
instead it is in the "civil liberties" part. So it is the
hunters self-claimed "right to be cruel", in opposition to
the wishes of the vast majority, that David Cameron appears to
As hunting can thrive without the pursuit of live quarry
why return to the cruel old days? Seeking "change" is fine
but change for the better is needed not a return to past
My third letter e-mailed on April 22nd returned to the hare coursing
theme and highlighted the fact that repeal of the Hunting Act would
make illegal hare coursing all but impossible to control. This was to
encourage landowners and farmers to think before giving their
unqualified support to David Cameron.
Control of illegal hare coursing is important for
farmers, landowners and the public. Before the Hunting Act it was
hard to control because anyone seeing coursers had little idea
whether it was legal (coursing with permission) or illegal (without
permission). The Hunting Act banned all hare coursing and forced the
switch to the humane alternative, lure coursing, which is easily
recognisable and popular.
Since that ban anyone seeing hare
coursing has confidently reported it. So the Hunting Act made it easy
for public and police to work together to all but eradicate illegal
hare coursing. Police officers across the country have recognized
Now this significant progress against rural lawbreaking is
threatened. The public can expect that politicians seeking power
would plan to make it easier for our police to do their job, not
harder. David Cameron's misguided pledge, should he be elected, is to
create the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act. However
unwittingly, this will allow illegal hare coursing to be rampant
again in our countryside.
This is "change" certainly but
change for the worse for everyone bar the tiny minority of country
sports enthusiasts who like coursing hares and have no regard for the
For my next letter, sent on April 25th, I tried a shorter one,
reacting to the televised debates:-
Seeing David Cameron on these televised debates
and reading his manifesto it is clear why he felt at home amongst the
infamous elitist Bullingdon Club whilst at Oxford University. There
is plenty in his words and actions to terrify caring, compassionate
people who seek to make our world better for all.
To take the UK
forward we need a Prime Minister in whom all the usual strengths are
tempered by humanity and with the insight to be inclusive rather than
exclusive. David Cameron is flawed in all these areas and with his
enthusiasm for bloodsports is clearly far better suited to being a
Master of Hounds.
In my fifth letter (April 26th) I returned to the hare coursing theme
and once again I attached an image for the editor to consider for
publication. This was a classic hare coursing photograph that I took
at the Waterloo Cup many years ago. I also deployed a quote from the
Lord Burns Hunting Inquiry to drive home the message of the cruelty
inherent in repealing the Hunting Act.
Cameron said recently "real
change comes from your values".
His include support for hare coursing in which pairs of greyhounds
chased and sometimes killed hares. This is now banned but his
Conservatives have pledged to pave the way for its return should they
The coursing ban was secured with support from MPs from all
parties after exhaustive debate guided by the Burns Hunting Inquiry.
This was set up not to decide whether hunting and hare coursing was
cruel but rather to ascertain the facts to enable MPs to decide.
shocked MPs to learn that hares were often pregnant or nursing when
coursed. The Hunting Inquiry were thorough. Perhaps their most
pitiful finding came from post mortems on twelve hares killed. Five
of the eight dead females were
pregnant. One described thus:
“This heavily pregnant female hare
was in good condition. The large size of the foetuses and presence of
milk in the mammary glands suggests she was close to giving birth.”
Yet this hare was selected to run
and die for "sport".
Unsurprisingly, MPs, in tune with
public opinion, voted overwhelmingly to ban this pastime. Legalising
it is a change very few want.
my sixth letter, e-mailed on April 29th, I tried to strike a chord
with the many who perceived that David Cameron might be a smooth PR
operator but there could be something really nasty behind the glitz.
I also explored the true horrific nature of staghunting.
Behind the glamorous façade of David Cameron lurks something
unpleasant. His pledge to give government time to a bill to repeal
the Hunting Act means the full horror of staghunting could soon be
unleashed again on our countryside. For readers unfamiliar with the
pastime, it involved the hunting to death of wild red deer with a
pack of dogs.
Staghunting was a misnomer because hinds also were
hunted, from November to the end of February. This meant that hinds
were pregnant the whole time they were hunted. They were further
handicapped in two ways. Being good mothers they tended to run with
their previous years calf by their side. Finally, they lacked the
antlers to fend off the dogs when eventually they stood
The overwhelming majority view this "sport"
as having no place in modern Britain. Many, including Conservative
voters, pleaded with David Cameron not to support this savagery. He
ignored them all, making repeal of the Hunting Act a priority for his
party and a mainstay of his Manifesto. Treating his own supporters
with contempt over such an issue doesn't bode well for how he will
treat other compassionate causes should he win.
my next letter (May 1st) I tried to remind voters that the hunting
that some Conservatives are so in love with, was actually imposed on
the UK by foreign conquerors and from France of all places!!
UK voters prefer conciliation to strife. Hunting wildlife for
recreation, with packs of hounds, was imposed here by French
conquerors after 1066 and has always caused strife between pro and
anti hunters. There has been violence and tragically even deaths. The
Hunting Act 2004 offered hope that this conflict could be ended.
