Shooting, trapping and poisoning are more traumatic than hunting, which presents the fox with a threat that evolution has equipped him to confront and escape from. The social and ecological benefits of hunting so outweigh the costs to foxes which die by this means - rather than by those less pleasant - that the charge of cruelty offers no real argument against the sport.
As for whether it should be a sport, well, shooting is a sport which inflicts pain and fear on animals, but when properly conducted, it benefits the quarry as a species because the shooter protects the copses where his birds reside. Wild animals are in short supply. To provide them with a proper habitat, and a death which is, on the whole, to be preferred to the `natural' variety, is not merely morally permissible - it is morally right.
To make hunting a crime because some think it to be immoral, is to abuse the law. Those who believe hunting is cruel ought to consider matters of principle: should we ban keeping cats, who kill hundreds of mammals each year, just because as pets they bring pleasure to humans, but cause pain to other creatures?"
Roger Scruton is a philosopher and writer who recently wrote `On Hunting', which is published by Yellow Jersey Press, pounds 10
"On my farm, despite a lot of pressure from the local hunt, I've always banned them. They've occasionally come on to my land and once I threatened to take them to court. They paid damages and haven't been back. A lot of farmers are quite anti-fox-hunting. Practically speaking, I think hunts are very divorced from the countryside. They tend to be wealthy people from towns who go out for weekends. They do a lot of damage and don't respect the land.
You have to ask, do we, the most powerful, and destructive, animals on earth, have the right to impose unnecessary suffering and cruelty on other, weaker animals? I take the view that we do exploit other animals, but in doing so we should give them a reasonable life while they are alive and kill them, if we have to, humanely, and not cause unnecessary suffering.
To say that hunting is a part of the fabric of the countryside is nonsense. At least half of the people in country areas don't support the hunt. As for the environmental argument, I always think this is an excuse for people who hunt to appear green. Another argument is that foxes kill very cruelly, but that does not give us the right to kill cruelly in turn. If the basis of killing things was cruelty you'd be able to mow down half the human race.
By and large, I've found the people who hunt to be thoroughly unpleasant, insensitive and arrogant bastards. To take such pleasure in killing a wild animal and use such sophistry to excuse it is the ultimate in bullying cruelty."
Phillip Oppenheim, farm owner, ex-Conservative MP, writer and businessman, is a member of the League Against Cruel Sports