Fox Hunting is an emotive issue, and one about which I have received a great deal of correspondence in recent weeks. I have taken the time to research the arguments on both sides, and have now come to my conclusions.
The most important aspect of this discussion is, I believe, that of land management in the countryside. Foxes are just one of several animals that inhabit rural areas, along with, for example, lambs and chickens, upon whom they often prey. Their populations must therefore be controlled accordingly.
As an animal lover, I believe population control should always be carried out in the most humane way possible, and with regard to the controlling the fox population, I believe we have come to a good settlement in Scotland. In Scotland, unlike England & Wales, there is no limit on the number of hounds that can be used in a hunt, so long as the fox is flushed out to guns. This is, I believe, a good compromise: in big numbers, hounds are very effective at flushing out foxes, and the use of guns ensures that foxes meet a quick and painless death. The government’s proposed amendment to the Hunting Act is therefore to bring English & Welsh legislation into line with that already in place in Scotland.
Alternatives to hunting with hounds are actually relatively ineffective and inhumane. Both traps and poisons, for example, bring about the death of a fox (and almost certainly other creatures, too) slowly and painfully. By contrast, flushing out a fox to guns with multiple hounds is effective in terms of both land management, and maximising the welfare of the fox.
Following the proposed intervention of the SNP in what is an England-only issue, the government has now shelved its plans to amend the Hunting Act. However, farmers’ need to control fox populations still remains. That is why, if the issue is ever raised again in Parliament, I will be voting for the proposed amendment of the Hunting Act.