On the first day of Christmas...

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ptreeMy true love sent to me: a partridge in a pear tree. One interpretation of the original song is that 'my true love' is God, that the partridge symbolizes Christ, and the pear tree represents the Cross. Well, maybe.

But in Britain, until 2007, if you wanted to deal in game - not just partridges but pheasants, hares, grouse, moor game, woodcock, deer, or rabbits, you needed a licence from the local authority under section 18 of the 1831 Game Act (plus an excise licence from the Post Office under section 14 of the 1860 Game Licences Act). The 1831 legislation laid down strict rules on when game could be sold - an attempt to ensure that breeding cycles were not disrupted. Freezing and refrigeration now make a nonsense out of this, but our politicians overlooked the fact for half a century. That is how laws are made.

Nevertheless, shooting game on Sundays and Christmas Day is still banned, thanks to a campaign by the League Against Cruel Sports. (Who presumably believe it's not so cruel to shoot things Monday-Saturday.) Critics also argued that Sunday shooting would disrupt people's lie-in, and could prove dangerous as people went for a Sunday stroll. Still, they also told us that nobody wanted to shop on a Sunday too, and now (even though our rulers allow the shops to open only a few hours) Sunday is a hugely popular shopping day. We really should scrap all this regulation.