PAIN & SUFFERING OF FOXES HAS INCREASED SINCE THE BANS. FOX CONTROL HAS BEEN REAFFIRMED AS NECESSARY.

The Ban has started to reintroduce the bad conditions for Foxes that arose during and for a while after World War 2. Back then, for obvious reasons, there could only be much less Hunting. The fox population soared and predation of lambs, piglets, chickens etc. became intolerable. The Government encouraged shooting to bring down numbers. Farmers took up their shotguns and "Fox destruction clubs" were formed. The fox is difficult to shoot dead except by skilled marksmen using lamps (E.g. many gamekeepers). Such marksmen were (and still are) relatively few. Most farmers and many members of the "clubs" were unskilled at shooting foxes to achieve an instant death. There was little discipline in these informal "clubs". Many foxes were wounded and left to die slowly, mostly in pain. The RSPCA and the Govt. became concerned about this distressing situation and stopped encouraging the shooting of foxes; please see the Scott Henderson Report, actually the Report of the Committee on Cruelty to Wild Animals"---- Cmd. 8266-------published first in June 1951 paragraphs 158 to 162.

Conclusions Scott-Henderson

This report is as relevant today as it was at publication; what has changed? (only that gassing, poisoning and the use of "gin" traps was commonplace at the time). During the Ban this situation has recurred. Legal methods of Fox Control rely very largely on the use of foxhounds or other types of dog/animals to drive foxes to guns/birds of prey. Studies have shown that some 25% are wounded before being caught and killed by the Foxhounds/dogs. Foxes' minds are not conditioned to withstand the pain and stress of wounding by shooting (an entirely unnatural event), whereas they appear to be conditioned so that they do not suffer mentally when chased (an entirely natural event) (evidence). At the end of "the chase" foxhounds kill the fox in a few seconds.

Play a clip of the death of a fox in seconds.

Much less than the period between being wounded by shooting and being killed by the hounds or dogs used with "gunpacks" . I do accept, however, that there are wild and hilly/mountainous areas where fox control by "the chase" is impractical (e.g. where there is no local tradition to sustain Fell Packs as in Cumbria and parts of Wales). 

There is now more illegal hunting of foxes by baiters, fur trappers, and poachers using lurchers taking place in the urban fringes and other areas where properly organised Trail Hunts cannot even attempt to control illegal hunting. Furthermore, the motive for such control is now less since Trail Hunts do not need to preserve a proper number of foxes for the Hunting. Some of this illegal hunting is carried out by responsible people with a minimum of cruelty. Regrettably some involves excessive cruelty.These atrocities have proved impossible to control in many areas. However in rural communities which support Trail Hunting strongly, some control is exercised by The Hunting Community. Much of the evidence which was used by the League against Cruel Sports etc. against Formal fox-hunting was faulty because, in fact, it came from unsupervised hunting.

In Holland foxes used to be given a high degree of protection. Numbers rose and the population of ground nesting birds became seriously depleted. The Govt. introduced controlled culling of foxes. But the controls are difficult to regulate; in some places excessive numbers are culled, in others the cull is too small to hold numbers steady. The match of the scale of the cull in a particular area to the tendency of its fox population can vary from year to year. The fox population is now unstable and often badly matched to the tolerance of farmers or the interests of conservationists, depending on the locality. ( I obtained this information from a Dutch visitor; a nature lover normally resident in a farming area of Holland). 

There is no longer any fox-hunting in the Isle of Man but there are many sheep farms. The fox population has all but vanished along with most of the small woods (coverts)

A Covert

that hunting people maintained for the benefit of the fox (and which still form such a feature of much of the UK's "hunting country"; enjoyed by all and an important habitat for a wide diversity of flora and fauna). 

THE FOX POPULATION IS UNDER THREAT SINCE THE BAN

The system of balances controlling the the fox population in the GB's "hunting countries" has been gravely damaged by The Ban. This population used to be notably healthy and was virtually constant for the last two hundred years (i.e. since fox-hunting became widespread). 200 years of experience in GB fox-hunting taught Hunts to control the numbers killed so that a delicate balance was maintained. On the one hand was the limit of tolerance of farmers and keepers of shoots towards foxes killing their possessions. On the other hand was the desire of conservationists and Foxhunts for substantial numbers. In "hunting countries" the population was kept at a level just tolerable to farmers and keepers of shoots. In 2007 there is evidence of a 33% decline in fox numbers. There is now less reason for farmers etc to help the local Hunt to maintain these long established balances. More fear of shooting ( a wholly unnatural act) is driving more rural foxes into Urban areas where, in several places, they are becoming even more of a nuisance and are more susceptible to mange. In areas where there is a high concentration of game-shooting it takes priority and foxes have always been and still are relatively rare. 

