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 Friday, 3 January, 2003, 18:32 GMT
Is licensed hunting with dogs the answer?
Thousands of people are taking part in what could be the last traditional Boxing Day hunt meetings in England and Wales.

The government is proposing new legislation which would limit hunting with hounds.

In Scotland, laws already in place mean many hunts will be shooting their quarry, rather than allowing it to be caught by the hounds.

In England and Wales a licensing system is proposed, where hunts must meet two criteria: proving themselves to be the least cruel and the most effective way to contain the fox population in that area.

It means that hunts could continue in upland areas where other methods like shooting, trapping and poisoning are unfeasible while more fashionable hunts which emphasise sport are less likely to be allowed.

Do you support the plans to end hunting in its traditional form? Do you think the compromise ends the fox hunting debate? What would be a better option?

Thank you for your e-mails. This Talking Point is now closed. A selection of your comments is published below.

I am astounded at the rank hypocrisy I have read here. Much more cruel than foxhunting and responsible for thousands upon thousands of more deaths - more cruel deaths - each year than foxhunting is the practice of battery chicken farming. Do we see the same degree of protest at this? No, of course not. The anti-foxhunting movement is all about what they perceive to be a class war. Please let's stop pretending that this is about animal welfare. It isn't, it's all about middle-class middle England dwellers and what their twisted sense of ideals find acceptable. If it were about animal cruelty or morals then we'd be having this discussion about other, more barbaric practices first.
Brennig Jones, England

The only animal that should be kept in check is the human

John Lucas, UK
I live in an area very near to a wild life conservation,there are foxes and many other wild animals. Up until recently there was a poultry farm. Not one case of a fox attacking the chickens. I have seen foxes playing with lambs in the spring time,no problems. The only animal that should be kept in check is the human, they are the biggest problem this world has to face. No one should use an animal to destroy another, it is barbaric.
John Lucas, UK

John Lucas - fox cubs may 'play' in a field of sheep but this so called 'play' is merely training for later life when the cute little lamb will become dinner. Have you never heard of 'a wolf in sheep's clothing'?
Christina, England

For those that consider fox-hunting a cruel sport done for nothing other than the enjoyment of a 'few sadists' note that the fox itself is guilty of the same practice. Each year foxes regularily attack and kill hundreds, maybe thousands, of farm animals and pets not for food, but for FUN! As a lad brought up the countryside I have seen numerous occasions of this happening.
Matthew, France/UK

Yes, Matthew, foxes (like cats) kill by instinct and not necessarily for food. They don't know any better. Are you suggesting that humans are powerless to resist the urge to kill?
Guy Chapman, UK

No, it is not "the answer". The answer is for each parish to legislate on this for themselves and for central government to quit finding "moral crusades" with country ways. How many of those anti-hunt folks who claim the moral high ground are aware of the amount of blood in the countryside that goes into supporting their lifestyles?
Lee, Winchester, England

The hunting debate still goes on. As I child I thought a fox was a huge beast, massive, much like a mammal version of a dragon. Why would I think this you ask? Well, how could something so small need an entire cavalry brigade and a huge amount of dogs to track and finally kill.
Dave, UK

It is an out-dated barbaric ritual, which does not belong in this century

Maureen Wales, Wales
Ban this cruel sport immediately. It is an out-dated barbaric ritual, which does not belong in this century. I'm country-born and bred living on a farm, and I will scream if I hear these County Alliance folk class all country dwellers as supporting fox hunting, I am ashamed that all country folk are classed as blood thirsty, because there are many just like me!
Maureen Wales, Wales

I am not sure that having a majority necessarily gives you the right to ban something. As an example, I heard of a University where the Rugby club put forward a motion that the Gay Society be banned. Due to their majority the motion was passed and the Gay Society was banned. I don't like Fox Hunting, so I don't go hunting. I don't like fishing or smoking, riding motorbikes, knitting, or amateur dramatics, but I don't think that gives me the right to demand the practices are banned. Except perhaps the Amateur Dramatics, obviously!
Andy GM Wood, UK (London)

The Government has failed to make a decision and has passed the buck to the courts or whoever will be licensing the hunts.
Richard Crossley, Ireland, Ex UK

These people are cruel. Taking away their so called sport or outlawing it will only drive them underground looking for other ways to fulfil their bloodlust. I would rather sacrifice a few foxes than have these people prowling the streets.
Duncan, London, UK

I am amazed that only one person in this forum has suggested drag hunting as an alternative to fox hunting. This seems to me to be such an obvious solution to the whole debate - perhaps all the other contributors would miss propounding their political agendas!
Gerald Cohen, UK

