Over recent months it has been a pleasure to write a series of positive articles in Shooting Times about people who care for the countryside, people so dedicated to the wildlife and traditions of rural Britain that they?ve been prepared to do something about them. They have worked to improve habitat, encouraged endangered species, promoted the rural way of life, supported farming and defended country sports. With the countryside under attack as never before, they have stood up to be counted.

But who is doing the attacking? Why is it necessary for people with convictions to defend the rural way of life? For those of us who live and work in the country; who regularly get our hands and boots dirty; who work with animals and look after them and who regularly get so close to nature that we feel part of it, the situation is bizarre. We see all sorts of wrongs affecting our countryside, our farming and our wildlife; we see many aspects of country sports being a positive influence, yet at the same time there is a never-ending stream of propaganda demonising the good, misrepresenting the facts and misleading the innocently uniformed.

To make matters worse, many of those who claim to be monitoring the law on hunting seem to be breaking numerous others themselves, while the police seem to be more concerned with the manipulation, rather than the rule, of law. In a country with great traditions of freedom and democracy it is a sad state of affairs.

One of the major problems, of course, is that, day-by-day, Britain becomes ever more urban and the bulk of our population becomes increasingly separated from nature and the countryside. I suppose it was best summed up earlier in the year by that wealthy urban incomer (shortly destined to be a lot less wealthy) Paul McCartney, when he claimed that the book that had made the greatest impression on him was Bambi, a story with talking animals and birds that have the same emotions as humans. I wonder if he realises that in real life a rabbit cannot have a conversation with an owl.

Letters prey

Sadly, McCartney is not alone, for almost every day various individuals display their lack of wildlife knowledge by writing letters of outrage and ignorance to national and local newspapers. Astonishingly, with a remarkable lack of sensitivity, one bunny-hugging organisation declared 11 November this year ? Armistice Day ? ?Day of action for duck?.

This prompted a letter writer from Bristol to inform readers of The Tamworth Herald, in the Midlands, that farmed duck are close relatives of the mallard, and, like their wild cousins, they would love to fly at 50mph, choose a mate and live for 15 years or more. Farmyard duck flying at 50mph? What planet does the letter writer come from?

Or how about a story in The Shropshire Star, in November. Somebody was outraged by the fact that the hounds of the North Shropshire hunt ran through a nature reserve in the autumn ? the season when nothing is breeding or flowering (apart from ivy) and no damage can be done. But wait for it: the hounds were rampaging through a designated nature reserve, renowned for its protected species of great-crested newts. How would a hound damage a great-crested newt as it started its winter hibernation? Were these really ?newt hounds?? The mind boggles, but the letter no doubt had its desired effect: to create outrage among the unknowing urban bunny-huggers ? or in this case, ?newt-cuddlers?.

Lately there has been a whole volley of letters from people outraged by the National Trust allowing staghunting on Exmoor. So the Western Morning News (the best paper on rural issues in Britain) printed a misleading letter from Rhyl and a bizarre letter from Suffolk ? it seems most outraged animal lovers spend their time writing to papers many miles from where they actually live.

This is confirmed by a letter to The Western Mail, in November, from the London-based campaigns manager of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), informing the world that ?hunt monitors? around the UK are reporting fewer riders and supporters following hunts this year. This flies in the face of all evidence from the hunts themselves and most sections of the media, and also contradicts the evidence of my own eyes and ears.

Monitor lizards

Though the letter is misleading, however, it does raise the question of hunt monitors ? who are they and what are they doing? One of the oddities of the hunting ban has been the fact that hunt saboteurs are still active and spreading their activities into shooting and fishing. Many, wearing balaclavas, wielding clubs and baseball bats and shouting offensive insults, have simply been watched by police, with no action being taken. Funny, this: would the anti-terrorism police allow balaclavas to be worn in London? Would people wielding baseball bats and wearing balaclavas be allowed into Premiership football matches? Surely this is a direct form of terrorism, so what are the police doing about it? And what is the Government doing about police inactivity?

Hunt monitors do not wear balaclavas, they simply watch hunts and try to wind huntsmen up ? then selectively film the reaction. My advice to anyone being filmed is simple: when the camera is on you say, ?Oh no, not you again. Don?t use filthy language at me like you did last time and please don?t threaten me again.?

While making a speech in Bournemouth, I once had policemen filming me from a distance of a few feet. It was straightforward intimidation. In my view, opponents of fieldsports filming a hunt or a shoot are intimidating hunters and shooters, whether they call themselves monitors or not. They are breaking the law on two fronts ? harassment and incitement ? and should be reported to the police. A self-appointed ?hunt monitor? is, in reality, no such thing.

Hunt monitors are vigilantes, and we are frequently told that in Britain the police will not tolerate vigilantes. Why, then, do they appear to tolerate anti-country-sports vigilantes? The police are supposed to uphold the law ? if hunt monitors are so upset about breaches of the law, why don?t they seek easier targets, such as car drivers using mobile phones?

The current harassment of hunters does raise the whole issue of the attitude of the police to country people. Would the police allow people shouting threats and insults to follow other minority groups along the street? Of course not. Such behaviour would be classified as a hate crime and the insult-slingers arrested ? so why do the police allow assorted yobs and ne?er-do-wells to hurl insults at hunters and shooters? Would the police allow self-appointed monitors to film the every move of other minority groups? Of course they wouldn?t: the cameramen would be arrested and charged with harassment and incitement ? so why treat country people differently?

When I suggested at Frampton Country Fair, in 2002, that I should have the same rights as other minorities, a policeman from Gloucestershire came all the way to Cambridge to arrest me and it was absurdly suggested that I had incited racial hatred. Astonishingly, by using the Data Protection Act, I have discovered that the Attorney General?s decision in my case was simple: No crime committed.

Yet, despite this, simply because I used the word ?gay?, my name is still on a ?Homophobic Incidents Register? held by Gloucestershire police. It is outrageous, though quite in keeping with the Gloucestershire Constabulary?s ridiculous record of political correctness. Interestingly, too, the records show that, when I asked for a change of date to attend bail, as I wanted to go to Kenya, the sergeant in charge of the case wrote in an internal memo: Hopefully he will get eaten by a crocodile ? how?s that for a good bit of impartial policing?

Sadly, impartial policing seems to be disappearing. Following a recent meeting between the Avon and Somerset Constabulary, and representatives of IFAW, the RSPCA and League Against Cruel Sports, the master, huntsman and second whipper-in of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds were arrested for alleged illegal hunting.

The master, Maurice Scott, was put into a police cell for several hours. In my view, the police behaviour was an outrage. Maurice Scott was going nowhere: he has lived and farmed on Exmoor all his life; he has 3,500 sheep and 400 cattle to look after and check every day; he is a well-respected member of the community, and yet he was treated like a common criminal and even lectured by a police constable on National Trust staghunting policy.

It really is time that the country sports communities fought back. The behaviour of violent opponents of fieldsports, hunt monitors and arrogant policemen should not be tolerated. This country was once proud of its traditions of freedom and democracy. Our deceitful Government wants to give these tokens of civilisation to Iraq and Afghanistan ? it would be far simpler if it would give them back to the countryside and the people of Britain.