Letter: Cruelty of hunting

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Sir: Your leading article "The pursuit of fox-hunters is a waste of time and energy" (12 November) attempts to trivialise the issue.

Like bear-baiting and cock fighting, which David Aaronovitch describes in his article as now being unacceptable, hunting is the public spectacle of an act of cruelty. Our rejection of cruelty cannot be selective and our response to any such act is a principle that is fundamental to a civilised society.

The majority of people in this country are also revolted by factory farming and the export of live animals, which you describe as issues of more importance. But hunting with dogs is pursued as a sport and for the pleasure derived from a form of ritualised slaughter.


Leatherhead, Surrey

Sir: Both your columnist David Aaronovitch and yourself seem to have made the most fundamental logical errors in your conservative approach to fox-hunting.

You argue that other animal welfare issues are of greater magnitude than fox-hunting. This is true but irrelevant. The fact that lesser cruelties can be stopped whilst greater cruelties continue is not, of course, an argument against criminalising those lesser cruelties, but rather one for additionally prohibiting greater cruelties.

Under the sacred name of "personal freedom", David Aaronovitch argues that we should continue to tolerate fox-hunting, even if we don't like it, as we should tolerate activities such as cannabis smoking or sado- masochism.

However, a key criterion for tolerance of any activity is the absence of harm to an innocent party. Such a criterion clearly does not apply to fox-hunting, where a fellow sentient being clearly suffers greatly and often loses its life.

It is indeed fortunate that, when past advances in animal welfare were achieved, such as the banning of cock-fighting, bull baiting or, more recently, crated veal production, no attention was paid to the confused thinking of the David Aaronovitches of the time.


London NW2