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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 11:09 GMT
Should hunting with dogs be banned in England and Wales?
A free vote on a ban on hunting with foxes will be held in the House of Commons and the House of Lords on Monday 18th March.
The announcement of the vote is being seen as an attempt to regain the initiative after a poor week for the government, dominated by the troubles of Transport Secretary Stephen Byers.
MPs and peers will vote on three options - an outright ban, regulation of hunting or no change.
This could mean a ban would be in place as early as 18 months' time. The Scottish Parliament has already voted to ban the sport there.
Do you think that there should be a ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Andrew Speed, England
Cats are used to keep down the population of mice. Will this be banned as its barbaric, the cats enjoy it and often play with the mice and don't eat them...
Humans are essentially hunter gatherers and therefore killing is in our instinct. It is quite irrational for those in the towns to have a large say upon any rural affairs, especially hunting, as they are a product of an unnatural environment. Despite this, the majority are still quite happy to eat burgers and wear leather clothing. My family are rural and I believe that it is far more cruel to have 200 beef cattle in a barn and to be able to look at them and dictate their lives - such as the number of days until they die. As pithing tools have now been banned it is a far crueller death for a cow as they bleed to death (often after a substandard shock) than for a fox when it gets killed in a second. No-one can deny that hunting is cruel but nature is also cruel and a fox would die in a nastier way of disease and ultimately hunger there. As the Urban population of Britain likes meat, no-one complains about the worrying treatment of agricultural stock including battery chickens. Why is everyone making such a fuss? Hunting is fun and it also fits in with our instinct. Anyone who opposes it on cruelty grounds has been alienated to their own species.
Robin Cook has just announced that MPs will be able to vote, but not legislate, on fox hunting. To do this the government has had to shelve three important bills; Extradition Bill, Criminal Justice and reform of the House of Lords. The electorate have been fooled again by New Labour. This is all about saving Stephen Byers skin more than any fox's.
We asked how these people could live with themselves after inflicting this torture on a terrified exhausted creature, who was not equipped to fight back against 30 odd dogs. Not a single person claimed that controlling fox numbers was the intention. They stressed how enjoyable and 'exhilarating' the chase was. We left thoroughly sickened by what we had seen and heard. It cannot be banned too soon, in our opinion. There are plenty of other ways that these people can get their kicks. Let's stop it now, so that humankind can move on, in a more enlightened and civilised fashion.
I don't hunt. But I do ride horses and I can understand why people who hunt do so - it's not for the killing, it's the chance to ride their horse across countryside, away from the traffic and the roads. Something I would love to be able to do, but instead I have to ride on the roads and hope some speeding idiot doesn't come flying around the next corner and hit me or my horse (as happened a few years ago!). This is being rushed through, it has not been thought out and is just a smokescreen to try and regain some of the ground attention lost by the Byers affair. Well, it won't work with me!
In a free democratic society there needs to be tolerance and acceptance of the people's right to choose. I do not go foxhunting, but I do not believe that I have the right to stop people doing what has been done for hundreds of years in rural areas
Richard Blake, England
This has already been banned in my country, and the sooner England and Wales follow suit the better. It's bad enough to terrorise the animal before being ripped apart, but the barbaric act of painting faces with the blood beggars belief.
Members of the hunt are a sorry excuse for human beings. I'm sure they'll be able to terrorise people on the golf course, or the tennis court, when their "sport" has gasped its last breath.
I come from the country and grew up on a farm. I am neither wealthy nor an upper-class snob (which appears to the opinion of many of your readers). I have seen both sides to the fox issue - the effect on a lambing flock after a visit from a fox, also the chicken run, and the ducks that used to live by the pond. It was not humane nor pleasant. I have also seen the physical effects of both trapping and shooting on foxes - particularly when the animal is neither killed or found straight away. It is also not humane. I hunted until as a child and through my teens, but in a rural area, with farmers and over their own land, for the purpose of removing the foxes. We didn't wear bright coats nor stop for stirrup cups. It was normally raining and on a very few occasions we caught and killed a fox. Believe me, a picture of that dead fox was a far more pleasant sight than that of the fox that had chewed off a paw trying to get out of a trap or the lambs that had been ripped apart.
Some fair and unbiased fact reporting is what this situation needs, and then allow people to make their own minds up.
The opponents of hunting always take it for granted that hunting is cruel and talk as if that is an established fact. In reality, it is not possible to say with any degree of certainty that hunting is cruel. It is only a belief. Since a belief can be mistaken there can be no moral grounds for demanding that that belief prevail and that those who hold an opposite point of view should be penalised and their activities rendered illegal.
