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   Inside Out - South: Monday February 7, 2005

FOX HUNTING

Fox hunt
Many hunts threaten to oppose the ban due to come into force in February 2005

With the hunting bill poised to bring an end to hunting with dogs in England and Wales in February 2005, American fox hunters in Tennessee plan to show solidarity and join one of the first hunts, post potential ban.

The American fox hunters plan to visit the Avon Vale Hunt in Wiltshire, where the Hunt Master Major Jonathon Seed intends to hunt legally but to 'test' the new law, should it come into place.

Across the pond

There are around 170 registered fox hunt packs in America as well as others that are run privately by farmers and landowners.

The Americans from the Tennessee Valley hunt say the end of fox hunting in England is unbelievable.

At their traditional Thanksgiving Day meet one of the local farmers pledged his solidarity with English hunts:

"We have a constitution that protects the rights of minority so I'll don't think they'll ever outlaw it here, but over there they're just at the mercy of their parliament.

"I think it's foolishness. Civilisation gone awry I call it."

Fox hunt
Tennessee hunters vow to join forces with the Avon Vale Hunt

The Americans plan to join the Avon Vale Hunt in Wiltshire, which hunts a territory centred on Melksham and stretching to the edge of Salisbury Plain.

Like many English hunts they are planning a mass hunt the day after the ban comes into force.

The Hunt Master, Major Jonathon Seed, refused to be drawn on details, but said,

"We will endeavour not to break the law, that doesn't mean to say we won't test the law because any law which is so badly drafted and so prejudiced needs testing."

Battling the ban

Pro-hunt campaigners recently lost their High Court challenge to the law banning hunting with dogs in England and Wales.

Yet campaigners say that more than 250 hunts plan to meet legally the day after the ban on hunting with dogs comes into force.

The Countryside Alliance said the 19 February meets would show the new law was "impossibly difficult to determine" and open to different interpretations.

There will be a one-day appeal hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday February 8, although it's not known when a judgement will be delivered.

The Countryside Alliance says that if the judgement goes against them they will consider seeking an injunction against implementation, challenging the hunting ban on the grounds of human rights.

Fox Hunting - The Debate

For

Foxes are vermin and their numbers need to be controlled.

Fox hunting has been a countryside tradition for many years.

A ban on fox hunting will lead to a ban on other sports, like shooting and fishing.

Against

Around 20,000 foxes are killed every year because of fox hunting.

About half that number of hunting dogs are also killed taking part in the sport.

Animal rights activists believe it is immoral to chase and kill animals for the sake of sport.

The arguments

Hunt supporters maintain that the sport is not cruel, citing the dog's natural instinct to administer a "quick nip" to the back of the fox's head, which they allege kills it outright.

The fox does not anticipate death, they say, so is not unduly traumatised by the pursuit.

And the alternatives - shooting, gassing, snaring or poisoning - would all inflict much more pain and suffering on the foxes.

Already, 10 times as many foxes are shot each year than are hunted to death, they say. That figure would only increase if hunting was banned.

Support for the ban

Animal welfare groups, campaigners and activists maintain hunting is both cruel and unnecessary.

The ban on hunting due to come into force on February 18, has been welcomed by animal rights activists, many of who have campaigned for a ban for decades.

Animal welfare groups draw point to the fact that the fox has no natural predators except man, and is therefore not accustomed to being chased.

They maintain that if there is a specific problem with a fox in one area, then shooting by a trained marksman is the only humane way to deal with the problem.

And they do not accept the country sport lobby's stance that foxes are pests, and need to be destroyed.

Fox
The arguments for and against hunting continue to rage

Inside Out joins Hunt Monitor for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Peter White who has made it his life's work to see an end to fox hunting

Peter says it's too early to celebrate the end of hunting.

He's been filming hunt activity for 20 years and says he will be out with his camera again on February 19th.

"We're looking at a ban less than two weeks away and I look back at all the beatings I've had and all the hassles I have had and all the horrendous cruelty I've witnessed and it has all been worth it in the end," says Peter.

"We will continue to monitor and observe their actions until I'm happy in myself that what they're doing is drag hunting and nothing else, that's when I'll walk away."

Your views

Inside Out welcomes your views on the hunting ban. Please fill in the comments box below to have your say. A selection of comments will be posted on the site.

See also ...

