When fox hunters are up in arms about a new initiative to hunt and slaughter wild animals, you know there must be something unsavoury going on.
The unpleasant whiff is emanating from the south-western Maremma region of Tuscany, where a hunting group is offering people €10 payments for every fox tail they hand in. The payment rises to €15 if the tails are produced by paid-up members of one of the groups behind the initiative, Libera Caccia (Free Hunting).
The organisation's president Paolo Isidori said the campaign was necessary. "The fox is a pest, along with buzzards and crows," he said. "If it finds a pheasant's nest it will eat everything from the young ones to the eggs. That's why the foxes have to be killed." He added it was useless trying to safeguard game – presumably so that his members would have something else to torment and shoot at – "if the foxes were not dealt with".
Presumably even in a country where people still cook song birds in pies, campaigning against animal cruelty is their business. The National Organisation for Animal Protection hit out at the "commercialisation of wildlife" and an initiative that "promoted death instead of protecting nature".
But the most damning criticism came yesterday when the unspeakable supported the uneatable. The fox hunting group Arcicaccia declared the foxtails for cash initiative was vulgar. "The hunt has to be in the traditional manner and one that promotes sustainable hunting," said spokesman Luciano Sozzi.