How can I enjoy an activity which involves stressing a living creature? 

First let me say that I respect the beliefs of true Vegans and those that, for religious reasons, do not kill or eat flesh . However, most of the human population enjoys the activity of eating flesh; even where obtaining it involves stressing a living creature. Fish feel pain and are stressed when suffocating because they are left to die in a commercial fishing boat out of their vital environment of aerated water. 

Do you enjoy eating fish? 

Surely non-vegans must accept that some of their enjoyment will cause some distress to living creatures. I believe that acceptability must be judged by the degree of mental suffering (as distinct from physical stress) involved and the extent it is necessary. The issue in fox-hunting, therefore, is "does it cause excessive mental suffering and is it necessary". Years of observation of hunted foxes by knowledgeable Countrypeople shows that they remain fully in control of their wits throughout the chase. I believe therefore, that although fox-hunting stresses foxes physically, the levels imposed are within the limits to which their minds have become adapted to withstand the stress. Therefore, fox-hunting does not cause excessive mental suffering compared with other methods of achieving the balance between fox populations and the limits of tolerance of those upon whose interests foxes prey, as discussed above. This control is widely accepted to be necessary in many individual farms and hilly areas and around many shoots. Therefore, I can allow myself to enjoy the skills of the hounds, of the Huntsman and of crossing the countryside on horses, feet or vehicles. After all, many sports are about enjoying the use of your own skills and/or those of other people and/or of animals (e.g. watching or playing football). Hunting is NOT about enjoying killing, but we accept death of foxes, deer etc. as a necessary service to those who allow us to use their land so that we may enjoy the skills of The Chase (fox-hunting, Stag hunting etc.) What service do ramblers provide to the land owner or tenant?  I admire the altruism of the many who allow "permitted paths" across their land for no benefit to themselves. If you have a garden or driveway that could be a convenience to others (say, as a short cut to school) do you allow it to be used?

I find Angling much more difficult to accept than fox-hunting. Fish feel pain and are sentient beings. Their instinct is to swim away from danger. This they cannot do when hooked. Even at low levels of physical stress sentient beings suffer mentally when their instinctive response is thwarted. Thus fish suffer when hooked. A fox's instinct to flee from hounds is not thwarted until seconds before he dies. Furthermore, he is adapted mentally to the level of physical stress he experiences during the chase. 

Angling, like fox-hunting, takes place for enjoyment, even if the fish is eaten. However, fox-hunting takes place for other purposes in addition to enjoyment; for instance, to control a predator, to disperse a fox population so that it does not suffer from an unnaturally high density, to condition foxes to the chase, to cull the genetically unsound, to put sick foxes out of their misery. In many parts of the USA, where foxes are seldom killed by the Hunt, several of these purposes still apply. 

If you wish to view more detailed reasoning on issues relating to the alleged cruelty of fox-hunting click here. 

Advantages of fox-hunting

    I am often asked for a list of the advantages of fox-hunting. Here are some:- 

  • Healthy Population of Foxes. A genetically sound and healthy population of foxes in areas where fox-hunting takes place.

  • Balance between foxes and other creatures. Maintenance of a delicate balance which had developed over 200 years of fox-hunting between fox numbers and the populations on which they prey; small mammals, rabbits and small birds predominantly. (This, of course, also affects balances further down the chain; such as, in the even smaller mammals and insects etc. which are the prey of the foxes' prey and in other food sources for all members of the chain. Think also further on down the chain.) Only the ignorant, selfish or conceited would countenance tinkering about with such vital aspects of such a complex aspect of a long established countryside environment from which humans hope to continue to gain enjoyment in many different ways.

  • Balance with interests of Farmers etc. Maintenance of a density of foxes, (around those farms and shoots where foxes kill the possessions of the farmer or the shoot) which is just tolerable to the farmers and shots. The alternative is virtual elimination of all foxes in these areas.

