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Paper Monitor

10:52 UK time, Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The story about two nine-month-old twin girls apparently being mauled by a fox offers newsdesks every device to tug the heartstrings - helpless children, a distraught mother and, of course, ample opportunity to run animal photographs.

That Fleet Street makes the most of this will, of course, be of scant consolation to young Lola and Isabella Koupparis, who were hospitalised on Saturday.

But what intrigues Paper Monitor is the manner in which Reynard the fox has, through his association with the UK's low-level culture war over foxhunting, become the quarry of right-leaning pundits while flushing out sympathisers in the liberal press.

Take the Daily Mail, in which, alongside an image of a glowering, sharp-toothed example of the species, Rory Knight Bruce lambasts modern Britain for being "hopelessly sentimental" and "soft-hearted" about vulpes vulpes - a deficiency blamed, in no small measure, on the last government:

Labour's ban on fox-hunting encouraged a mawkish eagerness to romanticise this aggressive creature - a pathetic instinct that was symbolised when Labour MP Mike Foster held up a furry toy fox outside Parliament to celebrate the passing of the legislation.

The Guardian, by contrast, romanticises away with abandon, commissioning none other than former Really Wild Show presenter Terry Nutkins to offer a heartfelt apologia on behalf of the fox ("if it really was a fox"):

What I am definite about is that this fox did not go "on purpose" to attack the two children; that's simply not what foxes want to do. Any injury it caused those children would have been, in that sense, accidental.... We need to make sure that foxes do not become persecuted.

Nature versus nurture? A debate which will - ahem - fox the commentariat for some time yet.

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