A fox hunting

WHAT FOXMAN BELIEVES ABOUT THE ALLEGED SUFFERING CAUSED BY FOX-HUNTING

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The stress caused by fox-hunting is within the limits to which the mind of the species has become adapted. Where shooting by experts is impractical, it is the only proven method which meets all the criteria discussed below. Therefore, I have a clear conscience in the matter of whether I am being cruel when fox-hunting. 

Q

Are foxes scared out of their wits and effectively tortured while being chased?

fact

The Antis claim they are. BUT a large number of scientists who study animal behaviour believe that they are fully in control of their wits. Furthermore, observation by countrypeople over hundreds of years shows that:- (a) They appear not to anticipate their possible death. (b) They seem not to be tortured by being chased. A large body of authoritative opinion has good reason to assume that their genes, together with inherited and acquired learning, have adapted them to the chase. However, the "Cruelty Argument" will remain sterile because it is subjective, either way, until it becomes possible for a human being to know objectively what a fox is thinking.

evidence

Two British zoologists at the University of Nottingham, (Chris Barnard, professor of animal behaviour and Jane Hurst, a behavioural ecologist) back up observations that foxes seem not to anticipate death and appear not to be suffering while being chased. Their views can be summarised as:- 
(a) animals who are hunted regularly (e.g. foxes) may well be conditioned to regard the stress of being hunted as normal ;
(b) do not confuse stress with suffering. 
Stress is a physical condition. Suffering is a mental condition. The former does not inevitably cause the latter. A marathon runner is highly stressed but is not suffering unless his stress exceeds anything that he has experienced previously and has not, therefore, mentally adapted himself to cope with. Stress produces adrenalin and endorphins which produce exhilaration to mask some of the stress. Judgements in respect of animals about the balance between pain and exhilaration (both caused by a stress) are very difficult and human analogies are unlikely to be reliable. The fact that foxes are fully in control of their wits when being hunted is shown by the following examples:- they know how much scent they leave, how to mask it by running through ground fouled by cattle etc. or water and how to use the wind. Also other tactics too numerous to discuss here. They use these tactics methodically while being chased. Foxes have been seen to kill and eat a small mammal while being hunted. For more details from Barnard and Hurst's work please click here.


For more information on the subject including:

  • Hunting is the natural and most humane method of controlling the populations of all four quarry species
  • Answers to some misconceptions on hunting - an anthology of replies to politicians
  • The serious deficiencies and flaws of the Burns report on animal welfare
  • The welfare anomalies and inhumanities of the Hunting Act

See:

Q

What did Burns say about welfare and cruelty?

fact

"Burns" fought shy of reporting on cruelty because they found that several crucial aspects of the alleged cruelty and degradation of welfare had not been thoroughly researched. Furthermore, the Inquiry did not have time to initiate this "missing research", nor to await its outcome before reporting.

"Burns" states that:

    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, (Report para 46).

    There is a lack of scientific evidence about the welfare implications of hunting, (para 55).

    There is a lack of firm scientific evidence about the effect on the welfare of a fox of being closely pursued, (para 56).

    Although there is no firm scientific evidence, (para57).

    COMMENT

    The assertion that hunting with dogs "inflicts unnecessary suffering" (i.e. cruel) is, therefore, at best premature and at worst likely to be wrong. Certainly it is unproved and it would not stand up to legal examination. This conclusion is supported by statements made by "Burns" members to Parliament after they reported:

  • Their report stated that "this experience {being hunted} seriously compromises the welfare of the fox". The Anti fox-hunting fraternity used this statement 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.

 

Instead of addressing the alleged cruelty, "Burns" made assertions (unsupported by research) about the welfare of hunted individual animals. There conclusions are at this link , with Foxman's reactions shown in red.

The assertion that hunting with dogs degrades the welfare of foxes is, therefore, at best premature and at worst likely to be wrong. Certainly it is unproved and it would not stand up to legal examination.

 

Q

Do hounds tear a fox to pieces while it is still alive?

fact

To those without detailed knowledge it looks as if they do. BUT analysis of many films/videos shows that, in nearly all cases, the first or second hound to reach the fox catches it, usually by a hind leg. The next hound instinctively bites its neck and gives a quick twist which breaks the spinal cord. From the moment the first hound reaches the fox to its death is very seldom more than a very few seconds. The remaining hounds tear the dead fox to pieces.

evidence

This CLIP shows:

THE SURE CULL OF A FOX IN SECONDS

Please note that the kill shown is a worst case.