  • Preservation of many woods. An additional and significant motive for the preservation of many woods (coverts) because they provide breeding and living places suitable for foxes in areas where there are few other suitable places and/or where the fox population needs to be spread out to avoid over concentration which can often lead to disease and marauding of lambs young pheasants etc. Also to ensure that their whereabouts are known so that they can be controlled in an organised and disciplined manner to achieve the "just tolerable level". Artificial "earths" are constructed for these same reasons. see more.
     
  • Preservation of Hedgerows. An additional motive to help halt the destruction of hedgerows. We like to jump them and they assist  foxes, birds etc. to pass safely across the countryside. 
  • A major part of the structure of society in rural areas.
     
  • Much direct and indirect employment often in rural locations where other sources of employment are rare indeed. Details. 

  • The "rock" on which much of the UK's Horse related industry and competitive competence is based. E.g. Eventing, Export of Event Horses and Hunters, Point-to-Points, National Hunt Racing. They would not die out if Hunting were banned but they would be seriously damaged.

  • Contribution to Bio-Diversity. The research commissioned through the Game Conservancy Trust found significantly higher numbers of butterflies and wild flowers in areas managed for hunting, compared to unmanaged areas. The data supplied by hunts was also compared against other data with regard to butterflies. The analysis found that rare butterflies occur more frequently in grid squares containing woodland managed for hunting.

    An area of gorse managed by the Sinnington hunt in Yorkshire provides habitat for the last remaining colony of the pearl bordered fritillary butterfly in the Eastern half of England. In a letter to the land’s owners, the Butterfly Conservation Charity wrote: “The Ravenswick Estate Company is to be congratulated for achieving what the rest of Yorkshire has failed to do”. The management strategy was fox-hunting.

    Hunts also manage some of Britain's most precious wildlife habitats, and several have voluntarily entered into SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) management agreements with English Nature. Two examples are the Belvoir hunt in Leicestershire and the Woodland Pytchley in Northants.

    Hedgerows are also planted and protected by hunts and pro-hunting farmers. A 1987 publication found that pro-hunting farmers had removed 35% fewer hedgerows than the average farmer. Of course, some hedgerows are now protected by law, but this leaves about 80% unprotected. There are also grants for planting new hedges. Pro-hunting farmers are particularly keen to take up these grants. Many now uncommon farmland species are dependent on hedges for their survival. (add quote from Leader-Williams)

    It is also necessary to maintain existing hedgerows that are cut by mechanical means, as without careful management and stock-proofing they become “gappy” and soon lose nearly all of their conservation value. The best way of maintaining this value is through hedge-laying, a traditional and highly labour-intensive practice. Many hunts promote hedge-laying and run competitions to preserve and promote this traditional art. Similarly, but regionally, some hunts manage dry-stone walls.

    By culling foxes, hunts help protect many wild species which are vulnerable to predation, such as ground-nesting birds. We know that where foxes are not controlled, they can wreak havoc on wild species. For example, when foxes invaded the bird reserve at Scolt Head in Norfolk they inflicted great harm on the rare and protected sandwich tern colony. In the New Forest the survival of the Montagu’s harrier is in jeopardy due to foxes taking the chicks. The New Forest Hunt was used to control foxes near the nesting site. In 1997 the hunt was called in by the Forestry Commission to help control foxes and killed eight within one mile of the nesting site. Most importantly the hounds located the fox’s den which was close to the nest. The fox was dug out and humanely killed. Unfortunately the New Forest Hunt’s effectiveness in contributing to biodiversity has been severely restricted by the hunting ban.


 Practical Consequences of criminalising fox-hunting and any eventual expiry of Trail Hunting; hence The Hunts.    

  • About 60,000 Horses and Ponies are used primarily for fox-hunting. The illegal Fox Hunts would be replaced by far fewer Drag Hunts. There would be no reason to afford to keep an estimated at least one third of hunting horses and ponies. Some 20,000 horses and ponies would be thrown quite quickly onto the market. 
  • The market in most types of horse and pony (not just hunters) would collapse in the UK and in the Irish Republic, which supplies a highly significant proportion of the UK market. Therefore, most of the 20,000 would end up in the slaughterhouse. The remainder would face a high risk of neglect. Typically, a low grade hunting horse's value would drop from £2,000 to £500 meat price and a good hunter from £5,000-£8,000 to £800-£1000. The economic effect on the UK and Irish Horse Industries would be very severe. The lack of the established outlet for retired Competition Horses (Eventers, Show Jumpers, National Hunt racehorses etc.) would make these sports less attractive and harm the UK's exports and performance. 

