Fox Hunting is one topic sure to cause a stir whenever the subject is broached. Love it or loathe it, the utilization of Hounds to pursue and kill Foxes inspires both loyal devotion and stringent animosity. There are those out there who name it tradition and appear to relish a potential of a return to legality. Likewise there are those, like myself who find this practice both abhorrent and cruel and would do anything to quell its return. Whatever your stance or indeed social status this is one topic anyone with a link to the countryside, however remote will feel strongly about. Farmers, game keepers, conservationists, naturalists and suburbanites, all have opinions and all readily churn out a host of words in regards to this quintessentially British pass time. Among these; vermin, vicious predator, heritage, humanity, hobby and sport have become etched in my mind though most of these are wholly unjustified. Keeping this in mind, with both MPs and celebrities echoing the call for a referendum on fox hunting I, as a conservationist and self-professed fox lover feel I must voice my opinion. Not to throw accusations, hurl insults or vent anger but to raise awareness and attempt to portray my thoughts in a logical manner without delving into the slanging match surrounding our last remaining large(ish) predatory mammal.
Those who oppose “the hunt” are too often passed off as idealists boasting a “hippy” mentality and leaping to the defense of something admittedly quite cute and fluffy. Contrary to this I readily accept that the killing of animals is an unavoidable part of life and in some cases even support decisions culminating in the deaths of one or more of the creatures I profess to love. I fully support the removal of alien species such as Signal Crayfish, Ruddy Ducks, and Grey Squirrels which actively threaten our native ecosystem. I applauded the work done to cull Mink and revitalize the British Water Vole population. Though distasteful I am a firm believer in a “greater good” approach to conservation and concur that killing, when conducted in a humane manner is not only acceptable but often vitally important in an age where humans have greatly disrupted the natural order of things. Likewise do I accept the need to control native species wherever they pose a problem. The shooting of deer for example, when conducted by precise and trained professionals causes me few sleepless nights nor does the control of Foxes by organisations such as the RSPB where they threaten vulnerable species such as Cranes or Bustards. Furthermore I do not at all oppose the killing of wildfowl, rabbits or game birds for personal consumption, if conducted in a humane fashion though I am sure by now you catch my meaning. Fox hunting however comes under none of these guises. Foxes are not shot for food, nor are they widely culled in the name of conservation. They are, or should I say were hunted purely in the name of sport and personal enjoyable. Something I feel is wholly unacceptable in modern society.
Killing for personal enjoyment is a trait unique to we humans and for me conjures up images of medieval knights slaughtering Boar on vast royal hunting estates or the persecution of raptors to adorn the walls of the discerning Victorian gentlemen. For me sport comprises a game of football or golf, not the slaughter of a scared and helpless creature by a baying pack of hounds. Some may call this tradition, indeed Fox hunting has been part of British heritage for centuries, at least until it was abolished in 2004. Surely if we strive to meet the demands of tradition other appalling practices such as Badger baiting and Hare coursing should be common place in modern society? I think not. I cannot answer for past generations but cannot help but feel that in our day of television, computers and games consoles the slaughter of animals for fun is a somewhat out dated. Fox hunting, along with the needless persecution of otters, raptors, badgers, bears and wolves was resigned to the pages of history for a reason and that is where it should remain as a lesson to future generations
Although I pride myself on my ability to remain neutral when faced with vastly differing viewpoints there are two issues associated with this primitive practice that never fail to test my patience. Top of the pile; the issue of humanity and the flagrant disregard for the Foxes well being. As I previously stated, I do not oppose killing (with a purpose) as long as it is conducted in a clean and painless manner. Fox hunting comprises neither of these things. I challenge anyone to highlight one once of humanity in a practice that involves the pursuit and eventual mutilation of a terrified animal by a pack of dogs. There are those that claim the Fox is often dispatched cleanly via the use of a gun and if this was the case one hundred percent of the time maybe I would not oppose the pursuit so virulently. In truth however this is rarely the case and animals are more often than not torn apart as they try desperately to fend off their attackers. An end rife with terror and agony is far from humane in my eyes. Of course there are those that argue against this. Those who claim to have witnessed first hand the speed at which foxes are dispatched once caught by the pack. Indeed I know people who swear blind by this, some of whom even profess to call themselves “wildlife lovers” and conservationists though for me it only takes one forced glance at one of the many ghastly Youtube videos out there to dispel this belief entirely. Finally it seems we live in a day where animal rights hold some level of significance in day to day life. Surely allowing the return of such a barbaric practice would belittle many years of hard work courtesy of Britain’s many discerning nature lovers? I will let you make up your own mind though for me the answer is clear.
Finally, the concluding point I wish to raise is a short one. More often than not whenever the subject of Fox hunting is broached the inevitable insults derived from wealth and social status begin to fly. Though traditionally associated with the upper class Fox Hunting was (or still is if you choose to believe the reports of hunt saboteurs) a “pass time” enjoyed by many. I myself know people far removed from the socialist elite that readily support the practice and once upon a time actively took part it in. This stigma should not overshadow the issue at hand and serves only to demean any argument against the hunt. By tossing around words such as “Toff” and other derogatory terms the argument becomes about social status than the rights of an enigmatic and much loved native species. For me the facts are clear. There are no grounds on which to support the “control” of the British Fox population and nothing to be gained from the slaughter of such animals. Such hunts leave a lot to be desired in terms of animal welfare and as such the current law prohibiting the hunting of foxes and other wild animals with hounds is a godsend to both our wildlife and people like myself to devote their lives to both studying and enjoying it. Fox hunting should remain where it is, firmly rooted on the pages of history alongside other such malignant pass times, gathering dust and serving as a reminder of how far we have come from the days where animals existed only for our amusement.
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