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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.

Foxes are the least of our worries

David, UK
For over 15 years I have kept totally free range chickens, geese, turkeys and ducks on five acres in Suffolk. During this time there have been foxes breeding in our meadows from time to time and we see foxes quite often in the area. We have lost one duck to the postman's van, just four hens to foxes and a very large number to thieving neighbours. Foxes are the least of our worries.
David, UK

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.
Margy, USA

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.
David, England

Sport hunting is barbaric

Constance Young, USA
Sport hunting is barbaric. If we want to live in a compassionate world we should ban all such blood sports.
Constance Young, USA

The majority of people want fox hunting banned. So ban it. That's democracy.
Richard Murray, London, UK

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!
Ben, Cornwall, UK

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.
Tom Potts, UK

No one outside Britain thinks the fox hunting is anything but a blood sport

Julian, UK
So are we in Britain unique? I know that in North America there are foxes and farming, so what sort of a problem do they have there? None, local farmers take precautions, and during calving and lambing the fox is the least of their problems when it comes to running a livestock farm. No one outside Britain thinks the fox hunting is anything but a blood sport.
Julian, UK

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".
Lise Benjamin, Canada

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.
Michelle, Kent, UK

They forget or don't know the damage a fox can do to young lambs

Fergal, Ireland
The one problem I have with anti-hunting people is their lack of knowledge about hunting and of the fox. They seem to believe the fox is this innocent cuddly animal who lives in fear of man and hounds, they forget or don't know the damage a fox can do to young lambs and other animals whom it chooses to kill indiscriminately.
Fergal, Ireland

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.
Peter Brooks, UK

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.
Jane Harper, Northumberland, UK

There are much more humane ways to control the fox population

Mike and Barbara Thompson, England
We live in the Devon countryside in a small hamlet of 10 houses and so you can't get more countrified than us. We fervently believe that hunting should be banned for the cruel and barbaric thing it is. There are much more humane ways to control the fox population if control is necessary. It is not true that all country folk support hunting.
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?
Rebecca, UK

Hunting should stay - for liberty and for livelihood
Ella Pickard, England

Fox hunting is a very important conservation tool

Tom Stoddart-Scott, England
Fox hunting is a very important conservation tool. It is selective, unlike the inevitable shooting, trapping and poisoning that would be have to be used following any ban. Some may not like it some may not understand it but that is not a good enough reason to destroy the livelihoods and liberty of so many and contribute to the destruction of the countryside.
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.
Nick, UK

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.
Linda Dodd, England

I have never heard of one, justifiable argument in favour of fox hunting

Steve, UK
Liberty, livelihood, heritage! What a load of tosh. Having lived in a rural community all my life I have never heard of one, justifiable argument in favour of fox hunting. As for being guardians of the countryside, I do not know a farmer who wouldn't sell his land tomorrow if the offer came. The objections of those involved in hunting are political, and have little to do with a lifestyle or tradition.
Steve, UK

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.
Jayne, England

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.
Tom, England

There is no liberty to terrorise and viciously kill animals

Steven Payne, UK
How pathetic that the pro-hunters, having lost the argument with every other excuse and justification, now resort to the 'civil liberties' angle. There is no liberty to terrorise and viciously kill animals. There is no 'right' to torture, torment and kill; if it is wrong (and furthermore, illegal) to do it to a dog in your back yard, it is the same with a fox in the field.
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.
D. F.Harbottle, United Kingdom

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.
Greg Brown, Uk

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?
Bill Jarvis, United Kingdom

Is it really necessary to ban fox-hunting

Edwin, Britain
Surely in a so-called "free country", the question should be "Is it really necessary to ban fox-hunting?" It is another example of a totalitarian state removing another freedom from its so-called subjects. Let's give this government the ousting it has come to deserve!
Edwin, Britain

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?
Tony Swing, England

In the country, bloodshed is a day-to-day business

Jon C-B, Haywards Heath, UK
Being a vegetarian I am vehemently opposed to the idea of blood sports, but things are different for those brought up in the country, where bloodshed and animal death is a day-to-day business. Perhaps it is unfair for us townies to impose our views on others. Cultural relativism anyone? The behaviour of certain minority hunt saboteurs, in particular, has really made me to question what the true issue is here: Safety of foxes, or bashing the so-called upper classes?
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.
Liam Thom, England

It is about managing wildlife in a sustainable way

Mark, England
Hunting is not just about killing animals. It is about managing wildlife and the countryside in a sustainable way that has the support of the majority of the people who own and farm it.
Mark, England

