The Fox Hunting Ban has Nothing to do with Cruelty


I am not a hunt supporter, or member of the Countryside Alliance, neither am I a vegetarian or a member of the league against cruel sports. I have a dog and consider myself to be an animal lover, I currently live in the countryside, but have lived in cities and towns as well.

Let’s break away from the emotion and examine some to the moral/philosophical arguments against fox hunting:

Hunting Increases Animal Suffering, Which is Wrong

It seems fairly obvious to me that chasing a fox with hounds which then rip it apart will cause a substantial degree of suffering for the fox!

However as Bastiat pointed out in his  essay the broken window you need to consider not just that which is obvious and can be easily observed, but also that which is related but not so obvious.

In this case there are two relevant aspects of animal suffering which are not observed. The first is what happens to the fox that is not killed by the hunt. In the wild it seems unlikely that the fox will die a pain free death, warmly snuggled in its bed with its cubs around it! More likely the fox will die of some painful disease or bloody accident that would also cause significant suffering. It seems debatable that hunting would cause much of a net increase in suffering to the fox population.

The second aspect is the animal suffering inflicted on other animals by the living fox. According to the league against cruel sports the main diet of the wild fox is the rabbit.
The absence of the fox will certainly spare many rabbits the suffering caused by being chased and ripped to shreds.

The rational analysis would seem to be that hunting foxes with hounds would lower net animal suffering when compared to leaving foxes to run free in the wild. Alleviating animal suffering is a strong philosophical argument for hunting foxes, not against it.

It is wrong for people to inflict suffering on animals for entertainment

On the surface this seems a much stronger argument. However anyone believing this and not wishing to be a hypocrite must be vegan.

Humans do not need to eat meat to live, all the nutrients and calories they require to sustain life can be obtained from plant sources.

The only justification for eating meat is entertainment, we eat meat because we enjoy it!
Modern farming methods inflict suffering on animals on a massive scale. The egg industry literally grind millions of baby male chicks alive every year. Hens are forced to live in tiny cages, pigs suffer in crates and there are many more examples of the intense suffering caused by modern factory farming.

In modern city society, we have mentally divorced our supermarket bought, cellophane wrapped packet of steak from the animal flesh that it really is. The fact that the suffering caused by factory farming is out of sight and out of mind does not make it any less real.

There is a moral/philosophical case that causing animal suffering for our pleasure is a moral wrong that must be stopped. However, to avoid hypocrisy such an argument can only be made by the vegans amongst us. The anti hunt supporter tucking into a bacon and egg sandwich would be absurd to try and use it.

It is wrong for people to inflict suffering on animals JUST for entertainment

Many would argue that the suffering inflicted through farming is different because it is not the primary reason for the activity, it is an unwanted by product if we want to feed the world on meat.

The suffering is not the source of the entertainment, the meat we eat is, which makes it different in kind. (I am not convinced that a suffering animal would give much credence to the distinction!)

However, It is arguably the case that inflicting cruelty on animals to produce tasty food is in some fundamental way different from, say boiling kittens alive to enjoy the sounds of their screams!

But hunting foxes with hounds seems to me nearer the farming example than the kitten example. The pleasure of hunting is derived from riding through the countryside and the thrill of the chase, not a ghoulish desire to see foxes ripped apart. (If this is not the case why does hunting drag scents seem to be flourishing). The suffering of foxes is not the purpose of hunting, it is a by product in the same way that animal suffering in farming is a by product.

Fox hunting also serves a practical purpose as the fox is, arguably at least, a pest. (Ask anyone who has had a dozen chickens ripped to pieces). In some countries the fox is officially a pest and it is the main vector carrier for rabies in Europe.


It seems to me that hunting decreases overall animal suffering, so if that is the moral criteria for opposing hunts, it is simply misguided.

If the criteria is that it diminishes humanity to cause animal suffering solely for the pleasure of the suffering produced, I would agree, but would argue that hunting foxes with hounds does not meet those criteria.

If the criteria is that it diminishes humanity to cause animal suffering, even as a by product of pleasure, then I would respect that view coming from vegans. I would also expect the majority of anger to be directed against factory farming that causes suffering to hundreds of millions of animals every day, rather than fox hunting which causes suffering to a few hundred foxes a year.

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  • Heather Gilbert

    This is a very thought provoking argument. I’m inclined to agree with you.

  • Digby

    Your reasoning seems flawless to me. I confess to being a meat eater while also being an animal lover and dog owner. I know what that makes me.

  • DanH

    I disagree with your argument that meat eating is purely for entertainment. A vegan who abstains from any animal products cannot get all essential nutrients without artificial supplementation. Further, artificial supplementation is inferior to obtaining the nutrients from food sources as they are less bioavailable in pill form.

    Man evolved in an environment where meat and veg comprised the majority of his diet and meat (and offal) consumption is essential to good health. This is a controversial topic with highly educated scientists and supportive academic literature on both sides. But it’s becoming increasingly accepted that man is an obligate omnivore. We may be able to survive without meat, but we cannot thrive.

    And I think once you accept the above, the case against killing animals for entertainment purposes wins. We need to eat animals to live but we should strive to minimise their suffering.

    The other arguments (that there would be more suffering if foxes were left to live out their lives unmolested by the hunters) requires further evidence. What % of foxes dies from painful accident or disease?

    • Without reading the literature on both sides (and probably even then) I would not feel qualified to contribute to a debate about the need to eat meat. However your own argument seems quite weak. You say that we can live without meat, but not thrive. You say that artificial supplementation would be needed to provide missing nutrients.

