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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 11:11 GMT
Should fox-hunting be banned?
A bill to ban hunting with dogs in Scotland has been passed after a debate lasting more than six hours.
Supporters of the bill are delighted that Scotland will be the first part of the United Kingdom to ban mounted hunting with hounds, effectively outlawing fox-hunting, fox-baiting and hare coursing.
But it appears very likely that the legislation will be challenged in the courts, with some opponents claiming it has loopholes which could be exploited.
They also warn that a ban on hunting will lead to job losses and damage to rural life.
Do you agree that fox hunts should be banned in Scotland? Or are they a necessary way of controlling vermin? Should the rest of the UK follow Scotland's lead?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
There is no humanity in mounted hunting with dogs - it is a cruel and outdated practice that should have been banned along with bear baiting and dog fighting. Of course, the parliament of the time, being staffed entirely by the rich and privileged, only banned those sports followed by the poor, not the ones reserved for themselves - the rich. And if you doubt this read through the historical documents detailing the debate prior to those acts.
Mounted hunting can never be seen to be an effective method to control rural fox populations, and can never be said to be humane. If population control is the intention then farmers should do what they do most of the year and shoot them - I have seen this done in lambing season where I grew up. Chasing them for mile after mile with dogs, then watching them torn apart is cruelty, nothing more, nothing less. It is an anachronism that belongs in historical paintings and on the front of biscuit tins along with the rest of "Merrie Olde England".
Look at a calendar folks - it is the year 2002, not 1882! If you want to ride then ride, if you want to hunt with dogs then sod off to a country where your barbarism is more acceptable!
Imagine that foxes were the same size and weight, did exactly the same things, but happened to look like large spiders. Would fox hunting still come in for so much stick? My point is that the anti-hunt argument seems to rest entirely on sentiment, not logic. I've never hunted in my life and my lifestyle is in no way affected by the activities of foxes - but people whose lives are should have more of a say on the matter than the suburban majority.
I find it both amazing and disappointing that people who have such little understanding of country life, can decide what should and shouldn't be done in the country. Comments such as feeding foxes contraceptives, and comparing fox hunting to such things as bull fighting, badger baiting, Dog fighting and cock fighting, really shows a major lack of understanding, and ignorance.
It is the hunt that is enjoyed by people, not the kill, and the fox is not
this terrified little furry pet that a lot of you seem to think, if you went
hunting you would see that the fox is constantly thinking of his next
cunning trick, terrified is the last word you would use to describe it.
It is amazing what they do, and it is watching the hounds trying
to work out what the fox has done this time, that people enjoy.
I think the people from the towns and cities who clearly don't
understand animals or the country would be much better served
trying to stop the cruelty that happens to 'people' in their society, rape,
stabbing, shootings, armed robberies, the list is endless, stick to the
things you understand, and leave the country to the people that understand
Being from the U.S. where we are still free to hunt, I am very concerned about the right to hunt in Britain. While I do not really agree with the way that foxes are hunted in Britain, I do know that you should have the right to continue hunting them. Here in the U.S, we are not allowed to hunt from a horse or any other means of transportation. We are allowed to hunt some animals with dogs though, but we must be on foot. I think the image of a hunter on horseback gives hunters a bad name because it takes the game out of the hunt. These people who whine and cry about hunting being cruel sure as hell better be vegetarians who do not wear leather or any other form of animal product. Because if they do they are just hypocrites. Instead of allowing hunters to control the animal population, some people would rather we pay increased taxes to sterilize animals. These animals lack natural predators and most be controlled. Lest we forget that animals do kill animals and we are a member of the animal kingdom.
There should be only one thing banned nowadays; a ban on further bans! Seems there is an uncontrollable collective urge to ban things that aren't politically correct nowadays. This has indeed become a curiously strong compulsion in modern Europe, the UK in particular.
Banning murderous fox hunting and hare coursing is the best news I have ever heard announced. I only hope that Blair now will have the courage of his convictions and stand up to the countryside thugs!
