noses in the air (hounds in trailer, b&w) by Victoria Hunt p120

Background: The British countryside is not a wild environment. It has been formed through thousands of years of land and wildlife management. Many of the loudest voices in the anti-hunting lobby disagree with all forms of wildlife management. This is misguided. Without control, populations of animals with no natural predators particularly foxes and deer would increase dramatically. A situation which would not be beneficial from any perspective. Overpopulated species almost always suffer from widespread outbreaks of disease and an acute scarcity of food. In the case of foxes it would be a disaster for ground-nesting birds, and small mammals such as hares and rabbits. The knock-on effect of these species’ decline would have dramatic consequences for other species, particularly raptors. Not to mention the financial impact on farmers losing a higher proportion of their livestock, with the resultant increase in price of British meat, loss of international competitiveness, and all the social and economic issues that would arise as a result in rural communities.

Consequently it is it is generally accepted, with the exception of only those who are particularly radical in their opinions, that wildlife management in some form is a necessary part of maintaining our rural areas. With fox hunting banned the legal options to control fox populations are shooting, poisoning and snaring. Critics of fox hunting vociferously argue that it is unfair, cruel and barbaric. However, these labels show a marked ignorance of the activity, especially when compared to the alternatives. The first thing that must be noted is that foxes, with their incredible speed, guile, agility and intelligence, stand more than a fair chance of escape during a hunt. In fact well over 50% of foxes escape. Furthermore, the chase represents an important part of wildlife management and natural selection, with the old, the weak and the diseased caught, and the strongest, healthiest, fastest, and most intelligent getting away. When compared to the indiscriminate nature of poison and snaring in particular fox hunting has the strong advantage of keeping the fox population in the healthiest possible state. In addition it must be remembered that a fox is a wild animal for whom being chased is part-and-parcel of life. It is not the terrifying experience it would be if, for example, a domesticated dog was substituted in its place.

With regard to the accusations and labels of cruelty and barbarism that litter the language of the anti-hunting argument. There are a number of factors that must be borne in mind. The first is the kill itself. The size to weight ratio of hound and fox is similar to that of a terrier and rat. If the fox is caught by the lead hounds it is killed in a matter of seconds. Its suffering is minimal in comparison to the prolonged agonising death of poison and snaring, or even the possibility of grave injury, which is a regular consequence of shooting due the fox’s speed. The break-up of the carcass in the aftermath of the kill is irrelevant to the debate, in the same way that legislation is unlikely to be put forward for the protection of road-kill carcasses.

Anti-hunt campaigners often use images of terriers with bloodied, scratched and bitten faces attacking foxes, and label the image as “The Work of Terriermen”. This is utterly untrue and needs to be clarified. There is a very important distinction between terrier work on behalf of a hunt, and fox baiting. The former remains a legal way of managing fox populations. The latter is illegal and should be illegal, in the same way that badger baiting, dog fighting and cock fighting are. A terrier used by a fox hunt should never attack a fox, its role is to locate the fox by finding it, staying back and barking (baying), to alert those above to the fox’s location. In fact a fox is considerably stronger than the Jack Russells and Fox Terriers often used by terriermen. This is in contrast to the staffies and pitbulls used by fox baiters.

Former Director of the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) Jim Barrington presents a level-headed look at some of the issues in the 2004 Hunting Act:

We sincerely hope that the information written above helps you to make an informed opinion based on fact, and the practical realities of the countryside and its management. It’s an interesting point of interest that no less than four directors of our not-so-close friends at the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) have ‘defected’ separately to the Countryside Alliance over the years as a result of coming to the realisation that fox hunting is not a cruel, barbaric sport, it is a necessary, humane method of wildlife management, which in turn is vital to the maintenance of the British countryside.

Our work: The Countryside Alliance has fought a long campaign to expose the damage the Act would do to the rural economy, ecology, traditions and communities without any evidence to justify it on grounds of animal welfare.

Our campaign has guaranteed that although the Hunting Act came into force on 17th February 2005 it is now widely acknowledged to be bad law. With even Tony Blair stating that it is one of the pieces of domestic legislation he most regrets implementing. It is no accident that the law has been exposed for what it is: bad for the rural economy, bad for rural communities, bad for animal welfare and a waste of police resources.

Thanks to our determined efforts working with hunts the vast majority have managed to adapt to the legislation whilst continuing to offer a legal wildlife management service and retain the support necessary to sustain the infrastructure of hunting and the jobs that go with it.

There have been only a handful of successful convictions under the Hunting Act involving hunts. Over 97% of convictions under the Act relate to casual hunting or ‘poaching’. However, it cannot be right that a large section of law-abiding citizens continue to be targeted by animal rights groups and forced live in fear of malicious prosecution. The Countryside Alliance continues to oppose the Hunting Act and promote legal hunting for all the benefits to individuals, the environment and the rural economy that it brings.

A day with the Banwen Miners':

Jumping with the Ledbury Hunt:

Click on the links below to find out more about hunting:

The Case for Hunting

An Introduction to Fox Hunting

The How, What, When and Why of Hunting

Hounds and Hound Showing

Point-to-Point Meetings

What to do if you or your business is targeted by anti-hunt activists

Hunting Media Pack

New dog control powers

Hunting Handbook (2005 – 2006)