      Most people do not eat meat for optimum nutrition, indeed many diets rich in meat are far worse for health than the Vegan diet. Most meat eaters consume far more than would be required to sustain even optimum nutrition.

      I think most of us eat meat for pleasure.

      • Wilsonrobine

        A good balanced argument – many meat eaters pay little attention to where their food comes.

        You bit about pig crates is timely, as you post a video form the states.  Pig crates otherwise known as “sow stalls” were banned in the UK over ten years ago, and are supposed to be banned in the EU from January, but much of Europe still has them and will flout EU regulations.  Buying British pork guarantees that the sow does not live all her live as a battery pig, and whilst some containment is used whilst she give birth, buying Red Tractor or from iknown source give pigs the best life.

        I eat meat and lots of it, but know from where.

        • KCMike

          Fox hunters and other hunters of other game would be out of sport if they were successful killers of their game wouldn’t they? Fox hunting clubs go to extremes to protect their game that is being chased, and to generate an environment where the game would be prolific in its reproduction. The gov. in America has taken over ownership and control of the forests in America, subsequently abandoning/denying the harvesting of the trees This has the effect of eliminating habitat for deer and other desired game. Overgrown forests provide little habitat for game.
          A full grown hound can easily dispatch a fox if it can catch it. A really big “if.”
          In Kansas City, MO deer hunting is not allowed and subsequently it created an environment where deer were overcrowded and unwelcome and generated an environment where a disease called Blue Tongue, a hemorrhagic disease came in and destroyed most all deer. (I never see them at all anymore.) Not are there any in the surrounding countryside for hunters to hunt. The deer suffered long drawn out, very painful deaths. Mo Conservation Dept. has a carte blanche power to regulate all hunting for the benefit of the citizenry, but not in the cities. Thus stupid people with stupid restrictive laws caused great misery for all game and hunters. If you want game and lots of it regulate it for hunting.

  • Kevinclayshooter

    This is probably the most balanced and intelectually sound argument I have ever read in support of hunting. Thank you.

  • They never suggest that cats should be banned either, in the interests of reducing animal suffering. Cats are apparently responsible for over 50 million bird deaths each year in the UK.

    So few of the hunt protestors seem to have the guts to admit “We don’t like it and we’re authoritarian, so we want it banned”.

    (disclosure: vegetarian, non pet owner, non fox hunter)

  • simon

    If i might throw my hat in to the right the whole suffering of the fox is a load of bull the fox is killed very fast by the hounds with a bite to the neck severing the spine and thus killing the fox instantly.
    I my self am a meat eater and also a supporter of countryside sports why should people who live in the city’s tell the people in the countryside how to do things when they have no idea, and I’m sure if fox hunting was encouraged i would cut down on the explosion of the urban fox population

    • TheMorrigan

      Urban foxes breed in urban areas. Hunting in the country will do nothing for urban foxes where life is easier anyway due to the amount of readily available food etc.

      Hounds do not kill a fox that cleanly and quickly. Your entire argument for fox hunting is invalid. 

      (pro animals rights, pro humane living and killing for meat animals, anti rich-toffs-doing-what-they-want.)

    • alan savage

      Wrong, wrong, wrong! If you think dogs are smart enough to attack a fox and kill it in a ‘painless quick way’ you are mistaken. Animal welfare video evidence shows foxes being set upon and bitten to death, with the fox struggling to escape while it is literally being ripped apart. Maybe you would like to be set upon by dogs and see how painless it is?

  • Your argument is flawed on the following two grounds: 

    Firstly you argue that eating meat is done for entertainment, and that meat production is a cruel process – therefore no better than fox hunting. This is absurd. Modern slaughtering methods are not cruel and inflict as little pain as possible. They are certainly more humane than fox hunting and any of the other causes of death you outlined.

    Secondly you concede that the point of fox hunting is not really anything to do with actually killing the fox, it is about the thrill of the chase. In that case it is perfectly possible as you note to enjoy a hunt without the use of a live fox. Therefore you have admitted there is no case to re-instate ‘live’ hunting.

    It is also worth noting the terms of the Hunting Act 2004. (It is an extremely short piece of legislation, only 17 sections long – by contrast the 2012 budget was 229 sections long). While hunting a fox with dogs is banned, the hunt can proceed if  the dogs are used to flush out a fox and the fox is then killed cleanly with a gun.

    • Blackham

      “Killed cleanly with a gun”. This phrase expresses perfectly why the Act is such bad law. It was framed by people who knew not what they were talking about and did not really want to know, acting in deliberate ignorance of Lord Burns’ reasoned arguments and conclusions. The chances of cleanly killing a running flushed fox are virtually nil. You will be lucky to hit it. If you do you will almost certainly just wound it. It you want to kill a fox surely and quickly, use hounds. It is all over with in a second or two, or the fox escapes completely unharmed. Admittedly the hounds squabbling over the carcass is not very attractive but no different in principle from carving the Sunday roast.

      • Dan

         This is more true than I think anyone would like to admit. I have seen one of the Welsh gun-packs in operation; they use a half dozen fairly slow but noisy foxhounds to flush foxes to waiting guns. Even using wildfowling shotguns and heavy shot, it takes several shots to kill a fox. Usually the first shot slows it down, the second stops it and one or more follow-ups are needed to actually kill it.