Hunting is a healthy and positive sport. Not only does it support togetherness for families and friends but it serves as a vital method of managing wildlife. Unmanaged wildlife in expanding suburban areas can do a lot of damage and even threaten lives.
It is clear that the anti-hunting extremist have no idea what they are talking about!
I find the argument put forward by the pro-hunt lobby, that people in urban areas don't understand the countryside, and that those in the country want fox hunting to continue, very ignorant and insulting. I live in the country, and I know many others who do, and who agree that this barbaric practice should be stopped. What an archaic and uneconomical "pest control" method.
This is a very sad day. I am no fan of fox hunting or indeed any other form of blood sports, but I do feel very strongly that hunting should be allowed to continue. As has already been pointed out there are many equally "cruel" sports and activities that will not be touched by this legislation and are unlikely to be tackled in the near future. It is sad that a small interest group that actually does little real harm has been inflicted by the worst form of government nannying. It is also sad that the debate really appears to be about class prejudice rather than animal rights. Angling is unlikely to be banned because it doesn't have the same (out dated) snobbish image and, indeed, many MPs are keen fishermen!
Of course there is some hypocrisy in banning fox hunting. Yes, many other animals suffer, perhaps even more so than a hunted fox, but this is a step in the right direction, which is the real important issue. Once we have quelled cruel fox hunting, we can then continue to stop other animals suffering where necessary and possible. Plus, I fail to see how this is negatively affecting anyone other than lost enjoyment. One fox hunting interviewee complained that without the hunt, what would she do with her 3 horses. Not many people can sympathise with this!
The law should protect innocent people from harm by other people. It should not stop people from doing things which do not harm other people. Foxes are not people and they kill and get killed in the wild. The pleasure of many people should not therefore be banned just because it doesn't seem very nice. We must not be forced to live in a society where we can only do what the most easily offended person thinks is OK.
Jay Raspin, UK
If people really wanted to save the wildlife of the UK, they would have their cats destroyed, stop buying homes on new housing estates and give up driving - these are the three major causes of the decline in birds and insects in Britain which many species rely on for food. In comparison, hunting with dogs doesn't even scratch the surface.
It seems that the present government are hell bent on making life as difficult as possible for people living and working in rural areas. What disgusts me more than anything is that the people who want to ban hunting are mostly from urban areas and know nothing about real life in rural communities. Traditional fox hunting is an effective way to control foxes. The control of foxes is especially important at this time of year with the start of lambing, as foxes kill many lambs, usually at night, sometimes causing substantial loss to the farmer. The loss of more jobs in the countryside is also a substantial blow, especially in The Borders where I live. I am not connected with fox hunting, but as a country person I am disgusted at the decision made by the Scottish Parliament, a decision that makes the ignorance of country affairs by our politicians blaringly obvious.
I have lived in rural communities all my life. I love the countryside, and, as a Zoology graduate and keen amateur naturalist, I know more about the mammals, birds and plants around me than most. I'm also stereotypically middle-class.
Having said all this, I should point out that I hate Fox Hunting. so do all my middle-class, country dwelling friends. The idea that everyone who lives in, or understands the countryside, is pro-hunting is a myth propagated by a few individuals who want to preserve the status quo, and who generally have only a modest knowledge about how the rural ecosystem actually works.
If an animal is to be controlled then shooting is a much better alternative with little or no suffering, However I would not support a ban just because I do not like the sport. Colin
People who take actual pleasure in the killing of any animal, be it a fox or shooting game, are fundamentally sick. If people want to kill animals for fun, they should be made to fight them bare handed in their natural habitats. I don't want to live in a country where these archaic practices are justified by statute. Well done the Scottish Parliament.