Hunting aims to preserve the most humane and practicable way of controlling foxes. This link explains the flaws in other methods. In the vast majority of cases a large number of hounds catch up with the fox simultaneously and death is virtually instantaneous. However even in this worst case, it takes less than 10 seconds from the moment a hound first seizes the fox to the moment he dies under a number of hounds. Surely even this worst case is preferable to the possibility of a slow death from wounds after an attempted shooting.

Q

Are there are other effective and practical methods of control which cause less stress:- gassing, poisoning, shooting, terrier work, snaring, trapping, chemical birth control, or aversion training?

Let's take possible methods one at a time bearing in mind that an acceptable method must not only cause less suffering but meet the following important criteria:- (a) effective and without unacceptable costs or impracticalities of application, (b) able and willing to be limited so that it does not decimate the fox population, (c) safe for humans and domestic animals, (d) does not tend to degrade the genetic adaptation of rural foxes to their natural environment, and (e) relatively safe for other wild animals.
The reasoning given below is supported by 300 Veterinary Surgeons, Research Workers etc.

Q

Gassing?

fact

Gassing cannot guarantee that there will be NO pockets of air or low concentrations leading to slow painful death. It is also indiscriminate, killing the young and fit in addition to those past their prime: also other animals that may use the foxes' earth. It tends to reduce the population too severely and to increase suffering by degrading its health and the efficiency of its genetic adaptation to its environment. 

Q

Poisoning?

fact

There are no poisons cleared for use against foxes. It is indiscriminate and has the same shortcomings as gassing. 

Q

Shooting?

fact

Most Gamekeepers are relatively expert at shooting foxes. Nevertheless, research entitled "Welfare Aspects of Shooting Foxes" (presented to Parliament in June 2003 by several scientists) shows that expert rifle shots at 100yds wound heavilly as many foxes as they kill outright, even at 50 yds with the rifle supported, they killed 60% and wounded heavilly some 40%. They may not know when they wound. They are not always able to shoot a second time. They may not have a suitable dog to catch a wounded fox and kill it quickly. However, unlike Gamekeepers, relatively few farmers would claim to be expert at shooting foxes. Inexpert shooting often with a shotgun at short range (difficult to achieve against a shy fox) was shown also to wound heavilly as often as to kill. Wounding heavilly always runs risks of a slow painful death resulting in a much longer period of suffering than when caught by hounds. It is not always possible for the farmer to know that he has wounded. Neither can the farmer always own a suitable dog to guarantee catching a wounded fox quickly. Some shot-wounds leave a fox able to run at its normal speed for a substantial time, but will cause the animal to die later from the wound. Many farmers acknowledge the problems of shooting foxes themselves and have no access to a professional shot. It is relatively difficult to arrange to deliberately shoot foxes with a shotgun, because they are normally in woodland cover and present a fleeting target; although it is possible to control some on an opportunistic basis using shotguns. In the open foxes are very wary and it is difficult to get near them for an easy shot. However, they can be enticed out into the open (E.g. by Lamping) where they can be shot at relatively long range. This requires a rifle and, if risk of injury is to be minimised, an expert shot. BUT THE RESEARCH SHOWS THAT EVEN THEN HALF WILL BE WOUNDED HEAVILLY. This shooting with rifles is has been thought to be a relatively humane method of controlling foxes where expert shots are readily available: particularly around gameshoots. However, the research shows that it runs a wholly unacceptable risk of slow death from heavy wounding. Furthermore, it is unsafe near built up areas and roads, footpaths etc. because rifle bullets can carry considerable distances and can ricochet. But a significant number of foxes live in such areas from which they emerge and kill farmer's possessions. It is also less selective than Hunting and there is a strong incentive around gameshoots for the keeper to reduce the fox population to a very low level. 

evidence

The history of the results of the Fox Bounty in the UK after the '39-'45 War and the situations in Holland and the Isle of Man, please see here for details.
The rarity of foxes in the areas of England where shooting predominates (e.g. Much of East Anglia ).

Farmers state that they are aware that if fox-hunting is banned sufficiently skilled marksmen would be in short supply and unlikely to be available exactly when needed. They also state that marksmen's services would be expensive. They expect , therefore, that many farmers would have to attempt to protect their property through reducing the menace of foxes by shooting; ; notwithstanding the difficulty of finding the time also their strong objection to the risk of slow death after wounding. They state that they would seek to protect their livestock from foxes whatever arguments are put forward that they do not need to. Therefore, the result of banning fox-hunting would be an increase in the total duration of fox suffering.