        Similarly when shooting foxes by night with a lamp and rifle, you have to understand that the process is extremely dangerous and not all that precise. Calibres of .25″ or less are commonly used, to reduce the potential for riccochet and the cost of ammunition, but this is still not a risk-free fox control method.

        Foxes breed fast. One pair will raise two or three cubs per year, over a lifespan of perhaps five years. That’s a dozen foxes of which only two need survive to keep the population stable. In a normal ecosystem, bigger predators would kill them either for food or for fun; in the Yellowstone Park ecosystem, wolves seem to hunt coyotes for recreation, and coyotes go after foxes for similar reasons; this is the case for mesopredators everywhere. Britain however is not a natural ecosystem; it started as a somewhat impoverished island ecosystem cut off by sea as the ice of the last Ice Age retreated, then it got messed about with very, very heavily by humans.

        Human food plants aren’t native. Field and hedgerow ecosystems aren’t natural. Rabbits aren’t native, nor are rats, house mice or all but two of the deer species here; mink and grey squirrels are exotics too. Exotic escapees aside, there are no top predators in Britain when once we had bears, wolves, and at least one big cat. That amounts to a huge amount of food for a mesopredator like the fox, and no significant predator to take out the older, weaker or sicker foxes. Road traffic kills most foxes now, with mange taking second place, guns third and everything else a minor cause of death. Even where mounted fox hunts are concerned, foxhounds are only about on parity with the work of terrier-men.

        All in all, the fox-hunting ban was a sad waste of parliamentary time and really ought to have been left alone without the vile Parliament Act being used to force it into law.

    • Blackham

      And to address the first point. A laid drag is not a chase, it is an obstacle race. The unexpected does not happen. Drag hunters enjoy feats of horsemanship over big hedges etc. Fox hunters enjoy watching hounds work and the challenge of following hounds across country after an unpredictable quarry. The best way I can try and explain this is in terms of watching  wildlife programs and watching lions or wolves hunt. One loves to watch the skill and co-operation of the predators but also feels sorrow for the killed prey and some degree of elation, tinged with regret for the predators when the prey escapes. Not every one feels this way when watching these programs but fox hunters will. I have to admit to rather more joy when my terrier kills a rat, I am plagued with the buggers eating my horse food, and its’ perfectly legal! Someone explain why?

    • Whether the slaughtering methods of modern farming are cruel or not, factory farming certainly generates a huge amount of suffering. 

      Every male chick from an egg producing strain is killed at a few days old (Often minced alive) every male cow from a dairy producing breed is shot at a few days old. Chickens are kept in tiny cages without daylight and de-beaked to avoid them pecking each other to death. Pigs around the world are kept in sow crates, etc, etc. 

      Read a few of these links and then tell me that factory food production does not involve animal suffering:

      Your second argument is illogical, I have not admitted that there is no case for re-instating live hunting. I have not addresses the issue of whether the hunting ban should be repealed. There may be sound arguments based around pest control, preservation of cultural heritage or a number of issues. As a comment by another poster makes the point there is more fun in an unpredicatable chanse than an obstacle course. The legislation is outside the scope of my article, I am simply addressing the moral arguments against hunting foxes with hounds

      • Wilkster

        I’d just like to clarify that not “every” male calf from dairy bred cows are shot at Agee days old. Most are reared as either veal or mature beef

  • Clive ‘Badger’ Budden

    Oh dear, You used phrases like ‘ripped to shreds’ and ‘boiling kittens alive’. Was this done; either consciously or unconsciously,  in order to engender support for your unsubstantiated notions of what constitutes human and animal welfare? Foxe populations need to be controlled. Hunting with dogs is not the best method for doing this. Chickens that are killed en masse should have been secured behind a suitable barrier by their carers. I formerly lived as a vegan  for three years. I lost lots of weight and felt very well. I now eat meat, shoot, fish, drink milk and wear leather walking boots. I am a little heavier but I also feel very well. I accept that there is an hierarchy in the food chain and that this process is out of kilter. Such has been the way of things since man discovered ‘artificial’ means of providing for his ever expanding numbers.

  • Pingback: Abortion – Does The Foetus Have a Right To Life? | Libertarian View()

  • Hatehunting
    • Oh dear, this is a fine example of trying to think above your intellectual pay grade!

      With a blog called HateHunting it is probably not surprising that you find the arguments emotionally distressing, but your attempted refutation is pitiful.

      Your first point confuses entirely the role of a state funded police and crown prosecution service and an animal cruelty charity. The job of the first is to enforce the law and this does not require that the costs are recovered as part of the process. 
      The state through taxation has virtually unlimited resources. However the crown prosecution service do decide if it is in the public interest to pursue a prosecution, this decision does include the financial costs v benefits. 

      The job of the RSPCA is to prevent cruelty to animals. They have limited funds and they should prioritize their activities to ensure that their limited resources are used to reduce animal suffering as much as possible. Spending £330,000 on a legal battle to protect a few foxes is £330,000 less to spend on rescuing neglected pets.

      The second point is an excellent example of flawed logic.

      My argument was as follows:

      Anti Hunt Campigners say hunting should be banned because it increases animal suffering. Since hunting objectively does not increase animal suffering this is an invalid reason to ban it. 

      You misrepresent my argument as:

      Anything that decreases suffering must be done !

      If you are incapable of seeing the difference then perhaps a course in critical reasoning or logic for beginners would be a good starting point for you.

