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Hunting with dogs is better for foxes than a novice with a gun

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 07, 2011

Hunting with dogs usually catches the old and sick ones, while  pregnant vixens and fit young foxes can be easily targeted by guns, says Henry Chalfont

Hunting with dogs usually catches the old and sick ones, while pregnant vixens and fit young foxes can be easily targeted by guns, says Henry Chalfont

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As the hunting season opens, and the Government discusses a possible free vote on repealing the Hunting Act, Westcountryman Henry Chalfont argues in favour of a ban on the ban.

If I were a fox, and thought like a human, which of course foxes don’t, then I’d vote for a return of hunting.

Sounds bonkers, doesn’t it: like the turkeys-longing-for-Christmas syndrome. But it’s not.

You see there are no old folks’ homes for geriatric wild animals; no Welfare State that will see them housed, fed and watered until the Grim Reaper finally carries them away. In nature they die of disease and starvation, unable to feed themselves, and prey to a whole multitude of enemies.

That was where hunting foxes and hares with packs of hounds worked so well. Because it was such a thoroughly inefficient way of killing the wildlife, it worked as a highly effective culling system – generally catching only the very old, the sick and the infirm. One in ten of the animals found by the hounds would be caught. So several days of hunting might pass without a kill.

That’s what’s made the ban, surely the nastiest piece of socialist dogma to reach the Statute Book under New Labour, so counter-productive, particularly to animal welfare and the health of the fox and hare populations up and down rural England. For without the safeguard of hunting, and the knowledge that the fox population would be controlled through the hunting version of natural wastage, virtually anyone can have the excuse to go out and shoot foxes. Invariably that means the use of shotguns, and inevitably that means a large percentage of animals limping away wounded, to die horribly of gangrene and starvation. Now that’s real cruelty.

Nor is that system going to result in a realistic cull.

A man with a gun is not going to know, or care, if he is shooting a fit young fox, a cub, or a pregnant vixen. And, unlike hunting, there is no closed season. It happens all the time.

The result has been a consequent diminution in the fox and hare populations since the hunting ban was introduced.

The “Antis” can produce whatever piffling statistics they can dream up; if you live in fox country you will know full well that there just aren’t the numbers about that there were – you’re not seeing or hearing them to the extent that you did previously.

It was all so unnecessary and silly, an urban perception, fostered by the Anti organisations, of red-coated plutocrats charging around the countryside causing damage, with packs of wild dogs tearing poor little fluffy foxes to bits.

Total bunkum. It is natural for a wild animal to run away from humans and dogs, and when foxes and hares were caught by hunting they were killed with a swift nip on the back of the neck, all over in two seconds. In fact, few hunting people ever saw a kill before the ban. And they were certainly not the “blood-junkies” that the Anti organisations liked to claim.

Now the Antis say they are out to prove that the rules are being broken. But I have followed hunts up and down the country since the ban, and they have all assiduously stuck to the law, being meticulous in laying trails simulating foxes or hares (depending on whether they are foxhound or beagle packs), so that their followers can yet enjoy the ride or run across country and the pleasure of watching the hounds working the line of the trail in varying scenting conditions.

At meets of hounds there is always an announcement about who is laying (or has laid), the trail, either on horseback, from a quad-bike, or on foot, and how the day’s sport will proceed. The trail layers are recorded on timed and dated film or video going about their task, as proof that the rules are being obeyed.

Just as it’s in the interests of the Anti groups that they should come up with claims of law-breaking (it is, after all, their raison-d’etre), so it is vital to the hunting organisations that their members are policed properly and the image of hunting should remain squeaky clean, and the law observed in the minutest detail.

And speaking of police, there is an agency completely and collectively cheesed off with a ludicrous and badly drafted law, that has proved highly divisive and virtually impossible to administer. Before the ban came in one chief constable went on record as saying his force would treat claimed breaches on the Hunting Act with about the same attention as complaints about dropping chewing gum on pavements or letting fireworks off after midnight.

And contrary to what the Antis would like you to think, hunting is not the preserve of toffs, but a totally levelling occupation, with packs of hounds kept by hill farmers and Welsh miners, all with that shared love of the chase.

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  • animalperson  |  November 12 2011, 3:23PM

    anyone who thinks fox hunting is acceptable are unfeeling jerks and the rason the wolrd is becoming more and more cruel and sinister. Personally I would happily shoot anyone I saw deliberately harming an animal - because these people are scum and the world would be a far better place without scum it it!!.

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  • whothefizit  |  November 08 2011, 8:28PM

    Yet another pro hunt piece by the WMN. that likes to call itself the voice of the west country. Oy WMN. SHUT UP. David Cameron probably promised his dad ( master of a hunt deceased ) that he would bring back hunting if he got the top job and thats more important than a referendum on europe for us prolls.