Hunting is a necessity to ensure that the fox population does not increase and cause destruction to the countryside; namely the 'brutal' and 'painful' deaths of other innocent animals such as chickens and game birds. Townies should stop being so sentimental and keep their noses out of something they clearly don't understand. As for the Government, hasn't Tony Blair got bigger things to concern himself with; Iraq perhaps?
Emma, Yorkshire England

I see more and more the word 'Townie' being used in this argument - hang on, maybe I missed the point, but wasn't this all about animal cruelty as opposed to a persons geographical whereabouts? I am from the country and I do not feel the need to kill an animal in the name of sport. Stop using pathetic excuses and get back to the real case of the argument - animal cruelty.
Emma Skeith, England

Who are we to say what country folk can and can't do? However I think that if cock fighting and other animal sports are banned its hypocritical to not ban hunting.
Jennie, UK

I for one think that The Queen is quite right in telling the rest of the Royal Family to stop hunting. Prince Charles should listen to her advice. Sometimes I think that she is the only one of the Royals that has any sense at all.
Michael Barratt, UK

Fox hunting is an ancient and honourable tradition and should not be touched

John Atkins, England
Why does this pathetic government have to stick its nose into every aspect of people's lives? Fox hunting is an ancient and honourable tradition and should not be touched. This government would be well advised to concentrate on the big issues, like the NHS, pensions and defence.
John Atkins, England

Laura Finklestein, Fox hunting is pretty much the last English tradition we've got left, the rest are so commercialized they're not recognizable as what they were.

Surely in the 21st century we can see which of our 'traditions' should be upheld and which should be side-lined

Laura Fingleson, UK
I don't even know why this licensing law has been suggested. If, as it has been established, that hunting with dogs is cruel and causes unnecessary stress to the animal, then it MUST be banned. Surely in the 21st century we can see which of our 'traditions' should be upheld and which should be side-lined. I realise that people will lose their jobs and even their homes; however, we stopped sending children down mines and closed workhouses, which I am sure at the time would have put people out and their homes and jobs!
Laura Fingleson, UK

Anglers beware. Who do you suppose will be the next target of Blair's urban-led politically motivated crusade? Silly me; of course, angling's a working man's sport, so you'll be OK. Just as cruel mind you, but that will count for nothing.
Richard P, England

To Richard P (and anyone else). Any abuse of a dumb creature for sporting pleasure is fundamentally wrong and unacceptable - there are no excuses or mitigating circumstances. You are right to warn anglers because fishing for sporting purposes is a pathetic abuse of a pathetic creature by pathetic people.
Ian Marlow, UK

Government cannot control everything by passing a law. Fox hunting will continue, and might now gain popularity, as have hand guns.
David R. Williams, England

A compromise is not good enough. It is our duty as 21st century citizens to ban so cruel a sport, that goes without saying. Our opposition to hunting is also vital to the very nature of our rule-by-the-majority democracy. We, both town and rural dwellers, must show these arrogant tyrants that in our country, one's share of the vote is NOT proportional to how many acres one owns, and that if 82% of Britons declare this sport inhumane, then it should jolly well be banned.
Stephen, student, London, UK

This has nothing to do with cruelty issues and everything to do with petty political prejudice. Keeping small song birds in cages is cruel, leaving dogs to roam the streets is cruel - what about fish kept in small tanks, and exotic pets? MP's should have better things to do with their time than listen to the pathetic whining of townies who don't understand the first thing about country issues. What happened to Tony Blair's famous promise to govern for all the people? Yeah, thought so.
Malcolm, England

I find it embarrassing and sad to see grown men and women crying over the fact that they may not be allowed to kill living beings. The vast majority of the population can live without killing foxes, so why not those few medieval rejects?
James, Chester / UK

I bet none of the liberal lefties on here would even dare criticise the ethnic minorities for the preparing of halal or kosher meat, which is far more widespread and cruel than a couple of foxes being torn to bits every now and then. They won't admit it but it's the posh hunters and the rural traditions they really hate - as they debate hunting over their organic new world wine in their Hoxton conversion apartments - not the actual fox hunting itself.
Gareth, London

Gareth of London is typical of the blood junkies of the hunting fraternity; like all animal abusers they invariably quote other forms of abuse to justify their own. Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter are disgusting abominations and allows parallel sets of laws for different communities. However, the killing for fun brigade are equally obscene.
Ian Judge, UK

I can scarcely see a difference between a person that will delight in a fox being torn by a pack of hounds and the sickos that burn cats or throw dogs off flats, maybe it is the "liberal leftie" in me Gareth, but what gives you the right to seek and destroy in the most vicious manner because you wear a red jacket and call it a sport?
Ian, Dorset

To all those who ramble on about treatment of factory-farmed animals - although cruelty is not excused in any circumstances, aren't you missing the point? Factory-farmed animals are bred and killed to be eaten or to produce food, foxes are killed (slowly) as 'sport' - spot the difference.
Anon, UK

