In defence of the fox

The British government wants to rethink fox hunting. To ‘control this pest’ they want to take the modern and efficient means of getting a lot of people to dress up in brightly coloured jackets and ride horses across the countryside, to facilitate a pack of dogs in catching the fox and tearing it to shreds. Although officially the dogs will be to flush out the fox so it can be shot, dogs trained to tear a fox apart aren’t going to stop doing that. Either they use the same dogs, and get the same results, or all fox hounds will need putting down so that a new generation not trained to destroy foxes, can replace them.

It’s odd, but when rats are a nuisance, you tend to get one modestly uniformed person with rat traps and poison, and no pageantry at all. But then there’s apparently no romance in rat hunting and people with money have never considered it much of a sport. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that fox hunting is a social activity for the hunters and what the government are really interested in is the tidy efficiency of the method.

I would like to defend the fox on the basis that it has a right to exist, and that the right of the fox to exist should not be about human utility. This is pointless, because the people who want to hunt foxes will not see a fox as anything other than a mix of annoyance, and source of entertainment. That the fox exists to serve them is a given, and as it can’t be eaten, it can provide the entertainment of a chase and the thrill of blood letting.

I want to attack this system that sets usefulness to humans as the only real measure of anything, and that exploits based on usefulness, amusement and profit, and because it can. I want to question the idea that we are entitled to use and destroy purely for our own gain or amusement. I might as well shout into the wind, because for people who believe in this human-centric way of getting things done, it’s evident that humans are the most important creatures in the mix by a very large margin. But not all humans. Not the poor, the sick or the disabled, and not the sort of humans who would stick up for foxes. Money and power are what entitles a human to use and abuse other humans, environments, creatures. For me, fox hunting is a clear manifestation of this, but by no means the worst.

The only way to argue with those who believe in using, is to argue on their own terms. So, the fox is a pest to control in the countryside? Foxes mostly eat rodents, and will eat rabbits. In terms of agriculture, rabbits and rodents are an issue, and unchecked populations can unbalance eco systems and farming alike. Real foxes are not like Fantastic Mr Fox and are far more trouble to people quietly keeping a few chickens than they are to anyone farming. Real conflicts between foxes and humans happen in urban areas, but there’s no talk of getting the jackets and horses and hounds into the middle of London to tackle urban fox problems. Because that, obviously, would be silly.

It’s a curious thing that fox hunting is traditionally a sport for the rich. Poor people follow along behind on foot. Fox hunting is not the only traditional blood sport in the UK. Dog fighting, cock fighting, and badger baiting have all been considered sports, and were not about feeding your family. (I consider hunting for the pot to be a whole other issue). Oddly, there is no talk of making legal again the kinds of animal cruelty that poor people traditionally find amusing. There’s constant talk of clamping down on dangerous dogs, and institutional disapproval of dog fighting, but of course getting one dog to tear another apart bears absolutely no resemblance to getting a bunch of dogs to tear a fox apart, so that’s obviously fine.

And while the government gets together to deploy valuable parliamentary time talking about whether to let their friends shred foxes for fun, wars continue, the refugee crisis from Syria grows, and on the domestic front, food bank use increases, but that clearly isn’t as important as whether you can wear a loud jacket and watch a wild animal die.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

10 responses to “In defence of the fox

  • Karen

    So sad that some people’s hearts are so hardened that the abject terror of the Fox means nothing to them.

  • Sue Dreamwalker

    Well said… Yes I am against hunting foxes and badger culling .

  • mabhsavage

    It makes my blood boil that Cameron et al think we are so stupid; that we don’t realise that he has obviously said ‘fund my campaign and I’ll let you hunt again’ to his toff mates, and now is trying every sneaky, backdoor way not to break that promise. The argument that fox hunting is ‘pest control’ is beyond idiotic. Many hunts (allegedly) breed (or bred) their own foxes to ensure a plentiful supply.

    • Nimue Brown

      ‘pest control’ to me means trained professional people you hire to sort out a specific problem creature or creatures. Like how rats and cockroaches are dealt with if they get out of hand. If they wanted ‘pest control’ I’d be a lot more persuaded if it wasn’t also a hobby and breeding the so-called pest. They’ll say anything to get what they want, and what they want, is to kill things.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Why can’t the rest of us hunt government officials that we fid a nuisance. We could strip the naked and turn them loose an hunt them on horse back, using vicious dogs to track them and flush them out. It would be a thrilling sport and get rid of so many real nuisances that have no value to the English people.

  • SteveT

    O.K. Let’s (pretend we) agree with them that it’s all about pest control and let them use as many dogs as they want but limit the number of huntsmen to only those needed to control the hounds. (I’d guess two should be enough.) I wonder if they could find an argument against that.

    • Nimue Brown

      it makes a fascinating comparison with rat catchers, doesn’t it? Haven’t seen many rat hunter balls, don’t get rat catchers at country shows riding about on horses… real professionals to deal with actual problems – sure. This is a hobby.

  • angharadlois

    This really takes me back to something I hadn’t realised I remembered… in school (in rural Wales, for context) teachers used the foxhunting question to teach us debating skills. Arguments for or against tended to fall along predictable tradition/pest control vs. compassion lines, and I felt like I was banging my head against a wall in questioning why we had developed ways of living which required us to hunt and kill the wildlife with which we coexist. The farmers who argued for hunting on the grounds that foxes kill far more than they need for food simply refused to engage with the idea that perhaps our method of farming was part of the problem. I’d squished that little part of myself into the box in my psyche labelled ‘makes no sense to other people’ and all but forgotten until now…

    The rat catching comparison is illuminating. Rats are a predominantly urban pest, living off ordinary household waste. They are vermin for the ordinary folk, much as I love them. Foxes, on the other hand, mainly pose a threat to estates where game shooting is a big part of the calendar (and there were a few of those estates round us – for pheasant shooting, mostly). It is unsurprising that the small part of society affected by this is also a part of society that can afford hunting horses, smart red jackets and kennels full of pedigree hounds – and, of course, the sympathy of the Conservative party. Horrible as it may sound, given my previous argument against harming wildlife for the sake of our convenience, I had more respect for the small-scale sheep farmers where I grew up, who dispatched problem foxes with a two-barrel shotgun, and only when necessary.

    • angharadlois

      n.b. there was – and probably is – a whole load of data out there to attest to the fact that foxhunting has a negligible effect in controlling the overall population of foxes in an area.

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