Every year in our countryside foxhunters kill about 13,000 foxes for sport. Whereas you or I might watch a football match or go for a swim, these people enjoy themselves by chasing and killing foxes.
The Red Fox is a small wild dog that lives mainly on earthworms, rodents, beetles and carrion. Being a close relative of the domestic dog, it can feel fear and pain in just the same way.
Foxes are highly adaptable animals and many of them have moved into our towns and cities. They have no natural predators and largely regulate or control their own population. The number of fox cubs born each year depends on the number of vixens that breed and this depends on the amount of food available and the size and number of territories.
The hunting of wild animals (red deer, wild boar, hares and wolves) with dogs was the traditional sport of kings and rich landowners for centuries. When wild boars and wolves decined, hunters sought a new quarry - the fox.
Foxhunting as we know it today has only existed for the last 250 years.
The official foxhunting season begins on 1st November and runs through until April, although some hunts even go on into May. Fox cubs are usually born in March, which means that pregnant and nursing vixens are often hunted and killed. From August to September, foxhunters go cubhunting. The vixen and her young cubs are trapped in the wood where they were born in the spring and hunted down.
During 'cubbing', new young foxhounds are trained to hunt and kill. The dogs don't hunt foxes by natural instinct, but must be trained and encouraged to do so. Pets and farm animals have been killed by hunts rampaging over private land and many foxhounds die chasing quarry over roads and railway lines.
Hunts also slaughter over 10,000 hounds every year. Most are considered too old to hunt after six years and are shot (there are no retirement homes for old hounds) whilst younger hounds will be killed if they don't fit in with the rest of the pack or aren't good enough at hunting.
SO WHY DO PEOPLE GO HUNTING?
"We do it for the ride... it's the best way to get a good gallop."
But horse riders can go for a gallop any time. They don't have to chase foxes to do it!
"We've been hunting for hundreds of years... it's a fine old rural tradition."
Times have changed and we have stopped lots of barbaric things that people used to do in the past like dog-fighting, bear baiting, slavery and sending children up chimneys to clean them! However some barbaric 'traditions' like foxhunting still continue.
"Foxhunters preserve the countryside - they are conservationists."
Terrorising and killing wildlife is a funny form of conservation! Hunting does not protect the countryside. Woodlands, hedgerows, wild meadows and ponds are all disappearing at an alarming rate and real conservation groups such as Friends of the Earth are campaigning for laws to preserve wildlife habitats and protect wild animals.
"Foxes are pests - they need to be controlled."
Foxes are often accused of killing poultry, but as most poultry today are kept indoors in intensive 'battery' conditions, few are in any danger from foxes. Chickens that are free-range can be securely locked up at night to keep them safe. Foxes are also sometimes accused of killing lambs, although this is rare. They are scavengers by nature, so tend to take lambs that have already died of natural causes. Many newborn lambs do die, especially if they are kept on the hills in cold, wet weather.
Foxes are not pests; they help maintain the balance of nature and are beneficial to many farmers because they help control rabbits, rats and mice. They are part of our countryside and of our natural ecology.
"Hunting is the most humane way to control foxes."
All the different ways that are used to kill foxes such as snaring, shooting, gassing, trapping and poisoning are cruel and unnecessary. The whole point of hunting is that the 'chase' lasts as long as possible. That is why the hounds are bred for stamina, not speed. Not only is the chase exhausting and terrifying but the final kill is violent and painful. If the fox tries to take refuge underground, for example in its earth or in a drain, then small fierce terrier dogs will be sent down to fight with it and drive it out to its death.
Actually... people who hunt do it because they enjoy it.
... and enjoyment is not really a good enough reason for terrorising and killing wild animals. Foxes aren't the only animals that are hunted. Other forms of hunting still legal in this country include deer hunting, hare hunting, hare coursing and mink hunting. Some people still take part in the illegal 'sports' of badger baiting, dog fighting and cockfighting, and animal rights groups together with the police are working to stamp out these activities.
- Write to your MP asking him/her to help ban hunting.
- Many councils have already banned hunting on public land. Write to your local council and ask them to ban hunting if they haven't already done so. Get the address from your local library.