General

Hunting

So the MPs have voted to ban hunting with dogs. I’m actually of two minds about this, and if forced to choose a side, I would probably vote for hunting, not against. There are several reasons for this.

The first has to do with growing up in California, where we have another pest and predator: the coyote. I’ve lost many, many pets to coyotes, both in Los Angeles and in Northern California. Ranchers lose small stock to them, and the occasional lamb. Even the occasional unwatched toddler, if you want to be completely accurate. Most memorably, my sisters and I stood screaming and crying one morning before school, as my mother’s small dog was torn apart by two of them in the meadow in front of our house; it was ripped apart between them like a stuffed animal in a tug of war. Not a wonderful memory.

There, as will prove the case here, the coyotes still had to be kept under control. Shooting them is generally not an option, as it is too expensive and not the most effective way to keep the population down. They used snares, traps and poison. If you have ever seen an animal that has died in a snare, or by poison, you know what a slow, cruel death this is.

Hunts provide services for local farmers, as well – although they don’t have the effect on the local economy that they would probably have you believe. It costs several hundred pounds to have a large, dead animal disposed of, and the hunts will do it for free. They also maintain walls, gates, and so on. They provide a service.

Yes, it is a blood sport. Yes, it is cruel. But it is part of your heritage – there is nothing more “English” than a traditional hunt. I think it would be a loss if a ban on hunting was in place. It would be a shame.

There are no easy answers.

15 Comments

  • jfs

    I can think of a thousand things more “English” than a hunt and more worthy of my support; and also a thousand things that are part of my heritage that do not deserve to be a part of my present.

    Slavery is a part of my heritage; the city of Bristol is built upon the profits that trade brought. Every old market town has its bear pit, where dogs were set upon bears until many of them and it were dead or so badly wounded that they would die later. Casual colonialism and gunboat diplomacy are part of what it was to be English; does that mean that they should continue to be so?

    I will not accept “heritage” as an excuse for needless cruelty; why should I?

    The english heritage I will defend is the one where people are accepting of others; where cruelty is opposed, not supported.

    You say that shooting foxes is too expensive? How does the cost of a dozen bullets compare to the cost of a dozen horses and two dozen dogs? How many foxes can a huntsman with a rifle kill compared to the one or two that a Hunt in full wind manages, if they manage that at all?

  • uathsaille

    lol…Phil and I had the same argument; he mentioned slavery as well. Trouble is, they don’t sell nostalgic, decorative plates with slavery scenes on them. ;)

    Ammo is expensive, and it does mean that someone has to tramp the fields at night, looking for foxes. I grew up in ranch country, as I said – I know that it just won’t happen. They’ll use poison or snares. A farmer might shoot at a fox that he sees in the yard at night, but that would be the extent of “quick” killing.

    Yes, hunting is a blood sport. And yes, obviously, people should enjoy drag hunting just as much as the real thing. The kill shouldn’t be part of the enjoyment of the day.

    This is definitely an issue that people feel very strongly about, on both sides. You could see that by the news footage, where ordinary Yorkshire farmers and upper-class horsey mums were openly stating that they would flaunt the law, rish arrest if they have to. I’m not sure where I fit in…obviously I don’t have the knee-jerk cruelty-to-animals reaction because I grew up in an area where people hunted for food, where predators of stock are kept in check. But I hate cruelty to animals.

    So, tearing foxes apart with dogs is inarguably bad and inhumane. Yes, people should drag hunt. But don’t think that you’re saving foxes from cruel ends…because there’s nothing more cruel than walking through the woods and finding an animal that has died in a trap, knowing that they suffered pain and shock and blood loss from the wire around its leg, thirsty and alone as it tried to gnaw its own leg off to escape the wire. There aren’t many things worse than that.

  • uathsaille

    lol…Phil and I had the same argument; he mentioned slavery as well. Trouble is, they don’t sell nostalgic, decorative plates with slavery scenes on them. ;)

    Ammo is expensive, and it does mean that someone has to tramp the fields at night, looking for foxes. I grew up in ranch country, as I said – I know that it just won’t happen. They’ll use poison or snares. A farmer might shoot at a fox that he sees in the yard at night, but that would be the extent of “quick” killing.

    Yes, hunting is a blood sport. And yes, obviously, people should enjoy drag hunting just as much as the real thing. The kill shouldn’t be part of the enjoyment of the day.

    This is definitely an issue that people feel very strongly about, on both sides. You could see that by the news footage, where ordinary Yorkshire farmers and upper-class horsey mums were openly stating that they would flaunt the law, rish arrest if they have to. I’m not sure where I fit in…obviously I don’t have the knee-jerk cruelty-to-animals reaction because I grew up in an area where people hunted for food, where predators of stock are kept in check. But I hate cruelty to animals.

    So, tearing foxes apart with dogs is inarguably bad and inhumane. Yes, people should drag hunt. But don’t think that you’re saving foxes from cruel ends…because there’s nothing more cruel than walking through the woods and finding an animal that has died in a trap, knowing that they suffered pain and shock and blood loss from the wire around its leg, thirsty and alone as it tried to gnaw its own leg off to escape the wire. There aren’t many things worse than that.

  • wandringsoul

    “I will not accept “heritage” as an excuse for needless cruelty; why should I?”

    Hear hear.

  • uathsaille

    Oh, fine, don’t side with me then. :P Just kidding.

