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THE HORN OF THE HUNTER - Sunday 24 December 21:00-22:00

Hunting with hounds has become one of the most controversial debates in British life in recent years. Fox hunting was made illegal last year and, though public debate has to some extent died down since the time of the ban, the issues are still contentious for many people. Those who hunt say the ban has destroyed rural livelihoods and traditional practices that are centuries old. Those opposed say hunting is a cruel and unnecessary practice that leads to the savage deaths of countless foxes and hares each year. The Horn of the Hunter features opinions from all sides of the debate, drawn from extensive interviews with both pro- and anti-hunt supporters across the UK.


"Country people don't make their living out of being cruel and causing trouble ..."

Producer John Leonard said: "There are more than two sides to the hunting debate and it's not just about the pro-hunters and the saboteurs - you also have to consider the farmers who lose lambs and chickens to foxes each year, and how they cope with the problem. Hopefully we've included all aspects of the debate but we leave listeners to make up their own minds about hunting."


A hunt saboteur with a saved fox.

The Ballad features songs and music by John Tams, Jez Lowe, Dave Burland and Ian McMillan, and traditional songs from a hunting songbook dating back centuries and sung by some of the hunters themselves.

Jez Lowe

"I knew the job that I had was to be as independent as possible, not to take sides, but it was very tough to do that."


The issues surrounding hunting are very much in today's public consciousness. Do you have a viewpoint, or personal or family experiences that you'd like to share? Send us your comments.

Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.

Read what others have said.

Peter, Exiled to France.
What hypocrites we are ! The hunting ban was about the hard left getting back at Thatcher's hard right for killing off the coal mines and the mining communities. Over 1 million people protested peacefully through major cities and London, yet the ban still went ahead. That was not democracy ! As for cruelty, think about pork carcasses produced in sweat boxes in eastern Europe, then cut up in UK and sold in supermarkets as British. Battery hen cages. Closure of rural abbatoirs in favour of inhumane factory slaughter lines. Ritual slaughter where the legally authorised humane stunner is not used, in favour of bleeding to death, 4 minuites for a beef animal. Thats now 30% of the national Kill ! Etc Etc

Rob, Edinburgh
Funnily enough I was listening to the programme and wondering after about three-quarters of an hour whether any anti-hunting voices were going to be heard at all or whether it was going to be entirely pro-hunt propaganda. To say that the ban is about "townies" versus "toffs" is complete nonsense. The hunting debate is about killing for pleasure against not killing for pleasure. If people want to kill for pleasure they can go down to the Army Recruiting Office and go off to fight in a war. Otherwise there's no place for them in Britain (and we in Scotland got rid of them first). The hunters accuse their opponents of sentimentalising the fox, and then appeal to our sentiments because they won't be able to keep the poor wee doggies any more. These poor wee doggies are specially bred to kill, to the extent that they are completely useless as domestic pets; that's the only reason they're threatened. And as for all the livelihoods that depend on the hunt: if you need to have animals torn apart to make your living, well either find an honest job or starve.

Dave Headey, Faringdon Oxon
So Andrew of Bath heard an anti-hunting programme with pro-hunters having a bit of a say? Strange because as an anti I got the opposite impression. So I guess the programme makers must have got it about right.

Dave Weatherall
The law does not ban people charging around the country on horse-back, be they toff or peasant. The law is there to stop unnessesary harm to an animal.

Darren Hall
Hunting is banned, where will it stop???? Animal rights activists, protesting, next time we have a new drug that needs testing, i suggest we test it on them if they are that concerned about the animals! if they were ill would they refuse medication because they were tested on animals??? i doubt it! these people should get a life and get a job!

Henry Lobb, London
I thought that this documentary was rather good, and well done to the BBC for suppressing its usual bias. The contrast between the hunting folk with their rich culture, language and heritage and the rather humourless, nasal saboteurs was very telling. As a beagler myself I admit that I would not hunt if I didn't enjoy it; it is something which has greatly enriched my experience over the years. I find it very sad that the present government tends towards neo-Puritanism (see also the smoking ban, concern over drinking etc.). If my enjoyment comes as a result of the exploitation of animals, so be it (although I think that there is a great difference between seeing hounds doing their instinctive job in the field and, say, bear baiting, which I would not support). I can happily defend my position philosophically; the contention that animals should have equal rights with humans is very weak, and educated people do not support it.

peter charles hatton cheshire
hunting is a fine and honest activity and i hope it will continue it is strange that antis protest about the death of a predator by another the huntsman this is nature thats why it works

pc. lancashire
i find it interesting to note that hunt supporters views are focussed on the hunt itself. rarely is sab violence mentioned, however in the beginning of the sab section violence is mentioned without any riposte. i find this to be yet another example of BBC bias.

