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.