Some people still see foxes in the stereotypical light that generations have portrayed them in, as cunning, vicious, pests that plunder livestock. This is not the case.
This cruel sport seems to be no more than another outmoded British tradition. Huntsmen often hide behind the false pretence that the hunt is actually a form of ‘pest control’. Foxes are not ‘pests’, but a natural part of the British Wildlife. If anything a fox’s diet of rabbits and rats is actually beneficial to farmers. This excuse can no longer be used to justify the hunt, as it is actually a very inefficient form of population control. Foxes naturally balance their own numbers based on food supply and territorial availability. A 1996 MAFF booklet states that only 0.4% of lambs who die do so due to accidents, dog attacks and all other animal predation, including being taken by a fox.
The cruelty does not end at these hunts. The hunters quite blatantly contradict their own claims that fox hunting is a form of pest control by sometimes going as far as providing artificial earths to encourage foxes to breed for their ‘sport’. They provide habitats for foxes to be born into and then hunt them down and brutally torture them to death, all in the name of entertainment.
The real reasons behind fox hunting are made clear in a ten year Oxford University study. Here it was found that only half the hunt masters questioned mentioned fox control as any justification for their ‘sport’. And even worse, was the fact that 82 per cent claimed that the hunt’s main role was as ‘a recreational and social force embodying a traditional rural pastime.’ To many people the idea of pursuing a fox and then watching it die, seems a very grim ‘pastime’.
The cruelty inflicted during a day of this ‘sport’ is unbelievable; every part of the fox hunt is horrendous, from the chase, to the dig out – where the fox goes to ground and is literally dug out of his hole – to the kill.
The hunting season commences in November and ends in April. A hunt will typically last from late morning to early evening. Once an unsuspecting fox’s scent is picked up by one of the hunting dogs the ‘chase’ will begin. Hunting dogs are specifically bred for stamina and endurance, not speed. As the whole point of hunting is that the chase lasts as long as possible. The fox will be chased for as long as two hours by the horde of hunters, hounds and often radio-equipped trucks for tracking. Usually a group called ‘Earthstoppers’ will have filled every visible foxhole the night before the hunt, so the fox has no chance of escape.
The chase will last until the fox finally collapses from sheer exhaustion. At this point the hunts’ dogs will snap at any part of the fox. Once the fox is down it will be seized, and if lucky shot before being thrown to the dogs. More often than not the fox will not be so lucky. There is no ‘quick nip to the back of the neck’ as is sometimes claimed. Instead, the fox can be literally eaten alive by the dogs, brutally torn to pieces, with the tail, feet and head usually taken as trophies. This has been proven by Post-mortems carried out by The Home Office. They were carried out on four foxes killed by hunting and showed that ‘there was evidence of multiple bite wounds to the face, head, rib cage, heart, lungs and stomach.’
Hunters often claim that once a fox has gone to ground ‘it is usually left, except to be dug up and destroyed humanely’. However, this has been found not to be true. If a fox manages to escape to an unblocked earth the huntsmen will send terriers down the earth to force the fox back out of the earth to continue its terrified flee. Alternatively, the fox is sometimes attacked by the dogs underground whilst the huntsmen dig down to catch it. Once dug out the fox is supposed to be shot, but many simply give it a blow with a spade or throw it alive to the waiting hounds.
British support for the hunt is on the decline. A recent poll for the Daily Telegraph, showed that 77 per cent of rural dwellers and 84 per cent of urban people supported a ban on hunting.
Even those who support fox hunting, such as Lord Burns, are now discussing the cruelty of this sport. He commented during a debate in the House of Lords that they had come ‘to the view that the experience of being closely pursued, caught and killed by hounds seriously compromised the welfare of the fox and probably falls short of the standards we would expect for humane killing.’ And this was from a supporter!
This ‘sport’ has been carried on out of British tradition, for no other reason than to entertain. Inflicting such pain and cruelty on any living creature simply for ‘sport’ is morally unjustifiable, and a ban should be imposed as soon as possible.