MM, East Sussex
We now live in an age that if and when animals need to be culled it can be done humanely. I have spoken to someone who worked with hunts and who admitted that the dogs get into such a frenzy that they attack any bird or animal that gets in the way. I think if there was a day/days where hunts turned up at festivals or did processions, but no actual tearing apart of defenceless animals was involved, even I would turn out to see them and have a beer or two - but like burning wicker men and making human sacrifices etc I think we have moved on from those days......

Nick Aitken
Whatever the antis might say, hunting was only banned because of the perceived ‘toff’ element. So many arguments against hunting are based on this, not the supposed animal cruelty, it really is quite amusing. As for animal cruelty, what about battery chicken farming, or goose farming for foie gras (a dish I find most agreeable)? If people say that hunting is a ‘toff’ sport, then what does that make horse racing? Hunting and coursing are ways of life that have been trounced in one, very long winded, very expensive waste of tax payer’s money and MP's time. The money accumulated during the course of the hunting act progressing through parliament could have been better used to help prop up the NHS in its current hour of need. I have never been hunting or coursing, but I look forward to the day that I may fulfil my ambition to attend true hunting and coursing meets. And for the record, I am a student who is looking at £15,000 in debts, so no ‘toff’… oh, and I enjoy game shooting.

CS Surrey, age 21
What people don't understand as it's more to some than a sport, it's a way of life, people's living and for some all they have ever known and the people involved are something so special and unique and if you haven't met any you are missing out. What makes me sad is that it effects whole communities and their freedom is taken from them unfairly.

g wright south yorks
Brilliant program - I really enjoyed the interviews!! Can't imagine the sabs singing any of those songs in the pub? This government are that stupid, they tried to ban hunting with dogs. Does that make it legal to hunt with bitches? Yes, the hunt ban (allegedly down to popular request) came from exactly the same lot that went to war with Iraq (again at popular request). Do the great unwashed think Labour are on their side? Carry on hunting - Bliar hasn't got long now.

Julian Smith - Enfield
Things change and hunting has thankfully gone. A thing of the past. Like full employment for all and standing at football matches. The hunters must accept it and find other forms of 'entetainment' which does not involve death. We will continue to oppose all forms of hunting.

AM, Sussex
Can I just say everything is in relative. Is a boar about in the countryside happy? Is a chicken in a battery house happy? Is a fox shot and wounded dying with respect? Is a rabbit in a hutch in a natural environment? Is keeping a fish in a bowl right? Is a fox killing 60 chickens in 10 mins right? Is shooting a fox and maming it right? Is poisoning anything right? The answer is you can make your own decision, but all I will say is that there is nothing that my friends and I enjoy more in life than hunting, we can try and protect what we need, we can have a social grouping when we do it, and we struggle every week to find the money to do it. We know that an animal will die, maybe, but we know that it will be clean, one way or another, and yes we enjoy it. We hate to see an animal suffer. Go to a hunt meet, and see how may people have animals (pets) that they put above anyone else. We have dogs, cats, chickens etc. and we put them before our holidays. All I know is that I am happy that I know that what I am doing is a balance, it is natural, and the result in clear. You form your own opinion. AM

Phillip Davis Northampton
If a group of lads went out with their pit bulls and rottweilers and let them chase and savage wildlife (and pets) to death, they would soon be arrested and be condemned as cruel monsters. Whats the difference between them and those people who want to overturn the ban on this evil practice and bring back fox hunting. Its not about "toff bashing" its about stopping people who have no respect or love for animals behaving like blood thirsty hooligans and pretending to be pillars of society when they are clearly cruel sadists.

