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Home > Culture and Society

Fox hunting: probably not the last word

24 September 2004

Is there anything left to be said about fox hunting? There's been endless news coverage, not least because Brian Ferry stormed the Commons, or something, and eeennndddllleeesss pontificating from the newspaper pundits, most of whom probably earn 150K a year for basically saying 'It's cruel' or 'It's traditional'.

Nice work if you can get it. But although the arguments for and against fox hunting are as wearily familiar as the clip of Del Boy falling over in a wine bar, a few outstanding points are probably worth making...

1) Fox hunting is NOT the only humane way to control the fox population. This is absolute bollocks. You can employ professional pest control people to shoot foxes. Three are even legions of shooting enthusiasts who'll come and off a few foxes mainly for the sport of it, like they do with pigeon infestations. (They'd probably do it for free if you let them keep the dead body, the weirdoes.) And if you're a half-competent marksman, you should be able to hit a decent-sized target like a fox. If you can hit a moving fellow lamper's child in pitch darkness, a stationary fox in daylight shouldn't be a problem.

Thus the argument that shooting foxes invariably leaves them wounded and suffering for hours or days doesn't hold water. And being shot is kinder than being ripped to pieced by dogs after being hunted for hours. What would you choose?

2) Fox hunting is NOT automatically OK because most of us eat meat, much of which is produced under extremely inhumane conditions. You can't justify one undesirable thing with another, but we'll concede there's a certain hypocrisy in banning fox hunting while millions of other animals are kept in appalling
conditions. In a better world, the government could have done itself a favour
and introduced a ban on fox hunting as part of wider animal rights legislation, thus averting charges of hypocrisy and class hatred - and this would be a logical move for any government that claims to be progressive. Sadly, New Labour hasn't suggested any such thing, but we're not being hopelessly optimistic to suggest that a large part of the public WOULD like to see better conditions on farms and in abattoirs. If you want evidence of this, look at the success of 'free range' (actually 'marginally less captive') eggs and organic foods.

3) Foxes are NOT evil. If we have to read another letter to a newspaper saying 'A fox attacked my neighbour's chicken coop and killed ten chickens but only ate one', we'll scream and wee ourselves. What are these people claiming? That the fox is the serial killer of the animal kingdom? That foxes are wasteful

Fuck only knows why foxes kill things then don't eat them. Maybe there's some survivable trait in killing as much prey as you can. Or maybe they've got eyes bigger than their stomachs. Maybe they're planning seconds. Maybe they just don't like being watched while they eat. This isn't unreasonable: would you like to tuck into a plate of tasty lamb chops while a group of little lambkins watch you, cowering and bleating? Whatever the reason, foxes are sodding animals. They're not kindly and they're not sadists. What next? We should allow fox hunting because we've somehow come to the conclusion that foxes are annoyingly self-obsessed?

4) Parts of the countryside will NOT necessarily fall into disrepair if fox hunting is banned. 23,000 hectares of woodland in England and Wales is managed by fox hunts, and obviously there's not much incentive to keep caring for the countryside if you're not allowed to hunt on it - which is fair enough. However, that doesn't mean we can't do anything to conserve woodland.

And again, if you're serious about taking a stance on a moral issue, you've got to decide what the main moral issue is. You wouldn't find a conservative/traditionalist saying 'I am uttery opposed to unmarried teenage girls having babies and relying on the state to support them, but they should keep having them because they keep social services and council housing departments in work.' If the countryside needs looking after, it needs looking after, and we, the public, via the government and the forestry commission, will have to pay for it.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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