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Letters: On Hunting - Patrick Lowe

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Letters: On Hunting - Patrick Lowe

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Claire Curtis-Thomas, MP. and Michael Spencer QC, have demonstrated the enormity of the gulf separating the two factions in 'The Hunting debate' very clearly (The Tablet 27 November); and from their arguments there is obviously no common ground on which they can meet. The former, unlike the latter, has not considered the welfare of the fox at all, and neither has addressed the problem of how to preserve the fox, which is generally considered a pest species in the farming world.

The biodiversity in this country is now so depleted that we will all have to exercise our stewardship/ responsibilities, if any of our remaining wildlife is to survive for the enjoyment of future generations. This is generally called 'conservation', and requires our active participation whether we live in a rural or urban environment. At the present time, the fox is so abundant that it has even colonised urban areas, but it was not so when fox-hunting became a field sport. In England the native fox was almost extinct by the beginning of the 18th century, along with roe deer, red deer, wild boar, wolf and red squirrel amongst other mammals. Because there were so few foxes to hunt, they had to be imported, mainly from the Continent ("..many thousands of foxes were imported into Britain after 1750 for fox-hunting.",Report of the Committee of Inquiry on Rabies 1971. p.10). These were mainly of the German race Vulpes. v. crucigera. Others were imported from France and Russia (The Gloucester Journal, Monday Nov. 8. 1773); these replaced the British race.  

This form of culling fox populations has never controlled fox numbers; it is too inefficient, and the fox has the advantage of knowing the ground better than the hounds. As a result the fox is now once more common throughout the land. However, this method does emulate the natural control of foxes, which in countries with more complete faunas than ours, is exercised by wolves. In both cases, hunting is the most elegant tool, whether it be by wolves or hounds, for it alone can ensure the genetic selection of the fastest, fittest and most intelligent foxes, through the elimination of the injured and diseased and those in poor condition.  

Without the assistance of dogs, one will rarely find the deer lying up in a thicket after being hit by a car, nor find the particular fox taking lambs in the spring. Moreover, none of the other methods described in the Burns' Report can be selective or guarantee a quick death. Hunting with scent-hounds therefore is the only method available to us to ensure that some areas of Britain have a humane culling regime, and one that actually conserves the species naturally and without involving cruelty.

Patrick Lowe
Cartmel Cumbria

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