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?
Dougal McKinnon, UK

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?
James Richards, UK

Foxes are not vermin

Polly Bolton, England
Foxes are not vermin. They are a vital part of our ecosystem. Their main source of food are the rodents who can do damage to our crops. They have been demonised by the hunting lobby to justify their loathsome sport. If foxes are such rapacious pests, why do so many hunts actively encourage their breeding by providing artificial earths? Just get on and ban it Blair!
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.
Will Faulkner, United Kingdom

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.
Neil, England

If chasing, torturing and killing wild animals for fun is a civil liberty then I am ashamed to live in this country.
Jeremy, England

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.
Sam Kelly, UK

Hunting foxes is the kindest way of culling foxes

James Pitt, England
Hunting foxes is (unbelievably to those who don't hunt) the kindest way of culling foxes. Weaker foxes get killed in a few seconds. Those who have seen foxes shot and wounded, dragging their hind legs would never forget it.
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.
Debbie Ballard, England

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.
Carnster, England

A lot of people who hunt are not wealthy

Charles, England
Most of the comments I have read reflect the usual class-based prejudices that we have come to expect from those who oppose hunting. Believe it or not, the kill is quick and clean (not guaranteed with a rifle). Oh, and a lot of people who hunt are not wealthy, ask the guy from the next door village who is a window cleaner, and regularly rides with the local hunt.
Charles, England

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.
Will Regis, UK

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.
Mark, England

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.
Alan, Britain

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.
Victoria H, UK

Fox hunting should be banned now

Paul Law, England
Fox hunting should be banned now. I don't understand why it is such a hard thing to do. The vast majority of the people want it banned. The vast majority of MPs want it banned. It is cruel and unnecessary and we should just get rid of it.
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?
David Moran, Scotland/Australia

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 !
Nick Clarke, Ireland

Nobody can attempt to justify this cruelty and still hope to be regarded as civilised.
Chris D, England

The sooner these louts are deprived of their cruel 'sport' the better

Gina, UK
It confirms what every right-minded person has always believed - fox-hunting is a sick game perpetrated by sick people. The sooner these louts are deprived of their cruel 'sport' the better.
Gina, UK

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.
Rosie Jackson, England

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.
John, England

Population control is just an excuse for their love of killing

Paul Clare, UK
Is the rest of the northern hemisphere over-run with foxes? Population control is just an excuse for their love of killing.
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!
Tom, UK

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.
Tom, UK

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.
Leon, Wales

Fox hunting results in a balanced fox population and is part of the UK's heritage

Roddy Addo, UK
Fox hunting results in a balanced fox population and is part of the UK's heritage. It is also popular in many countries throughout the world, from the US to Australia. It provides rural employment for many folk, not just those directly involved. The rights of minorities must be respected by all.
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.
Duncan King, Scotland

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.
Andy P, UK

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!
Simon Johnson, England

Of course it's necessary!! How else can the landed gentry let their subjects know whose boss?
Bob, UK

Foxes are part of the environment

Mick, UK
Foxes are part of the environment. They have a right to exist without being terrorized by people who enjoy seeing an animal torn to pieces in the name of 'sport'. Leave innocent animals alone and chase your own shadows or something.
Mick, UK

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.
Bernd Wiesner, England

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.
Becky Richards, England

If foxes are pests that can damage an individual's livelihood then there is no problem with hunting them

Ian Richardson, UK
Personally, I don't see the problem, if the truth is that foxes are pests that can damage an individual's livelihood then there is surely no problem with hunting them. The fact that it is done as a sport is incidental. The only concern is that foxes aren't the pest they are made out to be, if they are not then it is right to campaign against hunting them.
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.
Tony Wilson, UK

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?
A D Lane, UK

It's bloodlust, pointless murder

Chris Baines, UK
It's bloodlust, pointless murder. Pest control does not have to involve a four-hour chase across country to claiming a trophy from the fox. Fox hunting makes me sick. As for the jobs you claim will go, I bet you don't get so concerned about the redundancies in the manufacturing industries, or the 4,000 jobs going in insurance. You just want an excuse to go out kill something and feel good about it; does it make you feel like a man?
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.
Ian Bartlett, UK

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.
Derek Mitchell, England

Why do so many people want to ban something they know nothing about?

Gerry Anstey, England
I'm a townie so I don't have enough knowledge of these country sports. Why do so many people want to ban something they know nothing about? Let them get on with it. Let us townies mind our own business and let the country brigade get on with it!
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.
Alastair, UK

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!
Julie, England

To quote Oscar Wilde, "The unspeakable chasing the uneatable". It forms no purpose in the 21st century.
Andy Shanks, UK

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

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The Scottish ban



Is fox hunting necessary?



4105 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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04 Sep 02 | Wales
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