The Eton Ram Hunt and other stories

Badger-baiting

Those were the days

Yesterday’s blog showed how nearly half of the current Government’s Cabinet went to prominent Public Schools, such as Eton, Westminster, St Pauls, Radley, Robert Gordon’s, Wycombe Royal Grammar, Charterhouse, Highgate, Nottingham High School and Frances Holland.

Could this private education have skewed their perceptions of what kind of behaviour is acceptable when dealing with wildlife, such as Badgers?

I found an interesting piece from renowned social reformer Henry Salt, regarding the treatment of animals at Eton College in the 18th and 19th century.

“No work,” he says, “was done on Shrove Tuesday after 8 a.m., and at Eton, as elsewhere on this day, the practice prevailed of torturing some live bird. The college cook carried off a crow from its nest, and, fastening it to a pancake, hung it up on the school door, doubtless to serve as a target.”

I can actually visualise this, as having been at Westminster for my sixth form years. I witnessed (but did not take part in) the Greaze , a violent contest between boys, over a very large pancake, as to who could gather the heaviest weight of pancake. The crow would have been ripped to pieces, alive.

Eton also had a Ram Hunt.

“The college butcher had to provide a ram annually at election-tide, to be hunted and killed by the scholars,” the unfortunate animal being hamstrung and beaten to death in Weston’s Yard. Even in the nineteenth century such sports as bull-baiting, badger-baits, dog-fights, and cat and duck hunts, were “organised for the special edification of the Eton boys.”

Now of course these things have ceased to contribute to the education of the children of the Elite. But I wonder whether a memory of them lingers on in the background.

At Westminster, in the middle of London, opportunities were rare to maim or torture wild animals. Even the ancient right to drive a flock of sheep over Westminster Bridge, is rarely employed these days.

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About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in badgers, blood sports, Eton, the cabinet, Westminster School and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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