      The third point is a rambling and confused tirade which boils down to drinking milk causes less suffering than fox hunting, so milk drinking vegetarians who oppose hunting are not hypocrites. I would agree they are less hypocritical than those who eat a plate of foie gras, white veal, bacon and eggs. However factually fox hunting causes suffering to a few hundred foxes a year. (There are arguments that the death is quick and that there is a net reduction in suffering, but lets conceded for the point of argument that those few hundred foxes suffer a lot). Milk production causes suffering to millions of cows each year:

      Your fourth point is another ramble, but seems to be asserting that people can enjoy “hunting” without causing suffering to foxes but farmers can’t farm without causing suffering to animals.

      The first point is partially true, in the same way that people who enjoy rugby could enjoy touch rugby or that it is possible to control rats by humanely catching them and creating safe environments for them to live in away from people. The second part is nonsense, it is perfectly possible to farm without inflicting animal suffering, it is just less productive and more expensive. Its called organic, free range farming.

      Your conclusion is frankly so lacking in logic that it is not possible to analyse!

      • Hatehunting

        Oh dear, resorting to personal attacks on people you know little about exposes your lack of integrity Im afraid! No chance of a reasoned debate when your first comment is an insult. I think you have made your pro-hunt views very clear, but your argument that these are based in logic does not stack up.

        • hebdomadal

          “HateHunting therefore assumes that the author is pro-euthanasia as soon as people are diagnosed with terminal illnesses? Or possibly that all carnivores and omnivores should be killed soon after birth? If I eat meat throughout my lifetime then I am imposing a vast amount of suffering on animals. Even if I were not to die in an accident or through a painful disease then surely I should be killed before I start eating meat?” These are just obviously silly points and have nothing to do with the author’s reasoning. Take the argument seriously and objectively and try some well-easoned, not distorted rebuttal, for goodness sake!

  • Just a note on eating meat: I used to be a vegetarian, but it actually affected my strength and health. This isn’t true for everyone but the fact is we are as a species evolutionary predisposed to require meat.

    Anyway, my issue here is that your consequentialist reasoning about how well the animal would do otherwise neglects the supposedly fundamental libertarian distinction between between positive and negative liberty. Being prevented from eating by, say, a river between you and an apple tree is presumed to be fundamentally different to the law preventing you from eating because the latter is done by another moral agent. Libertarians regularly note that poverty is just the ‘natural’ state of man and hence there is no reason to directly relieve it by redistributing wealth.

    A similar argument applies to your reasoning: since the fox is knowingly attacked by moral agents (whether directly or by proxy) – and particularly because it is for pleasure – that is different to it dying of ‘natural causes’ (it is also questionable whether it would suffer as much as you claim).

    • Your point would be valid if the fox were a moral agent. 

      However if animals were moral agents then killing rats with poison for pest control or using insecticide would be murder and eating meat would certainly be wrong.

      My point was about physical suffering, not any infringements of the rights of the fox.

      Vets routinely put down animals to spare them the natural suffering that a disease or injury would otherwise cause.

      • Sure, there is a difference, but whether or not what we are doing affects a moral agent is not the be all and end all of the distinction. That I, the agent who is acting, am moral is surely grounds for distinguishing between what I choose to cause and what may or may not happen anyway. If I kill a fox for pleasure and say ‘well, it probably would have died horribly anyway’ (which is pure speculation), it is a different moral decision to humanely putting down an animal I *know* is suffering.

  • Cmail

    Hunting live foxes (as opposed to following a sent trail) can also be said to be cruel to the horses involved as the path of the fox is in no way controllable and therefore the pursuing horses may be expected to travel through all sorts of terrain and over goodness knows what  obstacles. Any one who is familiar with the extreme loss of condition experienced by horses who have been heavily hunted would have to agree with this.    

    • hebdomadal

      Sorry but I would have to totally disagree with this. In no way is properly conducted hunting cruel to horses nor is extreme loss of condition a normal state for the vast majority of horses that hunt. I compete at dressage so hunting is not really compatible with what I do, but I know enough people and horses that hunt to speak with authority. Here is a randomly selected photo album of an end of season hunt meet:-

      I have no connection with this hunt but every single horse in these shots looks in good condition. There are a couple of examples of somewhat poor horsemanship but nothing I’d deem seriously cruel

  • I am  against fox hunting and all animal cruelty.
    I have no problem with hunts following scents. Society does not allow cock fighting, dog fighting or hair coursing and many other things, those that practice are charged accordingly. Hunt groups have been flouting the ban regularly.Ripping up foxes with packs of dogs and attacking sabs. You only have to look on you tube at the grim footage . You cannot have police prosecuting inner city gangs for dog fighting lets say and more affluent members of  society  roaming round on horseback doing as they please chasing wildlife with packs of dogs.  Hunters must muzzle there dogs and monitor their own activities  reporting to a governing body. They should be encouraged to come to the table and resolve peacefully.
    If they do this or similar people will leave them alone to enjoy their pastime.

    Foxes are part of British wildlife like it or not.  We already do enough damage with cars  and destroying natural habitat. But the hunters say “and we also want to chase you and rip you up to shreds with our dogs”

    I am a Vegan and as you rightly say qualify to have an opinion.

  • There are couple of facts that one needs to understand very clearly. One is the pure cost & economics arpund it. I would rather think that £330k spent on bringing the hunters to justice (remember this is just a single case in the court of justice while there could be many more that RSPCA may not be aware of) could have been used in a much better, efficient & effective way improving the pitiable condition of many pets around the country. This argument gets seconded by the fact that RSPCA itself has been shooting pets that could have still lived peacefully. Request you to read reports / news rather me putting links here. So why would an agency like RSPCA, which itself is killing so many pets who are in good size & shape, spend further £330k to stop it, unless it wants to redicule its mission.

