The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Uneatable- Fox Hunting

In January 2005, the Hunting Act came into force, an act to ban hunting with dogs- most controversially, that of foxes. But in the years following, this act has been questioned, criticised, and even allegedly ignored by some within the hunting community. So, should we legalise fox hunting, and scrap the act? The answer, no.

Fox hunting with packs of dogs is a historical activity, dating back as early to the 1600s in Britain. This form of fox hunting, involves the tracking, chasing down, and sometimes killing of foxes by a pack of dogs, followed by huntsmen on horseback. The first reason for fox hunting staying in the past is the barbaric nature with which the fox dies. Often, the fox will be actually killed by a bite to the back of the neck by a dog, but this is not always the case, and foxes may be ripped apart by the hounds before they actually die. A former huntsman, Clifford Pellow, described such an incident of brutality; “(the hunt) dragged a fox across a couple of fields into a dry ditch before flinging the rope over a branch of a tree. They hoisted it up, and then let it drop a bit so the hounds could bite it. They kept doing this to work the hounds up. In the end they just dropped it into the pack of hounds.” How can a society allow legally such actions of violence and cruelty, and to claim that it is a sport? This is no sport, but sadism under the cover of good will and sport. As Clifford Pellow puts it; “it is a lie to say fox hunting is sport.”

Now for the ‘pest control’ argument. Many in the pro-fox hunting community argue that fox hunting is a form of pest control, helping to reduce the numbers of these so called pests. However, it is common for foxes to be specifically caught or bred for a hunt’s use. This is not the hunt carrying out a good deed for the community, but instead another flawed reason for the legalisation of such brutality. For example, the Guardian reported in 2002 that more than 50 hunts across the UK were “breeding foxes in specially made dens to ensure an adequate supply of the animals”, completely undermining the notion that this is pest control. Therefore, the argument that this fox hunting should be legalised to allow the effective reduction of supposed pests is based on a lie- hunts actively breed the foxes they label “pests” for hunting. Again, fox hunting is proved to be a thing of the past, not necessary or morally justified today.

“Fox hunting is a large part of rural tradition”, a widely used argument used by pro- fox hunting advocates. But, the statistics don’t match this claim. According to the Independent in 2015, rural opposition to fox hunting was actually higher than urban opposition, with 84% of people in rural areas supporting the ban, and 82% in urban areas. So the notion that fox hunting is something ‘townies’ don’t understand is untrue, in fact, it seems that people in rural areas oppose it even more than urbanites do. The unrepresentative nature of this pro- fox hunting argument is shown by the fact that 70% of Conservative Party supporters support the ban on fox hunting, even though the party pledges to have a free vote on the repeal of the ban.

“The ban is unworkable”. Well, there is a difference between it being unworkable, and some being able to disregard it.

So, what have we established about fox hunting? That it originates from hundreds of years ago, it involves the ripping apart of foxes by hounds, sometimes with brutal acts of cruelty committed by huntsmen, that is does not actually control these “pests”’, it actively creates them, that the majority of the public support the ban, even in the countryside where the pro- fox hunting lobby claim to have the most support, and that the reason the ban is apparently “unworkable” is because some fox hunters ignore it. So, remind me, why are some considering legalising this again?

Throughout history, we have banished activities and practices that are cruel and outdated, and we must do the same with fox hunting. Oscar Wilde described the ‘sport’ as “The Unspeakable in pursuit of the Uneatable”, and that is still true today. It must stay where it belongs; in the past.

By Lawrence S. Pople

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