You are most probably aware that fox hunting has come under serious attack in Britain recently from animal rights groups and the media, and consequently is under serious threat of being banned by the government. So in keeping with recent events I have decided to make it the subject of this short essay.
Contrary to what some may think, foxhunting is not just an obsolete British tradition. Although it did originate here, and Britain is the key study of this essay, foxhunting has since spread across the Atlantic and is now commonplace in America and Russia. It is practised for several reasons: as a sport, for its fur and, most commonly, because of its reputation as a farmyard pest.
Fox hunting owes a lot to the common farmers, without them it would not exist and now, when it is in danger they form the backbone of its defence. Their claim is an old one, which has featured largely in old tales of the sly and cunning, cruel and devious fox. It has hardly changed in at least two hundred years:
” But he killed my chickens!”
A simple claim of criminal damage, it has been effective for over a hundred years.
But, some might say, not now. In modern times, many people argue that this argument is far to dated, out of touch, and, consequently, worthless. They claim that farms of today are far better built and protected, foxes would have much more trouble in trying to raid the hen coop now. Nowadays the hunting and shooting of foxes is not necessary to deter them. In fact, recent studies of the rural red fox have shown that: over 80% of the foxes diet is composed of rabbit, none at all (except possibly in very rare isolated cases) is stolen from farms and, moreover, they in fact avoid human contact, particularly farms, at all costs.
The farmer though is not the only hunting party. The gentry have always traditionally had an interest in this old pastime since they are the other group of people to own large enough tracts of land. They often invest large sums of money buying the best horses, hounds and equipment for their practice in the sport. Fathers hand down foxhunting to their sons (and sometimes daughters) for many generations, ensuring their continued support to the present day. They argue insistently of its values as a noble tradition and its worthiness as a fine sport.
This, some say, hardly deserves comment. They feel that the relentless chasing of on innocent animal for many miles (its burrow is often specially blocked). Until it is weak and tired, and then, setting upon it with dogs is clearly no sport to any one but the mildly insane. Sports are supposed to give fair chances to each side, surely one small fox against a dozen hounds can’t give very good odds on the fox. In addition, they also mention the existence of the alternative fox hunting sport ‘drag hunting’. It involves giving a ‘runner’ a quarter of an hour head start in which they run ahead dragging a small scented sack behind them. The dogs follow the scent left by the runner who does whatever they can to lose the hounds. If the hounds catch them then they treat the sack like a fox, if not then the runner has to try to escape to a ‘safe house’ several miles away.
In contradiction to this, the hunters claim that they use minimum pain when killing the animal. They say that they have all of their dogs specially trained to snap the fox’s neck, for an instant death. This should mean that it experiences little or no pain at all. They also mention that the blocking of an animals burrow is only ever used if it is near farmland and never if it is just a sporting hunt and that drag hunting is:
‘An unsuitable alternative to real hunting’
However, others argue that the training (if any such thing ever takes place) is a futile exercise only serving to waste time. In order for a hunting hound to snap a fox’s neck its jaws would have to be at least 50% longer and undeterminably stronger than they are at present. Besides, they say, if that is the case then why not use just one dog rather than a dozen who would then have difficulty in getting to the fox’s neck? They also criticise the spokespersons lack of willingness to negotiate suitable alternatives.
Other hunt groups claim that the reducing of fox numbers is actually good for the local eco-system. They believe that the British fox population is, at present, overlarge and endangers the future populations of its prey. By keeping red fox numbers under check they hope that they can help restore the natural balance to the eco-system and benefit the rest of the wildlife.
Contrary to the above arguments though, others claim to have proof that just the opposite is true. A recent census of Britain’s foxes shows just the opposite of the hunter’s arguments. The population of Britain’s rural red foxes is in sharp decline whereas rabbit numbers are escalating out of control. The large rabbit numbers are eating many of the short wildflowers necessary for butterflies causing their numbers to drop as well. Although admittedly urban fox numbers are increasing (who don’t prey on rabbits) this does not balance out the total population, which, is still dropping.
In a valid contribution from the hunting party, they argue that if the government were to ban foxhunting then the hunting hounds would have no use and we would most likely have to put them to sleep. This surely is far to great a price to pay, imagine thousands of lives lost forever. If the opposing are concerned about animal life then how can they possibly let this happen?
Others would argue that, nevertheless we have to put a stop to foxhunting. They beg you to consider the animal’s current lifestyle. They are most often chained or locked up away from other animals and get little human attention due to the instincts which they were specifically bred for. They have hardly any real freedom at all unless they are out on a hunt when they have to work strenuously for a long period of time. Event then they are followed the stampeding hooves of the horses galloping through the snow, and have the occasional gunshot sending tremors through their bodies. They can never be re-homed but we could possibly, just make the breeding of the dogs illegal and then either use them for drag hunting (see line 15, 3rd paragraph), or then have hunting banned in, say, ten years time.
Having taken into account all of the evidence here shown I am left with the clear impression that foxhunting is a needlessly wasteful act of violence against an innocent creature, which, was recently voted to be Britain’s third most popular native animal. Only a very small percentage of people find any pleasure in the activity whereas most of us feel revolt
It would seem to most people that the use of drag hunting represents a highly effective new alternative but the majority of huntspeople instead regard it as “unsuitable” for reasons, which they do not wish to disclose. This seems to me to be highly uncooperative behaviour inappropriate for a discussion aimed to reach a reasonable compromise. When we face this to contend with a ban is the only option. I am of the strong opinion that we should open a total ban on fox hunting effective immediately.
The unfortunate problem with banning the sport is that a large number of the higher court members belong to the group of people described in the third paragraph and are hunters themselves. The best way to deal with this problem is for the government to simply overrule their decisions and take control of the situation in hand. This would demonstrate true natural leadership qualities although is likely to provoke outcry from the hunting population. The outcome from not taking some dire form of action though is that we have reached an unpleasant stalemate in which neither side will move for fear of losing their position. If hunt numbers increase the government will fight back but if not then there is no chance for them to advance. We must attack now whilst the power of the people is behind us, or, we will be left to forever hold our peace.