    Next is the moral & legal commission of such an act. I don’t think any stable minded person would ever find hunting to be a good act unless the hunt is being done to restrain the animal, partly or fully, because of its harmful impact on the local community, be it animals or humans. There are obviously better ways of restraining, though. So hunting a No No. Equating hunting with the killing of birds for daily consumption may not be justified. Why? Every animal has the right to kill another to feed itself unless it is done for this purpose. Humans do the same. However doing something for fun like hunting, Come on. If you just want to increase adrenalin, get some hormonal shots/injections.

    So net net, though the act of the hunting is awful & sounds more closer to being immoral, it was made utterly awful by spending such a huge amount of Charity money to book a hunter. If Hunting needs to be stopped, RSPCA could have called hundreds of supporters & made them to protest in front of the hunter’s house. Btw, that’s quite a democratic way of protesting. Do it once & lessons will be learnt.

  • John Maclean

    Too many flaws here not the least of which is the “vegan” argument. Do some research. Humans ARE designed to eat meat (look at teeth) and cannot get all the necessary nutrients/proteins from plants.

  • Guest

    This whole article is a piece of demagogy, and it has nothing to do with libertarian view.

  • Becky Bee

    utter nonsense, you seem to contradict yourself quite a few times with the statements you are making, I suggest you have a thorough re-read of your article!

  • Kelly

    A very important point which unless you are involved with horses you may not have thought through – is the cruetly to the horses that are ridden out hunting, these horses get hyped up with massive amounts of adrenaline when out with a large group and will jump anything asked of them, railway lines, barbed wired fences, ditches, while at full gallop over all sorts of unsuitable surfaces and yes this causes terrible dammage to them, a horse that is hunted every winter can expect to have a very short working life.

  • carly

    This is a poorly constructed argument based on red herrings and tu quoque: we don’t have rabies in the UK (irrelevant); some people may need to eat meat (but also irrelevant); modern farming does cause suffering (again that’s irrelevant). There’s also failure to establish inference: foxes not hunted might die of painful disease does not mean that they WILL die of painful disease.
    The fox would collect all its kill for it’s larder and eat it. The rabbit not killed by the fox will be culled in all likelihood. If dying of disease is equal to being torn apart why did we stop drawing and quartering humans?
    This article is a list of disconnected and unsupported assertions that don’t form a coherent argument.

    • hebdomadal

      The argument, whilst not without weaknesses, is far more coherent than your rebuttal. “If dying of disease is equal to being torn apart why did we stop drawing and quartering humans?”: is that a serious question? Do you actually believe it is even slightly relevant to argument presented? Unbelievable distortion!

  • alan savage

    If anyone on here thinks that a group of people dressed in red hunting jackets on horses with a pack of dogs hunting down a fox and killing it is an act of ‘controlling the fox population’ or ‘helping the farmers’ or ‘stopping the killing of other species (the fox killing rabbits for example) then you have been duped. Fox hunting is classified as a BLOOD SPORT which means killing foxes for the sheer thrill of the chase and the perverted feeing of ‘victory’ when the fox is caught and killed. Fox hunting CAN NEVER BE JUSTIFIED. The article is muddle-headed nonsense by the way, that makes illogical connections trying to justify fox hunting.

    • hebdomadal

      Typing letters in upper case is NO SUBSTITUTE for a properly reasoned argument

      • General Tor

        Neither is complaining about it an excuse to ignore the content of an argument.

        • hebdomadal

          True, but making such a complaint has got nothing to do with ignoring the content of an argument

  • Áine Hee

    I grew up with a very different system (link at the bottom). Due to human interference with the natural order, hunting can indeed be a necessity, but hunting with hounds as a social entertainment, in my view, is a more than just questionable pastime, and everyone in favour of it, to me personally, must suffer from a considerable lack of empathy. I hail some points made in this article. I too view the outrage of some over the fate of a fox, while happily consuming battery eggs or meat produced under horrendous conditions.. as hypocrisy, but – most meat eaters do not partake in the cruelty involved, they live sheltered away from it. Most consumers do not spend their weekend mornings in a slaughter house for the fun of it. Slaughterhouses operate away from sight, and I wager that most have never entered a battery farm where hens are kept in tiny cages (I did when I was only 10 and I was mortified). The meat industry makes it easy for consumers to ignore and forget. It is important that they do, for if animals would be slaughtered in open view, in front of shopping centres and in the middle of housing estates, a lot of people would reduce their meat intake considerably, if not all together end it. We already have a growing vegetarian and vegan movement, just as is.

