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.