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Fox Hunting

Fox hunting


Fox hunting is the sport of mounted riders chasing a wild fox with a pack of hounds. The sport is also known as riding to the hounds, because the fox is pursued by horseback riders following the hounds that chase the fox. The specially trained hounds pursue the fox by following its scent. The riders are called the "field" and their leader is called the "master of the foxhounds.rdquo; A huntsman manages the pack of hounds.

Foxhunting originated in England, and dates back to the Middle Ages. People hunted foxes because they were predators that killed farm animals such as chickens and sheep. Rules were established reserving the hunt to royalty, the aristocracy (people given titles by royalty), and landowners. As the British Empire expanded, the English brought fox hunting to the lands they colonized. The first fox hunt in the United States was held in Maryland in 1650, according to the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA), the organization that controls foxhunting in the United States.

Although the objective of most fox hunts is to kill the fox, some hunts do not involve any killing. In a drag hunt, hounds chase the scent of a fox on a trail prepared before the hunt. In the United States, a hunt ends successfully when the fox goes into a hole in the ground called the "earth."

In Great Britain, a campaign to outlaw fox hunting started in the late twentieth century. The subject drew strong debate on an issue that had not been resolved by March of 2002.

Organized hunt supporters like the Countryside Alliance said a hunting ban would result in the loss of 14,000 jobs. In addition, advocates said that hunts help to eliminate a rural threat by controlling the fox population. Hunt supporters described foxes as vermin, a category of destructive, disease-bearing animals. Hunting was seen as less cruel than other methods of eliminating foxes.

Opponents called foxhunting a "blood sport " that was cruel to animals. According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IAFW), more than 15,000 foxes are killed during the 200 hunts held each year. The IAFW reported that young dogs are trained to hunt by pitting them against fox cubs. The group wants the British Parliament to outlaw fox hunting. Drag hunting was suggested as a more humane alternative.

Another opposition group, the Nottingham Hunt Saboteurs Association, attempts to disrupt "blood sports" through "non-violent direct action." Saboteurs' methods include trying to distract hounds by laying false scent trails, shouting, and blowing horns.

Both supporters and opponents of fox hunting claim public support for their positions. In 1997, the issue of a ban was brought to Parliament, the British national legislative body consisting of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. That year, the Labour Party won the general election and proposed a bill to ban hunting with hounds. The following year, the bill passed through some legislative readings. However, time ran out before a final vote was taken.

In July 1999, Prime Minister Tony Blair promised to make fox hunting illegal. That November, Home Secretary Jack Straw called for an inquiry to study the effect of a ban on the rural economy. The Burns Inquiry concluded in June 2000 that a hunting ban would result in the loss of between 6,000 and 8,000 jobs. The inquiry did not find evidence that being chased was painful for foxes. However, the inquiry stated that foxes did not die immediately. This conclusion about a slower, painful death echoed opponents' charges that hunting was a cruel practice.

Two months before the inquiry was released, Straw proposed that lawmakers should have several options to vote on. One choice was a ban on fox hunting; another was to make no changes. A third option was to tighten fox hunting regulations.

In March 2002, Parliament cast non-binding opinion votes on the options. The House of Commons voted for a ban. The House of Lord voted for licensed hunting. After the vote, Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael said that the government would try to find a common ground before trying to legislate fox hunting. The process of trying to reach agreement was expected to take six months at most.

Fox hunting in other countries

The Scottish Parliament banned hunting in February of 2002. The ban was to take effect on Aug, 1, 2002. The Countryside Alliance announced plans to legally challenge that ruling.

Fox hunting is legal in the following countries: Ireland, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, and Spain. Hunting with hounds is banned in Switzerland. In the United States, the MFHA was established in 1907. In March of 2002, the MFHA reported that there were 171 organized hunt clubs in North America.

[Liz Swain ]


RESOURCES

BOOKS

Pool, Daniel. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to WhistThe Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century Enland. Carmichael, CA: Touchstone Books, 1994.

Robards, Hugh J. Foxhunting in England, Ireland, and North America. Lanham, MD: Derrydale Press, 2000.

Thomas, Joseph B., and Mason Houghland. Hounds and Hunting Through the Ages. Lanham, MD: Derrydale Press, 2001.

ORGANIZATIONS

British Government Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales, , England Email: [email protected], <http://www.huntinginquiry.gov.uk/mainsections/huntingframe.htm>

Countryside Alliance, The OldTown Hall, 367 Kensington Road, London SE11 4PT, England (011) 44-020-7840-9200, Fax: (011) 44-020-7793-8899, Email: [email protected], <http://www.countrysidealliance.org>

International Fund for Animal Welfare, 411 Main Street, P.O. Box 193, Yarmouth Port, MA USA 02675 (508) 744-2000, Fax: (508) 744-2009, Toll Free: (800) 932-4329, Email: [email protected], <http://www.iafw.org>

Masters of Foxhounds Association, Morven Park, P.O. Box 2420, Leesburg, VA USA 20177 Email: [email protected], <http://www.mfha.com>

Nottingham Hunt Saboteurs, The Sumac Centre, 245 Gladstone Street, Nottingham NG7 6HX, England

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