Have the anti-hunt protestors ever watched a nature documentary? The suffering of the hunted fox is exactly what happens in nature, except in this country we eliminated all the natural predators generations ago and fox hunting is a reasonable attempt to substitute for this. No-one who supports natural balance, a healthy environment and biodiversity can justifiably object to fox hunting: those that do object are ignorant and ill-informed and if they succeed in their aims will cause far more suffering and damage to foxes and other species, and our environment in general.
There is something very, very wrong with the case for banning Hunting.
Hunting is a minority pursuit. If they were immigrants or homeless minorities everyone would be up in arms.
the most sensible approach would be for regulation by the people that understand their way of life and peoples dependencies around it.
This just seems like a swipe at the 'toffs' which I am sure are themselves in a minority amongst hunters.
Its time that everyone grew up a bit.
Andrew Carter, UK
I cant believe this even had to be debated. The fact that people have to even discuss the rights or wrongs of dozens of people on horseback aided by packs of hounds chasing a small mammal to its horrific death shows just how far we humans have progressed since our days in caves.
Get used to it! The vast majority of people in this country want foxhunting banned (for whatever reasons) and, as we live in a democracy, the will of the people will prevail (thankfully).
I live in an area that is currently looking at an education overspend of £3.5m. My children's education is to suffer in the years to come. What do I do now that my livelihood is also on the line?
We in the country have had a very tough time over the last year and to see our "new" government's priorities makes us wish that devolution had never happened. I am a true Scot but have no faith in Scottish government.
I still cannot understand why animals such as the fox should be subject to brutal killing at the hands of people who, let's face it, have nothing better to do. I refuse to believe that we do not have the resources or the knowledge to humanely cull the animals that are causing problems to farmers. Many hunters say that they hunt for the thrill of the chase, but drag hunting can be just as unpredictable and exciting. I'd like to see some of the hunt masters running through fields, scared for their lives whilst being chased by a bunch of pretentious idiots fourteen times their size. I'm sure they wouldn't like it.
Why not ban fishing, leather, meat and medical testing while you're at it? The number of animals that suffer as a result of any of these is vastly greater than the cruelty caused by hunting. Or is animal suffering just fine if it benefits you? Are you a moralist or a hypocrite?
Joss, UK - fishing is I believe done to feed our population, leather is used in clothing and has many other uses, meat again is used to feed us and medical testing, although the harshest, is at least needed and you can bet that if we had an alternative we would use it. What does fox hunting do?
Of course it should be banned.
It is an extremely inefficient and
ineffective way of controlling the fox
population and is demonstrably cruel.
Stephanie Hill, UK
The rest of the UK won't need to follow Scotland's lead on this issue. There will be no need. Scotland is in imminent danger of being overrun by thousands of foxes clandestinely crossing the border from England and seeking political asylum north of Hadrian's Wall.
Will Howell, Norfolk UK
How can this cruel method even be considered as a form of pest control? I do not believe that the animals slaughtered by these hunts even make up one per cent of the entire fox population. Pest control is just an excuse for what is a sick blood sport, on par with bull-fighting in Spain. As for this being the most 'humane' method - what rubbish. I fail to see how being chased across country by a pack of bloodthirsty hounds to then be ripped apart while still alive is more humane than a bullet, gas or poison. This sport should be banned without question.
Why does the increasingly vociferous anti-hunt lobby almost never appear quite so concerned about mainstream animal welfare? I don't hear the same cries about the cruelties of modern-day chicken farming. Not quite the same groundswell to stop fishing is there? Could it be that this has nothing to do animal welfare and more to do class animosity? Think about that in your blameless suburban lives.
Fox-hunters say only old, weak and foxes are killed in their hunts as the average fox is too cunning to let himself be caught. Seeing the remains of domestic pets such as cats and smaller breeds of dog that got in the way of the hunting pack has created my disgust with blood sports. If there is a fox problem, what is to stop the use of "friendly" traps and dealing with the captured animal afterwards? Has anyone thought of feeding their local foxes contraceptives so that fewer breed? How about local governments supplying householders with suitable dustbins that cannot be raided by marauding mammals, be the cat, rat or fox?