  •  Sales of horse food, bedding, saddlery, veterinary products, horse transport and transporting etc. would be significantly reduced. Details  

  • Employment of grooms, vets, farriers, transport drivers etc. would be significantly reduced. Details. 

  • Most of the approximately 15,000 Foxhounds now employed in Hunting (about 200 Packs of  an average of 75 hounds each) would not be needed for the fewer Draghunts (about 40 with 30 hounds each including new hunts which would be formed after a ban--- why so few?) and are unsuited to be pets. Some would be exported to the very many other countries where Hunting continues to flourish (not the least to the USA where there are hundreds of Fox and other Hunts), but most would have to be destroyed ( that is up to 12,000 perfectly fit dogs, many just 2 years old). 


  • Foxes would be destroyed ruthlessly and their numbers would be decimated. There would be knock on effects down the ecological chain (E.g. in rabbit populations). The economic effects are hard to predict, but upsetting long established Natural Balances has been shown to have significant costs (E.g. the increasing costs of controlling a surging population of badgers). 
  • Hunting is the basis for a large part of the Social Economy of rural areas (E.g. Point-to Points, trade in rural pubs, social evenings, charitable donations.) These would all be severely curtailed. Centuries of Rural Tradition would vanish. The countryside and the Country Way of Life would be much the poorer, both economically and socially. 

Cultural and political consequences  of criminalising fox-hunting and any eventual expiry of Trail Hunting; hence The Hunts.  

This is a complex area, for more detail click here. 

In my view the Ban has already created a highly undesirable state of "dynamic tension" in the UK between those imbued with our "Urban Sub-Culture" and those with our "Country Way of Life (Rural Sub-Culture)". Clear evidence for this conclusion is the Countryside March of some 280,000 people through Central London on 1 March 1998. The long term political consequences of such conflict are hard to estimate. But at the least they will harm the aspirations of Labour to move from being "champion of the less well off" to being a "one nation" party. One likely consequence is to be one contributor to an increase in the level of intolerance of other cultures (Eg: Islam and Halal slaughter) and to more activity by "near anarchic" organisations (as seen in Demonstrations in the City of London against capitalism). 

Since one aspect of the morality of some parts of one cultural group has been imposed upon those who live within another; resentment and cultural, social and economic damage have resulted. 

Could adequate substitutes be made available to most of those who now enjoy fox-hunting in the UK?

In order to keep the infrastructure of fox-hunting alive (particularly the breeding lines of hunting Foxhounds) Foxhunt Packs have had to adopt Trail Hunting. The Ban did allow some very limited fox-hunting thus it has been possible for Foxhunts to provide some control of foxes where farmers want them killed to protect their possessions. It follows, that some farmers, that benefit from this service, and some of their neighbours still tolerate the inconvenience of having Trail Hunt followers cross their farms. Trail Hunting uses actual fox scent and the Trails are laid to simulate the real behaviour of foxes when chased. Thus it is different from Drag Hunting which is a demanding equestrian sport, more akin to "point to point" racing than Hunting.  It uses artificial scent and Drag Lines (courses) set more to exercise the skills of the Followers than to simulate the behaviour of foxes. However, in both Trail and Drag Hunting the Field Master can know where the trail/line goes and the uncertainty in where the quarry will go next is missing thus removing much of the skill and enjoyment of fox-hunting.

Hunting live foxes but bringing them to bay and not killing them (as is practised in some parts of the world) might suit the Animal Rightists, but would suit UK farmers even less than Trail Hunting. 

Conclusion

The disciplined culling of foxes in the UK by highly organised, long standing and respected Hunts ( i.e. those belonging to the Masters of Foxhounds Association) avoided the excessive depletion and risk of excessive suffering which has been shown to be a feature of the practicable implementation of alternative methods (e.g. trapping, shooting, gassing, snaring.) This conclusion is hardly surprising since it has been reached before by a body much more intelligent than me------the "Scott Henderson Committee" set up by the "landslide" Labour Government in 1949. Click here to see a scanned copy of their conclusions. WHAT HAS CHANGED? Not the facts, only the "Public's attitude". In reality, this is views held for the most part by representatives of our "Urban Sub-Culture" and not shared by many from our "Rural Sub-Culture". But "Rurals" are a minority and as in the case of Hunting have often been swamped by the wishes of the majority "Urbans", due to the absence of True Democracy in Britain.