Phillip Davis Northampton
If a group of lads went out with their pit bulls and rottweilers and let them chase and savage wildlife (and pets) to death, they would soon be arrested and be condemned as cruel monsters. Whats the difference between them and those people who want to overturn the ban on this evil practice and bring back fox hunting. Its not about "toff bashing" its about stopping people who have no respect or love for animals behaving like blood thirsty hooligans and pretending to be pillars of society when they are clearly cruel sadists.

Andrew, Bath
I enjoyed this anti-hunting programme very much. It was interesting that you allowed some of the hunters to speak at times as well. That never normally happens. I enjoyed reading the lyrics of the three anti-hunting songs the BBC paid for, and listening to their composer speak about his strongly anti-hunting views. Of course, you did not put up any lyrics for the pro-hunting songs or allow the people who sing them to speak about their views - except as a sort of backdrop for the anti-hunting tone of the programme. I think this was a fair reflection of the BBC's attitude and what the vast majority of listeners (who know nothing about hunting) wanted.

D wylde Barnsley
hunting with dogs is illegal? really? explain that to my lurchers.I,ll give up hunting when the coffin lid is screwed down.

A Smerdon,chelmsford
As both a hunter and a folk fan,this programe was a must.Now i ride,with the hounds,but am a humble truck driver,not a "toff".I have been spat at,called names by the rabble that call themselves "monitor's",i know meny others,rider's,horses and hounds that have been attacked by these same people and yet had the police just stand back and watch. This hunting act has disconnected both myself,and other's from the society which new labour has built for itself.But lord protect the feelings of others who's beliefs or traditions i might find offensive.Both halal,and kosher meat continues,and when the met police where well willing to bash country folk over the head,they watch and do nothing for people wishing to kill those who wish to uphold the western worlds right to free speech. I find it hard to sing hunt songs at some folk clubs,as the folk scene is one of the cross over points for the pro,and anti debate. Dispite being a "lower order" worker i have been welcomed with open arms by the "toffs" and been abused by my own class.I was born country,and shall die country,and never submit to the ignorance,spite,and hate of others who speak of freedom at the expence of my freedom.

Tricia, London
Hunting is an emotive issue. Personally and with full knowledge of what happens: I support hunting, I always have and always will. When I think of the amount of money and time wasted on the hunting bill, and then think of how the NHS is failing it makes me sick. All the stories in the papers of people being misdiagnosed or not being able to get the best treatment for their conditions, all because of a lack of funding, or government sponsored miss-management. PEOPLE are dying for reasons which could be avoided if the Government spent more time on issues that mattered than election winning propaganda.

James Hemmings
Let's face it, they only hunted foxes because they are no longer allowed to hunt peasants (and yes, I DID spell that right), for them to start crying and saying that their way of life is being desroyed, all I can reply is, "Well, you need to get a life then, because if killing for sport WAS your life, then it was worth NOTHING"

Baz Tregear, Derbyshire
Hunting is gone forever and good riddance to it. It should have gone long ago along with badger baiting, slavey and sending children up chimneys. I know that some people are trying to keep it going but support will gradually dwindle as the idle rich turn their attentions elsewhere.

David Mercer. Hoylake, Wirral.
It may be unlawful, but I will sit down and dine with a hunter any day. At the same time I would not let an MP over my doorstep. That my friends is the difference between unlawful and unacceptable.

Polly Bolton, Shropshire
I grew up in a hunting/ shooting family on a poultry farm. When foxes needed to be controled it was never done by hunting. Hunting was always about sport and recreation. The welfare of all the animals involved was never an issue.They were just commodities, sacrificed on the altar of hedonistic ignorant human behaviour. Why did it take so long to get hunting with dogs banned? As a folk singer, I sing songs about all sorts of human injusticies and sorrow, war, opression, poverty etc. Thank goodness we are slowly making these things history. Hunting with dogs is history now.

