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After Saddam

Parliament approves hunting for WMD with hounds
Parliament today gave approval to the Iraqi Countryside Act, an unusual measure designed to resolve in one fell swoop the thorny issues surrounding country blood sports and the failure to locate Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. As a concession to animal rights activists, the Act bans fox hunting with dogs, but, in a bow in the other direction, specifically authorizes and provides significant financial support for the use of hounds in the search for Iraqi WMD.

Fox hunting has been a particularly nettlesome problem for the Government. A substantial number of Prime Minister Blair's party members favour complete prohibition of the sport, which its supporters portray as a precious symbol of vanishing English country life. The failure to find any evidence of an Iraqi weapons program has also proven to be a serious embarrassment to the Prime Minister, who had argued that the threat posed by the weapons justified war with Iraq. Putting dogs on the trail of anthrax canisters will greatly expand the resources allocated to the hunt and allow sportsmen to continue to use their dogs in pursuit of inedible vermin.

Spokespersons for the Countryside Alliance reported that its officers are still studying the Act and had no immediate comment. A prominent member of the Dimsdell Hunt, however, was effusive in his enthusiasm. Major Sir Alistair Edmund Huffington-Wagstaff, KCB, proclaimed the Act "the greatest parliamentary accomplishment since the Toad Reform Act of 1923. I thought those chaps were just sitting around on their bums doing bugger all. Now, they've opened up a whole new hunting reserve for us. It's too bloody marvellous for words."

Although Sir Alistair's enthusiasm flagged somewhat after a quick review of the Times Atlas disclosed the location of Iraq, he still believes the Act presents a significant victory for advocates of country pursuits, providing one is prepared to disregard the country in which the pursuits occur.

"That's not the damn point, is it?" observed Sir. Alistair. "The real point is that it is an important part of our English heritage to, from time to time, take over some benighted part of the globe and turn it into a rural English paradise. Me ancestor did it Syria during the Crusades, and I'm prepared to do so, now." (The ancestor to which Sir Alistair alluded, Tancred of Bilgeburg, is noted by history for his part in pillaging Constantinople under the mistaken impression that it was in the hands of infidels. Labouring under a series of similar misunderstanding, he subsequently laid waste to Acre, Lucerne, and York.)

"The only problem," continued Sir Alistair, "apart from the beastly climate and bad drainage, is that there are always too damn many wogs about the place. Still, one can't have everything, and servants do have to come from somewhere."

At least some left-wing activists are unhappy that hounds may now be used to hunt WMD. Ms. Petulia Pertbright, a spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Atomic Weaponry (PETAW), declared that her group intends to take militant action to prevent the inhumane use of dogs to run down and destroy weapons of mass destruction.

"We got the list of all the secret Iraqi weapons sites from the Michelin Guide and our volunteers plan to lay down on the ground and barricade them with our bodies to protect them from the dogs. We may be trampled by packs of hounds, but we are prepared to make that sacrifice if necessary."

When informed that the dogs were likely to have horses galloping close behind them, Ms. Pertbright appeared visibly shaken, but declared herself undeterred. "Any one who has ever seen a thermonuclear device after it has been set upon by a pack of hounds can tell you what an appalling sight it is. The damage such a device may do cannot begin to justify the horrendous scene of carnage when savage dogs tear it to pieces."

If the use of hounds is successful in the hunt for WMD, the Government intends to introduce a separate countryside act authorizing the use of peregrine falcons as an anti-missile defence shield.

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