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Thursday, 16 September, 1999, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
Fox hunting worldwide
foxhunting graphic
Highlights show where fox hunting happens
Fox hunting is often viewed as a typically traditional British activity - but hunting with hounds takes place all over the world.

Historically, wherever the British have gone building empires, they have taken the fox hunt, or a close approximation of the field sport, with them.

In many countries, including the USA, Canada and India, hunting is a living reminder of the days of the old empire.

But that is not to say, of course, that fox hunting is a British innovation. Plenty of other European countries have their own long tradition of hunting foxes with hounds.

France, Italy and Ireland, for example, have thriving fox hunts.

In many regions of France, deer, hares, and wild boar are all hunted with hounds.

The hunting lobby has significant political presence, both in the European and regional parliaments in the form of the party Chasse, Peche, Nature, Traditions (Hunting, Fishing, Nature, Traditions).

Many North American hunts chase the coyote
Opposition to hunting is also fairly organised, with groups such as the Rassemblement des Opposants de la Chasse (Assembly of the Opponents of Hunting) conducting information campaigns against hunting.

ROC representative, Nelly Bouthinot, told BBC News Online that the French hunt or trap 90 different species of mammals and birds. She compared this to Belgium, which hunts or traps 18 different species.

Hunting with hounds is practised less in France than shooting, she said, adding: "The law concerning hunting dates from 1844 and needs to be completely reviewed."

The fight against hunting in France, she said, did not include direct action.

"Hunting is a masculine occupation. Most opponents of the hunt are women, seeking a feminisation of society. Violence, for whatever reason, has no place in our struggle.

"We fight with information and by conducting opinion polls, which show that most French people, whether they lean to the left or the right, are opposed to hunting with hounds."

The USA has more than 150 fox hunts - which are regulated by the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America.

Apparel-wise, the American and British hunts are almost identical.

However, the big difference between fox hunting in the UK and the USA is that American hunters do not set out with the intention of killing their quarry.

And because of a lack of foxes, they often hunt coyote.

The MFAA Website states: "In Britain the goal is to kill the fox. Because there is no rabies in the British Isles, populations of fox are extremely high and fox are considered vermin.

"Farmers with sheep farms want the animal numbers controlled. In America this is not normally the case. A successful hunt ends when the fox is accounted for by entering a hole in the ground, called an earth.

"Once there, hounds are rewarded with praise from their huntsman. The fox gets away and is chased another day."

The MFAA's Code of Hunting Practices does not rule out killing the quarry - but does not allow digging out of an animal once it has gone to ground.

Over in Canada, where the code also applies, there are a dozen foxhound packs, which may be used to hunt foxes or coyotes.

Laurie Kingston of the Canadian branch of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: "There is a small fox hunt in Canada, but it is not very high profile.

"The provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia currently have annual fox hunts, but the size of the Canadian hunt is estimated to be 1/20 that of the UK fox hunt."

Because of Northern America's "more sporting" approach to hunting with hounds, there is much less organised opposition to the sport.

IFAW's Cindy Milburn said: "I have heard fox hunters in the USA boast that they haven't actually caught a fox for years.

Banned in some countries

"In the USA the animals are not dug out if they go to ground, terriers are not sent down the earths after them and the earths are not stopped up."

In areas where communism has collapsed, the perceived class issues associated with fox hunting are no longer a bar to hunting taking place.

annapolis valley hunt
Canada's Annapolis Valley Hunt
Russia is keen to attract overseas hunters to enjoy its vast tracts of open countryside and wildlife. However, hunting seems to generally consist of pursuing the quarry in trucks, and then shooting it.

Others countries, however, have banned hunting with hounds of live animals, branding it a "barbaric practice".

In Switzerland and Germany, where hunting with hounds is outlawed, hunt supporters have to some extent adopted drag hunting as their sport.

IFAW says that the reason fox hunting in the UK is such a burning issue internationally is that Britain is seen as a country that sets high standards for animals welfare.

Cindy Milburn said: "The fact that fox hunting with hounds is still legal exposes the UK to accusations of hypocrisy when we are involved in discussions with, for instance, the Norwegians or Japanese on whaling - or the Chinese on bear farming.

"The UK 'tolerance' of hunting with dogs is often borught up, understandably, in international negotiations on animal welfare issues."

ROC's Nelly Bouthinot:
"French law dates from 1844" (in French)
Nelly Boutinot
"Ninety species hunted in France" (in French)
Background and analysis of one of the most contentious issues in British politics

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