Saturday, 20 August 2011


Here is a short overview of foxhunting as I see it.

It is a very emotive subject for a lot of people on both sides of the fence. For me, it's just a question of finding the right balance for both the fox and the people who are affected by it.

I absolutely adore the fox and I think that the countryside would be a poorer place without him but I also know that a lot of people who hunt feel exactly the same way.

There is no argument about the Fox being a troublesome foe for people who keep poultry, sheep or game birds but there is certainly a lot of controversy about hunting as a method of control.

Organisations such as LACS and VIVA portray it as a bloodthirsty sport for the upper classes where the poor creature, exhausted and terrified is finally torn apart by dogs to the cheers of these people. In my experience this is not the case at all.

For a start, although a few notable hunts such as the Beaufort are very upper crust in their following, many hunts are very working class indeed. I don't know why that should matter but it does to some people and therefore I have mentioned the fact.

What is more important to me is the workings of the hunt within rural communities. My local hunt is a working hunt where farmers welcome it's existence. They remove dead stock, they control foxes and contribute quite heavily to a very poor economy.

The key issue for me is the welfare of the fox. He is a creature who lives a sedentary existence and usually only gets together with another fox to reproduce. He is also territorial for obvious reasons. There is only so much food in any given area and fox numbers are linked to that.

The trouble is that we are the only other controlling factor as they have no other natural predator. The result of that is competition from other foxes and ultimately starvation for the less fit specimen.

What the hunt does is to quickly remove a fox who is no longer up to the job. It also teaches foxes a healthy respect for Man and dogs, often stirring them up and moving foxes to a location with less competition.

The last issue is the kill. Is the hunt as bad as they say? Is the gun better?

My belief is that the Hunt is the best for the fox. A fox is generally killed instantly by the lead hound. This is usually only witnessed by the core of the hunt and not all the followers.

Compared to shooting which is not even hit and miss. It is more like hit and wound as a fox is a moving target. I have found lots of injured foxes in my life with gunshot wounds but I never found one that escaped the hounds with any injuries.

The other question is about the fox being terrified by the hunt. Absolutely no way on this planet. The clever little buggers often skip sideways and follow the hunt. When the fox is in full flight away from hounds the adrenaline kicks in and by the time it's end game he is so pumped on endorphines that he doesn't give a fuck.

I really do love foxes despite having been robbed blind by them over the years and more seriously having my home bred flock of hens wiped out twice.

They are whiley and clever, they are beautiful and give me endless pleasure when I watch them hunting in the fields for voles and beetles but I don't like to see sick mangy foxes struggling for a living or foxes driven by hunger to tear the roof off my chicken shed in full view of my Rotweiller.

The Hunt Does the job or at least it did before it was banned. The result is, sick hungry foxes and a new urban competitor for the contents of your bin.

Well there we are, thats my overview of foxhunting. I will just sit back now and watch the shit hit the fan.

Saturday, 6 August 2011


Someone once said that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing and when it comes to the issue of badger I can only shout "amen!"

Much is written and a lot is being said about the proposed Cull of badgers in England & Wales.

I see shades of the class war in this, in much the same way as there is in the foxhunting debate. People bang on about the poor little harmless badger yet seem almost stone cold about the losses of cattle suffered by farmers.

On the other side of the coin there is the odd farmer who is himself a bigoted bully & has only one remedy for anything that is in his way & that is to destroy it.

Where I sit in this debate both opinion wise & physically, is somewhere in the middle ground.

I am not going to go into all of the ins and outs of cull versus vaccination as I am not qualified to do so. What I am going to do is tell you how it looks from up close.

A few years ago I stumbled upon badger baiters on my land. A burly bunch of knuckle draggers with their dogs. I challenged them & they just claimed to be after rabbits. I pointed out that thanks to myxomatosis there were no rabbits and that they were digging on a badger sett. They grudgingly packed up & moved on. The following morning when I arrived to feed my animals there was a badger hanging on my gate which had been dragged alive up the road behind a vehicle & then left do die dangling from my gate.

I was a little naive back then. I expected the local farmers to be outraged by this when I went round to warn them of the badger baiters, but they just said "OK" & they would keep an eye out.

I wasn't aware of the simmering hatred of the badger that was brewing back then or that one of the farmers in question had been losing cattle to bTB.

Three years on from then, I once again stumbled upon the baiters and this time they had a badger and were fighting it with dogs. I called the police, they were arrested in the act & the rest is history.

That was when I found out just what a naive muppet I had been. From that moment I was public enemy number one to some of the members of my local farming community.

I was initially mistaken for a tree hugging bastard who cared nothing for the fact that farmers had been losing cattle. I was tackled in the pub by a prominent figure & I was able to set the record straight.

I don't think most people had reallised that the baiters were actually fighting the badgers with dogs but it became clear that most farmers knew that 'badger killers' were active in the area on the quiet.

That was when I began to realise that as things stand, badgers are suffering a 'dirty war.' I am not judging anyone here because I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like for farmers to lose hundreds of animals which are irreplaceable. Animals which may have taken a family generations to create and will be lost for ever whilst the badger was enjoying protected status. It doesn't make any sense to some of them and it doesn't make any sense to me either.

I used to think that badgers must have the worlds worst road sense until I took a closer look at things. The number of dead badger lying at the side of the road in some places is greater than that of rabbits. of course the truth is that they are just being killed & dumped at the roadside and also run down by people with 4x4s who have begun to hate then with a vengeance.

The debate about the cull is a good one & it is a very good thing that pressure groups have pushed hard to stop an all out slaughter of the badger or by now we could be living in a country that has none but the problem is that it has dragged on to the cost of both the farmer and the badger.

The farmers have not only suffered huge losses and great distress, they have also done everything in their power to reduce the spread of bTB from cow to cow, by changing how they keep their cattle.

Now they have given all the ground so far as I can see, yet the badger supporters have thus far given not a single inch.

The new proposed, limited cull in England, as I understand it offers a very good compromise which if the badger supporters were less entrenched would grasp. The proposal is to allow free shooting of badgers on the land of anyone who agrees to it. In real terms this simply removes the badgers protected status & brings it into line with other species such as foxes.

The benefits of this for the badger are that it is likely to end the 'dirty war' and allow numbers to fall back to a more manageable level at a slow enough rate for an assessment of the effectivness of the scheme.

The best thing about it is that it appeases the long suffering farmer whilst giving both sides of the argument sufficient breathing space to look at vaccination of both badgers & cattle & hopefully see an end to this dreadful disease.

To quote The farmer who tackled me in the pub about badgers. "I would like to see a healthy population of both badgers and cattle side by side on my land."

I agree.

Long live the badger & let's stop fighting one another.