Stag hunting and mad King George

  • 17 September 2007
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Apologists for the Ward Union Stag Hunt are losing the run of themselves in their bid to defend a blood sport that even foxhunters consider an embarrassment.


In a recent spate of radio interviews, they have sought to romanticise the cruel and idiotic spectacle of snobs in clown outfits chasing semi-domesticated livestock around the countryside.

The most ironic outburst of all was a Mr. Gavin Duffy's pompous condemnation of those opposed to stag hunting as “absolute lunatics”.

His choice of words was ironic because carted stag hunting- the form of animal baiting pursued by the Ward Union Hunt- was the brainchild of no less a personage than King George the Third of England, better known as Mad King George. The 18th century monarch devised the idea for the world's first carted stag hunt while suffering from what his personal physician described as “dangerous delusions”.

Any fair-minded person looking at the sport he invented would have to conclude that it was indeed the result of some seriously misguided thinking, to put it mildly.

It consists of taking a farmed stag, pushing it into a cart or horsebox, and then releasing it to be chased by a pack of hounds so that dozens of supposedly rational human beings can ride like crazy behind the pack, shouting and blowing horns, to savour the moment when the stag, panting and wheezing from exhaustion, collapses in a heap…covered in blood and bruises.

This was the same monarch alluded to in the famous ballad about Father Murphy, the Irish revolutionary priest of 1798: “Look out for hirelings, King George of England, search every kingdom that breeds a slave”.

Well, the king may have long since gone to his eternal reward, but his stag hunting fans are still committed to chasing a majestic animal to exhaustion, humiliation…or death…for a cheap thrill.

The madness of King George was all too manifest in that schoolyard in County Meath earlier this year when a bleeding stag, its tongue hanging out, was cornered by the baying pack as terrified pupils and disbelieving teachers looked on.

The so-called sport he bequeathed to us is now a criminal offence in the country he once ruled. I pray that we too may soon relegate stag hunting to its proper place on our statute books.