The moral objections to hunting are, at best, arguable and, at worst, factional opportunism.

HUNTING ACT REFERRED TO THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

On 29 Nov 2007 having exhausted all legal routes upwards in the UK and failed the Countryside Alliance signalled its intention to take our challenge to the Hunting Act to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg in the wake of the rejection of the case by the Law Lords.
 
It is, of course, disappointing that they did not uphold the challenge, but we were asking the Law Lords to throw out one of the most controversial pieces of legislation of the last decade. The row this would have started between The House of Commons and the Judiciary would have taken many years to subside and could have harmed "justice" until resolved. Therefore, the Law Lords came down on the side of The Commons, despite The Lords never having voted to ban Hunting. The "fine print" of the case boiled down to interpretation of the Human Rights Act and its European original. Interpretation by the European Judiciary may be a different matter, however, and from the start of this process we have always maintained that the legitimacy of the Hunting Act would eventually be decided there.
 
Unfortunately the ECHR is unlikely to hear the case for several years, but the bulk of the work on the case has already been completed and the hunting community has raised the majority of the funding.  We are now in a position to complete the legal process and argue our case where it is most likely to succeed.
 
Whilst the case was rejected by the Law Lords, their judgments were certainly no vindication of the Hunting Act. Lord Bingham said that the ten hunting claimants: "include very many people imbued (unlike many of their urban critics) with a deep knowledge and love of the countryside and the natural world, who would shrink from any act of what they saw as cruelty."
 
Lord Brown found that: "there is a case for saying that the ban will increase the suffering of foxes generally" and made an interesting comparison saying that: "I simply cannot regard the ethical objection of the majority as a sufficient basis for holding the ban to be "necessary".Most would regard adultery as unethical (and often causing suffering too). But could an intolerant majority therefore ban it and then argue that this was "necessary in a democratic society"? Surely not."

THE HUNTING ACT IS VAGUE AND LARGELY UNENFORCABLE

Ms Kate Hoey MP points out this fact in an article in the Guardian after the acquital of a Huntsmen on a charge of illegal Hunting. The central problem with the Hunting Act is confusion. "The Act took over 700 hours of parliamentary time, bringing the entire democratic process into disrepute, and the only thing on which the police, the judiciary, hunts and the general public are all agreed is that the resultant legislation is a mess: divisive, illiberal; hard to interpret; and of no discernible benefit to either people or animals.

During the initial trial at Barnstaple magistrates court in the summer of 2006, the facts seemed simple: Tony ( The Huntsman ) thought he had been hunting within the exemptions set out within the Act; that is to say, he had used two hounds to flush a fox which was then shot dead as soon as possible by a competent person. What followed was a knotty legal problem where the definition of "flushing" was called into question: how far can a fox move from cover before "flushing" becomes "hunting"? The judiciary was unsure, meaning that even if Tony had been armed with a tape measure that day, it wouldn't have helped him. He was acting within the law as he understood it. The trouble is the law could not be understood, leaving Tony, who had every intention of staying within the law, outside it.

At Exeter crown court on Friday November 30, Judge Cottle agreed that the Hunting Act is confusing, and that he had "no doubt that he [Tony] and the master of the hunt genuinely wished to comply with the act ... he reasonably believed, perhaps optimistically, that he had put in place the safeguard that would ensure compliance with the act."

I think the "optimism" to which Judge Cottle refers is that Tony tried to make sense of the act. As he said: "We observe at the outset that the experience of this case has led us to the conclusion that the relevant law is far from simple to interpret or to apply ... The result is an unhappy state of affairs which leaves all those involved in a position of uncertainty."

Looking at the bigger picture, it is clear that it is not just the foxes of Exmoor that need to be despatched, but the Hunting Act itself. Gordon Brown could go some way to erasing the futility of those 700 parliamentary hours by repealing the Act now. He would be doing a service to the people and wildlife of this country

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