Yet think not, huntsman, I rejoice
To see the end so near;
Nor think the sound of horn and hound
To me a sound of fear.
Then think not that I speak in fear,
Or prophesy in hate;
Too well I know the doom reserved,
For all my tribe by fate.
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These wise words from the Foxes Prophesy so well sum up views held by many of us who love to see the rural red Fox in the countryside. I was recently reminded about this wonderful warning from DW Nash, over a century ago in 1871, when an old hunting friend reported that they had seen a fox in the South of France and thought of me and contacted me to remind me!
The Fox is one of our native species that is viewed with mixed emotions by those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the rural countryside.
However, it was James Delingpole, a newcomer to hunting who accurately stated in the Sunday Telegraph over Christmas that the fox is a hero. He went on to state that he has discovered – albeit rather late in life – the greatest sport on God’s green earth.
Mixed emotions, because the red fox can be the very devil at times, while those who try to control him by means other than hunting, can leave a lot to be desired. This makes me more determined to see that hunting is returned to be the legal way it was, before the ridiculous hunting act was brought into place 11 years ago. The rural red fox is regarded as a sort of Robin Hood character, gaining the sympathy of most followers. Before the ban a number of times I have hoped that the varmint would evade hounds, but as I love the hounds more, I was delighted when they have achieved their aim. It is this respect of the fox that our opponents cannot understand.
I have the highest regard for the rural red fox and the excitement of seeing one always provides a thrill even if seen from a car when travelling along. I say rural foxes for I consider the urban fox as a different species that spread disease and live in areas that perhaps, they are not suited. Nothing is more pleasing than knowing that a good strong litter of healthy cubs have been born in an area where they will be respected and cared for by the local inhabitants.
Too well I know, by wisdom taught,
The existence of my race
O’er all wide England’s green domain,
Is bound up with the chase.
It is hard for hunting’s opponents to understand the concern us hunters have for our foxes. I personally care very greatly. I shall never forget the time over 40 years ago, when the pack I was hunting caught a fox not only with a snare around his middle, but also stank terribly. The rank smell still lives with me today and when the pack caught the fox they dropped him as if to say what is that this poor animal has suffered. He was of course stinking of gangrene, the smell of which I still recall with disgust, I know totally and utterly that hunting is the fairest and best method of fox control. It allows the fit and healthy foxes to survive and hopefully procreate and the weaker and sick ones were the ones that were caught.
Better in early youth and strength
The race for life to run,
Than poisoned like the noxious rat
Or slain by felon gun.
Living in the countryside my family have also experienced the rogue fox arriving on a Sunday afternoon and killing four out of our six chickens just for fun later coming back for more. Then being seen by us with one of the survivors in his mouth by our back door, dropped it when hearing the sharp, fierce shouts of my better half! Something I have learnt to do as well. Fortunately, the survivor has since laid us many exceptionally tasty eggs and that is over two years ago.
The statesman that should rule the realm
Coarse demagogues displace;
The glory of a thousand years
Shall end in foul disgrace.
Those of us who have spent more time hunting correctly before the Labour Party brought in the ridiculous hunting act, have more respect for our quarry than most. However, we still laugh at others misfortune when the odd rogue fox does come and murder our laying friends during the day time, for we somewhat respect him for his boldness I suppose. That said when we suffer ourselves we are indignant, but never get any sympathy. I suppose our reasons for this is that we know, we the hunters, provide the best method of control which the likes of former leaders of the League, including Jim Barrington and Richard Course, have supported since they looked at the alternatives. Sadly something the vociferous anti brigade have disregarded. Only last week I asked a farmer who I knew was having fox problem with his chickens how it was going. He replied “Well, we started with 30 hens in the autumn and have got 5 left, we will have to get some more in the spring”.
Yes, there is hope for our rural friend as the political law forced incorrectly through by Peter Hain using the Parliaments Act is not working and does nothing for the welfare of the rural fox. It needs to be repealed, even the then Prime Minister Blair agreed it was one of the worst bits of legislation over his long tenure in power and one that he regretted most. This law has been incredibly hard to pin down, understand and bring into force. In one case a hunt in the West Country was successfully prosecuted when they admitted that they were hunting and accounted for a mangy blind fox putting the poor thing out of its misery. Many of us suspect that the mange was brought to the rural red fox by the indiscriminate dumping of the disease ridden urban fox in the countryside by the so called animal lovers, thinking they were doing their urban fox a favour. In fact they were cruelly moving the poor infected beast from its own moderate environment into one that it was totally incapable of surviving in. This is why many of the rural inhabitants cannot stand the hypocrisy of those urbanite views.
Further hypocrisy was brought in the summer of 2015 when the SNP having said they would not interfere with English matters reneged on their promised words of not voting on English issues before the election, but changed their mind as they had received funding to do the opposite.
However, they still have not been able to stop the hunts from using the exemptions successfully and if animal welfare was their creed they should know that the use of more than two hounds is better for the fox’s welfare than just two. They have ignored this issue to play politics with hunting without a thought for the fox’s welfare and that is what hunting people find most extraordinary.
Let’s hope that the politicians will be able to see sense and do away with the hunting act. Then…
Again the smiling hedgerow
Shall field from field divide;
Again among the woodlands
The scarlet troop shall ride.’
To sum up, the fox’s welfare has been made far worse by the hunting act, as the Vets For Welfare have agreed and stated, but the opponents of hunting have ignored the facts. Therefore, while I respect one of our wild animals, I agree that he still needs some form of control. So while I have a high regard for the rural wild red fox, I love the foxhound more, knowing that he will never leave a fox wounded to have to live out a long lingering death.