More urban foxes get run over on the roads in London per day than get killed by hunts, should we be banning the Townies from driving lest anymore foxes that they run over die a slow death? Or is Ken Livingstone bringing in congestion charges to cut the number of hit and run fox deaths... I think we should be told.
Andy, UK

I'm glad to say that I live in a country where this barbaric practice is outlawed. Elsewhere in Britain the hunting of stags, otters, and badgers with dogs has already been banned, the time has come for England cast aside this medieval relic and for it's supporters to accept that the will of the people is against it. Then again maybe the hunt supporters aren't used to the concept of democracy.
Andy, Scotland

It saddens me to see all of these people partaking in their so-called "sport". I would like to see all of the ill treated hounds chasing huntsmen across acres of field and then ripping them to shreds, in fact I would give up my boxing day to go and watch.
Matt, Lincoln, England.

I do not think that licensed hunting is the answer. We should not only ban hunting with dogs but ban people from keeping dogs altogether. Last year dog attacks put over 3000 people in hospital. Why must people persist with this archaic practice of keeping dogs - what do they need them for?
Scott, UK

If you ban hunting but not fishing then it's class discrimination. I personally don't care about hunting. Foxes get killed, whoop de do, would we be banning wolves if they were still around?
Chris R, UK

I am not a great hunt fan, but what of alternatives. Gassing, shooting with lead pellets, trapping - no thank you. Foxes kill ducks, geese, pheasants, chickens etc. Hunting with Dogs is an organic way of maintaining bio diversity. Sentimental townies don't understand the countryside.
Andrew, Cardiff Wales

This barbaric habit should be banned immediately

GJ Van Enck, Netherlands
Stop that horrible and disgusting habit of fox hunting! This barbaric habit should be banned immediately! Shame on the sadists who have nothing better to do than this horrible spending of time. A deep shame also for the country!
GJ Van Enck, Netherlands

Hunting is the last activity I will get interested in. It's too cruel to kill animals just for fun. I will never understand the so-called hunters' fulfilment and will not support licensed hunting.
Mu Fang Li, Taiwan

A channel 4 documentary earlier this year showed huntsmen breeding foxes to set free prior to the hunts! Wil, Wales - "fashionable left wing" is not the words I would use to describe the majority of the UK population! This sick torture is certainly nothing to be "proud" of.

Maybe I'm going about this the wrong way, but what would be the problem with 'drag' hunting instead of fox hunting? This would surely address the concerns of both sides of the argument - it wouldn't result in the death of an animal but it would still keep peoples livelihoods safe.
Alex, Truro, UK

We proudly proclaim the UK a democracy, but are we? The plain fact is that the vast majority of people in this country oppose these sick and obscene so-called "sports". House of Commons Bills have reflected this yet the House of Lords continues to oppose the People's will, because of their own vested interests. No compromise is acceptable and surely, the sooner we get rid of these un-elected buffoons, the better.
Mike - Manchester, UK

For God's sake - ban it once and for all. It's cruel and sick! On a personal note I have to pick where I go over this period - to avoid meeting "boasting" people. Is it 2003 next (or 1903)?
Mark Greenslade, Wales

I was originally opposed to fox hunting, but now I believe that it is probably the most effective way in which to control them. Shooting foxes may result in a long, painful death, while poisoning them may kill other wildlife. However, I am completely against farmers who encourage foxes to breed just so they can hunt them for sport rather than vermin control.
Peter, Scotland

By rejecting the idea of licensing, I believe the pro-hunting lobby have shown themselves to be arrogant beyond belief. Regulation is obviously something that applies to lesser mortals, not the likes of them. And I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for those whining about their livelihoods. Anyone with a conscience wouldn't be working in such an industry.
Tracey, UK

If the royals and stock brokers did not hunt it would have been abolished along with cockfighting and all the other medieval atrocities.
J S Thorne, Wales

There is no justification for it other than pleasure; it's barbaric, ancient and plain down right evil. Someone has typed (a gamekeeper) 'Townies stick to your towns and veggies to their lettuce sandwiches.' This sums up their mentality. They are arrogant and ignorant. There should be no debate about this. Ban it and jail those who persist on doing it. I too have no sympathy for anyone's whose livelihood is based on these blood sports. It's the 21st Century.
Paul, UK

As a pest controller by trade, the fox does me good, killing rabbits and pigeons etc. But as a part-time gamekeeper they do me a lot of harm; if a fox were to get into a game-bird pen it would kill hundreds of birds. We take every measure possible to deter fox attacks and have been lucky so far. We shoot foxes as well - last year we shot about thirty, there are far more out there than people realise. Our shooting only scratched the surface, they have been back in significant numbers this year. Imagine the small impact of hunting with hounds. If this is banned we will go out and shoot more of them! Townies stick to the town, vegetarians stick to your lettuce sandwiches and leave country matters to we countrymen.
Simon, England

