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Monday, 16 September, 2002, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
Is fox hunting necessary?
Fox numbers were not influenced by a hunting ban during the foot-and-mouth outbreak last year, claims a report by the Mammal Society.
The study was funded by the RSPCA and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Volunteers and paid staff surveyed 160 randomly-selected one-kilometre square areas throughout the UK for fox faeces comparing the results before and after the ban.
However, countryside organisations including the Countryside Alliance have disputed the figures and questioned the method of counting.
The disease outbreak started in February 2001 and hunting was banned for 10 months and severely curtailed for a further two months.
Do you feel that fox hunting has a role to play in maintaining the environment? Tell us what you think.
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Why is it regarded as a freedom to pursue and torture an animal? If these animals have to be destroyed, there are more humane ways to do so. In my country liberty does not equal torture and killing.
Of course fox-hunting is not necessary, neither is football, fishing or owning a cat, but we do not outlaw them just because we do not like them. The question should be:"Is a ban necessary?" The answer to that is no. A ban will not save one fox; they will be shot, gassed and snared. All of which are crueller than hunting.
Constance Young, USA
The majority of people want fox hunting banned. So ban it. That's democracy.
I bet 99% of you anti-hunt people are from inner cities and have never seen a hunt in your lives!! You are the same people who like to go to the country for holidays in the summer and moan when it rains! Hunting is part of our country heritage and employs 1000's of people nationwide!
Badgers seem to be a bit of a problem but you don't hunt them, is that because they fight back or because it's so much cheaper to trap them. Just admit to yourselves you enjoy sadistic pleasure.
I find it difficult to understand how a great number of "men" and numerous hounds, spending hours chasing, torturing and eventually killing one fox can be perceived as effective pest control. Whilst I agree that foxes may be regarded as pests by many throughout the rural community, surely there must be simpler and more efficient methods to control their numbers.
To quote Oscar Wilde, "The unspeakable chasing the uneatable".
The hunters should leave the poor foxes alone they have a right to live as much as we do. It's very cruel. They might be pests but they don't harm anyone.
I was a farmer's son and I have been involved in agriculture and related all my life. My first introduction to hunting was a Boxing Day 'meet' where the followers broke down our hedges and fences and drove our dairy cows the length of the farm in front of them. The result was that their milk yield for the rest of their lactation was greatly reduced. My father to his credit banned the hunt from our farm from then on.
I did not come from a hunting background, but when we moved up here knowing no one, we were welcomed by people including those from the Morpeth Hunt. I had a preconceived view that hunting was for toffs but how wrong I was. I now follow the hounds on a bicycle enjoying good air, good company and keeping out of anyone's way.
Mike and Barbara Thompson, England
What a pity the mindless minority defending the soon-to-be-illegal bloodsport of fox hunting can't find something better to do with their time. Perhaps they could volunteer to help the less fortunate or campaign for the hungry?
Hunting should stay - for liberty and for livelihood
Tom Stoddart-Scott, England
I live in a rural area in Sussex and fully appreciate the need for farmers to be protecting their stock etc. However, there are much more humane ways of accomplishing this rather than chasing after a living, breathing creature for 4 hours with a pack of dogs who then proceed to rip it apart limb from limb.
I live in North Cumbria and hunt with a fell pack. Due to Foot and mouth disease the fox population has exploded in our region. Hunting in our region is essential because of the terrain. I will be supporting the "Liberty and Livelihood" march.
The rural community cannot survive without fox hunting. It is a fact that the numbers of foxes in the countryside explode when there is a ban in place and therefore there should be no ban on fox hunting. People in more urban areas fail to understand this.
It was the class of the participants which saved fox hunting from being banned in the Victorian era when other, largely working class attended events, such as cockfighting, bear baiting and dog fighting were outlawed. Surely now is time to be consistent in our attitude to animal welfare, one way or the other.
Steven Payne, UK
Of course hunting helps to keep fox numbers under control. As a sheep farmer I know what damage a fox can do at lambing time. The local hunt is one way in which the fox can be dealt with quickly.
Rosie Jackson, please could you tell me just how hunting is "at the very root of our country's fabric"? I regard myself as reasonably intelligent and well informed but this fact has obviously passed me by.
How would the foxhunter like it if his or her terrified pet dog was to be chased over miles of countryside by a bunch of loonies on horseback and bloodthirsty hounds until caught and torn to pieces?