On the rest of Inside Out
Stag hunting
Hare coursing

On bbc.co.uk
Hunting debate

On the rest of the web
The Countryside Alliance
The League Against Cruel Sports

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Angela Hagaman
I am overjoyed the hunting ban has finally become law. I am most concerned about the dogs used for hunting. Why on earth have these people ignored the inevitable and continued to breed hunting dogs? This ban has been on the cards for years now, they must really believe they are outside the law. Something could probably have been done to take care of the dogs if the original plans for a ban had been left in place but hunting supporters insisted on bringing forward the ban to prove a point. As for that woman who predicted the foxes will go the way of the dodo, I found her very sinister. What was she implying? Are they going to go out and shoot and poison all the foxes? I live in the country and rarely see a fox, I see a lot more when visiting my family in London. Foxes are one of our largest wild animals left in the British Isles, in the past we have managed to kill off all the other large predators. Live and let live. At least when foxes kill they do it for food and not for so called sport. I saw a programme not so long ago where a fox got into a chicken coop and killed all the chickens in one go then took one away with it. But then, it came back time and time again until it had removed all the dead chickens. Turned out it was burying them for later, like a squirrell hoards nuts. The fox in the chickens is used a lot by people trying to prove a point that foxes kill for pleasure too but it is obviously a survival technique. Fox hunting and hare coursing are not sports. It is killing for the amusement of a bunch of people who could use their time and money a lot more productively. A sport has not been banned, a barbaric practice has. I can now be proud to be British, especially when protesting against bull fighting in Spain and canned hunting in Africa and the USA. Marsden, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

Melvin Chapman
We are all custodians of our countryside and is not about towns people or country people is about morals. We are trapped in one of many outdated traditions that is no longer acceptable in a modern society and is time to consider what is best for the wildlife of this country. Blood sports have long been a main source of leisure for the so called gentry who have always taken this to be their right to waste wildlife without question. The now serious matter concerning environmental issues is revealing the larger part due to mans ignorance, the time to grow up is now and the awareness that certain things are no longer for sale.

Blain
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I am a second year fox hunter and I adore it. Hunting is an enevediable part of nature whether it is encouraged by humans or not. Fox are not an endangered species, they are pests espcially in the UK. I think it is ridiculous that the government could not put more time and energy into things that are literally life and death issues. I think people forget the things that matter and pick at the things that do not matter. Eventhough I have only been foxhunting for two years it is already in my blood. I appriciate everything about it; The fellowship among commrads, the thrill of the chase, and the respect of the circle of life and the kill. I am DEFINITLY AGAINST the ban. I do, however, think that people on both sides would be much better off to focus their passionate arguements on something that focuses on the greater good for all people. If all people would stop focusing on the small details and look at the big picture, then I think foxhunting would be a small detail and not worth the wasted passion for both sides. I know my hope to focus on the greater good is a little nieave and idealistic, but that nieave and idealistic hope is what has not only made the UK a great nation but the US as well.

Helen R
I mistakenly became involved with one of the better-known hunts while out riding with children in local woods. One of the huntsmen repeatedly shouted "Get out of our way - we're the hunt". This was not easy as the path was extremely narrow. He then proceeded to kick one of the children. The hunt were galloping their horses over stony ground and cantering on public highways, which I understood was illegal. I also saw one rider break down a fence enclosing a field, which he then instructed me to hold up. All this before even reaching the question of the barbaric killing of animals. Huntspeople and those who support it are the lowest of the low.

M.G.Broom
Hunting with hounds has been a part of the way of life in the countryside of the UK for centuries. There is no justification for this government to wreck the rural economy and way of life of those that live there. I for one support the hunting fraternity. Let us face it, a labour government is only in existence because it gets votes from the urban centres, which it is trying to expand at the cost of green fields. Those that live in towns and cities, including the MPs, should not interfere with things they know nothing about. If the league against cruel sports and other similar organisations wants to do something positive I suggest they tackle the more pressing issue of global warming. We humans, as the supposed most intelligent race on this planet, are singularly destroying life across the globe. If we do not do something radical in the near future we will be going the same way as the dinosaurs.