    To say the fox causes pain and death to rabbits, is undoubtedly true, but take the fox out and we soon will have to kill a lot of rabbits. At this rate we should really get rid of all living creatures out there, aside from the ones we ourselves want to eat or consider pets. To me this is not the answer, but instead we need to have very carefully and closely regulated hunting laws. Hunting should happen out of necessity, not party entertainment. The system I grew up with surely is not 100% foolproof either, clearly some sadist can slip through the net, but there are cheaper ways to be a jerk if one is out to be a jerk, then to go through the procedures needed to require a hunting licence, and to keep it. The German system asks for money and for dedication, if one wishes to hunt. I have known a few hunters, and they spent a lot of time just quietly sitting on some ‘Hochsitz’, observing animals, making assessments as they were trained to do. No laughing and party mood. Instead generally a lonely hunter, who has learned the trade (while having paid to learn it). We need to hunt? Then please as controlled and careful as possible, and setting a pack of hounds and a group of laughing and yelling humans on the heels of another creature, can hardly be considered controlled and careful…

    btw, I spend almost 2 decades living in rural England, and am again living rural, now in Ireland, and the neighbouring fox has killed about 10 of my chickens since I moved here. Not for a second has it crossed my mind to hurt the fox over this. Just built better defences and the chickens are now safe 🙂

    • hebdomadal

      “hunting with hounds as a social entertainment, in my view, is a more than just questionable pastime, and everyone in favour of it, to me personally, must suffer from a considerable lack of empathy.” That is an odd statement because it’s got nothing to with what you think ‘personally’: either your assertion that partakers must lack empathy is true or false. The truth of the assertion is not affected by your personal beliefs. I know a highly intelligent and emphatic man who rides to hounds; he works hard for animal welfare and donates considerable sums to CIWF. As in Murray Rothbard’s first point, he insists that he empathises equally with the fox and it’s prey: i.e. his empathy is such that he also takes account of ‘that which cannot be seen’ (the far greater suffering that is averted by the fox’s demise). I cannot see any flaw with such reasoning; furthermore it is entirely consistent with ’empathy’

      • Áine Hee von Sax

        In opposition to you, I stated clearly that this was my opinion and my personal judgement. You however in your statement speak of that friend of yours in de facto terms. ‘I know a highly intelligent and empathic man..’ That is your personal opinion of this man, it might be true, it might be false, others may will feel differently about that man. I personally (again, through using that word acknowledging and pointing out this is my own view, specifically placed in my sentencing for that reason), shall certainly hail his involvement in CIWF, and who knows, if him and I would sit on a table, discussing, we may would even come to similar conclusion in regards to fox hunting.

        As I stated before, I take issue with the ‘party’ element. I grew up with a differing system, which in my view (again pointing out my own opinion and preferences, as I did in my original post) was a better system, not turning the killing of another creature into a social entertainment.
        If the fox needs to be hunted, I rather see this done by individuals who have received training for this, and who spend a lot of their time watching and assessing all the wild animals in their area.

        I knew such hunters in Germany, and I had great respect for them.
        People mounting a horse, then chasing that said horse through hazardous terrain for a day out, to maybe see a fox be torn apart at the end of it, will not get that respect from me, sorry, they quite simply won’t.

        • hebdomadal

          I have not made my first point very clearly. It was a slightly pedantic one: ‘to me personally’ indicates a subjective perspective, whereas ‘must’ implies a necessary and objective truth, the validity of which is entirely independent of any personal perspective; so the conjunction of the two sounds very odd.
          On your other points, nobody chases horses at such events, nor is there a ”party’ element’ and nor is the killing of creature turned into social entertainment. These are misrepresentations. You refer to a ‘better’ system; the ban on hunting has been deemed a ‘better’ system by the British legislature, and yet has resulted in an irrefutable decline in animal welfare in the affected ecologies.

          • Áine Hee von Sax

            Thing is, I have lived connected to a family deeply into hunting (in the UK). Part of the business (riding stable) lived of hunting, and yes, people will take horses who have not been properly trained during the year, and will over exhaust them on hunts. I have kept horses trained for drag hunts in Germany, this is an ongoing process if done properly, while in opposition many horses are turned out into the field for most of the year, with almost no preparation for the hunting season. The effects of this are not always immediate, but horses not properly prepared suffer a higher risk of injury, and it can considerably shorten their lifespan overall. You would not think to send someone who spends his days sitting on their couch, on a marathon (without the choice to even stop when feeling it is getting too much), and a horse in a field does not turn fit out of nowhere.

            And yes, there is a party element to it, as has even been stated to me many times by those who partake and love hunting with hounds. An answer I got to hear over and over was ‘I am not doing it because of the fox, but because it is so much fun, we all meet up, we have a great time together’.

            As for the system I grew up with, it seems the link I provided is not working properly anymore (at least not for me). Here is what wikipedia says about that system, and I personally have found this a far more valid way to deal with the problems wildlife can cause. It usually involves single hunters, spending much time only watching and assessing, after they received the needed education. Mark the high exam fail rate mentioned. In this system, it really is about caring for wildlife, and animal life overall. If hunting with hounds is not about partying, then clearly none could have objections to changing the system to one that eliminates the social element, and instead turns it to one that deals with wildlife in a way that requires proof of knowledge and ability.

            A German hunting license is a certificate that grants its holder the exercise of hunting within legal ordinances. It is also the precondition to own hunting arms and ammunition (unlimited number of rifles/shotguns and up to two handguns). The actual right to exercise hunting in a specific area is entitled to the respective landowners (if they own an area of more than 0.75 square kilometres (190 acres), otherwise all landowners of a municipality are integrated into an association) who may use their right for themselves or lease it. Depending on size and value of a hunting area a typical leasing rate may vary from about 10 to 100 USD per acre per year. Additionally the lesse has to pay the landowner any damage by deers, wild hogs etc. The right to hunt is connected to the duty to care for all kind of animals listed by the hunting laws. For several species such as deers plans have to be developed by hunters and authorities, how many animals of a specified class and age may (or have to) be killed within a certain period of time. The purpose of the hunting license is to ensure that only well trained persons may exercise hunting. Applicants must fulfill the following requirements:
            Successful completion of a hunting exam,
            Certificate of a liability insurance for hunters,
            Personal trustworthiness (§ 5 German Weapons Act),
            Applicants must be at least 16 years for a Youth Hunting License, otherwise 18 years,
            Flawless Criminal record.
            The hunting exam is a test of expertise with a high failure rate. To pass it, each applicant has to participate in a comprehensive, difficult instruction course which consists largely of the areas shooting (shotgun and rifle), theory (esp. weaponry, local wildlife and habitat) and practise.

