Imagine the outrage we would feel if a group of youths blocked off a small dog’s escape routes and chased it on bikes with much larger dogs baying for its blood. When the dogs catch up with the smaller dog, they tear it apart, unless one of the kids shoots it first. We would, quite rightly, demand the maximum possible penalty by law.
What differentiates the youths on bikes from toffs on horseback? What really differentiates the fox from the small dog?
To the Tories, these two scenarios are worlds apart. Theresa May has been under pressure from her backbenchers to repeal the (already largely ignored) Foxhunting hunting ban.
The hunt itself will gather in late morning, although an ‘earth stopper’ will have been out at dawn to block up any known fox earths, drains and badger setts, so that foxes returning from a night’s foraging will be exposed above ground. The huntsman will lead the hounds to a wood or covert where there is a known earth. The hounds are sent into the wood to flush out any foxes. As all underground escape routes are blocked, the fox is forced to run to escape the hounds. Riders positioned around the wood will ‘holloa’ to let the huntsman know the direction the fox has run.
Foxhounds are bred to be slower than foxes, but have far better stamina. Thus, the fox will initially out-pace the hounds, but tire quicker, allowing the hounds to eventually catch up with it. It is almost always an older, experienced hound who will catch a fox on the run, snapping at any part of the fox to slow it down. The rest of the pack then catches up and the fox is torn to pieces.
If the fox manages to find refuge in an un-blocked earth, the hunt employ terriermen who will put their terriers
down the earth to force the fox into the open to be re-hunted, or attack the fox underground while the men dig
down through the soil to catch the terrified animal. Once they have dug out the fox, the terriermen are supposed to shoot it, but many will simply give it a blow with a spade. It is not unheard of (although against fox hunting rules) for the fox to be thrown alive to the waiting foxhounds.
90% of agricultural land is used for crops, beef and dairy farming. The fox’s diet of rabbits and rats actually makes it an asset to most farmers. A 1996 MAFF booklet stated that only 0.4% of lambs that die do so due to accidents, dog attacks, and all other animal predation (including being taken by foxes). Besides, efforts at control are useless as the fox regulates its own population and is a territorial animal. This means that if one fox is killed another soon moves into its place from a surrounding area.
The hunters privately admit that they do not hunt to ‘control a pest’. A 10 year Oxford University study found that only half of the Hunt Masters questioned mentioned fox control as any justification for their ‘sport’. 82% claimed that the hunt’s main role was as ‘a recreational and social force embodying a traditional rural pastime’
As ever, we encourage you to write to your representatives in parliament to let them know that a repeal on Foxhunting would not be welcome, and that we demand tighter controls on the current system that is allowed or ignore by law enforcement. You can find contact details for your representative here.
There are lots of ideas of how to help stop foxhunting on the RSPCA website
Or you could get involved with the Hunt Saboteur Association
Image by Debra Torrance
Written by Victoria Pearson