Much of the basis for people's distaste of hunting is sentimental anthropomorphism. Hardly sufficient grounds for demanding that hunting be banned!
Only in this country does the mob work itself into a frenzy over such a ridiculously petty subject. Murdering children on housing estates doesn't seem to provoke the same widespread outrage. It is pathetic.
I'm surprised and delighted at seeing so many posts arguing against a ban on fox hunting. The vote on this page seems to be against a ban as well. I hope this reflects the view of the public at large (and perhaps more importantly, the politicians).
Personally, I do not see the appeal and would never hunt myself, but as has been noted elsewhere, this is an issue of liberty. I do not want something that I DO enjoy doing becoming the next target to be banned when public opinion turns against that.
I have changed my mind. It is pointless banning fox hunting. All foxes die a cruel death by human standards whether they are hunted or not so a ban does not reduce their pain. I dislike the hunters' apparent disregard for animal suffering but a ban won't change their attitude so what is the point of it all?
I don't really see what the fuss is about. Other countries seem able to control their fox population without traditional English fox hunting. Here in Germany, foxes are shot by licensed hunters or foresters. I would imagine shooting a far more efficient way of killing foxes. I lived in the English countryside for years, I never met anyone or knew anyone who went fox-hunting, nor have any of my Norfolk-based family been fox hunting. Can't be such an important part of country life, really. And as to the cruelty argument: cock fighting may be less cruel than keeping hens in batteries for all I know, but it's an anachronism. No one would want it back. Let's just move on and get modern.
I know many people who will be so affected by this ban that they will lose their jobs and their homes. What people fail to understand is that the hunt does more than just kill a fox. They preserve the countryside, develop woodland to encourage habitats and also do the farmers the service of removing dead animals. How about we stop worrying about an animal which is vermin and start worrying about people's livelihood? It is a case yet again of people making assumptions and having opinions on something they don't (and don't want to) understand.
What is more important, a fox or a person?
Martyn Todd, NI
I understand some of the arguments for keeping fox hunting - pest control etc. I accept that other methods of controlling foxes may also be unpalatable. But what this entire debate boils down to is; it's completely wrong to kill anything for personal enjoyment!
Foxes have to be controlled in the countryside, but not for fun.
Fox hunting is a national disgrace and should be banned immediately. How the slaughter of innocent animals can be termed "sport" is beyond me. Its an embarrassment to the nation that this barbaric outdated pastime is allowed to continue in the 21st century.
The arguments for fox hunting are ridiculous. I live in the city and I have a fox problem, but I don't send dogs after the fox to rip it to pieces. I just deal with it; that's just part of living on planet Earth. As for people's livelihoods being taken away...well, if your livelihood depends on a blood sport where abused hounds chase a fox, then rip it to pieces while it's still alive, I don't care if you're going to lose your livelihood because it's disgusting and sick. As for the rich and the posh, find a new hobby. You step all over us enough already, isn't that enough for you, or would you like to rip us to pieces as well?
I do not think that hunting with dogs should be banned. I live out in the country and most of my friends are farmers. Fox numbers are extremely high this year due to foot and mouth restrictions last year and fox population control has become a serious point for livestock farmers. With lambing season coming soon, without local hunts, farmers have no choice but to use other methods of fox control. Recently an independent vet study showed that in 95% of fox deaths during hunts, death was instantaneous. Compare that statistic with other forms of fox control that would need to be adopted. Shooting, snaring, gassing, trapping and poisoning all lead to suffering for the fox prior to death. Is this really a more humane way to control the fox population? I would suggest not.
Johnny Howson, England
As is usual in this type of debate, there are those who describe the fox as a 'defenceless animal'. Foxes have a very cruel streak themselves, since they toy with animals they have maimed, before killing them. They will also proceed to kill every chicken in a run if they have time. The argument that they do this to provide a later food store is null and void - nowhere else in the animal kingdom does this occur. Clearly, the fox population needs to be controlled, not just in the countryside, where they pose a very real threat to wildlife and people's livelihoods,
but also in the towns and cities, where they scavenge and leave faeces where children play, in the parks, gardens and patios of suburbia. Since there is no acknowledged humane way of killing foxes that is practical, it appears that fox hunting is the only option for now. I think the real issues here are class, and the fact that fox hunters appear to derive pleasure from seeing foxes killed. Perhaps, then, this task should be fulfilled by local council workers. But then, that would never work - it would have to be paid for.
