There are bigger and more urgent issues which occupy my mind at this time of year but the day after the traditional ‘Boxing Day Hunts’ I am compelled to rage once again against the barbaric and wholly unnecessary practice of fox hunting.
The idea that the pursuit of wild mammals by packs of dogs and snobs on horses to exhaust them, corner them and then rip them to shreds in a violent frenzy of blood-spattered butchery is considered a sport and/or recreational activity bemuses me almost as much as it enrages me. Hunting foxes with dogs, horses and humans is not a sport, not justified and not fair.
Fox hunting was supposed to have been banned in Scotland eighteen years ago by the Protection of Wild Mammals Act (Scotland) 2002 and in England and Wales in February 2005 by the Hunting Act 2004 but the landed gentry and associated toffs have exploited the many loopholes in the Act to continue their bestial practice making new legislation necessary.
Despite the multiple public health Covid19 restrictions the Countryside Alliance was still encouraging its members to assemble the other day and hunt foxes to the death in the name of ‘physical and mental health’:
“Some hunts will not be able to take part in any hunting activities over the festive period, however where people are still able to participate, hunting will provide them with an opportunity to enjoy the countryside in a safe and healthy outdoor environment which benefits both their physical and mental health.”
Fox Hunting is Grotesque Recreation Not Pest Control
It is both bizarre and hideous to suggest that participation in an activity that hunts down a beautiful species of wild mammal for the sole purpose of witnessing it being torn to shreds in the teeth of bloodthirsty hounds is good for either physical or mental health. Those who continue to suggest this practice is acceptable recreation or a legitimate sport are warped.
We are almost in 2021, not 1821 when methods of pest control and protection of livestock were more primitive and limited. The foxes hunted today are hunted for a perverse notion of fun. It was never an effective or efficient form of pest control but advances in both the understanding of the mammal’s habitation practices and technology makes fox hunting obsolete in pest control terms. Modern Fox control by fully qualified licenced professionals, such as BPCA (British Pest Control Association) now use humane methods of trapping foxes for the purposes of control and deterrence measures to protect chickens and other livestock are now much more advanced and effective.
There is no legitimate and civilised argument for continuing to hunt foxes with packs of dogs and inadequate human beings. It is cruel, wicked, and vile. Detailed and independent research reports categorically that even farmers themselves often cited as proponents of fox hunting for protection of livestock reasons, agree that fox hunting is primarily about recreation, not pest control.
New Law Proposal Deserves Scottish Parliament Support
In 2019 a Scottish Green Party MSP introduced a Private Members Bill proposal to protect foxes and other wild mammals by explicitly banning the use of dogs for hunting or flushing out of wild mammals for the purposes of pest control or recreation. The Consultation document lodged by Alison Johnstone MSP in support of her Bill proposal is thorough and compelling and deserves support from all MSPs who believe in animal welfare and a more civilised society. She explicitly states in the document:
“The proposed Protection and Conservation of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill will improve protections for wild mammals in Scotland. It will achieve this by ending the use of dogs in flushing and hunting wild mammals, including foxes and hares, and improving the protection of mountain hares, brown hares, and red foxes.
However, I am also seeking to address an ethical concern: that wildlife should not be killed or made to suffer unnecessarily for recreational purposes.”
Dealing with the Covid19 pandemic necessitated delays to many legislative proposals during 2020. Some were more important than Alison Johnstone’s Protection and Conservation of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill but with the development of several viable and effective vaccines and their rollout already well underway across Scotland there is no reason why this Private Members’ Bill cannot be adopted and promoted by the government to mean it was the last Boxing Day in Scotland when packs of dogs, horses and humans could legally pursue foxes with the sole purpose of brutally ripping them to shreds in the name of sport and recreation. Surely we can all agree that ‘wildlife should not be killed or made to suffer unnecessarily for recreational purposes’?
This time next year there must be no legal Boxing Day hunts and Scotland will not just be a step closer to being a free and independent country; we will also be a step closer to being a more civilised country. The much-celebrated playwright, poet, and flamboyant wordsmith and Irish nationalist Oscar Wilde summed up the practice of fox hunting over 100 years ago:
“The English country gentleman galloping after a fox: the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.”
The process of ending the barbaric practice of fox hunting began in 2002. It must be finished in 2021.