What is it about the humble fox that draws so much negative attention? Surely there are enough troubles in the world without worrying about which creature emptied the contents of someone’s bin bag across their garden?
It is an ongoing power struggle between those compassionate types who see foxes as beautiful, industrious creatures worthy of nothing but admiration, and the types who like nothing more than dressing up in weird costumes, straddling horses and shooting foxes for the fun of it.
In late 2014, the power struggle was reignited as fresh calls to lift the Labour party’s ban on fox hunting were made. Starting with UKIP, and then followed, unsurprisingly, by the Conservatives, pledges were made to scrap the Hunting Act in the eventuality of either party gaining power in 2015 elections.
Environment Secretary, Elizabeth Truss, said in an interview with the Express last year that ‘I personally would vote in favour of allowing fox hunting. I think it was a mistake, the Hunting Act, and I would vote for repeal.’ Truss is also responsible for the latest round of badger culls across parts of the country. These culls have been largely ineffective according to wildlife experts, and labelled as inhumane for the methods of slaughter used.
But why has the call for fox hunting reared its ugly head again? Well, it is no coincidence that a general election is just around the corner. The Conservatives face losing countryside voters who want the hunting ban lifted and, with UKIP pouncing on every vote they can, it seems that the Conservatives have had their hand forced.
The same piece from the Express stated that ‘Sir Barney White-Spunner, executive chairman of the Countryside Alliance, warned that the [Conservative] party risks losing half a million votes if it fails to include a pledge to repeal the ban on fox hunting in its manifesto.’
So the pledge to repeal the fox hunting ban is a result of lobbying from people who enjoy murdering foxes in the countryside, and politicians scared of losing power in the capital; yet, it is the urban fox which receives the most bad press. Indeed, a great deal of public opinion about the urban fox boarders on the edge of hysteria; supported by unfounded information and designed to instil fear in the public.
This ironic quotation from the Guardian in 2013 summarises the irrationality of fox misinformation: ‘Urban foxes are marauding giants that feed on takeaway curries, cats and babies.’
As hilarious as that extract is, the worrying thing is its closeness to other, decidedly not ironic, news reports. The Edinburgh Evening News, also in 2013, reported of ‘foxes attacking pets, raiding bins and dragging rubbish including chewed bones and the remains of takeaways into the street, and leaving “particularly foul-smelling” faeces in people’s back yards.’
I spoke to Trevor Williams, founder of the Fox Project – an organisation dedicated to the protection and well-being of foxes in the south east of England – who had this to say on the importance of defending foxes: ‘It is important on our overcrowded island to defend all species of wildlife as it forms a well established ecosystem. Foxes are one of our most important controllers of rats and mice and offer no threat to humans in terms of disease or aggression.’
Cases of foxes attacking humans are extremely rare, and only see the light of day in the media due the shocking nature of such an occurrence.
On the subject of the proposed lift on the fox hunting ban, Mr Williams added that ‘Excuses that it is necessary in terms of ‘control’ are spurious. In order to ‘control’ the fox population [by hunting] one would need to kill 75% of the post-breeding population each year, a figure amounting to 450,000. Hunting has never killed more than 1.5% in any one year.’
Foxes are territorial animals, and as such there will never be more than a certain number in any one area; thus if foxes appear to be rising in number they are merely becoming bolder and more visible which is invariably caused by humans.
Mr Williams concluded that ‘Hunts have always relocated foxes into areas where ‘insufficient’ numbers of foxes exist for viable hunting. Hunting is nonsense at every level.’ In Britain, there is an estimated 33,000 foxes in urban areas according to the League.org.uk website, and these numbers are relatively unchanging as population ‘control’ among foxes generally deals with itself. Around 50% of all urban foxes are killed by cars, and rarely live to see adulthood.
In the country, fox hunting appears to be purely for the enjoyment of killing. The only way to deal with that kind of mentality is to make sure hunting is always illegal, by voting against parties who choose votes over morals.
All in all, if you don’t want your rubbish strewn across your garden by a fox, maybe a better idea would be to fasten the lid of your bin properly.
David Bennett is a regular contributor for Le Nurb, and you can find more of his work at this link.