A collaborative blog for Current Affairs and Policy Debate

Why the Pro-Fox Hunting arguments don’t quite wash

In Home Affairs, Parliamentary Spotlight on December 28, 2009 at 12:53 am

By Stephen Wan

“…the campaign for over-turning the fox hunting ban has no grounds whatsoever…”

Apparently, the next big issue in to 2010 General Election is going to be about fox hunting. Well. perhaps not big as in, economy big, but big enough to take up a little sections in the conservative manifesto and oversized Labour billboards you see on motorways as you drive by.

Personally, I’ve always found fox hunting fairly repulsive. The idea of hunting animals for fun to rip them apart with your dogs just doesn’t seem appealing to me. Of course, just because I’m repulsed from it does not constitute an argument against it. However, the whole sport also seems disgustingly upper class as well, in the sterotypical manner of red tailcoats riding on horses speaking in posh accents. “Gosh old boy, did you see that fox’s entrails get ripped to shreads?”. Again though, not exactly an argument against it.

The pro-fox hunting cohorts rallied on Boxing Day in their traditional annual meet to back the conservative campaign to overturn the fox hunting ban. Certainly, 300,000 people taking part in the hunts is a strong show of support for scrapping the ban (30 times more people than the Baby P rally).

I take particular issue with Frank Houghton-Brown’s (the joint master of the Tynedale Hunt’s) comments though. He says, “The ban has not saved any foxes’ lives and it has wasted 700 hours of Parliament time. It is simply not working, and is causing the police a massive headache. We now hunt an artificial trail but we still kill just as many foxes as we did before the ban, by legal means, because the farmers want them killing so they don’t kill the lambs.

Allow me to rip it apart. Firstly, I will quote an excellent letter by David Rendel, MP for Newbury 1993-2005, written in the Independent. “As one of those who voted for the Act, I made it clear beforehand in many discussions with the pro-hunting lobby that I expected farmers to shoot more foxes…It was not the number killed, but the method of killing, to which supporters of the Bill objected.” The charge that the bill has failed to save any lives simply has no bearing on whether to overturn the Act or not.

Secondly, it has wasted 700 hours of Parliamentary time. If Frank Houghton-Browns really cared about using Parliamentary time as effectively as possible, it seems bizzare that he would then put the issue back to Parliament, only to ‘waste’ more Parliamentary time again. Surely he would want Parliament to focus on something else? It seems to me that Browns doesn’t care one bit about what Parliament spends its time on, so long as it doesn’t affect his lovely fox-hunting hobby.

Thirdly, it is simply not working. Yes, enforcement is difficult, and the police state that enforcing the ban is low priority for them. Quite rightly as well, considering the number of other duties police officers have on their hands. However, statistics speak for themselves – 76 prosecutions, 56 convictions, and 49 fines between 2005-2007 show that the Act is, to some extent, working. Admittidly, in an ideal world the police could enforce this band completely, but since they can’t, I would argue the ban has served as a fairly good deterrent, and within a few generations we’ll see the ‘sport’ disappear forever.

A couple of other arguments made by the pro-fox hunters are economics and pest control. Firstly, they argued that banning fox-hunting will destroy rural economies. (un)Suprisingly, they haven’t; most of these jobs have been retained using legal means of hunting, such as scent trailing. Secondly, they argue fox hunting keeps foxes from being pests and killing wildlife. Yes, maybe it does, but there are other, more humane ways of doing so. Furthermore, when you consider more foxes are killed on the roads than by fox hunting, one can reasonably conclude that fox hunting does nothing to fox population levels.

The only argument that does stand plausibility is one of civil liberties. It seems to me that neither the government, nor the majority of people, should prevent anyone from commiting an action that does not physically harm anyone else. “Doesn’t the fox hunt harm the fox though?”. Well, to some extent, I’d be willing to say, “So what? They’re not humans”. It may sound extremley “speciest” of me, but humans strike me as intrinsically special, owing to their ability to rationality and knowledge.