Q

Snaring? 

fact

Unless tended impracticably frequently leg-capture snares impose long periods of suffering. Strangulation snares often lead to a relatively slow death.
All snares are relatively unselective.

evidence

Foxes have been found having nearly bitten off a leg to escape the snare.

Q

Terrier Work?

fact

This does involve an undesirably longer period of confrontation than the very quick kill at the end of a chase. Approved foxhunts have to use terriers from time to time. However, this is only when the farmer needs to have the fox destroyed and "he" has gone to ground after a chase. If Hunts refused to kill foxes under these circumstances very few farmers would allow the chase to cross their farms. Approved Foxhunts operate within a strictly enforced set of rules. These cover all Terrier Work undertaken by the Hunt. All Terriermen must be approved by the Hunt. For more on the Rules for Terrier Work please click here. Terriers should bring the fox to bay under ground by barking. Any that fight the fox must never be sent to ground again. The fox must be dug down to rapidly and dispatched with a humane killing bullet from a licensed pistol of an approved type. A fox which has had to he handled by a terrierman or his assistant must either be freed or humanely destroyed immediately; under no circumstances may it be hunted. There are many people working Terriers to control foxes in a responsible manner complying with the rules of the National Working Terrier Foundation NWT. Unfortunately, there are also gangs who indulge in Terrier Work which is neither under the auspices of an approved Foxhunt nor the NWTF. This "cow boy" activity does include using terriers to fight foxes. Worse, Hunt Terriermen have been caught working with such gangs. These activities have sometimes been attributed, often wrongly, to an approved Foxhunt or to members of the NWTF. The solution would seem to be; to make Terrier Work after foxes illegal ( like badger baiting is illegal) unless carried out by Terriermen licensed by the NWTF or an approved Foxhunt.

Q

Trapping?

fact

Leghold self locking traps are illegal.
Live capture traps unless tended impracticably often impose long periods of suffering. Doped bait may shorten this but cannot extend the period of relaxation safely by long enough for compatibility with a practicable interval between checking for a capture.
Traps with poisoned bait are nonselective and will kill dogs, cats etc.
Rural populations of foxes learn to avoid traps and this happens in a surprisingly short time. 

evidence

Foxes have been known to tear out many of their teeth attempting to chew there way out of a live capture trap. There have been several unsuccessful attempts to catch rural foxes in such traps 

Q

Chemical Birth Control? 

fact

The use of bait containing contraceptives. I understand that this has been used in parts of New England USA and in wild areas of Europe (such as the Ardennes Forest) to control rabid foxes. However, there has been very little practical experience of its use in environments and circumstances equivalent to those of rural lowland foxes in the UK. It would seem to be unselective and difficult to confine to the fox species. It would also seem to be difficult to restrict its effects so that it does not decimate the fox population over a large area. Particularly, if it is proposed to "sterilize" dog foxes which normally travel considerable distances to mate. It has become disliked by the
Environmental Lobby because other mammals are also affected. Also it causes pregnant vixens to abort. It appears to have most of the deficiencies of poisoning. 
A less species unspecific method is  to shoot with a dart containing contraceptive  instead of shooting with bullets or ball shot. But not enough can be injected to avoid having to repeat dose a few weeks later. This is very difficult and expensive because courting vixens roam widely. Again it causes pregnant vixens to abort. 

evidence

I have none and would be grateful for any or the URLs of places where some might be found on the Internet. 

Q

Aversion Training? 

fact

Causing foxes to be put off a type of prey which it is desired to protect from predation by deliberate contamination with a chemical which nauseates but does no other harm. The theory is that this creates aversion to that type of prey. For instance treated carcasses of lambs would be placed near foxes earths. I suspect that this would be only partially effective and would create problems of a probability of harming other animals and birds who would eat treated carcasses. Do people really want rotting carcasses left where earths are close to human habitation? 

evidence

During 1996-99 The Game Conservancy Trust devoted intensive field research to 'conditioned taste aversion' to establish whether it had potential in controlling predation of game. This method is designed to 'train' foxes to avoid certain prey. "Disappointingly we encountered insurmountable practical problems that make this approach unsuitable in the UK".

 

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