A fox hunting



The Burns Report contains the following text into which Foxman has inserted his initial reactions in red:

45 The issues of cruelty and animal welfare are central to the debate about hunting. Animal welfare is essentially concerned with assessing the ability of an animal to cope with its environment: if an animal is having difficulty in coping with its environment, or is failing to cope, then its welfare may be regarded as poor.

While a fox is being hunted, its environment is "the chase". Foxes are conditioned to cope with this very well. Please see (chase.htm) for research into this. Most escape untouched. The chances of escape after being overrun by hounds are very very small. There is no evidence that foxes which have evaded the hunt have had their ability to cope with their normal environment degraded.


46 Except in relation to deer, little scientific work has been done to assess the impact of hunting on the welfare of the four quarry species. Because it is not possible to ask an animal about its welfare, or to know what is going on inside its head, it is necessary to draw up some indicators which enable one to make a judgment. The precise nature of these indicators will vary depending on the animal concerned but they will usually comprise a mixture of physiological indicators and behavioural indicators. But, because they are only indicators, there is often room for argument about the extent to which a particular finding indicates poor welfare as opposed to, for example, exertion that can be regarded as falling within natural limits. It is also necessary to consider whether the assessment of welfare should be on an absolute or comparative basis.

47 Animal welfare is concerned with the welfare of the individual animal, not the management of the wider population.

The welfare of a human destroyer of other people's property is degraded when imprisoned for the good of the wider population. Thus it seems illogical to object to degradation of the welfare of the individual fox when judging the implications of fox-hunting. The welfare of the wider population of foxes is not harmed by and, in some cases, is improved by culling individual foxes through fox-hunting ( which is a highly selective means of culling ).

In assessing the impact of hunting on animal welfare we are persuaded that it is necessary to look at it on a relative, rather than an absolute, basis. It should not be compared with only the best, or the worst, of the alternatives. Nor is it right to justify hunting by reference to the welfare implications of illegal methods of control. (Paragraph 6.12)

48 In the event of a ban on hunting, it seems probable that farmers and others would resort more frequently to other methods to kill foxes, deer, hares and perhaps mink. There would be a mixture of motives: pest control; the value of the carcass; and the recreational value to be derived from shooting. It follows that the welfare of animals which are hunted should be compared with the welfare which, on a realistic assessment, would be likely to result from the legal methods used by farmers and others to manage the population of these animals in the event of a ban on hunting. (Paragraph 6.13)

54 The three main aspects of fox-hunting which give rise to concern on welfare grounds are: the chase; the "kill" by the hounds above ground; and digging-out/ terrierwork.

55 There is a lack of scientific evidence about the welfare implications of hunting, although some post mortem reports have been received. The welfare implications of hunting need to be compared with those which arise from other methods such as shooting, and snaring.

56 The evidence which we have seen suggests that, in the case of the killing of a fox by hounds above ground, death is not always effected by a single bite to the neck or shoulders by the leading hound resulting in the dislocation of the cervical vertebrae. In a proportion of cases it results from massive injuries to the chest and vital organs, although insensibility and death will normally follow within a matter of seconds once the fox is caught.

Please see (ncatch.htm). This clip is from a video taken by an Anti'. It shows a worst case. Foxman has seen very many "kills". Even if caught by one single hound, in all cases the fox was attacked by many hounds within seconds. Thus death was very quick and the vast majority of wounds were after death. Compare this with the periods of suffering after surviving the normally serious wounding by shooting and death is not quick, which happens in a significant proportion of cases.

There is a lack of firm scientific evidence about the effect on the welfare of a fox of :

being closely pursued.

While a fox is being hunted, its environment is "the chase". Foxes are conditioned to cope with this very well, about 80% escape untouched. There is no evidence that foxes which have evaded the hunt have had their ability to cope with their normal environment degraded.

being caught,

The chances of escape after being overrun by hounds are very very small.

and killed above ground by hounds,

Burns points out above that "death will normally follow within a matter of seconds once the fox is caught" and below that "both snaring and shooting can have serious adverse welfare implications".

We are satisfied, nevertheless, that this experience seriously compromises the welfare of the fox. (Paragraph 6.49)

  • In the event of a kill of course it does, but so does any other method. Surely certain death "within a matter of seconds" is better than the risk of a much slower death from wounds after being shot at or starvation in the case of inadequate culling. The anti-hunting world seized on the statement "this experience {being hunted} seriously compromises the welfare of the fox"to allege that this meant that hunting was cruel. However during the parliamentary debate, two principal authors of the Burns Report set out to explain precisely what they meant by the expression.
  • Lord Burns, Chairman of the Inquiry, said on the issue of cruelty "Naturally, people ask whether we were implying that hunting is cruel... The short answer to that question is no. There was not sufficient verifiable evidence or data safely to each views about cruelty."
  • Lord Soulsby, one of the most senior vets in the UK, went further, condemning those organisations who claimed that the expression equated to cruelty and thus justified an end to hunting "At no point did the committee conclude, or even attempt to conclude, an assessment of cruelty. Yet many bodies have erroneously--I repeat the word "erroneously"--quoted the Burns report, stating that it clealy demonstrated that the practice of hunting wild animals with dogs caused cruelty. The report did not state that."
  • Thus the only argument used by opponents of hunting following the Burns Report had been dismissed by the very people who wrote it.

57 Although there is no firm scientific evidence, we are satisfied that the activity of digging out and shooting a fox involves a serious compromise of its welfare, bearing in mind the often protracted nature of the process and the fact that the fox is prevented from escaping. (Paragraph 6.52)

58 It is likely that, in the event of a ban on hunting, many farmers and landowners would resort to a greater degree than at present to other methods to control the numbers of foxes. We cannot say if this would lead to more, or fewer, foxes being killed than at present. (Paragraph 6.58)

59 None of the legal methods of fox control is without difficulty from an animal welfare perspective. Both snaring and shooting can have serious adverse welfare implications. (Paragraph 6.59)

60 Our tentative conclusion is that lamping using rifles, if carried out properly and in appropriate circumstances, has fewer adverse welfare implications than hunting, including digging-out. However, in areas where lamping is not feasible or safe, there would be a greater use of other methods. We are less confident that the use of shotguns, particularly in daylight, is preferable to hunting from a welfare perspective. We consider that the use of snaring is a particular cause for concern. (Paragraph 6.60)

61 In practice, it is likely that some mixture of all of these methods would be used. In the event of a ban on hunting, it is possible that the welfare of foxes in upland areas could be affected adversely, unless dogs could be used, at least to flush foxes from cover. (Paragraph 6.61)