Charlotte Dowding, wiltshire
Having read through these letters I am appalled of what these idiots are saying. Leave the country folk alone! ridicules and ill throughout legalisation! Absolute nonsense. This doesn't boil down to we think its snobbery or we don't 'understand' the country side its the plain fact that they want to shred animals alive for pure pleasure. I once read a letter when once the fox had got away it had won! They proceeded to pull fox from where he had managed to hide, someone chucked him up in the air to land into the hounds where is was disembowelled. Seriously what can you say to that? So yes let this ban be the end of this vile sport and be the start of stopping the rest of the meaningless suffering happening. Do we really want this? I think these animals deserve more. With regards to losing jobs over the ban, well these are the country loving animal adoring cream of the crop surely they won't stop riding just because of the ban, I thought they loved all the outdoors and their animals!!!!

Mark Brothwell of Liverpool
How lovely and cuddly the fox is (picture 14 in the gallery, and also the mini photo on the main page's GALLERY link). I had not realised what fluffy bunnies foxes are. Excuse me, I'm just nipping outside to pick one up and cuddle it, they look so cute

Mark - Bedford
Just because you disagree with something, it doesn't make it wrong. Being anti is big business now.It is a movement that will never be satisfied with just the Hunting Act. Too much power and money is earned out of it. The vast majority of folk don't care one way or another, as long as they can get on with their own lives without interference. If there wasn't a genuine need for hunting, then it would have died a natural death years ago. Hunting has survived barbed wire, railways and 2 world wars. It can survive this government

What a sad, monochrome little land we'll become when this government succeeds in killing off the country way of life, the agricultural industry, shooting, fisheries, forestry and all the other things that help remind us that we're animals not just office and factory machines.

Philip Elston, Hunt Saboteur & Author, Hampshire
Our cameras will be trained on you, this ban will be upheld, your days of killing are over.

Sara Monk, Wales
Hunting is by far the most humane and effective way to cull foxes & a far better method than shooting, snaring, gassing, poisening e.t.c. It is a quick death, its black or white, it dies or it gets away, it doesn't get injured and die of shock or gangrene. Hunting will never stop and the ban WILL be lifted some day soon.

basil fox
stop killing my brothers and siters..for christ sake!

Rhonda Hill, Oxnam in the Scottish Borders
Fantastic! At last! An honest and true account of hunting in the UK, seen from both sides. I'm not a blood thirsty person in the least (I'm almost vegetarian) but I love hunting, seeing and hearing the hounds hunt, being out in the countryside on my horse (also, I'm working class as are most of the people I hunt with) and meeting the various different challenges of the terrain each time I go out. I also have great respect for the wyly and beautiful fox, who more often than not gets clean away! I now fear for the survival of the fox as shooting is indiscriminate - a fit and healthy fox will usually escape hounds and the old or injured fox will be caught by hounds and killed instantly. They will be shot to smithereens.

Robert Baggs - Calne, Wiltshire
If a fox looked like a rat would there be so much fuss? When will these anti-hunt people realise a fox is actually an animal and not a cute and cuddly toy and get on with worrying about real issues like the imminent collapse of the NHS, education and law and order etc etc

Gill Sanders, International Fund for Animal Welfar
Hunting with dogs was all about chasing and killing wild animals for "sport". It should have been consigned to the history books long ago, along with badger baiting and cock fighting. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) campaigned for a ban for 15 years because it was cruel and unnecessary. We are not opposed to people riding in the countryside for pleasure. There have been very few job losses, and no more dogs or horses put down than in an average hunting season. The British countryside lives on and people continue to work and relax in it. Its future does not depend on maintaining cruel sports.

bob farrand - Winchester
I have a great problem with people chasing foxes and tearing them to pieces or blasting birds out of the sky for sport. Fox hunting is a barbaric anachronism. I have no problem with farmers killing foxes humanely in order to protect their livestock.Times change and we have to chnage with them. I don't remember an outcry when mines closed in the seventies and whole villages were out of work.

suzanne orlando., Bicester oxford
i live in the country and ride horses but i DON'T support hunting. One thing that really gets me is when these prohunting twits start spouting off about why they should hunt like its a way to keep down the number of foxes and that they are a pest. You never hear the real reason,which is they do it because they have a bloody good time when their out they take days off work and pay to do it.Most people in pest control get paid for what they do not the other way about. A fox is not a pest its an oppotunist if you dont shut your chickens away they will kill them,and sheep have so many lambs now they cant protect them all so its up to the farmer to make sure their safe,if they dont it,s their own fault not the foxes for doing whats natural, the average age of a fox in this area is 18 months they should live to 7 years.