William Milliken, Scotland
Make it also illegal for people to allow cats out of their houses. Birds and mice suffer far more cruelty than foxes.
The countryside is on its knees following foot and mouth yet an ignorant majority wishes to deprive it of more income and interfere in something they do not wish to understand. The true impact of a ban will be felt by working class rural communities yet those who wish to ban it see nothing beyond toffs on horseback. I object far more to the Halal ritual of slaughtering animals yet I would never dream of demanding that they outlaw a custom that has been part of their community for time immemorial. To ban hunting is profoundly illiberal and will mean ruin for many working class individuals.
I think that posh people have a hard enough time these days without us telling them what to do too. Rural pursuits are still a lot more palatable than the delinquency that we get in the cities.
Gavin McEwan, UK
Large parts of Scotland have no hunting with dogs at all but no more foxes than anywhere else. Foxes eat rabbits which are a much bigger pest. If you want to control fox numbers shoot the rabbits - at least you can eat them.
Leave the hunters be. As a townie I am not qualified to pass judgement, why should politicians be involved? It's about time politicians listened to the silent majority instead of few animal activist nutters!
Fox-hunting with dogs is too barbaric to be called sport, and far too inefficient to justify as a method of controlling vermin.
I am an animal owner and still I believe fox-hunting is OK! It is close to natural exterminatination and these animals do need to be controlled. All you so-called activists have a very shallow view on this subject. You do realise that thousands of dogs and horses will be destroyed as there will be no need for them any more? Plus jobs and most importantly, a way of life? Now go off and play with your mobile phones...
We should be actively resurrecting other old traditions: bear-baiting, cock-fighting, hanging, slavery and torture for example.
Thousands of jobs were lost when these traditions were abandoned, let's not make the same mistake again.
If the pro-hunting lobby are so concerned about the rural economy why don't they direct their energies towards preventing the closure of village shops, post offices and schools?
Lynne Mitchell, Scotland
There are animal welfare and class dimensions to this debate, but they rather obscure the underlying issue. The real desperation in adversity shown by the hunting community is due to the economic and social reliance upon hunting as a core activity in many small local areas. So in the end this is a sociological issue which needs political input to solve. To the huntsmen and women: own up and tell the truth, stop obfuscating with red herrings about pest control. To the antis: understand that you are proposing a huge cultural change for a large group of otherwise perfectly acceptable people, and society will need to do a lot more than just pass a bill if it decides it wants hunting to stop.
While it is true that the countryside population of foxes needs controlling, what I find objectionable is the turning of a cruel, yet necessary act into a sport, whereby people gain pleasure from the death of an animal. If the fox population needs to be controlled by killing some of its members, it shouldn't be used to provide us with an opportunity for a "nice day out".
Good riddance to fox-hunting I say. The views put forward by the pro-hunt lobby are just rubbish and a feeble excuse for them to keep a "sport" that a lot of them seem to get a kick from. This type of aristocratic fun should have been banned years ago. But what is amazing is listening to the Tories talk about job losses and compensation - where was this talk from them when they closed Revenscraig or other places similar around the UK?
The comments are a grpahic demonstration of the stark ignorance of many anti-hunt protestors. It is quite obvious that many of them see this not so much as an opportunity to inmprove the welfare of the fox (which it will not do in any case) but rather some sort of pathetic class vendetta - witness the remarks of Ed, UK.
Mounted fox hunts would probably have faded in popularity but the actions of a vociferous minority have guaranteed that many otherwise uncommitted people have taken a stand against their pompous and vacuous moralising.
13 Feb 02 | Scotland
Final hurdle for Scots hunt ban
13 Feb 02 | Scotland
Fox hunting: The arguments
13 Feb 02 | Scotland
Timeline: Scotland's fox hunting bill
13 Feb 02 | Scotland
Fox hunting: The bill
12 Feb 02 | Scotland
Scots hunt ban bill is 'flawed'
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