"The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible"

Oscar Wilde

In one sense, the above quotation needs no further embellishment from me.

I feel very strongly that the act of hunting with hounds is a cruel and unnecessary leftover from the days when we were a more ruthless, divided society of moneyed and peasant, with very little compassion for one another, let alone the animal kingdom.

Pro-hunting folk, some of whom I know and have had very stirring debates with, will issue forth all sorts of reasons why hunting is a Good Thing:

  • As a means of fox population control
  • As a significant employer of country folk
  • As a tradition
  • As a control method more humane than the stated alternatives of gassing or shooting
  • As a sport

  • As a horse owner, I don't deny the fact of a rather obvious adrenalin-fuelled thrill involved in galloping across country, accommodating all obstacles encountered with a skill (or otherwise) borne of hard-earned horsemanship (although it would be naive to assume that all the people who participate in hunting have suitable ridden expertise for the rigours of the hunting field).

    Personally, however, the perceived thrill of said activity loses every ounce of its appeal the moment one stops to think that at the heart of the whole setup is one poor fox, trying only to eke a living in his territory, to be subjected to the terror of being chased by a large pack of dogs to the point of exhaustion and violent death. By the admission of huntsfolk themselves, these creatures are often the old and infirm. As such, one might then assume that their chances of escape are pared down still further. How can we realistically make glib statements about the amount of suffering that animals under such conditions might feel? Is it not conceivable that the persecuted fox, running for his life, might be feeling abject terror in the face of a baying pack of bloodthirsty hounds? In our arrogance we, the human race, often seem to labour under the falsehood that no living animal can possibly enjoy similar levels of sentience to ourselves. Why is that, I wonder. I fear the simple truth is that if we were to admit to ourselves that we are not the only highly sentient, intelligent animals on this planet, our treatment of them would reveal us simply and uncompromisingly as monsters. Now that's a truth that's a bit difficult to swallow.

    Perhaps it is the fact that everyone dresses up nicely when they go out hunting, enjoying a glass of sherry on the ha-ha before setting off for an ostensibly civilised pursuit which leads the participants to over-ride the slightly guilty feelings I am sure some at least of them *must* feel, to convince themselves that there is nothing really wrong with foxhunting. Perhaps it is the fact that one needs a certain amount of money to participate in what is seen as an exclusive pursuit, although this is not quite as true now as it used to be. Horse riders are ever tarnished with the brush reserved to demarcate the moneyed of our society, and I can tell you that this is more often than not a complete fallacy. I know loads of horsey people, and the vast majority of them work like hell and give up many of the niceties others take for granted to keep their precious horses on quite limited budgets.

    I do not think that trying to justify hunting by virtue of the number of rural people employed directly or (most often) indirectly as a result of the "sport" is feasible. Doubtless there used to be many people employed in the numerous bear pits scattered around London in Shakespearian times, but that is no reason to claim it as a viable pastime.

    What I find most deplorable is the preoccupation of the human race with controlling the populations of every species except its own. Watching the news or reading the paper, watching natural history documentaries, all are tinged with a deep, fundamental sadness at the fact that we seem incapable of realising that our own uncontrolled spreading around the globe is causing such world-wide climatic disruption of far greater import than any other single issue. Why are politicians not addressing the the really pressing issues at source? Let's just ban foxhunting and concentrate on more pressing issues, before it's too late.

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