Fox hunting dated from the late 17th century when it arose as a practical method of limiting the fox population, which endangered poultry farming. By the early 19th century, it was indulged in as a sport by the British aristocracy and gentry, who made it traditional. Early settlers from England introduced Foxhunting into the USA and continues in the southern and middle Atlantic regions. The recognized fox hunting season runs from the first Monday in November until the following April. Fox hunting is the pursuit of a fox across the country on horseback, aided by a pack of foxhounds specially trained to track the fox’s scent. The aim is to catch and kill the fox. Fox hunting has met with increasing opposition. Although fox hunting is by no means the only issue annoying people from the countryside, it is one of the bigger issues.
Fox hunting with hounds is a tradition in the English and Scottish countryside, going for centuries. That’s why countrymen and women were up in arms the minute they caught a sniff of the government’s intention to debate a possible banning of the sport. Animal- rights activists condemn it as involving excessive cruelty, and in Britain, groups of hunt saboteurs disrupt it. Animal rights activists have had just about enough of the activity they call ‘blood sport’ and are horrified that it is still going on in our countryside in this day and age. Many Bills have been taken into consideration for banning hunting with hounds since 1949. Prime Minister Tony Blair has long proclaimed that he is against hunting with dogs. In 1999 he promised to ban it, and since then, he has introduced legislation that will end hunting. Although MPs in the House of Commons support the move, it also needs to be supported by the House of Lords, the un-elected second chamber of the British Parliament. But it is thought that the Lords are very much in favour of allowing hunting to continue.
On the 30th of June 2003, in the House of Commons, MPs voted 362 to 154 for a total ban on hunting with hounds. The government had tried to push through an amended Bill that proposed a regulatory system but withdrew this towards the end of the debate. Instead, a backbench amendment effectively banning hunting with hounds was agreed upon. The Bill has been re-committed to Standing Committee and must still be debated in the House of Lords. This must be done quickly because there is very little time before recess. If the Lords reject it as expected, the Government will probably force the Bill through by invoking the Parliamentary Acts. This in itself requires at least a month of parliamentary time. The issue of fox hunting and whether it should be banned or not has been a subject of conversation for a long time. Several strong matters can be discussed about fox hunting: the reasons why people are ‘for’ and ‘against’ hunting are significant. To understand the complexities of the issues, you must hear arguments from both sides of the fence.
Anti-fox hunting views. Animal Aid is opposed to all forms of animal cruelty, and they are strongly opposed to hunting. They believe hunting with hounds has no place in modern Britain. It should have ended years ago along with cockfighting, bear-baiting and dog-fighting. When some portray animal cruelty as a ‘sport’ to get pleasure from, it debases society and promotes even more animal cruelty. It is not just foxes and other wildlife that suffer. Horses and dogs are also hunting victims, viewed simply as ‘sporting accessories’ many sustain fatal injuries during the gruelling chase, and the poor foxes are often savagely ripped apart by the hounds. Animal welfare arguments
- From the RSPCA website: A 12-year-old girl and her ten-year-old brother were traumatized when they saw a fox torn apart by a pack of hounds in their garden in West Yorkshire. Their father said: ‘They (the hunt) said it would have died in seconds, as the hounds would have got it by the throat, but from what I saw, it was torn to pieces.’
- Fox hunters chase foxes for pleasure and not because they want to help farmers. Foxes could be controlled by shooting instead.
- Foxes do attack chickens and lambs, but that is part of their nature. Farmers should protect their animals, not attack the foxes.
Civil liberties arguments
- Personal freedom doesn’t mean you have a ‘right’ to be cruel.
- Living in a democracy means accepting the majority view – we can’t all do what we want.
- Only 835 people are employed in hunt kennels. That many jobs are often lost when a factory closes. The economy is strong enough to bounce back.
- Many people make a living from selling drugs and stealing cars. The fact that people depend on an activity for their livelihood doesn’t make the activity acceptable.
Pro-fox hunting views. People that support the hunt say that foxes are no better than furry rats and need to be culled, or their numbers could grow out of control. They also say that hunting is the most natural and humane way of culling these animals. They also say that fox hunting is an integral part of country life, and the revenue raised from hunting will be lost and further deteriorate their way of life if it is banned. Countryside Alliance literature claims that 15,900 people whose jobs directly depend on fox hunting would be out of work. Those that would lose out include direct employees of the hunt and indirect businesses and workers.
Animal welfare arguments
- A foxhound weighs four or five times more than a fox, and its powerful jaws kill the fox quickly and cleanly.
- Shooting foxes don’t always kill foxes outright. Instead, they manage to get away – and then suffer a slow, painful death. Killing them with dogs can be more humane.
- 100,000 foxes are shot or snared each year. However, only 16,000 foxes are killed by hunts.
Civil liberties arguments
- People in cities may disagree with fox hunting, but that doesn’t mean they should interfere with a traditional country pursuit.
- Fox hunters are being picked on. There is no vote on whether we should ban fishing, and that isn’t kind.
- In the areas where hunting occurs, 60% of people support it, and the anti-hunt people are in the minority.
- The Countryside Alliance says 16 000 jobs will be lost. This is not just people who work for the hunts. It is also people who make boots, saddles and work in tourism.
- Anyone made unemployed will not get a new job, as the economy is fragile in the countryside.
Mortality Of Foxes. Both sides probably inflate the figures to suit their agenda, but there is no escaping that there is some truth on both sides of the fence. My opinion is that fox hunting is barbaric and should be completely banned. I now try to look at the sport from both sides. I would say that I can’t entirely agree with the sport because that’s exactly what it is, a sport, a hobby. Hunters find it more of a social gathering than an attempt to control the fox population. There are a great proportion of people who participate in fox hunting because of the prestige. These are the people who the ban needs to be aimed at. If you want a feeling of exhilaration, take your horse to a beach and go galloping along in the wind.
I am not so narrow-minded that I cannot see a need for foxes to be controlled, but I don’t necessarily agree with letting the fox reach the point of physical exhaustion so he can no longer run; that’s not natural. Also, game over, once the fox has reached its den; he’s the winner; the dogs shouldn’t be digging it up. No one has the right to inflict unnecessary suffering on animals. Moreover, hunting is not a natural encounter between predator and quarry because, unlike animals, humans are responsible for their actions. This is one debate where there is always going to be conflict, and not everyone will be satisfied once a ‘solution’ is decided upon. Fox hunting is a subject that needs much consideration. I believe that soon the government will open their eyes and see that fox hunting is ancient and barbaric. How can the killing of any kind be described as a sport?