Christmas for many families is a time of wholesome traditions – family walks, food and games. However, there is one festive tradition in particular that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth – the ‘sport’ of fox hunting.
For decades, a Boxing Day hunt has been a traditional event amongst the elite classes in which they don their most elegant outfits and polish their horns. Parading through admiring crowds with baying dogs, the hunters in red prepared to chase and traumatise a fox to death. Although the Hunting Act of 2004 made wild mammal hunting illegal, the sport is very much alive, and well, the same cannot be said about the foxes. The Hunting Act of 2004 is a registration riddled with more holes than a rabbit’s den. The act forbids the hunting of wild animals with dogs. However, flushing animals out of their burrows with dogs is entirely legal. In the eyes of the government, utilising packs of 10 plus dogs to dig a terrified fox out of its home, while horses and humans watch, blaring horns and jovially laughing – completely fine!
To take the side of the hunters, perhaps they are acting entirely within the law, merely taking pleasure in the chase and not actually killing the animal. However, chasing a fox for miles around fields, dogs nipping at its heels, a cacophony of sound and chaos all around – that is animal cruelty! Perhaps the animal doesn’t die, but the traumatic event of the chase is enough to terrify if the poor creature doesn’t have a heart attack in the process. Once again in an attempt to give a fair voice to those who participate in hunting sports despite my moral and ethical objects, drag hunting is also legal. Drag hunting is where an artificial scent has been laid by humans across a field, and the foxhounds are trained to follow this. No animals are hunted, merely the fun is in the chase. The chase of a predetermined scent trail – thrilling!
The rich are exempt from the law of hunting because it is an elitist sport
Using the loopholes in the Hunting Act, people can escape the law and prosecution. A quick internet search reveals a plethora of results in which foxes have very clearly been shot by humans on recent hunts. Why then, does this illegal activity have no consequences for the hunters? There is an incredibly simplistic explanation – it’s because they’re rich. The rich are exempt from the law of hunting because it is an elitist sport. The royals themselves partake in Boxing Day hunts, but for birds, so legal. The very aesthetic of the hunt is connotative of luxury. While society heralds the British hunting parties as a noble tradition, they shun hunters from more impoverished communities, referring to them as barbaric. Whether it be a boar, a fox or a lion, hunting is all the same. An animal dies in the process, it would appear that for some all that matters is what you were wearing during the kill as to whether it’s moral or not.
British fox hunting has no roots in hunting origins where people killed animals for food – I have absolutely no objections to this. Hunting in my eyes is acceptable if you use as much of the animal you have killed as possible and kill humanely. I don’t see how torturing a fox to death and stuffing it to mount on a wall to impress your pompous friends is morally acceptable.
I don’t see how torturing a fox to death and stuffing it to mount on a wall to impress your pompous friends is morally acceptable
In an attempt to understand the ludicrous justification for a barbaric activity, why does a nation of animal lovers think it’s acceptable to hunt foxes? Seemingly, there is a hierarchy of animals – dogs and cats are at the top, whereas foxes and rats are at the bottom. Foxes are seen as vermin and devious creatures that will kill your chickens, steal your wife and overthrow the government. So, killing them, completely fine! On a serious note, I understand that for farmers, foxes are a nuisance. A farmer’s livelihood rests on their livestock, so when chickens are killed by a fox that means a loss of money. Although I don’t agree with killing animals of any kind, I can understand why farmers are inclined to shoot a fox on their property or set up traps to protect their assets. However, how a nuisance to a farmer has resulted in chasing one small creature with dogs and horses for hours has become acceptable is unfathomable to me.
Also, some of the fields the hunts run across belong to farmers. The hunting parties themselves are incredibly disruptive to not only wildlife but the countryside landscape. The elites on horseback will charge into any field in hot pursuit of their furry target, which is incredibly disruptive to farmers, especially if that field is going to be used to grow crops. In light of this, it would appear that many farmers take issue with the hunts themselves and, while they don’t care much about the fox, do care about the hunt taking place because it destroys their land.
This leads me onto my final point, and the main issue I have with fox hunting. Farmers and the hunters themselves have their own opinions of the hunt, but what possible explanation does Sandra have as she cheers the hunting party down the street while walking Rover? Foxes are adorable, they could be considered a hybrid of a cat and a dog just like the pets we have in our own homes. The fox is not vermin hurting Sandra’s livestock, it is a wild animal trying to stay alive. If someone just doesn’t like animals, then, of course, they won’t care one bit about torturing a fox. However, for people who have pets, who donate to animal charities and coo adoringly at cat videos, please explain why you think the hunt is acceptable!
Violence should not be fought with violence, it should be tackled with intellectual debate and tighter laws
If you own a dog and find the hunt a good tradition, I am desperately intrigued to know what possible justification you have. Why is one creature’s life more important than another’s? Understandably there is a multitude of people who share the same opinion as me that fox hunting is barbaric and sickening. However, naturally, some people take their opposition of the hunt too far. Protests around the Boxing Day hunt are a regular occasion. Sometimes protesters and hunters clash violently, and I think this is detrimental in the fight for animal rights. Violence should not be fought with violence, it should be tackled with intellectual debate and tighter laws. When animal activists use violence in hunt protests, they are showing themselves as aggressive and disruptive – only giving fuel to pro hunters.
Moreover, they need to remember that animals partake in the fox hunting itself. Horses and dogs don’t know what they’re doing, they have been trained by humans as an aid in murder without their knowledge. They probably enjoy the hunt, it’s good exercise running around a field, and I know from my own dogs they love nothing more than loud noise and running around, it’s exciting, and it pleases their humans!
Overall, I greatly oppose fox hunting, but my overall outrage is the pro-hunting stance people take. The catalyst for this article itself was witnessing non-farmers from my home village sharing pro-hunting propaganda with no intellectual knowledge about what the hunt actually is, just that it’s traditional and their peers have no problem with it. Please, educate yourself before you share pictures of a fox dangling lifelessly from a hunter’s hand and praise a successful hunt. Or better still, delete me from your social media, I don’t agree with pro fox hunters and I never will.