Letter: Trouble with foxes and the blood sports lobby

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From Mrs Denise Walton

Sir: I welcome the common sense of Duff Hart-Davis's article (Weekend, 4 November). As a practising ecologist and farmer I experience both sides of the fox control argument but see the need for control for both agricultural and ecological reasons. Foxes are wild carnivorous animals in a highly competitive and diverse environment. Their predation of farm animals is often more than "just a nuisance" and lack of fox control could have implications for biodiversity in local areas.

I have abandoned a small but profitable farmyard free-range egg supply business because the hens were taken by foxes during the day (they were shut in at night). Another neighbour has had to do the same - hens were killed and left within a high fenced run. Protection can be prohibitive. During a recent lambing a neighbour lost 11 lambs, a significant amount from a small stock farm, and another witnessed two foxes working together to distract a ewe while a third fox attempted to remove one of twins just born. My husband frightened a vixen from a new-born lamb one of whose ears she had all but eaten off (two further lambs had been similarly injured during that lambing).

Following a period of consistent fox control in the locality this year, the numbers of ground nesting birds and young hares have increased significantly in spite of a wet spring.

While Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food statistics may suggest that national losses to farmers are not significant (I question their source - there will be many losses which go unreported), the losses matter to individual farmers who need to control foxes. Control should be on a planned, local and season-by-season basis. Hunting with hounds can very effectively achieve such local control, which is often all that is necessary. It has the added and important advantage of a quick kill with no foxes left to die of their injuries, unlike other forms of control.

Yours faithfully,

Denise Walton

Foulden, Berwickshire