HOW SHOULD WE CONTROL FOXES?

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The Independent Online
The animal lover

Carla Lane, television writer

[The hunters] claim all the time they hardly ever catch anything anyway, so why do they do it? We're underestimating nature: nature takes care of all these things. I live deep in the country, and have 40 acres of land, but I feed my fox and so he never bothers me. I have lots of free-range animals, and he takes none of them. I don't see why we should eradicate foxes at all; they die in their hundreds from mange anyway, so let's just go for a few years leaving them alone.

I've never had a problem with wildlife: something always happens naturally to keep the population in check. People say they hunt foxes because they take the pheasants that they themselves also want to hunt, but it's really all about the need to kill, the need to have a reason to kill. People might say "they took my chickens", but why the hell don't they keep their chickens safe? They must see that foxes don't get them.

I don't think hunters make much of a mark on it all: they just like hunting and killing. They should go and find something else to give them a thrill.

The pro-hunting lobby Spokesman for the British Field Sports Society

There are a number of methods of fox control, and the National Farmers' Union is the authoritative voice here. They support hunting and support the use of dogs, but they strongly believe that farmers should select a method that suits them and their land, for most methods involve a fair amount of time and effort on the part of the farmer.

I don't like to even think what would happen to the fox if hunting were to be banned. It would lead to an increase in unskilled fox control. Poisoning, for example, is an easy, indiscriminate way of controlling foxes, to the great detriment of the countryside at large, and farmers are also more likely to allow others on to their land to kill foxes, who might want to shoot just for the thrill of it.

You need to know what you're doing: a wounded fox is far more likely to attack a farmer's lambs, piglets or chickens. With hunting you get a "survival of the fittest" principle: it is the weak, old or infirm that are most likely to cause problems to farmers, and the chase weeds these out. Hunting provides maximum effectiveness for farmers, with the minimum number of foxes killed.

The wildlife expert Graham Cornick, Hidestile Wildlife Hospital, Godalming

I've studied the fox for 18 years now, and I can tell you that it is scientifically proven that foxes can and do control their own numbers, by their breeding patterns.

People talk about the problem of keeping chickens safe from foxes, but free-range chicken owners should have no problems if they use enclosures properly. Also, a fed fox doesn't kill.

Huntsmen say they need to keep numbers down, but if there were just one fox left in Great Britain they would still want to hunt down and kill it. But I would say the hunt is in its death throes; its days are numbered.

The anti-hunting lobby John Bryant, Wildlife Officer for the League Against Cruel Sports

I can only deal in scientific facts. We know that fox hunts kill about 20,000 foxes a season, which represents 3 per cent of the fox population. In order to reduce it, you would have to kill 70 per cent every year, and so hunting has no real effect on fox numbers.

In fox-hunting areas, fox populations are kept at an artificially high level by feeding them and by providing them with breeding chambers. Any claim that these people are trying to rid the countryside of a pest is just hypocrisy. Fox-hunting causes pain and suffering, doesn't control the fox population and should be abolished.

The farmer Tony Lockwood, Worcestershire

I would seek to control the fox population by whatever other effective means there are within the law. There's snaring, though I wouldn't like that, and shooting, which is not very successful, but that is what we would have to resort to if hunting with hounds were to be banned. You have to be very cautious with snaring, as you never know what you're going to snare, and you might shoot a fox and not kill it outright.

We look at it as a control, not as an annihilation. People say that losing the odd lamb out of a flock can't hurt, but if you dropped ten pounds, you'd stop and pick it up, wouldn't you? You lose a lamb, you lose pounds 45; it is, in reality, about money.

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