Dotted across the globe there are many places where Vulpes vulpes’, commonly known as red foxes, did not exist until about 250 years ago, when they suddenly appeared overnight in large numbers and began to flourish. Was this the fastest known example of evolution? Or, if you prefer, a last minute addition by an omnipotent creator? Of course not. These foxes were being shipped to various parts of the planet, such as Australia, by British colonialists who simply couldn’t think of another way to pass the time in the brave new world other than to watch animals be ripped to pieces. Some pests.
Fortunately, though somewhat belatedly, Britain finally lived up to its reputation as the world leader in animal welfare and banned this disgusting and cruel activity in November 2004 via The Hunting Act (2002 in Scotland). Its legislative aim, as stated, was thus:
“…one of preventing or reducing unnecessary suffering to wild mammals, overlaid by a moral viewpoint that causing suffering to animals for sport is unethical.”
Hear hear to that. The act passed in parliament by a wide margin, 356-166, and considering that public opinion has never wavered far from the 80% support of the ban as reported by the Ipsos MORI poll in 2013, one could have been forgiven for thinking that would be the end of the matter. But then one has to remind themselves that we haven’t had a majority Conservative government for 19 years.
David Cameron, now unshackled from the coalition, has made it plain that he wishes to see the Hunting Act repealed. He is a big fan of fox hunting, has openly admitted to taking part in multiple hunts, and though he was certainly misquoted by the BBC’s Andrew Marr when the hapless journalist claimed in an interview with the Prime Minister that he had once stated it was his favourite sport (interestingly, at the time Cameron did not refute this, so presumably he thought it plausible that he may have said it), he did say the following:
“It is my firm belief that people should have the freedom to hunt, so I share the frustration that many people feel about the Hunting Act.”
“I’m a country boy, I support country sports.”
This is where we must pick up the story. You may first want to read my opening paragraph again, followed by Mr Cameron’s comments above. Those words ought to make it clear that any suggestion of the necessity of fox hunting for wildlife management is a barely disguised subterfuge that hunt supporters themselves regularly forget to uphold and certainly cannot sustain in knowledgeable company. In reality, the debate is simply one between human rights to torture and kill animals for fun (the ‘freedom’ David Cameron refers to), versus animal rights not to be tortured and killed for fun. Thus, it is in effect, on a par with bull fighting.
Let’s do some myth busting. To begin with, there is no scientific evidence that fox hunting reduces the density of fox populations. Dozens of studies have been undertaken in this regard, many freely available for you to look up online. The published findings have always been the same; hunting has no significant impact. In a rather unfortunate irony for the barbaric minded, it has often been found that fox hunting increases the number of foxes in a given area, for two reasons. Firstly, when foxes are chased out of their earths, it becomes a vacant lot bound to attract the interest of foxes from surrounding areas. Secondly, hunt organisers themselves have been known to dig false earths in order to attract more foxes to their patch so that they have something to chase and slaughter on their big day out.
Another myth propagated by fans of this obnoxious blood sport (including by David Cameron in his comments above) that has a particularly foul stench to it, is that this is an issue of town versus country, or even worse, the working class versus the upper class. But what the blood thirsty do not want you to know is that Ipsos MORI exposed this lie. They found that precisely the same share of people living in rural England were against hunting as those living in towns and cities (80% need I remind you). Allied to this, numerous studies have shown that around two thirds of farmers do not believe foxes to be a pest at all, citing the fact that foxes help control the numbers of rabbits and other small animals which they do consider problematic to their interests. Perhaps then, Ricky Gervais put it best when he said:
“The only way fox hunting would count as vermin control is if the posh twats fell off their horses and broke their necks!”
Before I close, here are a few other things you may not be aware of. Prior to the ban, hunt organisers used to put down more than 3,000 dogs every year. Not because they were unwell, but just because they were ever so slightly past their prime and so were of no use anymore.
Regarding the hounds, it’s certainly not irrelevant to notice that they are bred for endurance not speed. This is because huntsmen do not want it all over too quickly – the thrill of the chase (and thus the prolonged psychological torture of the foxes) is everything.
As if the ‘fun’ rather than necessity factor needed to be rammed home any further (not by me, but by the hunters themselves), fox hunting is packed full of pomp and ceremony. One such ceremonial tradition is the infamous act of ‘blooding’ that involves the smearing of a fox’s blood on the face of a first-time huntsman, usually a young child. Another requires that a fox’s head and tail be cut off and taken away as trophies.
So you see it really does take a very particular type of person to partake in this kind of activity, the type of person most of us would hope never to have the misfortune to meet. It is then, at least to me, quite alarming that the most powerful person in Britain is one such person.
Finally, our government has now spent over 700 hours debating this topic. Who knows what that equates to in terms of our taxes, but please can every one of you use your voice to ensure that it is not discussed for one minute more by signing this petition:
This week (week commencing 08/06/15) the charity The League Against Cruel Sports released the shocking results of their recent undercover investigation into the Middleton Hunt, near Malton, North Yorkshire. They discovered, among other things, that this barbaric group have been stealing young cubs from the wild to ensure there are plenty of foxes to chase come hunting season. Needless to say, I roundly applaud The League Against Cruel Sports for their fantastic and brave work during this operation. The 6 minute video of their findings can be viewed below. I should warn you that it is quite upsetting.
“The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.”
– Oscar Wilde on fox hunting from ‘A Woman Of No Consequence’