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  • GRIBBLE666  |  November 08 2011, 2:00PM

    @Aunticon I Cant be sure but i think Henry Chalfont used to do a milk round on the buddle lane council estate during the 1960's i used to call him uncle Henry My mum thinks he could be my Dad but is not sure as i had a lot of uncle's when i was growing up. But Henry Chalfont if you are my dad i would like to go on record to say you are no longer my Dad and i am going out into the woods and put my self up for adoption to a loving fox family.

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  • 2ladybugs  |  November 08 2011, 8:34AM

    @Michael7dx ""My starting point is that if I want to hunt foxes I should be allowed to"" My starting point is that if I want to see foxes, hares, deer etc., being allowed to live as wildlife intended them, then I think I should be allowed to. Perhaps some of us do get animated by other things such as rural economy and starving and abused children in all parts of the world etc.etc.etc. What do you know about any of us anti hunting groups? @Giles Bradshaw Well done. Although I disagree with you, you do seem to have kept a lid on it this time!!

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  • michael7dx  |  November 07 2011, 10:30PM

    I think Henry's piece reads rather well - but of course hunting is far too heated an issue for anyone to critique an argument fairly. I wish people got as animated about stuff that actually matters, like the state of the rural economy for example. My starting point is that if I want to hunt foxes I should be allowed to - end of. The antis would rather we didn't - well why? It strikes me that it can't be anything about cruelty: they refused to accept extending existing anti-cruelty legislation to wildlife, because they knew it wouldn't prohibit hunting with hounds; not when every serious study has found it be the most humane and effective method of maintaining a healthy fox population. The ban was driven by the very worst sort of uninformed, suburban bigotry - nothing more than that. So instead of having effective legislation to combat real cruelty, we've got the laughable ban that's just seems to have made hunting more popular than ever. You couldn't make it up!!

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  • michael7dx  |  November 07 2011, 10:28PM

    I think Henry's piece reads rather well - but of course hunting is far too heated an issue for anyone to critique an argument fairly. I wish people got as animated about stuff that actually matters, like the state of the rural economy for example. My starting point is that if I want to hunt foxes I should be allowed to - end of. The antis would rather we didn't - well why? It strikes me that it can't be anything about cruelty: they refused to accept extending existing anti-cruelty legislation to wildlife, because they knew it wouldn't prohibit hunting with hounds; not when every serious study has found it be the most humane and effective method of maintaining a healthy fox population The ban was driven by the very worst sort of uninformed, suburban bigotry - nothing more than that. So instead of having effective legislation to combat real cruelty, we've got the laughable ban that's just seems to have made hunting more popular than ever. You couldn't make it up!!

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  • GilesBradshaw  |  November 07 2011, 10:25PM

    The point about selective killing is a good one. Hunting foxes with a pack tends to target more sick animals. It is actually a far more natural death to be killed by a larger animal than to be left to die from disease/starvation etc.

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  • sweep123  |  November 07 2011, 9:23PM

    Now 'Pest Control' and 'Fallen Stock' were two of the fox hunters main arguments to continue hunting with hounds. But if the offal from the Fallen Stock was being used to maintain and feed foxes breeding in artificial earths then the hunts are offering a great disservice to many farmers and small holders in the countryside. There selfish actions are creating a fox population larger than it would be naturally and is further evidence that foxhunting is unconnected with pest control but is devoted to the sadistic pleasure derived from the protracted chase, torment and death of foxes during a typical hunt. Foxes do not need to be culled as they will regulate there own numbers based on the supply of food.

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  • sweep123  |  November 07 2011, 9:21PM

    Now 'Pest Control' and 'Fallen Stock' were two of the fox hunters main arguments to continue hunting with hounds. But if the offal from the Fallen Stock was being used to maintain and feed foxes breeding in artificial earths then the hunts are offering a great disservice to many farmers and small holders in the countryside. There selfish actions are creating a fox population larger than it would be naturally and is further evidence that foxhunting is unconnected with pest control but is devoted to the sadistic pleasure derived from the protracted chase, torment and death of foxes during a typical hunt. Foxes do not need to be culled as they will regulate there own numbers based on the supply of food.

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  • sussexvisitor  |  November 07 2011, 7:11PM

    I have read this article four times now and have come to the conclusion it was passed for publication precisely because it is so ludicrous and shows up the pro-hunting lobby as fools, there isn't enough room on this comment sheet to finish picking holes in this article. Well said all anti-hunt contributors above, pro-hunters please step back, re-read, ponder, if you still think you have a point at least have the sense to see that this ridiculous article does you no favours.

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