Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fox Hunting - Outlawed in the UK?

I went for a walk today in Kentmere in the Cumbrian Lake District. A remote area (for England anyway) with a small village surrounded by rugged hills and topped by a large reservoir. On an overcast Tuesday I didn't expect to see many other people, what with there being less than ten parking spaces to be had. But for some reason there were lots of people about.

Soon we realised that there was something more significant going on. There were many farmers and onlookers dotted across the hillsides, most with binoculars, some with radios and there were fox hounds bounding through the bracken and heather.

As we approached the head of the valley, the huntsman's horn was trumpeting loudly and the booming barks of the hounds resounded around the crags.

A year or two ago Fox hunting with dogs was banned in the UK after a long and protracted battle that became a pseudo class battle of the socialist townies versus the landed gentry. Political lies abounded and anyone who disagreed with the hunting was branded an ignorant city dweller who knows nothing of country ways and should stay out of the professional management of our arable land. On the other side the pro hunt lobby were described as toffee-nosed toffs who run rough shod across our wild place huntin', shootin' and fishin' and do not want anyone telling them what they can and can't do with their land.

Like most political oppositions there is room for shades of grey amongst the black and white posturing, although there is some truth in both positions. Many who do object are townies. Many who take part are land owning toffs. But there are also many country dwellers who object, and many ordinary country folk who earn a livelihood from hunting.

Despite Fox hunting being illegal it carries on regardless. It seems if enough people disagree with a law (that was passed democratically) then you can ignore it and you will not be punished for it. Oh no, hang on, that isn't normally true, it is just with Fox hunting! It is no secret that the police are turning a complete blind eye to this continuing.

Ex Prime Minister Tony Blair recently stated that he regrets banning it and said he didn't know enough about it and is happy with the 'status quo' now that whoever objects to the ban can carry on if they want to. A strange interpretation of a law.

Anyway, I was brought up in the country and have seen what goes on a fox hunt several times. How anyone involved can suggest that it is the most efficient way to deal with foxes is telling a major lie and yet it is trotted out as a reason every time.

First of all they go to the Fox den and block all the entrances and flush it out with Terriers. I have seen the fox shot at this point, it is quite possible to end the poor animal's life right there without any of what follows.

Once the Fox is out it is then chased for several hours with dogs and depending on the place with people on horses. Eventually once it is exhausted and terrified it is either shot and thrown to the dogs or the dogs just simply tear it to shreds.

No don't get me wrong. I eat meat. I realise that everything isn't fluffy bunnies in the world of farming and the animals are grown for me to eat and they go to slaughter every day of the week and many of them know what's coming and suffer because of it.

I witnessed again today the Fox surrounded by 30 Hounds after being chased for several hours, hideously outnumbered and utterly doomed.

Is it necessary to commit cruelty in this way for a extended period of time in order to control fox populations? Is it right that all the people surrounding the hillsides were witnessing this for their entertainment?

The country I live is in no way perfect. But I believe that we try and hold principles that enjoying cruelty to others - animals or people - is wrong and we do everything to make sure that this behaviour is outlawed and punished. And yet Fox hunting remains an anomaly.

Is tradition or protecting jobs a good enough reason? Is the fact that rural communities have been doing this for many generations reason enough to allow them to carry on?

If so shouldn't we allow cock fighting, badger baiting, bear baiting and dog fighting? Aren't they the same?

Whatever your opinion on this, for me it comes down to this. When I saw the fox finally closed in on and killed by the hounds I felt sick to my stomach. I asked myself why such drawn out cruelty was necessary to despatch what a farmer may consider vermin. And I wondered what is in the heart and soul of people who stood and watched and enjoyed the lingering death of that animal.


Richard said...

You actually saw a fox killed?

Draghunting is big in Cumbria, my guess it would be that rather than than a live kill.

Richard Shilling said...

I assumed it was a drag hunt myself until I saw the fox and was enjoying seeing the hounds running the hillsides. There's no doubt, I saw what happened to the fox clear as day.

Valerianna said...

Poor fox... yes, these issues are sooo complex, but I personally am outraged that one small life - and death - could be so valued (for entertainment) and so undervalued at once. Cruel. I can;t see it as an efficient control anyway... just an excuse. I'm in the US, so, don't know much about it, really, though there's plenty of deer, bear and other hunting in the forest here. It has a different quality, and most here hunt to eat. No dogs torturing small, terrified fox, though I'm sure there are cruel hunting practices - oh, well, like hunting wolves from helicopters.. !!!!!!

Richard said...

Fair enough.

I wonder if the hounds set off on a drag, and found the fox, and thought hey this is much more fun.

Anyways, not good if that was the hounds primary aim for the day.

Pete Woodruff said...

It would be precisely what you saw Richard....a Fox hunt with no chance of it being a 'drag' turned real life hunt because the hounds 'came upon this Fox'.

Medieval beings of illegitimate origins killing for 'fun'....they worry me.