Image Credit: Jans Canon
The York Tories reportedly plan to host their infamous fox hunting social, despite criticism from multiple committee members and YUSU staff.
The bar crawl, which requires attendees to come dressed as either foxes or tweed-dressed hunters, features a chase-style game, where one team attempts to catch the other. The social this year is particularly exceptional considering that the repeal of Tony Blair’s 2004 hunting ban was dropped from official Conservative Party policy in 2019. According to a statement by the York Tories, the social does not support fox hunting, but will be held with Roger Scruton, the society’s recently deceased honorary president, and a firm fox-hunting fan, “in mind.” The Conservative party has denounced the event.
The social, which used to require women dress as foxes, and men dressed as ‘hunters’, was changed last year. There is currently one female committee member. York Tory socials of a similar nature have repeatedly made national headlines.
The return of the social would represent a huge statement of confidence for the York Tories, who reportedly had less than 20 people turn up for the previous fox hunting event last year. Although the event went off “without a hitch,” according to their statement at the time, others in the committee have raised concerns about whether re-doing the social is sustainable considering the widespread criticism it receives each year.
Campus societies, including VegSoc and FemSoc, have protested the event in the past. Speaking to Nouse, an anonymous committee member said that the social painted “a false negative stereotypical image of Young Conservatives. It will not help us attract new members, especially women who are statistically more against fox hunting.”
After being approached for a comment by Nouse, a spokesperson for the York Tories said:
“The fox hunting social will take place at some point later this term. The event does not mean that the society takes a stance on the activity, it is simply a vehicle for providing a theme for a chase bar crawl, allowing our members to decide their own opinion on fox hunting. Similarly, if we held a cops and robbers bar crawl we would not be advocating stealing. Furthermore, our recently deceased honorary president, Sir Roger Scruton, was a great lover of legal fox hunting and this event will be held particularly with him in mind.”
The revival of the social has also been met with criticism from Environment and Ethics Officer Merry Dickinson. “Fox hunting as a ‘sport’ is premised upon the torture of the innocent. I cannot imagine why you would want to hold a social based upon that concept unless it was in some way indicative of your politics and beliefs. I’m glad they have removed the previous misogynistic elements of having women as animals to be hunted, I can’t help but wonder whether that’s due to there simply not being enough women in the Tory society to continue that aspect.”
Robin Willoughby, Campaign Manager for the North Yorkshire Young Conservatives, condemned the event: "The Conservative Party does not endorse the York Tories Fox Hunting Social, nor the students that take part in it. This does not represent our Young Conservatives Movement, the York Tories are not affiliated to the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party have made it clear that we will not seek to alter the current laws regarding fox hunting, as stated in our manifesto in general election.”