The hunting of foxes is a funny thing.
And by that I mean funny-peculiar, not funny-ha-ha.
Theresa May has just said that a free vote for MPs on ending the hunting ban will be in the next Conservative manifesto.
It’s been in previous manifestos and never happened, but if there’s one thing you can say about Tories it’s that they’re relentless in their pursuit of stupidity.
There is not one single thing about foxhunting that makes any sense to anybody with just the teensiest idea of what logic is.
Even Donald Trump would ask you what you were playing at, and he's barely in orbit these days.
Let's have a look at the facts, shall we?
1) Foxhunting does not reduce the number of foxes
Eh? But yes. 'Fraid so.
The last survey of fox numbers was in 1999-2000, when researchers counting poop said there were 225,000 foxes in the UK.
In 2001-2002 there was a year-long hunting ban due to foot and mouth, and when they repeated the study they found "no significant change in fox numbers … and in fact, in most regions, the average fox density had declined slightly".
What? So hunting foxes … increases the number of foxes?
2) Yes, foxhunting INCREASES the number of foxes
A study published in the New Scientist in 2013 found that winter culling of foxes in the Welsh forests led to more foxes the following spring.
The report concluded: "Culling undertaken by fox control societies, mounted hunts and rangers appeared to have no utilitarian value with respect to reducing fox numbers."
Within three days of a fox being killed, other foxes in the area move in to compete for the territory. For a farmer this could mean that fields being menaced by one fox are suddenly being menaced by seven.
They get together, they breed, they fight, they make those horrible screaming noises while they mate, and they produce about five cubs a year.
Coincidentally, hunting also increases sightings of the greater-spotted utter pillock.
3) Foxes aren't the reason farmers lose livestock
A vet study on two Scottish farms in 2000 found foxes were responsible for less than 1% of dead lambs.
Anyone who's spent any time with sheep will tell you they devote their short lives to repeated suicide attempts. They hang themselves on barbed wire, wander into bogs, hurl themselves off molehills. You name it, a sheep's killed themselves with it.
The study found most sheep carcasses showing signs of fox munching were dead already – meaning the foxes were actually keeping the place clean, and disease to a minimum.
DEFRA's official advice is that more lambs will live longer if farmers bring them indoors to be born, then quarantine, shelter and supervise them properly.
Also, they can’t be trusted near the medicine cabinet.
4) Yeah, but what about the poor chickens?
A survey of farmers self-reporting the number of chickens lost to foxes – which is likely to be an over-estimate – found it was responsible for a walloping, astonishing, shattering 2% of total deaths.
Foxes were also less likely to kill birds that were healthy, well-housed, and well-cared for.
5) Foxhunters aren't doing it right
The main hunting season lasts from November to May. This is the same time the previous year's cubs move to new territories, which means any fox that is killed will be replaced that much quicker.
6) Foxhunting is not very efficient
Before the ban hunts killed about 20,000 foxes a year – a rubbish 5% of the total. Half of them were cubs which were very likely not to survive anyway.
By comparison, 100,000 foxes are killed on the roads every year.
Added to which, the angry man in the red suit on the horse usually imbibes alcohol before setting off, which makes him less efficient and more obstreperous at just about everything.
7) Packs of hunting dogs are not happy dogs
There's a lot of guff spoken about the hunting ban being responsible for the death of foxhounds – but the hunts usually kill them at six or seven years old anyway, when they could easily live twice as long.
While they're alive hounds are kept in pack conditions and are therefore hard to control, as well as prone to disease. On hunts, they have been known to rip apart domestic pets and the farm livestock they're supposed to be protecting.
Foxhounds are so dim a human quite often has to catch the fox and give it to them, which makes the whole thing a farce anyway.
About now somebody will pipe up that a member of the media metropolitan elite can't know nothing about nowt and should wind her neck in.
But I grew up in the country, I've covered hunts and hunting in the country on local newspapers, and I live in the countryside now. I’m as metropolitan as scrumped apples.
And in all the time I've lived, worked, or harvested in those parts of the world where people think foxhunting is vital, there are just two things I've established for an absolute fact.
* There are more foxes around you in the city – 10,000 in London alone, where they kill a lot of rats. There's only one within a mile of my house in Kent, and she feeds herself
* In my whole life I’ve met just one person whose livelihood depended upon hunting – a man who fixed farm machinery, and asked his daughter not to go out with the saboteurs in case the huntsmen boycotted his business
It’s also worth pointing out that 84% of people in the UK – including 72% of Tory voters – don’t want to bring back fox hunting.
So to sum up – foxhunting doesn't kill many foxes, doesn't help any other animals, isn’t the right way of doing things and isn't that important to people.
When foxes are old or diseased, or causing an isolated problem, there are much better ways of culling them.
First, you could take two dogs and a gun, flush it out of its den and shoot it. Other foxes will move in to replace it, but they'll be healthier.
Secondly, you could take the car down the ring road at 2am, and bag five or six in one go.
The law allows you to do both these things already.
Which leads us to the inevitable question of why Theresa May thinks hunting is a better idea, and why Tory hunting fan Lord Mancroft is mobilising his chums to get the Tories re-elected because “this is the chance we have been waiting for”.
And the answer must be: because they are very, very thick.
As we've just seen, it's an unproductive, farcical and illogical method of fox control and countryside management.
Foxhunting doesn't do anything for foxes, farmers, wildlife or human beings in general.
All it does it multiply the number of vicious, stupid, nasty, ridiculous idiots in the world.
Oh. So THAT’S why the Tories are doing it!
Should fox hunting remain completely banned?
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