Should the fox hunting ban continue or should it be reviewed?

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Fox hunting has taken place in the UK since the late 1600s. The hunting season traditionally runs from November to March and involves the chase and killing of a wild animal by a pack of dogs.

The 2004 Labour Government introduced the Hunting Act. This prohibited the hunting and killing of foxes and other wild animals with dogs. The Act won a large majority in Parliament and there was a strong surge of public support in favour of the ban.

Despite the Hunting Act, there are loopholes in the law that mean inhumane acts are still legal. For example, drag hunting and trail hunting; where hounds follow the trail of a scent, such as blood, urine or fur, rather than an actual animal.

In the 2018 hunting season alone there were 550 cases of illegal hunting in the UK. Animal rights’ group the League Against Animal Cruel Sports believe this figure is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. They fear there are tens of thousands of illegal fox hunts occurring every year and evading prosecution.

Despite being introduced nearly 16 years ago, fox hunting remains a key debate in Parliament and amongst the public. In 2017, the Conservatives made a manifesto promise to offer MPs a free vote on whether the ban should be lifted. The proposal was dropped following the election due to a “clear message” against it from the public. Furthermore, a 2017 survey of the British public revealed 85% of people were still in favour of the ban.

This Sunday the editors are debating whether the ban on fox hunting should remain in place, be lifted or perhaps if other measures should be implemented.

Written by POI Correspondent, Emer Kelly

Fox hunting parade should stop, but foxes still need to be removed – Liberal article

Fox hunting is a very contentious article. It is hard to step out of the party line, and I usually avoid the conversation altogether. However, today I cannot do that, so here it goes.

For me, it is an extremely fine line. On the one hand, I don’t want foxes to be killed. On the other, farmers have a right to protect their livestock. Therefore, I take an in-between stance – foxes should be shot and controlled but not hunted.

Fox hunting is bad for several reasons. The first is that it is seriously insufficient. In terms of being an efficient form of pest control, the Lord Burns report concluded that ‘almost certainly insignificant in terms of the management of the fox population as a whole.’

When fox hunting was at its peak, it attributed to around 5% of all fox deaths in the UK per year. This compared to natural causes or more importantly, shooting. There have also been cases of fox hunts actually breeding foxes purely for the chase.

The argument against this is also poor. People say that it only kills the weak, old and sick foxes. But this isn’t true. Fox hunts purposely hunt down newborn cubs in the new year, or what is known as cubbing. Are these cubs sick or old?

The killing of the fox is not exactly humane either. Most studies show that foxes are not killed humanely by a quick bash to the head. Instead they ‘showed that in many cases foxes are disembowelled first.’ It is not the most pleasant death for an animal to be chased to the point of exhaustion to then be killed.

However, I do see the flip side. I have spoken to farmers and understood their concern. I’m sure seeing a fox rip apart a lamb that has just been born or seeing a farmer’s living disappear overnight because a fox got into a chicken house would certainly make you give some sympathy.

In fact, foxes have killed my family’s pet geese, rabbits, ducks, turkeys and every other type of animal we have raised. I still remember when our ducks Dolce and Gabbana were killed by the fox and how upsetting it was.

So I truly understand both sides. But for pest control, or certainly a humane form of pest control, fox hunting is not the way. Allow celebratory hunts that don’t hunt foxes but hunt a dummy one, that is fine. If that’s what makes you happy go for it. But your happiness should not come from torturing an animal. And if you want to control the pest, instead of making it suffer, shoot it. Plain and simple.

Written by Liberal Writer, Max Anderson

Point of Information

Sidestepping the main issue will not send a strong message – a Labour response

This week’s debate was always going to cause polarisation of opinion. Yet I do find Mr Anderson’s article rather lacking in strength of stance. I understand his support of farmer’s having to defend their livestock. Foxes can be savage animals who go mad at the taste of blood – much like the aristocratic huntsmen it would seem. However, the debate is not about pest control. It’s about fox hunting, which is a totally different matter.

Mr Anderson cites animal cruelty in hunting, for which I applaud him. This is one of the central issues regarding the sport. It’s a sadist enjoyment of inflicting a prolonged and savage death upon often young and fit animals.

He is correct to highlight that many excuses made by hunters are lies to cover up their actions – specifically his argument regarding cubbing. Yet I was disappointed at his lack of reprimand for the current law-breaking that is going on.