    Yes, I’ve admitted that you both definitely have a point. It’s like bullfighting: it’s a part of Spanish heritage. Is it a cruel bloodsport? Definitely, can’t argue about that.

  • wandringsoul

    I can’t side with you on this – sorry – it’s something I’m passionate about – I COULD sit in a field with a rifle and pick off huntsmen as they rode past…

    Yes, snaring and poisoning is not good, not humane, but no one is getting a sick thrill from it in the same way as chasing an animal to exhaustion and then ripping it apart.

    It’s the ‘thrill of the chase’ that gets me – if you want soemthing to chase find a good runner, stick him in a plushy outfit and give him a 30 second headstart. Obviously the ripping apart bit might have to change, depending on the plushy…

  • uathsaille

    I agree. There’s no reason they can’t drag hunt. My point was that 1) as an American, I do think that the traditional red-coated hunt scene is traditionally English, foxes aside, and 2) foxes will likely be killed in much more inhumane ways if there is a hunting ban. It won’t be quick kills by shooting, it will be traps and poison.

    I like the plushy image, though. Those people always give me a slightly creepy feeling, and the thought of some chubby guy in an animal suit panting cross country is amusing.

  • uathsaille

    I agree. There’s no reason they can’t drag hunt. My point was that 1) as an American, I do think that the traditional red-coated hunt scene is traditionally English, foxes aside, and 2) foxes will likely be killed in much more inhumane ways if there is a hunting ban. It won’t be quick kills by shooting, it will be traps and poison.

    I like the plushy image, though. Those people always give me a slightly creepy feeling, and the thought of some chubby guy in an animal suit panting cross country is amusing.

  • jfs

    My antipathy for the hunt can be summed up by one image.

    Blooding.

    I don’t know if you’re aware of this quaint part of english heritage?

    Take a young child on their first hunt. They’re almost certainly ‘horsey’ so they’re probably having a whale of a time. They get to dress up, ride cross country, everyone is excited.

    Then, at the end of the hunt, wipe blood from the freshly killed fox over their face.

    It’s okay, you understand, because it’s traditional.

    I have no problem with foxes being killed in traps or with poison if that’s what it takes to defend someone’s livelyhood. I’m an omnivore; I believe in the food chain.

    But I find it sickening that people would take joy in the matter.

    There’s a scene in “To kill a mockingbird ” where the father goes to kill a rabid dog because it’s the right thing to do. He doesn’t exault in the kill and he doesn’t then wipe his children’s faces with the blood.

    That’s the difference.

  • uathsaille

    Yes, sorry – forgot to respond to that. :)

    Although I don’t hunt and therefore could be totally wrong, personally I think that hunts don’t primarily exist to kill foxes. I think that most people could give two shits about whether a fox has been snacking on chickens, despite what they will tell you. Hunting is about different things: status, society, tradition, the challenge of the chase, many things. Removal of a pest is secondary.

    So, the cost of hunting is really a separate thing: you subscribe to a hunt, in all of its expensive glory, for other reasons. A farmer on his own won’t go out on a high-priced hunter to kill foxes, which leads us back to the “foxes will still be killed cruelly” issue. It’s not a question of the cost of mounting a hunt vs. the cost of ammo or poison or whatever. They’re related, but separate issues.

    It works as a kind of symbiosis, I suppose…the upper classes hunting for whatever reasons they do it, and in the process providing various services to the countryside, such as removal and disposal of fallen stock, maintenance of those very aesthetic drystone walls, and all of the various local economies that are supported and patronised through the hunt.

    I probably made a mess of that. :(

  • jfs

    It’s a question of justifications.

    If hunting is justified as being a way to control vermin, then it’s legitimate to question the cost.

    If hunting is justified as “traditional”, it’s legitimate to question whether all traditions have equal value.

    Supporters of hunting always bring up the “we control vermin” argument; they so very rarely say “I get a thrill out of chasing a creature the size of a small dog across the countryside on my horse.”

  • jfs

    It’s a question of justifications.

    If hunting is justified as being a way to control vermin, then it’s legitimate to question the cost.

    If hunting is justified as “traditional”, it’s legitimate to question whether all traditions have equal value.

    Supporters of hunting always bring up the “we control vermin” argument; they so very rarely say “I get a thrill out of chasing a creature the size of a small dog across the countryside on my horse.”

  • uathsaille

    Yes, I’ve read about blooding; it is very shocking. I don’t know how much more traumatic it would be than deer-hunting, though, which is something that many children do by the age of twelve or so where I grew up. They aren’t literally blooded, but killing a deer as a rite of passage would be similar. My father taught us all to shoot, and although I never actually hunted, two of my sisters have. As a child I helped to gut and skin deer. There was an unspoken understanding that you needed to take some responsibility in the fact that you consume the flesh of living creatures. You can’t pretend that meat wasn’t originally part of a living creature, just because you buy it in the supermarket wrapped in plastic.

    My father extended this to the cooking of venison, which as a very strong taste: you do not cook it in wine or otherwise try to make it taste like beef. If you want beef, you go to Safeway; you don’t eat a wild and very beautiful animal. If you eat venison, you respect it for what it is.

    I know this has nothing to do with the killing of foxes…I’m way off track. :) As to taking joy in the killing, yes, that does bother me, too. I have this schizophrenic view, partly understanding of it and partly not.

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