          • hebdomadal

            Partying is not simply partaking in an activity that contains a social element. Although partying implies some sort of social activity, not all social activities constitute partying. Certainly there is often a strong social motivation to hunting (although I would say it is not usually the main motivation), but that does not mean it is ‘partying’. Nor can I see any reason why such socialising should be deemed inappropriate; even if others disagree, it seems a very weak basis on which to question the morality of hunting. On a pure animal welfare basis, hunting has a net positive effect as the original article succinctly demonstrates. Of course all horse owners or trainers need to ensure their animals are fit and experienced enough. This applies to all equestrian activities, be it racing, driving, show jumping, dressage, cross country, hunting or just hacking. But hunting does partly cater for this with autumn hunting at the start of each season; furthermore hunting is something horses seem to love doing.

          • Áine Hee von Sax

            Party definition:

            We speak of hunting parties, and it is also clearly a social gathering which provides ‘entertainment’.

            Interesting find here too…

            Indeed a shortage of foxes in England led to a demand for foxes to be imported from France, Germany, Holland and Sweden.
            So much for it being a necessity, I guess…

            It also tends to be referred to as a blood sport. A sport, not an animal welfare activity.

            Maybe to get a taste of what it must be like for a fox – I got 8 dogs, some of them Dobermans. We shall give you a fair head start. If you are fit enough to deserve to live, you surely will manage to outrun and out trick them. If not.. plenty more humans on this planet, and we are certainly the most invasive and destructive species of the whole lot 🙂

            I understand the need to control wildlife, due to the fact we have already interfered with the natural order, but if we do control, we should do so with the greatest respect and care, same as when we claim we have to eat meat, we need to apply the greatest respect and care to farm animals (I raised my own, and I held them on the day they were shot, to ensure that respect was paid and the care was taken).

            There are other ways available than to hunt with hounds and horses and a bunch of people, treating it as a great day out. I showed one differing system, where hunters have to prove knowledge and ability to function as carers for wildlife as well as farmland. Yet no social gathering involved there, ie – partying with the fox providing the entertainment.

          • hebdomadal

            Yes and we also talk of ‘political parties’, ‘third parties’ and in finance ‘counter-parties’. In none of these cases would it be correct to use the gerund ‘partying’ whose meaning is linked only to the sort of party that might be prefixed with ‘New Year’, ‘office’ or ”birthday’. It would be a misuse of the gerund to describe political or hunting parties as ‘partying’.
            Fox hunting definitely isn’t a necessity, but it most certainly does lead on average to welfare gains to the animals in the affected eco-systems. Whether it is viewed as a sport or not does not much matter since the results are positive and its removal from an ecosystem leads to a worsened state of animal welfare. Inspired by my fox-hunting friend, I too will donate to CIWF!

          • Áine Hee von Sax

            But partying also refers to social gatherings with entertainment, and fox hunting with hounds is clearly about both, thus the word does fit, according to its definition.

            The controlling of wildlife, due to human interference with the natural order, which has already happened for a long time now, has become an unfortunate necessity. This is not what stands to debate here. What stands to debate is how we go about controlling wildlife, and to hunt an animal with hounds and horses, letting it live through that fear and in some cases, death by sheer exhaustion or being torn apart, can not be considered a respectful, caring method.

            The welfare of all animals matters, wild and domesticated alike, and as a species which claims the ability to feel empathy, we should always choose the best possible method to ensure that welfare. Anyone disagreeing with this, lacks empathy (and yes, this time I am not saying in my opinion, as this indeed is fact). And thus our discussion has gone full circle… It does not matter whether an individual donates to this or that cause of their choosing, if the suffering of other beings, not included in that cause, does not raise such an individual’s concern.
            The fox has as much right to our empathy, as the animals it hunts, and thus we must do our outmost best to control it with the least suffering involved. Hunting with hounds does involve unneeded suffering, and that is the reason why we ban it.
            Other methods of control have to be applied.

          • hebdomadal

            Social gatherings and entertainment may be necessary conditions for an event to be called a party, but they are not sufficient. If I go to the pub with my fox-hunting friend, and a fellow dressage rider (I also compete in dressage) to watch a steeplechase on television, I am socialising and enjoying entertainment but I am not ‘partying’. If I am on an ice-climbing trip in Scotland with my friends, I am indulging in a social activity and enjoying entertainment, but I am not at a ‘party’. If I attend my local philosophical society meeting to debate the works of Peter Singer or Roger Scruton, I am also not at a ‘party’, though it is a social gathering and for the purpose of entertainment. Similarly following a fox-hunt is not ‘partying’ in any correct English usage.

            Yes we have to have equal empathy for all animals: the fox and its prey. If one does this, one cannot escape the conclusion that banning hunting was bad for animal welfare. Of course it would be theoretically possible to kill foxes with less direct suffering. But in practice it hasn’t happened, nor was it ever likely to happen when the ban was enacted. It is an objective fact that in the counterfactual world where there had not been a ban, animal welfare in the relevant ecologies is improved. Therefore, for animal welfare reasons, the ban should never have been enacted.