Overall, Mr Anderson’s argument seems off-topic and weak in stance. Fox hunting and pest control are two different things.

Written by Labour Writer, Isabella Jewell

Shooting foxes is not as glorious as Mr Anderson thinks – a Conservative response

Firstly, I am very happy to see Mr Anderson agree with me on how deadly foxes can be to livestock. The hunting ban has seen more animals killed since 2005 with millions of pounds lost in livestock and therefore, less money in farmer’s pockets. This situation can be prevented by restricting the fox population with the re-introduction of fox hunting.

However, I do have two disagreements with Mr Anderson. The first being as expected with Mr Anderson referring to Lord Burns 2000 report on fox hunting. Here he has quoted the exact bit I would have expected him to have. He highlights the statement that fox hunting by horse and hounds is “insignificant” when managing the fox population.

Yet Mr Anderson fails to mention that further on in the report Lord Burns writes that hunting with hounds results in a substantial proportion of fox’s deaths. It is clear that this report needs updating with both our arguments cancelling each other out.

Secondly, with Mr Anderson clearly stating his support of shooting foxes, he forgets how dangerous this is compared to hunting. It is far less safe and even less humane. In the heat of the hunt, the adrenaline from the chase helps reduce any pain for the fox just like humans when involved in sports injuries. It does not hurt as much at the time due to the adrenaline helping to reduce pain.

The hounds involved are special hunters and are able to provide a quick death rather than this disembowelment written about by Mr Anderson.

Written by Conservative Writer, Jack Kane

If Blair regrets the ban, then surely it is time for a review – Conservative article

This week’s topic is an important one. It covers animal rights, environmental issues and the idea of continuing blood sports. It is an issue that is highly polarising especially between the anti-bloodsports Labour MPs and the pro-hunting Conservatives.

So when Jeremy Hunt proposed a free vote on bringing back fox hunting in his 2019 Conservative leadership bid,it made me reflect on my lack of a strong opinion on the matter.

What I have found is that there is no side that truly has the stronger argument. I do, however, agree more with the pro-fox hunting lobby. Therefore, what I suggest is a necessary review of the Hunting Act. More evidence is needed on the issue before a debate on its repeal takes place.

My support of fox hunting is due to its positive effect on the management of the fox population. Through successfully managing the population, we can see multiple benefits for farmers as well as other animals. Foxes have been recorded to cause damage of up to “£10-12 million.”

We see foxes killing up to 2% of new-born lambs each year as well as millions of damages due to fox predation of poultry. Having known poultry farmers, I am aware of how damaging foxes can be to farms and the livelihood of excellent farmers.

Foxes annually cost “£9.4 million” to sheep producers. Furthermore, when foxes were hunted and numbers reduced by “43%,” there was a huge breeding success for “lapwings, golden plovers, red grouse, and meadow pipits.” Surveys in Wales have shown that “96%” of lamb farmers are heavily impacted by foxes. “75%” have lost more lambs since the ban. These are not good readings for the anti-fox hunting lobby.

Now the anti-fox hunting lobby will argue that in Lord Burns’s 2000 report, he writes that fox hunting by horse and hounds is “insignificant” when managing fox population. However, later on, he writes that hunting with hounds does result in deaths of “substantial proportion.”

It seems that a new report is required to clarify this matter. Furthermore, the report goes on to write that killing foxes by shooting is more effective. This may be the case however, this is a far less safe approach to dealing with foxes. It seems the only sensible way to deal with the fox population is via hunting on horses and using hounds.

My final point is more from a personal opinion. I, myself attend meets where the hunt goes just before a day’s hunting. Everyone I have met at a hunt is there to socialize, go over large hedges and enjoy the thrill of riding. There is a comradery between those hunting, as well as those employed to look after the hounds and to make the day as pleasant as possible. They are decent hard-working people whose jobs do not deserve to be taken away.

Yes, it is a bloodsport, but that does not mean that all who do it are blood-thirsty. People are there to enjoy the countryside. The idea that people do it purely to just hunt a fox is a misconception.

It is, therefore, my view that a Conservative government should look into reviewing the current law and create a new report on the pros and cons of hunting. If this report is correct then we should follow its recommendations. However, until then I will support fox hunting.

