I grew up in extremely rural Oxfordshire. I lived there since the age of four, and (for some reason) have stuck around to go to university here. During those sixteen years, little has changed in terms of attitudes to hunting. Not understanding the implications of the exciting rush of dogs and horses hurtling over fences, I admired them – until, sat in a local pub, we witnessed a fox on the verge of death from exhaustion crawl out of a hedge, closely followed by a rampage of hunters. I’m proud to say that my mother went out of her way to scare the fox into escaping – although I can’t say it’s likely it survived – despite the verbal abuse she then received at the hands of the hunt.
Hunt saboteurs first began working to prevent hunts in the 1800s. Twelve years after the ban, they are more active than ever in their efforts to shut down hunts, despite being labelled as “balaclava-clad terrorists” and “thugs” by the Telegraph. Their website shares local incidents relating to hunts, including a huge number of attacks and assaults on saboteur volunteers – photos show head wounds, dead hounds, and the retrieved bodies of foxes torn apart. Videos exhibit the hideous language and horrific aggression that hunters are more than happy to use to intimidate volunteers.
Lee Moon, spokesman for the Hunt Saboteurs’ Association, who has been sabbing since the late 1990s, claims that “they do exactly now what they used to do before the Hunting Act. Some of it changes slightly when the police are there, but we believe that when there’s no-one watching them – and often when we are there – they continue to hunt illegally”.
Twelve years after the hunting ban, saboteurs are more active than ever in their efforts to shut down hunts
If dog fighting was outlawed over 200 years ago, why is fox hunting still legal? It is immoral that we as a species continue to define whether animals deserve to live or die based on their potential entertainment value to us. In addition to this, if we as a country want to protect dogs (as the dog fighting act suggests) we should not be engaging them in dangerous, illegal hunts which regularly result in dead or injured hounds. Repeatedly encouraging and training dogs to kill other animals cannot be seen as constructive in any way, particularly in a country where a dog exhibiting violent or aggressive behaviour is legally required to be put down.
Hunters who claim these dogs “need” to be exercised, and argue that these hunts provide valuable exercise and entertainment for the animals involved, are not only attempting to use their supposed love of animals to justify the unnecessary killing of other animals (I cannot stress enough how illogical this is), but are ignoring the huge number of animals (as well as humans: a nine year old girl died last year as the result of being kicked in the head on a hunt) injured in hunts as well as the other one hundred and one ways to exercise them. The continuation of hunting is not fuelled by a love of animals, but by human arrogance and animal cruelty.
Not only is the white middle-class stereotype of the hunter entirely accurate, the elitism and classism that the ‘sport’ fosters is actively harmful. Decca Aitkenhead of the Guardian describes the hunting debate as “a glorious bit of class war”. Glorious, perhaps, in the safety of the white and middle-class. Their status allows them to hunt and demonstrate public aggression and abuse towards those defending the law, and face little or no consequences. The hunting ban has had minimal impact – scent-trail hunts are still legal, as are hunts which involve killing the fox, and only around 450 prosecutions have been made. If you’ve ever tried to stop forty overstimulated and overexcited dogs from attacking a fox whilst riding a horse, you’ll know this idea is a complete joke – although if you’re on the horse, you probably don’t care. It’s difficult to prosecute an entire hunt, I’ll willingly admit. But just because we are failing to commit to the law in this area does not mean that the ban should be lifted.
Repeatedly encouraging and training dogs to kill other animals cannot be seen as constructive in any way
“Those people, they don’t care about the fox,” snaps a belligerent woman, interviewed by the Guardian in 2015. “They just think we’re toffs and want to stop us having fun.” It doesn’t particularly sound like the hunters care about the fox either.
I’m all for fun – but if your fun depends upon the suffering of creatures smaller and weaker than yourself, it’s time to find a different sort of entertainment.