As a child, I was paid 15 quid for a dead fox. Catching them was easy with a wire trap. They would be still alive after days caught in these traps. Anyone that thinks fox hunting is barbaric obviously doesn't know the alternative.
This is pure cheap politics, and yet another notch for a decaying British society.
Charlotte Phillips, UK
I live in a part of the country where hunting still takes place. I do not know how the legislation against it can be implemented. It is a way of life for so many people down here. I am sure they will just carry on doing what they have been doing for centuries in the full knowledge that this is not a vote against the sport itself but a vote against the class system so many people despise. What a distorted attitude they have. Political correctness again rears its ugly head.
The Burns enquiry clearly established that hunting was no more cruel than ANY other method of fox population control.
It did establish that it was not in the animal's welfare.
However neither is shooting, gassing or snaring, which will not be made illegal, and which can and do involve greater suffering, on occasion, than hunting EVER does.
If the majority of hunting was carried on by working people riding cross country motorbikes, there would not even be a debate about it, least of all legislation.
I have never understood the argument made by some fox hunting advocates that town and city dwellers do not understand the need to kill in the country. What makes "Thou shall not kill" null and void for country residents? Also, country dwellers in favour of hunting like to make themselves out to be vastly different from the rest of us. From the way they go on one would think that they were barely managing to keep themselves fed in some 18th century American wilderness. In fact, they can go on the internet and buy a book or just drive to the local farm supply shop for ways to discourage foxes.
Surely there are more important issues on which the British Government should expend its energies than fox hunting? Once again Blair is fiddling while Rome burns by concentrating on populist side issues rather than resolving the more pressing infrastructure problems. These of course are far more difficult to deal with and as ever he chooses the safe option - hardly any voters that he needs to worry about in the countryside.
Barry P, England
The needless killing of millions sheep due to foot and mouth is barbaric. Battery farms are barbaric and so are abattoirs, the cruelty inflicted on thousands of so called "pets" everyday is not too pleasant either. Maybe we should note the opinion on this matter of the people who the ban will have an effect - those still reeling from the effects of foot and mouth.
Thomas Boal, UK
It is very clear the outdated ritual killing of foxes with dogs should be banned. The argument that fox numbers should be limited is pure propaganda. Foxes are encouraged for the purposes hunting on many estates.
Yes, it should be banned. Chasing a defenceless animal for miles then ripping it apart. If they're a pest, shoot them. The whole sport centres around the hunt not the actual controlling of fox populations. I think it's disgusting and those who take part are very sad individuals.
Phillip Porteous, Cumbria
This is just a chap stunt to deflect attention from Byers (this Government always has a pop at hunting or "elitist" universities when it gets into bother). I'm sure Labour's backbench automatons will vote a ban through, once again demonstrating a complete lack of understanding for the countryside, and total disregard for people's rights. Yes, animals have rights too: indeed I support the rights of small, defenceless mammals to live in peace, unmolested by predatory foxes.
What is the point in banning it? There is no effective alternative to hunting with dogs. What we need to ban is glorying in the death of the fox - and as someone who lives in the countryside and does NOT hunt, I have to say that the vast majority of those who do glory in the death of the animal come out from the towns and cities to do so.
It isn't the country folk.
Threats by the Countryside Alliance to simply ignore a future ban simply illustrates why public opinion is so against them. This arrogant, high-handed attitude is typical of the type of people who take part in the hunt: upper-class wealthy individuals with a born to rule mentality. Their class have had their own way for hundreds of years and now they are about to have one of their ancient and barbaric privileges taken away from them. I welcome the day when Britain will finally ban hunting and become a civilised nation. If that means mass arrests of red-jacketed hunters, then so be it!
It's irrational and hypocritical that we should focus so heavily on this issue when most of us in this country are content to enjoy cheap meat at the expense of animal suffering on a far greater scale than that caused by foxhunting. A ban on battery poultry farming should be a higher priority. We would like to see ourselves as a nation of animal-lovers, but we are not willing to pay the cost, or change our behaviour. Banning foxhunting (changing other people's behaviour, for most of us) looks like to me like a convenient way to salve our consciences.
I'd just like to say a big thanks to Tony Blair for truly representing the people who voted him into office. The fact that this issue is still dragging on even when the majority of the British people have expressed their disgust (and let's face it, it is the majority) underlines the high regard that labour holds the publics opinion when dictating policy. Nice one Tony, you should be proud of yourself.