Written by Conservative Writer, Jack Kane

Point of Information

A confusion of facts and figures only weakens the pro-hunting case – a Labour response

Mr Kane’s implication that the issue of fox hunting divides along party lines – with the Conservatives supporting the repeal of the ban, versus the anti-hunting Labour MPs, merely hides the fact that the real division is along class lines.

As I cited in my argument, 85% of the public do not support undoing the Hunting Act. Therefore, to insinuate that supporters of hunting are in the majority, would be an utter disregard of public opinion.

As such, it would be a firm step backwards to legalise hunting. Especially given the confusion over the statistics of hunting’s benefits. Mr Kane implies “when foxes were hunted and numbers reduced by ‘43%’“, there are mass benefits for the farming community.

Unfortunately, he has misled us with his figures. The article used from ‘Discover Wildlife’ is not regarding fox hunting, but other methods of pest control. It is false to imply that hunting is about controlling fox numbers. It is about the thrill of the chase.

Mr Kane admitted it himself, hunting is about socialising and entertainment for those who participate. If the death of the fox doesn’t really matter (as he claims), then why not support the fox hunting ban, and take part in trail hunting?

Written by Labour Writer, Isabella Jewell

A great article, it is a shame I don’t agree – a Liberal response

Mr Kane and I have been the centre of many heated debates. When I usually disagree, I find it easy to pick apart his arguments. However, I must say this is one of his best articles for POI. It is just a shame I don’t agree with it at all.

Firstly, fox hunting is not a form of pest control. It is one of the worst. Out of the 400,000 foxes a year killed in the UK, fox hunting at its peak only removed 21,000. It has very little impact in protecting one’s livestock and is just a myth that fox hunters cling to as a defence.

You provide some great evidence to show the damages to farmers, but why use an insufficient form of pest control? Seriously? If it is that much of a problem why use the most inefficient form of pest control? Am I the only one who thinks that is bizarre?

Also, the lambing community are one of the least affected by foxes. Your saying in 16 years only 75% of lamb farmers have been affected? And in fact, 1% of deaths are accountable to foxes? You say 1% but my sources say differently maybe depending on if you round up or down.

I wish I could say I could agree with this piece Mr Kane. It is a perfect example of why fox hunting can be so divisive because both sides have good cases. However, I simply cannot agree with you. The logic of using a form of pest control that is not only inefficient but inhumane is just bizarre to me.

Written by Liberal Writer, Max Anderson

Pomp and circumstance cannot hide the cruelty of hunting – Labour article

It saddens me that we are still talking about hunting bans. Even a whole 16 years after the Blair government implemented the 2004 Hunting Act. It is a depressing yet unsurprising reality that hundred of hunts continue to take place. Whether this is illegally or by exploiting loopholes in the law.

In November last year, Labour called for an increase in funding for the rural police force.  They also willed for amendments to be made to the Hunting Act in response to speculation that the Conservatives might propose another vote on the issue of fox hunting.

Bloodsports like hunting are not only cruel, prehistoric traditions, but they also represent an antiquated class system which divides the countryside. We need to tighten legislation so we don’t allow a small, often land-owning, proportion of the population the ability to breach laws with little personal consequence.

In 2017, a poll conducted by The Independent found that 85% of the public support maintaining the current ban on hunting, considering it inhumane. If Parliament were to overturn the hunting ban, they would be spitting directly in the face of the vast majority of voters. Only further highlighting MP’s disconnect with everyday people.

The idea of ritualising the chasing of terrified animals for hours, before watching as they are torn to pieces, for many, is too visceral an image. I was surprised to discover that Ann Widdecombe, the renowned Brexiteer and ex-Conservative MP, shared this view. She described the hypocrisy in that “we have regulations governing slaughterhouses, farming and transport. The RSPCA can enter peoples’ homes. Cruelty to animals is a crime. Yet chasing an animal to exhaustion and tearing it to pieces is enshrined as quintessentially British.”

And this is where the major problem with hunting lies. The ritual has taken on an almost mythological status. It is portrayed as an untouchable aspect of ‘British Culture’. However, this ‘tradition’ is merely the perpetuation of a divisive class system. In George Monbiot’s eye-opening article for the Guardian, he argues that hunting is a “remnant of a feudal society”, and that challenging the behaviour of hunters is considered a “trespass.”

He recounts the history of hunting, back to 1390 when parliament passed a law limiting the right of the sport to those of high incomes. This move established the principle that hunting was to be “the private pleasure of the privileged few”. To this day, it has remained similarly elitist.

