UK: Fox Hunting

From the UK, George Sassoon writes: The Daily Telegraph (3/24/05) reports that hunts have killed 800 foxes since the ban on hunting, using "a variety of methods" to do so legally under exemptions to the Hunting Act.  "Unconfirmed reports say that some hunts have hunted illegally when they found that police were not available to enforce the ban."  The number of kills is "about usual" for the time of year.  Also, a second dog has been attacked by a fox in the village of Hilton, Cambridgeshire.  It is not known if this is the same fox that killed a German shepherd dog in the village.  If it is the same fox, it could not have rabies as it would have been dead by now.  Villagers are speculating that the fox could have been hand-reared and then released. RH: Strange. Why would he do that?

Fox hunters do not kill the vixen because they want the species to survive. I said: This sounds like breeding bulls and fighting cocks to provide the necessary sporting targets. Glenye Cain says: To the extent that hunters hunt game, yes, you have a point. But a target generally is a stationary object, which most definitely is not the case with fox pursued over its home territory! Foxhunters do not breed the foxes, they simply let them be during the off season and maintain the countryside to allow foxes to live naturally over their home land. Is this worse than breeding cattle for slaughter? RH: Stationary targets are easy; moving targets are difficult.  As for breeding cattle for slaughter, it can be justified in terms of the human need for food.   What did Oscar Wilde say about foxhunting? The???chasing the inedible. The attitude toward meat in various parts of the world is a WAISworthy subject. George Sassoon says of allowing foxes to breed: It's allowing a pest species to survive when otherwise it would be wiped out. RH: I gather George would be pleased if the pest were wiped out.  However, the Greens are the real  pest. Under pressure from them, in the US, France and other countries wolves are being reintroduced into regions  where they had disappeared.  That they eat the lambs and make life difficult for the farmers does not bother the Greens.

Regarding the fox problem in the UK, I asked: Why not kill the vixens and eliminate foxes altogether? End of problem. Glenye Cain replies:Under the ban, it appears that you can do exactly that; as a landowner himself, if George Sassoon has a different understanding of the law there, he may be able to provide clarification. The reason foxhunters didn't do that--and instead had a hunting season and an off season--was in order to maintain what they view as a healthy balance of wildlife versus domestic stock: enough foxes to preserve the species and allow hunting, but not so many foxes that they decimated domestic stock.  It has long been the practice of many hunts to actually pay farmers who suffered poultry losses, for example, due to kills by foxes. That compensation essentially helped to persuade farmers not to just start widespread shooting or poisoning of foxes. It was a price the hunts paid to help ensure the survival of  their sport, which is naturally dependent on the survival of the fox species.

RH:  This sounds like breeding bulls and fighting cocks to provide the necessary sporting targets.

Glenye Cain, who has just returned from foxhunting in the UK, writes: You are indeed allowed to shoot foxes under the ban, which is one of the reasons this ban makes little sense from the animal-rights standpoint. Foxhunters keep a season, meaning they don't hunt in the late spring and summer, but under the ban a fox can be shot at any time of year. A recent study in Scotland, which has had a ban on traditional foxhunting has been in place for a couple of years, showed that fox deaths have roughly doubled under their ban. A fox stands more chance of being maimed and suffering a long, painful death when culled by gunshot, but farmers whose lambs and poultry are plagued by foxes will understandably resort to whatever means they can to get rid of the problem legally.

I can say that the hunts I visited in Great Britain are trying their best to comply with the law, but the law is complex and not all that sensible from a wildlife-management standpoint. It also, by allowing foxes to be shot all year 'round, was acutely uncomfortable for many foxhunters I met, who pointed out that at this time of year they would generally not kill vixens, as this is mating season--a fine point that, it appears, the ban does not appreciate. One of the more interesting things that occurred during my visit took place before the ban was in effect, when a fox went to earth on land managed by a conservation group that was raising sheep there. The hunt informed the group that there was a fox earth there, and the group requested that the hunt despatch the fox, "but quietly, please." Understandably, they did not want a fox in the area just as lambing season was beginning.

I applaud people who work for the welfare and preservation of animals, but this ban, as constructed, significantly hampers one of Britain's best groups of land and game conservationists--foxhunters--and does not seem likely to aid any of the animals involved.

RH:Why not kill the vixens and eliminate foxes altogether? End of problem.

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: April 12, 2005