Killing mustn't be made a sort of game

Ke, Wen-hsuan, Taiwan
Long ago, people used to hunt for food, and now they hunt for fun. Killing mustn't be made a sort of game, or all those humanitisms or pacifisms are nonsense.
Ke, Wen-hsuan, Taiwan

As a person who has lived all their lives in a rural area I can quite confidently state that it is not the will of the people there for any form of hunting to continue. It is just a noisy and self centred minority that want to hunt live pray rather than the alternatives. Anyone whose job is based on such a cruel sport should look for something else to do in life instead of whining about it so much.
Simon, England

Nobody's livelihood should be put at risk because of the "rights" of vermin. We hear no complaints of cruelty when cockroaches are killed with phenytrothion (which kills in a similar way to VX nerve gas) or when rats are killed with Warfarin (they die from internal bleeding). Many of us, unfortunately, still do not see the fox as the pest it is, and weep into bowls of tofu when hearing of one dying at the jaws of dogs.
Iain Robinson, UK

Cruelty is cruelty is cruelty. Ban this sadistic ritual now. End of story.
David, Carmarthenshire

Cheap politics, Labour's hobby horse. Blair's abhorance of tradition. Submission to the ignorant. Where will it end, President Blair and his First Lady Cherie? What a waste of valuable parliamentary time.
Charles, UK

Hunting is morally wrong, sick and disgusting. The licensing fudge is simply not good enough. What also angers me is that the hunting brigade try and make out this is a civil liberties issues. Let's abolish this foul medieval practice as soon as possible
Stephen Henden, UK

I'd be interested to know how many people make a song and dance about banning hunting yet will happily buy battery eggs, or non free-range turkeys as they are cheaper.
Adrian Boliston, UK

The concept of licensed hunting is even more barbaric than just letting an old country tradition bumble on

Mike Griffiths, UK

Just watching the hunters makes me feel sick - they're nothing more than sadists. Never mind what they do to foxes - what about what they do to their hounds when they are three of fours years old? These pathetic "animal loving" people shoot them! So much for loving animals. Ban it all now. Where were these great guardians of the countryside, the Countryside Alliance, when their friends the Tories were closing schools and village post offices by the score?
Tim Smith, United Arab Emirates

Why does the government want to ban hunting when there are higher priorities. For example, Iraq and problems with the NHS. Who wants to pay taxes for police officers to be patrolling the fields just keeping an eye on the hunting, when they should be fighting proper crime, for example, thieves and drug-dealers.
Stephen, UK

Either hunting with dogs is cruel or it is not. If it is, and I cannot believe that any rational thinking person can suggest that it is not, then ban it outright.

The concept of licensed hunting is even more barbaric than just letting an old country tradition bumble on. How do you license cruelty, where do you draw the line? Even Solomon would have found that one tricky.
Mike Griffiths, UK

Fox hunting has to be banned, this cruel so-called sport has to be stopped. The people who hunt are cruel, selfish, and not the people I would want to mix with at any time , they make my blood run cold with their insensitivity.
J Birthistle, Pembrokeshire

I agree with Adrian. Terrible cruelty is committed everyday on millions of animals in the name of the 'food industry', but the sentimental urbanites who are pushing the hunting ban don't even think about that.

This is just another erosion of country people's human rights to suit the fashionable left wing in this once proud nation.

Wil, Wales
They are very anxious, however, to suppress other peoples' freedoms to 'save' a handful of foxes. I do not wish to hunt myself, but fox-hunting is a time-honoured part of traditional country life in Britain, and has a right to continue, whatever some 'liberal fascists' may think of it.
Laurence, UK

Why are we even having this debate to destroy hundreds of years of tradition. This is just another erosion of country people's human rights to suit the fashionable left wing in this once proud nation.
Wil, Wales

Why not concentrate efforts on banning what is REALLY cruel - the appalling conditions faced by millions of factory farmed animals and poultry?
Sue Smit, Netherlands

Banning of hunting with dogs was in the current government's manifesto and is supported by the vast majority of people in Britain, both urban and rural. This has now become an issue of democracy - with an arrogant, extreme right-wing minority insisting that they are above being subject to the law of the land.

The licensing route is nothing but appeasement and should be opposed by anyone who believes in democracy, whether Tory, Labour, Lib-Dem or anything else.
Charles Moore, Scotland

Background and analysis of one of the most contentious issues in British politics

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Is licensed hunting with dogs the answer?



1847 Votes Cast

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