It is wrong to say that Scotland has banned hunting foxes with dogs. Dogs can still be used to chase the fox but not kill it. When the fox is cornered it will then be shot. Beware of gesture politics!
Politicians should be wary of the notion of this supposed 'Middle Way' on hunting. Its the Countryside Alliance's Trojan Horse, and would allow the continuation of every sordid aspect of hunting, albeit under the cosy banner of 'licensing'.
In the 21st Century (200 years after a bill was first introduced to ban hunting) we should be ending institutionalised cruelty towards animals, not issuing bits of paper to licence it.
I am not really a supporter of hunting, it is just that I disagree with the way our liberties and recreation time is being dictated to us by people who have no idea of what life is like in the country.
Nick Barter, UK
It is an accident of class based politics that fox hunting survived while bear baiting and cock fighting were outlawed in the 19th century, however, surely there are more important things for parliament to spend its limited time upon than whether wealthy people kill unendangered vermin or not. If you don't like it, don't go and see it.
The vast majority of people in the UK, including myself, want it banned. It is not a sport, it is barbaric and it is wrong. If foxes are genuinely a problem there are humane ways of dealing with that, if people want to dress up in funny outfits and gallop around fields with packs of dogs running around them then fine, they do not need to kill foxes to achieve this (there are alternative ways of creating a scent for the dogs to chase). Indeed, the hunting lobby often argue in defence of their 'sport' that it is not the kill that excites but the thrill of the chase.
The fox hunt is a crude and inefficient method of controlling the fox population. Anyone using population control as reasoning to defend fox hunting is clearly searching desperately for any excuse they can find to continue their selfish behaviour. Fox hunting is cruel and should be banned.
Civilised people do not gain enjoyment from seeing animals suffer. Of course it should be banned. And this activity should not be referred to as sport. It is a sick pastime watched by sick people.
A compromise is the only way forward - if we in Britain cannot reconcile two very different view points on what is at the end of the day a trivial matter, especially compared to the NHS, transport and terrorism, then it bodes little hope for our ability in any more serious affairs. Enough time has been wasted on this and all involved should be ashamed of the complete waste of parliamentary time.
To the other Chris, there can be no compromise on this. The idea of licensing hunts is ludicrous. Will the government also issue licences to people who want to kick their dogs, or leave them neglected without food? Would those who criticise the proposal to remove the right of trial by Jury for some offences be placated if the government said that they would be tried by "licensed" magistrates? Should husbands be allowed to apply for licenses to beat their wives? Of course not. When something is wrong it should be banned, full stop. Licensing merely condones wrongdoing.
I strongly disagree with activities such as fox hunting, but am concerned with the speed at which it is being pushed through. What disgusts me though is the way the government is using this as a blatant attempt to deflect attention away from the Byers fiasco and New Labour cash for favours allegations.
Amanda Bettam, Scotland
Although I do not condone fox hunting with dogs I do not see how it can be banned just yet. Fox numbers need to be controlled for the farmers' sake, who have got enough problems already with the numbers of foxes going out of control. The alternatives that have been proposed in the past are unworkable and some of them present dangers to other wildlife, the environment and even children so for now I think we should let them carry on until another way of sensibly controlling fox numbers can be found.
Assuming the ban on hunting is successful, what will the Ban-it Brigade do then in their spare time? Probably start to try something ridiculous like banning fishing.
Yes, of course fox hunting should be banned. It's barbaric and the majority of Britons - both townies and country-dwellers - want it banned. This is a democracy and the will of the people must prevail.
People like Michael Entill say that "the will of the people must prevail", and
hence hunting must be banned. Can't they tell the difference between a true
liberal democracy and the tyranny of the majority?
I have no feelings one way or the other on this issue. I have not seen any compelling evidence that confirms that fox hunting is any more cruel than shooting or poisoning if there is a need to keep their numbers down. Neither am I aware that there has been a referendum that enables a previous correspondent to claim that "This is a democracy and the will of the people must prevail." I just think that in the great scope of things this is a non-issue that is wheeled out by the government whenever they get in a tight spot, and need to deflect public attention.
Another classic piece of gesture politics! Relatively cheap to do and calculated to gain more votes than it loses, just like the banning of handguns. You would think that an activity that kills 3,500 people a year, seriously maims another 80,000, causes untold pollution and costs an absolute fortune to participate in would be slightly higher up the pecking order to be banned, but silly me, that would cost far too many votes.
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