Philip Scrivener
Foxhunting the other side of the coin. My wife and I are livestock farmers and the fox whilst a charming countryside animal has a side that the majority of people know, but never come into contact with. We farm poultry on a free range system which the general public would say is better for the bird - I agree. The losses due to fox kill staggers the customers that buy our eggs and poultry as often because of the fox we have lost so many birds we are unable to supply them with these products. Within the last three weeks this farm has lost 18 laying birds, 8 growing birds and two breeding geese plus another two geese that have been maimed and we are trying to nurse back to recovery. Multiply that through the year and you see the problem. The fox now carries out his activities during daylight hours as well as night so increasing the problem as at night the stock is shut up, but in day they are free to roam. Make one mistake of not shutting soon enough and the losses can be total. Two years ago when a ram broke into the turkey field and knocked the hatch open whilst using the shed to rub his horns we lost 197 turkeys killed by fox in one night, finacial implication, devastating, waste heartbreaking. You can probably see I do not have great sympathy for this charming looking wild dog. The reality is, it is itself a heartless and cruel killer and therefore vermin. Whilst I do not believe that foxhunting is a control on the fox, dogs actually kill effectively and quickly, whereas shooting and other methods sometimes do, but often do not, leaving the fox to live out a slow painful death. Is it not a fact that Government, media, and anti foxhunting orgs. have other agendas to their campaign the fox is merely a crow bar to their narrow views. Then there is the seasonal lamb kills and the neighbours have given up trying to keep chickens in their gardens.

Deb Frost
Fox hunting is as out of date as bull baiting and cock or dog fights and it is high time this sadistic chase of one small animal by packs of specially bred hounds, who themselves have a short and brutal life and so-called grown up men and women on horses was relegated to history. They can enjoy riding without terrorising other animals unless they are sadists which I believe they are.

Christina Y, Hampshire
I have been out hunting in Dorset for the past 4 years and I feel this ban is completely unjustified and prejudice. I am only 16 years old but I still feel my voice should be heard but unfortunately it seems no-one in parliament wishes to listen. I have always felt priviledged to be a part of a tradition that dates back hundreds of years and I will fight this ban so that I will still have to right to hunt, and so will my children, in years to come.

Peter Hart
Tonights program ran an article which included news that American fox hunters are intending to come to this country and join in the first illegal hunt. They should be turned away at port of entry as undesirables. No-one from the UK would get into the US if there were the slightest hint of any illegal activity, we should have the same conditions of entry and these people must be deported.

Gaye Bartlett
Fox hunting. I am against the ban on fox hunting. i didn't have strong feelings either way, but since the proposed ban I have come to realise how much i object to the ban. We should respect and protect hunting, it is part of our heritage, part of being british. i always want to see the fox get away and hate cruelty to animals. I feel that the ban is cruel to the people whose life depends on it and whose family tradition includes it. surely there are too many other causes which warrent such venom. compassion in world farming have some great examples of cruelty to animals which we should be trying to stop. I feel that the ban is against the people who hunt and not the hunting itself.

Allan Harwood
Isn't it about time that the majority of anti's owned up to the fact that it is a class issue and has very little to do with animal welfare. Having seen 'so called' animal lovers in Dorset calling the hounds across main roads I soon got the message. With the introduction of a hunting ban, it will just result in the death of more healthy foxes and slow lingering end for the sick and old. How many shooters will take the time to check whether the fox they shoot at 100 to 200 metres away is a dog or a nursing vixen? All shooters like myself can do, is our best.

Philip Martin - and family
I can understand why people don't like hunting, but I think the hunt monitors have got it wrong. If hunting goes the result will be: more foxes and hares will be killed with more suffering. More foxes will be dug up using terriers, or poisoned. More hares will be shot (and therefore often wounded.) So Peter White may feel good about themselves and pleased that others won't be able to do something they disapprove of. But animals - especially foxes and hares - will be worse off. My daughter, Mary, adds: I certainly don't enjoy it when a animal gets killed but I know the hares and foxes will suffer so much more if hunting is banned. I enjoy hunting for the countryside, sociality, solitude and exercise not for blood thirsty killing. Frankie(my brother, aged 11)adds: I have been hunting about five times and a animal has never been killed. Packs do not kill everytime and I would not like a hare or fox being killed, but I know that more terrible things wuold happen, and will happen to the animals if hunting is banned. Hardly anyone that goes hunting is really posh, and we definenly are not. I also believe that politicians could do MUCH more useful things such as not going to war and helping starving children. What difference will it make to them if hunting is abolished, apart from they will get more votes from people in turn who do not understand. Proof of this is they are not banning fishing, which is much crueller, because it is so popular and will lose a lot of votes. I am not saying ban fishing, but this is clearly a biased and discrimination act by a SEEMINGLY 'fair' government.

