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.