Overall however, I’d much rather see a world where humans and animals can co-exist peacefully, where we are stewards over the world, not conquerers. That means not killing foxes in brutal hunts. I believe treating animals with that kind of respect will make us more compassionate, and more caring, as a race.

Anyway, I think I went slightly off-topic at the last second there. Nonetheless, my conclusion stands – the campaign for over-turning the fox hunting ban has no grounds whatsoever. If they really cared about Parliamentary time, they should stop right now and go back home. Maybe then I can get on with writing a blog entry on something they really find important.

P.S. I think fox-hunting is a very important issue and deserved its time in Parliament. 700 hours wasted? Only because the House of Lords pushed it back 3 times, forcing the Act of Parliament to force the legislation through. But an act that details our relationship between humans and the other species that we exist with on the planet? 700 hours seems like a pretty good deal.

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  1. I hope and pray that the Hunting Act is not repealed or otherwise undone. We British led the way in banning the slave trade and in banning slavery in the Empire, we led the way in banning bear baiting and cock fighting, and we led the way in banning hunting and hare coursing. We must continue to make progress and not let our civilisation take a backward step. And, besides, if Cameron, Hague, Herbert, etc., think that repeal would be a vote winner in rural areas, they are very much mistaken.

    And please don’t forget the vile ‘sport’ of hare coursing –

    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NoToHareCoursing/

  2. While my feelings about animal cruelty are certainly stronger than yours, I agree with the sentiment of your posting.

    There is no case for repeal. Hunt numbers are up all over the country. Drag hunting is legal. The sense of community, pageantry, heritage, and jobs are all still intact and yet these disgraceful people can’t manage to enjoy themselves unless they are terrifying and killing animals.

    Please if you support the hunting act, get your names on the R.O.A.R. (Register Online Against Repeal), an ‘all party’ list at: http://www.campaignfordecency.org.uk

    Please make your voices heard!

  3. Mark Twain (1835-1910) stated these succinct lines:

    “Of all the creatures ever made, he (man) is the most detestable. Of the entire brood, he is the only one…that possesses malice. He is the only creature that inflicts pain for sport, knowing it to be pain.”

    and to those hunters who postulate hunting is a tradition, Twain has the answer:

    “Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.”

    Until mankind can fully comprehend that we merely share this planet with all the creatures upon it, we are doomed to regress in compassionate understanding.

    Sadly, until the above fact can be absorbed by those who simply enjoy cruelty, we need Laws to keep them in check. Therefore, the Hunting Ban must be upheld at all costs, because in hunting any creature, we are all denigrated by the cruelty involved.

    I urge all to sign Hilary Benn’s Petition on the web to “Back The Ban” on hunting.

  4. As a an opponent of the ban, coming back to read, and someone who spends a lot of time in rural Gloucestershire, I must take issue with several of the points you raise. Though it may happen in some hunts, most traditional foxhunting results in the fox being worn out and then shot at point-blank range by shotgun. Shooting foxes without a dog hunt is somewhat more tricky, and more often than not leaves the fox to nurse a fatal injury for a couple of days. I do not believe, certainly in the case of the majority of foxhunts, which did respect the prey, that the hunters sought to have the foxes mauled to death by dogs.

    Moreover, I have seen several ‘real’ hunts that the Gloucestershire or Herefordshire have been able to do absolutely nothing about, since the onloy way they can prove anything is by following the hunt, which wastes valuable police hours. Certainly in the West Country, the ban has had little to no effect. What it did lead to however, was the destruction of many hunt dogs who, without the controlled outlet of the hunt, were too dangerous to retain.

    And part of the reason why the Lords sent it back three times was that the bill only passed on votes of Scottish MPs – i.e. if you removed those MPs who voted on the ban, but for whose constituents it did not apply – there would have been a decent majority against the bill. While this strays onto the West Lothian question, I think Cameron will be right to offer it again to a free vote in the house, and encourage Scottish members (and for that matter, NI members) to abstain.

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