Rachel Manser
I thought it was very insensitive of the hunt monitors to be present 2 weeks before a ban on hunting comes into force. They appeared to have a smugness about them which was obviously going to upset and annoy the huntsman. Why they couldn't just let the hunt do what they have been doing for hundreds of years in peace is beyond me. I don't personally hunt, but really think this law has been passed through under dubious circumstances by people who know little or nothing about hunting, let alone the the countryside and the impact it will have on it. I will certainly support whatever the hunts do on 19th February and hope you cover the events in your programme.

Johanna Gebbie
Very interesting Hunting piece tonight. I consider myself to be a country person, who has enjoyed hunting on & off for many years. I support hunting though I am ashamed to say, not as vigorously as I could. However, I had an interesting & very sad experience this week. I am a small supplier of an equestrian product (Sports Medicine Boots). This week I recieved a phone call from a saddler who has been employed in his family business for 28 years. Because of the huge impact the cessation of hunting is already having on his business he has decided to call it a day and shut up shop. This man spoke to me passionately about his company and his family and other people it had employed for the past 28 years. This is the first time it has really hit home about the tragedy that this ban will have. To me it's got nothing to do tradition, its a whole way of life, people's livlehood will be wiped out. People who really will find other employment options very thin on the ground. In a world where there is so much injustice and horror I cannot believe this Government can do this to its own people.

Mary Unsworth
Try as they may to convince us that they fox hunt for pest control, they cannot escape the fact this is a blood sport. Killing for pleasure is sadistic and cruel and if they break the law, they should take the consequences. The rest of society takes the consequences if they break the law, these people are no different, though for some reason they think they are. The U.S. is not any sort of example to civilisation with it's gun laws, we don't wish to be like them.

Clair
I am an accomplished equestrian woman, who has never had any interest in the hunting and killing of foxes. I do however understand the passion of dedicated hunt members who have grown up with this "sport" and love the hunt itself. It really is an unbelieveable feeling to ride in open country, testing your skill and that of your horse. If that is the true reason for the hunts passion, why is it such a big deal to drag hunt instead? Why can't we meet half way and stop the raw killing of our countries' beautiful animals? Surely, there must be a compromise. Attitudes need to modernise, and we need to move with change, not resist it.

Sabrina
I've just watched your programme about fox hunting and feel the need to comment! Whilst Fox Hunting is not a hobby of mine and nor is it something which I am wholey keen on I find it outragious and contradictory that so called animal rights activists consider banning hunting a good thing but having hundreds of hunting dogs put down acceptable, are hounds suddenly not animals? I consider hunting a far more preferable way of getting rid of unwanted vermin than farmers taking pot shots at a fox on their land,leaving it seriously injured, unable to hunt and to die painfully. What must also be considered is that Foxes also play their own vital role in the ecology and prevent us from being overrun by a whole host of other animals.

Rachel
I hunt and will continue to attend 'hound exercise' after 18th February. The reasons for this are nothing to do with the killing. Indeed, it would upset me if I actually saw a fox killed with my own eyes while I was hunting. The reason I go is because of how much my horse loves the experience! There are very few places where she gets the thrill of galloping with other horses and the boldness it gives her to jump fences she wouldn't attempt on her own is very gratifying. I am very sad that this will be lost and other young horses will not have this opportunity.

Richard Field
Congratulations on your excellent report this evening on fox hunting. The pro-hunters were seen in their true colours. The elected house has now spoken and they should accept the decision. The hunters' reliance on 'the old boy network' has finally failed them and they are understandably finding it difficult to adjust to having to follow the same rules as everyone else. Hunting is cruel and a ban is long overdue. It's as simple as that. Congratulations to the IFAW monitors we saw this evening and to every other person who has worked so hard to bring this barbaric spectacle to an end.

Paul Clark
Fox-hunting is a barbaric pursuit which simply satisfies the blood-lust of a few arrogant simpletons who think they can flout the law. We do not need the even more simple americans coming over here trying to impose their second-rate values on us.

C Martin
I was disappointed by the way the article so readily substituted the words "animal rights" and "animal welfare." The two are entirely different. Groups supporting each principle are entirely different. I also dispute the notion that 10,000 hounds per year are killed in the sport of foxhunting. In the end, what Animal Rights activists oppose is the idea that humans might enjoy going along while the hounds hunt. That is what is happening, the hounds are hunting, doing what is natural to them, as a predatory animal. The humans are there, to keep the hounds hunting the appropriate quarry, and ensure the safety of the hounds (along roads and railways) and respect the prpoperty lines. The ban is a farce, approved under false pretences, like the assertion it will reduce "cruelty." It is entirely political, with enormouse economic and animal welfare repercussions. Those who supported it should be ashamed.



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