Ban all blood sports! We may not be able to end all suffering in this world but please let us end this vile, sickening act of violence on an animal that is simply following its instinct to stay alive. Why are people seen as more important than animals? Surely it is the other way round. Animals to do not cut down trees and thin the ozone layer and hunt for pleasure. People do. So we are vermin too.
I think the anti-hunters need to justify their prejudice. All evidence shows that hunting is probably the most humane form of fox control, and certainly the most humane form of deer control in England. How then can the anti-hunters claim to be interested in animal welfare when a ban on hunting will quite clearly lead to demonstrably crueller methods of control being used?
Jon C-B, Haywards Heath, UK
There is nothing remotely unbiased about this report. Firstly it was funded by the RSPCA and IFAW and secondly it was carried out by the one professor the antis drag out every time to support their cause. I am surprised anybody in the media bothered mentioning it.
We're not the only country in the world that needs to control pests in the wild so why do we seem to be alone in thinking that this control can only be achieved by hunting with dogs?
If many of you who claim fox hunting is only frequented by the rich actually came out and got to know us, you would realise that nearly all of us work for a living. We hunt because we want to, not because we want to Lord it. Narrow-mindedness breeds contempt and a pure lack of understanding results in people's liberty and livelihood being put at risk. Perhaps we should be chasing the thugs who beat up old ladies or the men who kill children? Would that be sport?
Polly Bolton, England
Foxes are vermin, hunting helps to shift these vermin.
Let's face it; having a dozen dogs rip a fox to pieces is a damn sight quicker than poisoning a fox, which can prolong the dying process.
Contrary to popular opinion hunting is not the exclusive domain of the "toffs". Many people follow on foot, in cars and on motorbikes. However, they all share a common demented desire to see an animal suffer. Be it terrier men taking hours to dig out and kill a terrified and exhausted fox or the stag hunters rushing desperately around Exmoor to see a stag running until it can run no more. This has no place in a civilised society.
If chasing, torturing and killing wild animals for fun is a civil liberty then I am ashamed to live in this country.
You ban something because it's morally wrong. Was it morally wrong last year? Or 100 years ago? Or 500 years ago? I think the only thing that's changed is people in the cities have got more moralistic.
James Pitt, England
Of course it should be banned. The majority of the country fortunately agree, it is legalised cruelty in the name of a fun day out for those not necessarily living in the country. The countryside belongs to us all as guardians and so does the wildlife, they are not here for our sport.
I wish that the pro-hunters would come up with a good reason and stick with it. Pest control, heritage, not understanding the countryside, job losses (get a proper job), tradition etc. They pick and choose in desperation, changing their minds as often as their tweed. Toffs with too much time on their idle hands methinks.
Hunting is a crucial freedom that has helped shape our countryside and it is in more aspects of our heritage, culture and traditions than many give credence to. It seems the best, most humane and effective way to keep its quarry populations in check - look at the Burns Report, speak to the park authorities on Exmoor and ask those ex-members of the League Against Cruel Sports who have themselves converted to supporters of hunting recently. I won't go into where the real cruelty in the countryside lies but it is certainly not to be found in hunting.
Fox hunting is a stupid sport, but banning something because you disagree with it is stupid ideology and thinking. If you don't like fox hunting don't do it, I've never done it nor been forced into it. The left and right wing should think very carefully about how they wish to ban anything associated with the other side. Libertarians lack this hypocrisy, and draconian instinct.
I suppose we could persuade these strangely dressed hunters to mend their ways by becoming withdrawn and shadowy figures who leave their homes at the crack of dawn, to settle down beside the river and proceed to bait and trap perfectly innocent creatures. This must be the right solution, the joy of spearing these creatures, to tease and tear them but of course to spare them the indignity of killing and eating them, and thus deprive them of the joy of that experience on another day.
Of course if they choose to trap and poison those other furry creatures, rats and mice they might even be allowed to do this dressed in any way they choose.
The vast majority of people in the UK would bring back hanging, but that doesn't make it a good idea. Most people who oppose hunting have never actually bothered to spend a day out with a hunt and have no idea what goes on. Hunting is an essential part of the delicate balance in controlling fox, mink and deer in the UK.
