I've posted a few times on the anti-hunting law newly enacted in England that have made it illegal to use dogs for hunting. The controversy pitted (mostly) urban dwellers and the liberal majority in Parliament who generally opposed hunting against (mostly) rural folks, and Parliamentary conservatives, who generally wanted to retain the status quo.
The enactment of the law was heralded as a major victory by the winners, who saw it as a "win" for compassion, and was received with much bitterness by the losers, who saw it as a loss of a highly-valued traditional way of life, almost a sacrilege.
It turns out that much of the private land where hunts were conducted was voluntarily made available to the government by landowners for the military to use for training.
Now, the land owners are making things difficult for the government.
The Special Air Service's grueling selection course has been thrown into chaos by farmers who have refused the elite troops permission to train on their land in protest over the Government's hunting ban.
The move in the Elan Valley area of mid-Wales and in parts of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales is one of the most damaging revolts by landowners since the ban was introduced in February.
Senior SAS officers had considered the unprecedented step of postponing one of the regiment's two annual six-month long selection courses, but that was ruled out by a severe manpower shortage within the unit.
The SAS - which comprises around 500 troops - has been severely depleted over the past two years after dozens of soldiers left for lucrative jobs as security advisers in Iraq.
The Ministry of Defence had hoped to avoid a clash, but talks earlier this year with the Welsh National Farmers' Union failed to come to any agreement.
Last night a senior defence official described the ban as "irritating, irresponsible and frustrating".
He said: "The ban was the last thing the SAS needed. Like many busy Army units it is under-strength and over-committed and is desperate for new recruits.
"But they have to be selected and carefully trained. Suitable training areas can not simply be acquired at the drop of a hat."
The Hereford-based regiment holds two selection courses a year to which anyone under the age of 32 - although that limit is flexible - can apply.
The summer and winter courses attract up to 150 candidates, although historically only 10 per cent of those volunteering to serve with the regiment are accepted.
Each course begins with an endurance phase, lasting three weeks in the Brecon Beacons. This phase is essentially a test of physical stamina and volunteers have to complete a series of marches carrying loads of up to 50lb and a rifle.
One of the toughest tests is known as the Long Drag, when soldiers have to complete a 40-mile march in 24 hours.
[ . . . ]
Those who pass move on to the escape and evasion section of the course, which also involves the dreaded tactical questioning, when soldiers are questioned as if they are a captured prisoner of war.
It is understood that it is the escape and evasion phase that was worst hit by protesting farmers.
The SAS has been carrying out escape and evasion within the Elan Valley for more than 20 years. It is regarded as an ideal training area because of the harshness of the terrain.
During this section, potential SAS troopers have to escape from a hunter force of soldiers who are under orders to capture them.
The exercise usually lasts three days, at the end of which most of the soldiers have been captured by the hunter force.
Those who pass this phase are allowed to join the regiment.
A spokesman for the MoD refused to comment on SAS selection but did confirm that much of the military training on private land in many areas of Wales had been cancelled because of action by landowners who were in dispute with the Government over the hunting ban.
"Some landowners in Wales, including those in the Elan Valley, have refused to allow training exercises to take place on their land," he said. "In most cases we have been able to make other arrangements."
Unlike the loss of elite SAS troops to private security companies, the farmers' action might well be a temporary inconvenience to the SAS's training program, but it seems unlikely to me that the SAS couldn't find suitable terrain elsewhere, if not in England, then outside her borders. (Parenthetically, I'd imagine that many who supported the hunting ban would just as soon see the military unable to train at all, if that would hasten the end of England's participation in Iraq. For these people, the hunting ban is a "win - win" proposition.)
Be that as it may, the deep animosity of the rural people at having one of their most hallowed traditions trashed is going to fester for a very long time. This ban is the kind of legislation that creates deep animosity and drives permanent wedges between constituencies.
I suspect the losers will be on a constant watch for any opportunity to extract a little revenge. For their part, I think the winners will wonder why the losers can't be good losers and just go away quietly, and will quickly lose patience with them — which will only aggravate matters more.
I don't see a resolution because there is a conflict of core values: one side would sacrifice "tradition" for "compassion" and the other would sacrifice "compassion" for "tradition," and those who favor "tradition" can't understand, much less respect, what they see as a faux and contrived "compassison," and those who favor "compassion" can't understand, much less respect, what they see as an immoral anachronism.