Whenever there is a chance of repeal of the Hunting Act the hunters claim that foxes are a threat to farmers and that hunting is necessary to keep down fox numbers. Yet in rare moments of honestly the hunters admit that:
“The staple diet of a fox is not, as so many people apparently imagine, hens and ducks. Indeed, it is probably true to say that not 5 per cent of all foxes in Christendom ever taste domestic poultry at all… The majority of foxes live largely upon beetles, frogs, rabbits, and wild birds; carrion does not come amiss to them either, while they are the biggest destroyers of rats and mice in the world, far excelling the domestic cat in this useful art.”
Foxhunting – A British Field Sports Society Booklet by D W E Brock 1973
Foxhunting has nothing to do with “pest control” but everything to do with “sport” regardless of the cruelty involved. The following is from a pro-hunt website linked to the Pytchley Hunt in Leicestershire:
“Mounted fox hunting is about the chase and not the kill. In fact most of the mounted hunts have gone to extraordinary lengths not only to prevent fox deaths but also to encourage fox to live and breed on hunt lands. Not only are fox coverts protected, but fox(es) are caught and released on depleted hunts’ lands, artificial dens are dug, and both leghold traps and most poisons have been banned in order to keep fox numbers up. As a result of the efforts of the mounted hunts to discourage free-agent fox-culling by farmers, there are now more fox in the UK today than there were in Victorian and pre-Victorian times.” (www.terrierman.com cf. Toon, 2000: 21 – 24).
When not preserving foxes for hunting, hunts are releasing them for hounds to hunt. One example, told to former Horse & Hound writer Samantha Hurn, concerned a Welsh foxhunt in the 1940s:
“My most memorable day… was when we set off from the Fish & Anchor (public house in Llanwnen) and ended up 30 miles away, still running. We ran without a break for over three hours until we ended up in Llansawel where the hounds did their job. It was the same fox all the way, a bagged fox. He’d been dug up 200 miles from the kennels in England the night before, and died 230 miles away poor bugger, but he gave us a hellish good run.”
In 2004 the Master of Foxhounds Association warned of a “shortage of foxes” for hunting. In reply Simon Hart, the then Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, admitted in a leaked emailed that, “I am one of those who has never been happy about our reliance on the ‘pest control’ case…”.
As Henry S. Salt wrote in 1925:
When the Huntsman claims praise for the killing of foxes,
Which else would bring ruin to farmer and land,
Yet kindly imports them, preserves them, assorts them,
There’s a discrepance I fain understand.
Hark you, then, whose profession or pastime is killing!
To dispel your benignant illusions I’m loth;
But be one or the other, my double faced brother,
Be slayer or saviour – you cannot be both.