Many try and warp the argument into a war of the Urban versus the Rural. However, it is clear hunting is only acceptable as a sport of the upper classes. If a group of men in a city started chasing animals with bloodthirsty dogs, they’d be labelled as cruel gangsters, worthy of shunning and an ASBO. The addition of a wax jacket and riding boots doesn’t suddenly render animal cruelty moral, or any less brutal.

Hunters have been brought to justice for shockingly sadistic acts of cruelty that took place under the guise of ‘the hunt’. Most recently, two members of the Kimblewick Hunt in Oxfordshire were charged with inflicting unnecessary suffering to a fox. They were “filmed dragging a fox out of a tunnel and releasing it into the path of a hunt”.

After watching the footage, how could anyone recite the usual spiel that hunting only results in ‘humane deaths’ for animals?

Hunting is an unsavoury reminder of an outdated society, in which class and land ownership grant immunity from the law. The 2004 Hunting Act would be strengthened under a Labour government so that we can take one step forward – not two steps back.

Written by Labour Writer, Isabella Jewell

Point of Information

A strong and thought out piece but perhaps attacking class is the pitfall? – a Liberal response

I actually love this article. Ms Jewell’s are always some of my favourite pieces at POI and again she has not failed. There is not much I can do to disagree with this piece. In fact, I actually love that she has found a law from 1390 only allowing those with a high income to take part in fox hunting.

However, there is perhaps one pitfall which is making this another class conflict piece. It is only the most minor of points. I’m not saying this isn’t a sport run mainly for those of high society or that this isn’t a class conflict issue, but it is enjoyed by others.

Farmers, the local community, all come together to enjoy at least the parade to take part in the fox hunt. It is so easy to see a public school kid riding upon his horse in his red riding gear, but fox hunting is not just this. This is only the tiniest of points, but keep it in mind. The prevention of torturing of animals, not the removal of tradition is what this argument should be based on.

Written by Liberal Writer, Max Anderson

Heart rules over the facts with Ms Jewell this week. An angry article running away from empirical evidence – a Conservative response

Ms Jewell has written a passionate article. One which is designed to pull our heartstrings and make us feel we aren’t as humane as we would like to be. Yet through all this passion and rhetoric, I do not see much of an argument.

We see facts about how many people don’t want to bring it back, and I understand that. Yet that isn’t an argument to ban fox hunting. It should be one based on reports and empirical evidence, which is hard to find in Ms Jewell’s article this week. Public opinion must not cower the government. Especially when the evidence tells them to go against it.

Ms Jewell writes nothing of how deadly foxes can be. Not only to the livelihood of farmers but also the creation of millions upon millions worth of damage.

She fails to mention that since the introduction of the Hunting Act, the rise in the fox population has increased damage to livestock. As well as forgetting to realize that a substantial decrease in fox numbers results in the huge breeding success. This includes animals such as red grouse and lapwings to mention a few.

Ms Jewell fails to mention that Lord Burns’ report on how fox hunting can help control fox numbers. While also not stating an opinion on how fox hunting by horse is far safer than by shooting foxes.

Finally, Ms Jewell approaches this week’s article in the classic way of hunting being a sport for the privilege few referring to an example from 1390. Ms Jewell has fallen into the common trap of thinking that hunting is a prime example of aristocratic British culture. Where posh people gather all quenching for the blood of a fox.

This is simply not true and I urge her to read my article closely again. Hunting is a sociable event where the majority of people just want to ride horses and jump over hedges. The barbaric slaughterhouse that Ms Jewell describes is ghastly exaggerated. This is simply an angry Labour class response where heart rules over the facts.

Written by Conservative Writer, Jack Kane

 

Max Anderson
Publisher/ Founder at | Website

I am currently in my second year of reading Politics at the University of Exeter. My first interaction with politics was at the tender age of four years old.

Isabella Jewell
Labour political writer at | Website

I have just finished my second year at The University of Manchester studying French and Italian and am about to leave the Northern Powerhouse for a year abroad.

Jack Kane
Conservative political writer at | Website

Hello, my name is Jack Kane and I am third year undergraduate at the University of Exeter. I am a studying Politics and will graduate Exeter in the summer of 2020. I have been interested and engaged in Politics since a very young age.

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