          • Áine Hee von Sax

            Take that up with the people creating dictionaries, maybe? Partying as well as party and party mood are commonly used words. Hunting parties generally display a party mood – joyful and excited. Of course a couple embracing their new born child for the first time will generally also be joyful and excited, we would not use the word party mood in that context, but when I have seen fox hunting parties gather, I very much would use the word partying and party mood. The tricky part with language, I guess, but the mood of hunting parties certainly is not solemn or dutiful.

            All this aside however, that article speaks of rabbits and how the absence of the fox will spare the rabbits suffering.
            Rabbits don’t generally die of old age either, snug in their barrows with their family around. There are still diseases and other predators, not to mention if you take a predator out of the environment, you can soon end up having to deal with all the prey surviving, and in the case of rabbits, these too are often perceived as pests, as are mice and rats. So we kill the fox (as we already killed its natural predator), then we have to go out and kill the rabbit, which surely will make some hunters happy out there, additional prey for their sport?

            And what is it with pointing at all the suffering caused by animals that need their prey to feed themselves and their young? What about humans and their farming and their slaughter houses? It seems okay for the human species to kill, but other creatures who kill are spoken about as causing suffering we better prevent by killing them first!

            This makes no sense. Yes, we have to control numbers in deers for example, as we have already taken important predators out of the wild, and deers when overpopulate will cause damages, but this is not something we should hail as us being so caring. It is human expansion, human progress, and often enough human greed and overindulgence and ignorance, which has led us into the dilemmas we now find ourselves in, and if anything, we should learn from them, not continue down the same path. Ireland still had wolves long after they were extinct in England. Mac Tíre in the Irish language, was and is the son of the country, but the English from back then continued with their rampage. The Irish from back then seemed to have lived fine enough with the wolf, for most parts.

            If the fox needs controlling, then this has to be decided by people who can assess this due to their training. Not by a bunch of people just feeling like the fox impacts negatively. It needs people who have studied this subject, and then hopefully, if it should be decided this control is needed, will bring a new system into place, which acts in respectful and caring ways.

            Maybe bring wolves back?
            The natural world is a complicated system, and to just kill what we at a given time feel shouldn’t be out there, is dangerous.



          • hebdomadal

            Well I do agree with some of what you say. We cannot just arbitrarily intervene in nature without considerable danger. Some philosophers have seriously suggested eliminating all predators because they rightly observe that the suffering inflicted in the natural world is truly appalling. But such proposals are completely unworkable and would be irresponsible (at least in most cases). However there are ecosystems where man successfully intervenes, not to eliminate suffering but to reduce it. One of the most benign of such ecosystems is to be found in the English shires, where farm animals are reared to standards rarely rivalled elsewhere and where wild animals suffer less disease and predation. The ecosystem is managed by experts in that ecosystem (as you rightly called for in your previous response) : the local people, farmers and land owners with generations of experience. These people also preserve the aesthetic quality of the countryside through maintaining hedge rows, copses and pastoral landscapes. Fox hunting is a key part of that ecosystem and is substantially practised by local people with a stake in that environment. It also leads to animal welfare gains. To attack such a complicated system based on weak moral arguments is as you say dangerous.

          • Áine Hee von Sax

            Plenty of ‘aesthetic’ quality here too (actually less to do with aesthetics, really, that’s a human thing, nature couldn’t care less for the ‘aesthetics’, but it aids the local wildlife), hedge rows and local fauna, and we got no one here dashing on horse back through the fields with hounds, hunting the local foxes in the area I live. Animals here tend to do well, the sheep and the cattle, and even the wild goats roaming the forest and fields my own land is bordering, all seem to be rather happy.

            And the system you mentioned, if let us say it exists as it does due to the fox being controlled, still could find a method that would improve their animal welfare even further, by controlling the fox in a less cruel fashion than to chase it to utter exhaustion and have it torn apart by the hounds. Would that not be nice if they could still add that additionally to their wonderful rural corner of the world? 🙂

          • hebdomadal

            The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons concluded that: ‘hunting with hounds is the natural and most humane method of …population control’ Obviously ‘lamping’ can cause injury and hence lingering death and also hunting will tend to remove proportionately more diseased & suffering animals than shooting, so is beneficial from that perspective. Additionally a research paper by Jane Hurst and the late Chris Barnard at University of Nottingham argues that animals in flight or being pursued do not suffer, at least in the way that a human would, because flight from a predator is an adapted and non-reflective response. Obviously physical pain remains a key factor in the consideration of the most humane methods of ecosystem management

          • Áine Hee von Sax

            I read through both of these articles, and you see, I actually agree with many points made. If hunting with hounds should indeed prove the ‘best’ method we currently have to offer, then we would have to accept this (the views of vets do seem to differ though, it is not totally clear cut).



            However, this does not change my view on the morality of those partaking for the ‘fun’ they gain from the activity. This is a serious and solemn dilemma we find ourselves in, after human interference with nature. It should raise our awareness to interference, and remind us of the importance of great caution and our responsibilities as the current dominant species on this planet. The fact that foxes were over hunted at some point in the past, and voices rose, asking for foxes to be imported so the activity could continue, shows the problem of differentiating between an actual need to control, and the ‘fun’ element, many seem to enjoy who partake in fox hunting with hounds.

            This clearly is a challenging subject, and part of the challenging subject of being human.