It is surely stating the obvious to observe that the subject of hunting foxes with hounds raises strong passions, both among those who regard the pursuit and violent death of a living creature as a justifiable social pastime, and also among those who believe that such practises should be consigned to the Dark Ages and forgotten as quickly as possible. However, it would be wrong to grace the current exchange with the title of a debate, because all the facts have long been placed into the public domain, and we’re now at the stage where we simply hear the rising clamour from the opposing sides.
What we are witnessing now is in effect the closing act of a high profile court case, where the fox, a creature that ordinarily goes out of its way to avoid human contact, has inexplicably found himself in the dock. Why he should be there is a complete mystery to me, and if it weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable, not least because I have an overwhelming sensation of ‘deja vu’ when I see this creature demonised in the press in Britain.
There was a notorious series of court cases in which Bartholomew Chassenee, the most brilliant criminal lawyer of his time, was forced to defend creatures such as pigs and rats against accusations of murder and Satanism in 16th century France. This episode was long regarded as an historical oddity or curiosity, but it is being played out once more, in all seriousness, in the British media in 2010. When you consider Britain’s many technological achievements, not least our involvement in placing robot probes on the surface of Mars, the putting on public trial of the fox elicits a feeling of sheer incredulity among the majority of Britain’s population, but this is nonetheless where we find ourselves.
Those of us who oppose the hunting of foxes with hounds are arguing for leniency and looking for every possible reason to spare this creature’s life, while any reasonable person would concede that there is sometimes a case for shooting these creatures when they descend on farms raising free range poultry, for example. By way of stark contrast, those who support the hunting of foxes with hounds are seeking the most savage sentences whenever and wherever possible, in a shrill tone that brings to mind the denunciation of enemies of the state by the likes of North Korean prosecutors.
There is no mitigation for the fox, no leniency, no grounds for exercising compassion, no appeal to sentiment or the reality of these creatures’ lives – they must be harried, culled, pursued, hounded, shot, baited, dug out and ripped apart alive on every possible occasion. There are no exceptions, because in contrast to the approach taken by those who are revolted by blood sports, the pro-hunting ‘prosecution’ cannot ever concede that the ‘defence’ might conceivably have a point, so they call for the black cap on each and every occasion to the point where their baying for blood becomes wearisome and monotonous, a point that’s unlikely to be lost on the British public, who are noted for their sense of fair play.
“When a man wantonly destroys one of the works of man we call him a vandal. When he destroys one of the works of god we call him a sportsman”. Joseph Wood Krutch.
Contributed by Maharbal June 2010