Voters are being turned off by Theresa May's fox hunting plans

Some hunters have been caught kidnapping fox cubs and intentionally breeding them, in addition to feeding wild foxes – apparently to encourage population growth in order to later kill them

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The Independent Online

If Theresa May was looking for a way to alienate a large majority of the British public, she's found it. Her pledge to give MPs a free vote on whether or not to repeal the Hunting Act – thereby making it legal for foxes to be torn to shreds by packs of dogs led by hunters – doesn't just offend any person with an ounce of common decency, it also flies in the face of all the evidence on effective wildlife management.

Britain has a proud legacy of protecting animals – including by introducing the first animal welfare legislation in the world – and so the mind boggles that any politician would suggest overturning a highly successful law that has been proved to safeguard animals. Government records show that from February 2005 to 2013 alone, more than 500 individuals have been charged and 341 convicted under the Hunting Act. The ban is effective, and it stands as a firm warning that terrorising and killing foxes won't be tolerated in this country.

Just this week, a new poll found that 67 per cent of voters think the ban on fox hunting should remain – and other recent polls have put the figure as high as 84 per cent.

This isn't the first time the ban has come under threat. Two years ago, hundreds of compassionate people gathered outside Parliament in protest against the government's attempt to reinstate fox hunting, and tens of thousands – from every constituency in the country – wrote to their MPs urging them to vote against plans to weaken the ban. After this action, the government quickly backpedalled and cancelled the planned vote.

She might support this blood sport, but it doesn't get much crueller than setting a pack of hounds loose on a terrified fox. Hunts intentionally block foxes' underground escape routes, so the frantic chases often last for hours, during which foxes sometimes rupture their internal organs in their desperate attempts to evade the dogs. When the foxes become exhausted or are cornered and unable to escape, the dogs often rip them apart – an excruciating and slow way to die if ever there was one. A study of foxes killed by hounds showed that the animals died of profound trauma inflicted by multiple bites and, in many cases, were disembowelled while still alive. 

As for the stale excuse about population control that's so often batted around, there's no need to kill foxes at all – in fact, lethal "population control" methods have been shown to backfire. In areas where many foxes are killed, the number of fertile vixens increases, as do litter sizes. Many species exhibit this common biological response, which restores populations to their natural levels. For hunters, this ensures a steady stream of victims – and a convenient cover for their bloodlust.

Thousands march on Downing St to protest fox hunting

Some hunters have even been caught kidnapping fox cubs and intentionally breeding them, in addition to feeding foxes in areas where they are hunted – apparently to encourage population growth in order to later kill them.

Clifford Pellow, who retired after working with hunts for 23 years, summed the situation up to The Ecologist: “I've worked with many hunts across the country and seen foxes kept in milk churns, cages and sheds and encouraged to breed in artificial earths so there's a ready supply to be hunted. I've even seen a fox deliberately strung up in a tree to send the hounds into a frenzy…

Though hunts insist they are there to provide a wildlife control service…this just isn't the case. They're still in it purely for the blood ‘sport’, with a nasty, cruel streak and no respect for the law.”

Few things are as clear-cut as the cruelty inherent in fox hunting. Blood sports have no place in any civilised society, and while the government is looking backwards, catering to the people who derive pleasure from torturing animals, our country falls further and further behind other forward-thinking nations that are taking meaningful steps to give animals greater protection – by banning the use of wild animals in circuses, ending the breeding of orcas in captivity, and putting a stop to other cruel practices. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." If that's so, we certainly have a long way to go before we can claim to be worthy of the "Great" in Great Britain.  

Mimi Bekhechi is the Director of International Programmes at PETA