A fox hunting



 Following the debate on the Burns inquiry, a group of veterinary surgeons, under the leadership of Dr Lewis Thomas and Professor
Twink Allen, have prepared a working paper entitled "A Veterinary opinion on hunting with hounds" which examines the welfare implications of hunting and its alternatives. Dr Thomas’ group consists of nearly 300 Members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, including a number of leading animal welfare experts and pathologists with incomparable experience in the field of animal welfare.

Their conclusions make it perfectly clear that they do not view hunting as causing the infliction of unnecessary suffering and, furthermore, highlight the animal welfare dangers of legislation that has made it a criminal offence.

 Foxman has based his arguments on a paper published in November 1996 in the academic journal Animal Welfare. It is reassuring to read that this has been backed up by more recent work. In the 1996 paper, two British zoologists at the University of Nottingham, (Chris Barnard, professor of animal behaviour and Jane Hurst, a behavioural ecologist) maintain that to discover whether an animal is likely to be suffering when chased you need to ask if adaptation has preconditioned the population to deal with such conditions. If it has, then the risk of suffering may not be nearly as great as might be imagined.
  They maintain that it is necessary to understand how the population has adapted (by genetic evolution and/or inherited and acquired learning) to "value" its own survival and wellbeing. Barnard and Hurst argue that in situations where a human would suffer an animal population cannot be assumed to suffer if in fact natural adaptation has preconditioned them to function in that particular situation. For instance it should not be assumed automatically that a rabbit fleeing a fox is suffering. It is operating in familiar territory, evolutionarily speaking. The rabbit has developed capacity to cope with the experience of being hunted and is not suffering.

This would also apply to a fox in places where foxes have been hunted regularly.

   Hurst maintains that animals may not suffer when running away from predators because it is a contingency that natural adaptation has adapted them to deal with.These zoologists say that an animal may experience the subjective state of "fear", but that just tells it to run, just as "hunger" tells it to eat. Fear and hunger only lead to suffering when the animal's adaptive responses fail to assuage them.

Suffering is triggered when the world frustrates an animal's adaptive drives.

    They go on to state that this subtle distinction is a crucial one that has been neglected by animal welfare campaigners weak on evolutionary theory.
    Behavioural assessments and physiological measurements such as blood pressure,stress hormone levels and the strength of the immune system are used to assess stress levels. But can you be sure that you will be able to interpret behaviours which seem to reveal what the animal is feeling correctly?
    In Ancient Greece, Epicureans thought that any pain caused suffering in all animals. Stoics, on the other hand, "thought that pain only mattered as a sign of some impediment to natural functioning". They reasoned that animals were concerned only with maintaining their existence and their kind. Stoics pointed out that animals didn't shrink from inflicting pain on themselves in pursuit of their natural ends.
    Some zoologists have suggested that the painful subjective experiences we call suffering evolved to alert animals to a state of emergency and trigger evasive action. They argue that whether or not these actions are frustrated, those responsible for animal welfare cannot ignore them. But Hurst and Barnard downplay the role of subjective feelings. They state that "Many 'bad' feelings will simply reflect an internal gauge which animals use to regulate damage within adaptive bounds".
    Robin Dunbar, professor of psychology at the University of Liverpool, who sympathises with Barnard and Hurst's approach, says " People's conception of what is good for animals tends to be the cat on a mat sort of thing, rather than seeing things from the animal's point of view." People have an anthropomorphic concept of suffering and fail to "see things from the animal's point of view". Barnard says that "Animals suffer only when they are being forced to perform outside their design criteria." That is if they are treated in a way that evolution didn't intend or when there has not been time for the population to have adapted to a new set of circumstances.


It seems that a number of eminent zoologists agree that animal breeds that have been farmed for centuries (E.g. cows) can be expected to have adapted to, say, being housed in barns and, therefore, do not suffer under the conditions to which they are subjected. Similarly, wild animals (E.g. foxes) that have been hunted for centuries can be expected to have adapted to being hunted by dogs and, therefore, although under great stress while being hunted do not suffer mentally during the hunt. In a phrase "do not confuse stress and suffering".