Hunting was allowed much as before, but hounds were forced to hunt
humane alternatives to live quarry.
Hounds could meet, supporters
could dress up in finery and cross-country gallops could continue.
Only the kill was absent. It seemed the perfect compromise. Not a ban
on hounds, horses or hunting, but a ban on killing for fun. A ban
founded in compassion not class. With cruelty removed increasing
numbers have taken to hunting. But the compromise has proved fragile.
In the privacy of the countryside hunters can do as they like and
some have flouted the new law. Now politicians with wisdom and
compassion are needed to advance the process. Amendments to the
Hunting Act to help our police keep hunting legal are needed. This
would benefit most who hunt and all country dwellers. Repealing the
Act, as the Conservatives plan, would be a disaster.
for Editor : My claim that hunting is a foreign import, imposed by
French conquerors after 1066, is supported by the following quote
from a “country sports” book: “It is an interesting thought
that if Harold had won the battle of Hastings and no other Norman
invasion had been successful, there would, most probably, be no
hunting in the British Isles as we know it today. The Saxons and
their kin did not use packs of hounds for hunting by scent; the
hounds, the customs and the language of the chase came from France.”
From Lurchers and Longdogs by E.G. Walsh. The Boydell Press.
1984. Page 47, 2nd
Two days later, on May 3rd, I e-mailed a letter picking up on a TV
profile of the leaders and weaving it in with the theme of "sleaze"
that featured so prominently in this election.
A recent television profile of the party leaders
revealed that Gordon Brown is a passionate football fan. As for David
Cameron he plays tennis and runs. No mention of his passion for
foxhunting and other bloodsports. The reason for this silence is
obvious. Tormenting and killing foxes, deer and hares, just for fun,
is seen by most as abhorrent.
Readers should know that of the
three major leaders David Cameron is one whose chosen "sporting"
activity, animal hunting, was criminalised by his fellow MPs, through
the Hunting Act. He appears to have taken this reflection of
overwhelming public opinion as a grievous personal slight. It has
disturbed his judgement to the extent that he promotes repeal of the
Hunting Act in the face of widespread opposition, even from many
Perhaps the prime criticism of the last Parliament
was of "sleaze" whereby many MPs were perceived to put
their self-interests first. If we are not careful we risk voting in a
new Parliament where the man at the top, as part of his policy, puts
his own personal self-interest ahead of the wishes of our nation.
Change certainly, but for the worse.
My final appeal to voters to think before electing a government
addicted to bloodsports was e-mailed on May 4th. For daily papers,
that still gave opportunity to have it published in time to have an
Whilst it is clear that in this election many have
a real desire to punish their politicians for perceived misdemeanours
in the last Parliament voters need to be careful not to end up
punishing only themselves. Often the culprit MP is not even standing
on May 6th so why punish their successor or their party? Not voting
because you were let down by one MP can open the door to politicians
who will give you far more problems. If David Cameron wins we will
have a government whose core and founding principle is a love for
May 6th will decide five more years of a Parliament.
The troubles of the last Parliament will soon be forgotten and we
really need to rise above the urge for some kind of vengeance over
the past and look instead to create a positive future, a future fair
In amongst all these letters I also circulated a general but topical
letter with a broad appeal to people to vote. This was particularly
aimed at new voters. The calculation being that young people voting
would be unlikely to support candidates committed to repealing the
Hunting Act. It also allowed me to circulate a striking image that I
took many years ago. This was sent on April 26th.
I hope you will allow me a brief appeal to readers to vote
in the election. It is said that the televised debates have roused
the UK electorate, particularly the young. Let's hope so. With our
courageous youngsters out in Afghanistan risking their lives and
sadly all too often dying for democracy there are more reasons than
ever to vote.
I was in Afghanistan in 1980 before the days of the
Taliban when the Mujahideen were supported by the West in their
struggle against the Russian backed Afghan army. Before one attack I
photographed a young Mujahideen fighter with the telling words on his
cap: "Tomorrow awaits". He survived that attack but who
knows what successive tomorrows brought him. He could be happily
retired now or may be dead. Whatever, I am certain he would rather
have had the opportunity to vote for his future than have to fight
am pleased to attach the photograph I refer to above. You are welcome
to use this free of charge to illustrate my letter if you wish. The
young man had worked in the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul before
the conflict, spoke good English and told me that he had acquired the
cap from his hotel.]
My main reason for printing the letters above is to pass on ideas for
your own letters, both to the media and to politicians. Many
supporters took the themes of my letters, re-wrote them in their own
style, mailed them to their local papers and saw them published. This
is what our campaigning work should be about - working as a team to
get the truth into the public domain.
Did my letter writing campaign have any effect? I hope so. I am told
that several were published, in full or in part and at least one by a
national paper. I also hear that two of my letters were published in
a leading west country paper on the same day, the day before the