Fox Hunting Enthusiasts Talk About Repealing the Ban

Theresa May has said she's in favour of fox-hunting and will allow a vote in parliament on repealing the ban if she's elected.

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10 May 2017, 1:28pm

Photo: John Giles/PA Archive/PA Images

Using hounds to chase foxes and kill them for sport has been outlawed in the UK since 2004's Hunting Act. Ipso Mori, the same pollsters putting May's satisfaction rates 29 points clear of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, found last year that 83 percent of people are happy with the hunting ban.

Yet Theresa May, in another giveaway to the Tory base, yesterday announced that the Conservative manifesto will contain the promise of a free vote to repeal the hunting ban. "I have always been in favour of fox-hunting, and we maintain our commitment," she said at a rally in York: "…to allow a free vote… [allowing] parliament the opportunity to take a decision on this."

Animal rights groups and charities quickly condemned May's pledge, and political pundits pointed out that this is little more than electioneering, as a free vote – in which MPs vote their conscience rather than along party lines – would likely keep the ban in place.

VICE asked young pro-hunters what they think of May's announcement.

Anna, 24, agricultural consultant from west Wales

VICE: What do you think of Theresa May's announcement?
Anna: Though I support hunting and would be happy to see the Hunting Act repealed, there are more important things for Theresa May to worry about, even within the scope of issues affecting her rural supporters. There's a lot of bad feeling [around hunting], and I'm not looking forward to the debates and the hatred coming.

Can you explain why you're pro-hunting?
I was born into it. My family has links to the local hunt, going back a century. The fox population needs controlling, and hunting with hounds is the fastest and least cruel method; shooting could always injure rather than kill, and snares are indiscriminate. Old or ill foxes are more likely to take out easy prey, like lambs, and in turn, they are the most likely to be caught by hounds.

Why do you think there is a "bad feeling" around hunting? Do you understand the people who argue against it?
Unfortunately, so much stigma is to do with class instead of ethics or animal welfare. Many people's opinions are led by a lack of information or sentimental reports in the press, and there's a real gulf between people who have lived a rural life and those with no idea what it is to raise livestock. I've hunted with people of all ethnicities and backgrounds, and there's no judgment on that, but hunting in the media is never a true reflection of the community, just scenes from Downton Abbey or Boxing Day meets.

Do you think people who look down on hunting are being hypocritical, then? Thinking that hunters are the snobs when actually they are?
In some cases, yes. People talk of "toffs on horseback" or the "privileged elite", but a lot of people who hunt are actually not very well off and work very hard to keep themselves and their horses on the road.

Toby Gadd, 29, commercial graduate at an energy company, originally from East Anglia

Beau Considine/Wikicommons

VICE: What do you think of Theresa May's announcement?
Toby: When I heard the announcement I thought, 'This is an obvious vote-grab,' because, for many, life has gone on as it used to. [Huntsmen] have a fox that they shoot then drag behind a horse, and the dogs follow that scent. It's a full hunt, but without a kill at the end of it.

Is that why you're pro-hunting?
People don't understand that foxes are pests. There's been a lot of argument that fox-hunting is cruel, but it depends on your definition of cruelty. Shooting a fox can leave it in pain and distress, but when the hounds get it, it's dead pretty quickly. Also, why do people need to be mandated on what to do? It may be a moot point, but there are horrendous child cruelty cases and we're spending more time in government debating this.

Why do you think people are against hunting?
Wildlife nuts see it as cruelty to animals, and I kind of get that. It's not that simple. I've seen animal welfare organisations dump city foxes into the countryside, and the foxes often starve to death because they're used to picking out of bins, or wander out of the road and get run over.

Is there a stigma around who hunts?
Where I'm from is just 20 miles out of London, so you get a mixture of old farming money and new money. Many intertwine in hunting and don't really care. Once you live in the countryside, it opens your mind to things a little bit, and I guess vice versa could be said about people moving to cities and fully understanding life there.

Samuel Colvin, 30, software developer, based in London


VICE: What do you think of Theresa May's announcement?

Samuel: The free vote is a terrible idea. If the ban was repealed, the next Labour or anti-hunting government would simply implement a harsher ban. The current compromise isn't perfect, but it keeps everyone equally unhappy. My suspicion is that a free vote wouldn't actually repeal the ban; it's only there to placate certain parts of the Tory party.

Why are you pro-hunting?
I'm a liberal, and I think people should be able to do whatever they like unless there's an incontrovertible reason that they're damaging others, the environment or animals' welfare.All studies on hunting say it's marginally good or marginally bad for the welfare of the fox, but none are that certain. I suspect that it's marginally good for the welfare of the fox and there's no good argument [against it], apart from an incorrect and ill-informed class-based one which says that only posh people go hunting. Hunting doesn't just attract rich people, because it's an old-fashioned sport; the people doing it love the countryside and love hunting.

What do you think of people who are anti-hunting?
I suggest they come along to a day's hunting. There are people there who are, for lack of a better term, peasants. There are complete chavs. There are normal working people and there are rich people. A lot of poor people put their entire life into hunting, whether that's on foot or on horses. You also find people aged seven to 80 there. The countryside alone is amazing, but to explore it in that way with lots of fun people in that group, in that community, is an absolutely amazing antidote to the plod of normal life.

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