Paul Law, England
I don't hunt myself, but I believe strongly in the principle of liberty - so I'll fight to preserve the rights of those who do hunt to continue to be able to do so. I see hunting as no worse than, say, Halal or Kosher slaughtering; do we ban those?
Fox hunting is part of our heritage, The plaintive cry of Tally Ho! and the mesmerising sight of a hunt in full cry are awe inspiring. I have been a Beater since I was a little, and long may this most splendid pursuit continue !
Nobody can attempt to justify this cruelty and still hope to be regarded as civilised.
I don't quite know how a transient government with a failing National Health, school system and transport system can warrant so much time on stopping something that is a the very root of our country's fabric.
I've never heard any argument that presents a good case for fox hunting as a means of controlling the fox population - indeed I think it's a dishonest argument to lobby in favour of hunting on these grounds. In my view, fox hunting has no more part to play in our rural environment than badger baiting, or cock fighting, or any of the other rural traditions that are now quite rightly banned.
Paul Clare, UK
I am amazed that so much time goes into debating fox hunting when our schools and hospitals are a shambles. Concentrate on the important things and leave fox hunting to the posh hunters and crusty saboteurs!
Fox hunting is a necessary and efficient way of controlling fox populations. Apart from the fact that it's a great sport and followed by many thousands of people, it also ensures the countryside is maintained in an environmentally sound manner. The alternatives are both dangerous for the environment and costly in terms of livelihoods and finance.
It's a barbaric and pointless so-called "sport". There are more humane ways to control foxes and it's only the well off that seem to participate, and their voice tends to carry more weight.
Roddy Addo, UK
I grew up in a rural area in the Scottish borders. The most efficient and humane method to control fox numbers is for professional gamekeepers to go "spotlighting" with rifles. A "gamie" can take dozens of foxes in a single night - whereas the practice of amateurs hunting with dogs is lucky to get one in a day.
I'm sure foxes do cause problems in the countryside, but I think what most people find objectionable is seeing those that go fox hunting and make a social occasion out of it.
What's wrong with being social while riding? If people want to wear a livery, let them, what's wrong with tradition? Let the government, who listen only to the Lycra-Nazi sandalists of Islington, concentrate on things that effect everyone in the country and not just on the minority!
Of course it's necessary!! How else can the landed gentry let their subjects know whose boss?
Once again we see the thin veneer of civilisation used to try and deny man's basic animal traits. Man is an omnivorous hunter/gatherer. Far worse happens to human beings every single day. I say consider humans first. Get your priorities right. Solve some of humanities problems and other things will follow.
Fox hunting is completely unnecessary and extremely inhumane. The spectacle of the landed gentry riding about on horseback, lording it over the 'local peasants' is a sight that has no place in modern society. The sooner the government outlaws this so called 'sport' the better.
Ian Richardson, UK
If foxes are a pest and causing problems then shoot them, poison them or trap them. Don't dress the outdated and cruel pursuit of fox hunting up as pest control. It is largely ineffective in controlling the 'pest' problem as many hunts do not result in a kill.
Obviously it's not outdated since it has so much support and lots of things serve no purpose, but people do them. I don't fox hunt because it doesn't appeal, however, if it does appeal to someone then that is their choice. Yes the fox gets hurt but we kill animals and plants to eat. We also kill flies and spiders - are they really pests? Who is going to campaign for the brutality towards insects?
Chris Baines, UK
No, it shouldn't have a role to play. The complaints coming from those in the Countryside Alliance are just the traditional rantings of rich people who like killing things. Ignore them.
If it's really necessary to hunt then remove the pomp and ceremony that surrounds it. That is, it doesn't need to be social event. If hunting survives after being toned down then maybe it has a valuable contribution to make.
Gerry Anstey, England
Fox numbers were unaltered because landowners shot them instead. Some of the animals are bound to have had slow and painful deaths as shooting is not always an instant death as is hunting with dogs. Either the dog catches the fox or not. A bullet wound may fester for months until blood poisoning kills the poor animal. Ask yourselves which is your preferred method of fox control.
It's outdated, barbaric and ineffectual - let it go!
If they just love a ride with the dogs there's always drag hunting and nothing has to die!
To quote Oscar Wilde, "The unspeakable chasing the uneatable". It forms no purpose in the 21st century.
04 Sep 02 | Wales
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