Jane Davies - West Wales
I moved to the country 24 years ago and have learnt the ways of the countryside, I didnt expect it to change because of my ignorance. I have seen the devastation first hand that a fox can cause, and have seen many hill farmers struggle because of it. They have a right to protect there stock, income and way of life. I now have a son in hunt service who stands to lose his livlihood and his home because of this ridiculous and ill thought out legislation, that is causing more suffering to foxes than hunting ever did. Every report commission by the goverment was favourable to hunting so why waste tax payers money on getting reports if they act against it. If it is as they say because the majority want hunting banned then we should bring back capital punishment as well!

M Wootton, Plymouth
Just because something has been done for a long time (tradition), doesn't mean it is right, for example, cock fighting, dog fighting even slavery and child labour. Maybe some jobs will be lost, but I'm sure the total number lost is nothing compared to jobs lost in industry every year, a recent example being China Clay.

Sarah form Kent
I have no issue with people being anti hunting with dogs if the truly follow these beliefs. Do they make the same stand when buying makeup, medicine, detergents, meat, clothes where animals are continually abused and treated with enormous cruelty? Do they avoid Chinese made products as a protest about the cruelty to tigers and bears in the Far East? Animals are exploited by man...fact....more foxes, badgers and rabbits are killed by cars than will ever be caught by hounds. Have they stopped using their cars? If you have a devout conviction that hunting with hounds is wrong then stand by your beliefs. Do not buy meat from supermarkets or butchers do not wear leather wool of fur, do not wear makeup or use any medicine. Do not wash your clothes in detergents or use soap. Do not risk your car hitting a badger on a country road and leave it to crawl off and die. Do not watch Greyhound of horse racing or place a bet. If you ignore all of the other cruelty issues then do not point fingers at those who do hunt with hounds without being aware of your own hypocrisy and ignorance.

Dan Wilson Sutton
The ban was never about the welfare of the fox, but rather "toff bashing" by labour. There is a total lack of understanding of the issues from the government. Simply, they are not interested in the countryside and the issues that impact on it.

M Burn in Northumberland
For several years in the late 80's early 90's I followed fox hunting as a foot follower & was accepted by others attending as a supporter. I was in fact reporting my findings back to the League against cruel sports and provided evidence relating to several breaches of the law and matters of cruelty to foxes, badgers & hounds. The hunting debate often fails to discuss the practise of man made earth's to encourage foxes onto hunting land or the 'training' of young dogs by fox cub hunting in summer - I wonder why? Because its shocking, barbaric, inhumane and still happening! The law is not strong enough, I know, I've seen it!

Graham Forsyth, Somerset
The Hunting Act bans the use of dogs to harass and kill wild animals for sport, not the way of life of rural communities. Nationally, just 700 or so jobs depend directly on hunting and redundancies have been low. Why again is the countryside expecting special treatment in modernising practices? But this hunting issue is much wider than just hunting with hounds:- 1. The bird shooting industry will import some 20 million eggs and day old chicks from France in the next two months, to UK rearing units. The chicks will be neither tested for, nor vaccinated against, bird flu. 2. The rearing units will then rear the chicks, and distribute them to over 2,000 shoots as poults for the release pens, from which they will be released into the countryside in July / August, along with the other 15 million UK born and reared birds. On release day, there will be nearly twice as many pheasants and partridges out doors are there are free-range hens. All this (35 million birds) with the bird flu on the horizon; it’s a case of sod the general public again we (Countryside Alliance) will do what we want.

Tony Irwin, rural North Devon
I am 51 years old,born in the country and live and work in the countryside,I have also got to know hundreds of people in my lifetime who also live in the countryside of which probably 99% are totally opposed to the cruel,barbaric and outdated 'sport' of hunting and am therefore incensed when the hunting fraternity constantly state that townies should leave the country folk alone as they do not understand their ways,what pretentiousness! As for the loss of jobs, people involved in slavery managed to find other employment when that was abolished.

Brian Cuttell - ex Colne Valley
Remember hunting is now unlawful. Fox hunting in the UK was entirely a sport with virtually no element of pest control. I have seen artificial earths maintained by hunt servants in Midland hunt country. I enjoy the traditional hunting songs, but lets keep them where they belong as quaint reminders of a way of life that is past and gone.

