Theresa May has pledged to hold a free vote on overturning the Hunting Act 2004, which made it illegal to hunt wild animals such as foxes, deer, hares and mink with dogs, if the Tories are re-elected.
George Turner would vote against any repeal of the Hunting Ban. Labour rival Kate Hoey is a committed supporter of hunting and has called for the ban to be scrapped.
Fox hunting is wildly unpopular with the general public. Polls have shown over 84% of people believe that it should not be made legal again. In fact 78% of people in rural areas want to keep the ban. Putting this issue to a vote, when the overwhelming public opinion is that the ban should stay, is another example of the Tories pandering to their rich and influential lobbyists.
Does the fox population need to be controlled?
Those who are pro hunting often say that it is necessary to control fox populations. Is this correct, does the population need control? The answer is that there is very little evidence to show that fox populations are a significant agricultural pest. Long term academic studies have shown that deaths of livestock caused by foxes is very low (0.4% of lambs born).
Conversely if fox populations were to be seriously lowered, there may well be an explosion in the rabbit population. Rabbits are the principal prey of fox and it has been estimated that the control of the rabbit population by foxes saves farmers up to £100 million a year in agricultural damage.
Is fox hunting even effective?
If we were to indulge fox hunters for a second and consider this question: if fox populations need to be controlled, is fox hunting an effective means? The answer is overwhelmingly no. In fact the Burns Committee (undertaking an inquiry into hunting) investigated this issue and found that fox hunting was insignificant in terms of controlling fox populations.
Fox hunting is inhumane
Those who are pro fox hunting say that the fox is killed humanely with a bite to the neck. This is simply not true and also ignores the terror the fox faces during the chase. Fox hunting is a deeply cruel sport. The odds are stacked against the fox from the outset. When confronted with danger foxes take to ground and hide. Hunts know this, so before the hunt even begins they often block off known escape routes. This means that the fox has to run, often for miles, whilst being pursued by packs of dogs. This is terrifying for the fox and incredibly stressful. Eventually the animal is either so exhausted that it lies down and gives up, and it is then killed by the hounds. Or the fox finds refuge and terriers are then sent into tunnels after it. Sometimes they are lucky enough to escape.
The fox’s death is often not quick. Foxes can be horribly maimed before they finally die. Some post mortems have shown that foxes are disembowelled before being killed by the hounds.
If it is ever found that fox populations need to be controlled, there are far more humane ways to undertake a cull.
Foxes aren’t the only animals hurt
Foxes are pursued by packs of dogs that are reared by hunt clubs purely for the purposes of hunting. So if for some reason the dog does not get along with the pack, or becomes too slow or old to keep up, the dog becomes surplus to requirements and is killed. Hunt dogs generally do not live as long as the normal life expectancy of a dog of that breed.
Also terriers are sent down fox holes to retrieve the foxes. These dogs can be badly wounded and sometimes killed during these fights with the fox.
Fox hunting as a “rural way of life”
There are simply no good environmental or agricultural reasons for fox hunting. The only reason fox hunting is still an issue is because some people enjoy the “sport”. But let’s be clear, this is a blood sport. A cruel pastime from another age. As a society we are beyond tolerating animal cruelty for tradition and apparent fun.