Jane. Herefordshire
I have lived in the country for 30 years so I am not a johnny come lately. But I will NEVER be a country person. The fact is that country people see things differently - to them, an animal is a commodity, just as the land is a commodity, to be exploited for as much profit as possible. Hunting to them is not about keeping the fox population down. They could achieve that by shooting them Stray dogs probably kill as many lambs as foxes but nobody suggests hunting them. It's all about dressing up in fancy clothes and lording it up. They just don't see chasing an animal to the point of exhaustion and then watching it being torn to pieces as cruel (after first stacking the odds against it by blocking up their escape routes) It makes me laugh (sardonically) when pro-hunters talk about all the dogs that will have to be put down if the hunting ban is ever enforced (which it hasn't been.) As soon as a dog gets too old to hunt (around the age of 6) it is swiftly dispatched.

Martin - East Sussex
I used to have a sticker in my car that made my objection to hunting clear. After being tail-gated and then overtaken and cut up by a 4+4 with pro-hunting signs I took the posters. Hunters are yobs with money.

"The Countryside Way of Life ?" I've lived in the Norfolk countryside for 50-odd years and I've never even MET a fox-hunter ! There is no debate, ... its against the law ! And when we get a proper Labour Government you'll get locked up for it. Disgusting and illogical people, and the sooner banged -up the better.

Jake Kirby aged 7 Bahamas
I took up beagling when I was 6. My mum says its in my genes as from that first day out I loved beagling because its a fun sport that teaches me about the countryside. I go out with the whippers-in or huntsmen and manage to keep up with them and they teach me about the different wildlife, birds and plants that we see. It keeps me fit as I have to run all afternoon and sometimes a entire day in all weathers climbing through hedges and streams and over walls. The best part is at the end of the day when the huntsman blows his horn in a special way and then he allows me to help bring the hounds home and he teaches me how to look after the hounds. If there was no beagling I wouldn't be able to do this and would just have to play football but this wouldn't teach me about the countryside and wildlife would it? 3 months ago my family moved to the Bahamas and I really miss being out with the beagles. My biggest wish is that there will still be beagling when I move back to England in a few years and that the government changes their mind.

Jeremy, Dorset
Lets be honest about why people hunt. They enjoy it; simple as that. There is no conservation value in killing foxes, the only value is that gained by those who get pleasure out of the thrill of the chase. If they didn't enjoy it they would not do it. I am not from a town or city but rural Dorset and my six year old son knows more about conservation than the majority of huntsman and their supporters will ever know. There are two types of people. Those who appreciate and enjoy all animals for what they are and those who use and abuse them for their own pleasure.

I think all hunting should be banned. It is a terrible "sport" and upsets me very much.

V R Hong Kong
I spent last Christmas out with the Catterick beagles. What a fantastic time we had exercising the hounds in and around Catterick. I met a great group of people who spend a huge amount of time with these animals. I had no idea of the time and care that goes into the maintenance of this pack and kennels. To all the country sports people I say keep up the good work and fight on

mr mcintyre from derbyshire.
people who are against hunting for genuine reasons such as killing animals for sport, food etc, i really don't have a problem with. the majority however voice reasons such as "they are all snobs". they are the ones i get frustrated with.

Stephen, Lincolnshire
I believe the opposition to hunting is in large part based on ignorance and false perceptions of hunting, if nothing else it shows how divorced from reality a large number of urban people are. As the population has polarised into urban and rural communities, less people have meaningful experience of farming or living in a rural environment, their ideas are shaped by a Walt Disney view of all animals as cuddly friendly creatures with human characteristics. One persons cuddly animal is another persons vermin, these people would not think twice about exterminating rats, but pillory us over hunting foxes, they have obviously never had to deal with the aftermath of a fox in a hen house and 20+ dead chickens. Nature and wildlife is brutal, where death has its own place, I find it outrageous that people who are insulated from this and view the countryside through rose tinted spectacles should tell me how to live my life

Peter Gee - Devon
Never ridden a horse or hunted in my life but now the townies have had it banned ( revenge for the miners strike? - what a mob of plonkers! )I support hunting. Vai Tibi


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