‘But they are vermin, their numbers need to be controlled – it’s pest control‘. The argument everyone who’s ever debated fox hunting with somebody who is pro-hunt is sick of hearing. Whilst there are many arguments hunt groups like to use to justify fox hunting – this is one of the weakest.
But is fox hunting really pest control, and if so, is it an effective version of it? Find out here.
Are Foxes Vermin?
Foxes are not vermin, despite what pro-hunt campaigners might try and tell you – that’s not just my opinion, foxes are not considered and never have been considered ‘vermin’ by the department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), funnily enough, the secretary of state for DEFRA is Andrea Leadsom – who is FOR a return to fox hunting.
Fox Population In The UK Since The Ban
The population of the fox has not increased since the Hunting Act 2004 came into force, contrary to hunts warning of a massive population rise before the ban came into place.
In addition to this, the population also did not see any change when hunting was temporarily banned during the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001-02.
The reason hunting has no affect on fox numbers is highlighted in a recent study by Professor Stephen Harris from the University of Bristol.
His study showed evidence that one of the reasons fox hunting is such an inefficient way to control a population of territorial animals is because foxes that are killed will quickly be replaced by other migrating foxes from other areas. Additionally, he cited that his research showed that fox hunting can actually lead to an increase in fox numbers:
“Fox losses, whether by ‘pest control’ or natural mortality, are rapidly replaced, especially in winter which is the main dispersal period.”
“In fact ‘pest control’, especially when a dominant animal is killed, can lead to a local increase in numbers as more foxes move in to compete for the vacant space.”
In 2015, DEFRA also stated that:
“In high fox density areas, killing [them] to reduce numbers is often not successful or cost-effective,”
Hunts Breeding Foxes For Hunting
The hunts argument again falls flat on its face when hunts have been exposed capturing and breeding foxes for later hunting, as well as creating ‘artificial dens’ to encourage foxes to take up home in them – thus indirectly contributing to an increase in fox numbers – should these foxes breed and leave before being hunted.
The footage from the video below is from May 2015 by the League Against Cruel Sports who carried out an undercover investigation on land linked to the Middleton Foxhounds hunt, near Malton in North Yorkshire.
This is not a new thing, any has been reported widely by The Independent and The Guardian long before the ban came into force. It’s worth noting that one of the main ‘justifications’ for fox hunting back then was that it was an effective way of keeping fox numbers down.
How Many Foxes Did Hunts Kill?
When fox hunting was at its peak, the Burns Enquiry estimated it was responsible for just 5% of yearly fox mortality rates, (21,000 to 25,000) with the leading causes of death being road collisions, disease outbreaks and shortages of food available in the area. If fox hunting is ‘pest control’ – it’s a laughably ineffective version of it.
So What Does Control Fox Numbers?
In addition to social factors, nature is in fact the best controller of population and foxes control their numbers well, the size of vixens litters are dependant on the amount of foxes in the area. Therefore, if there is already a high population, litters will be smaller and vice versa.
In addition to this, cub mortality rates will increase should their be a higher population of foxes in the area and less food available to them.
How Can I Prevent A Return To Fox Hunting?
The Conservatives have included a free vote on a repeal in their manifesto, but there are ways you can help stop a return to bloodsports in the UK:
- Put pressure on your MP or local candidate to commit to voting AGAINST a return to bloodsports, you can use write to them or votes for vinny to get in touch with them. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get a reply first time.
- Get involved on social media, spread the word with your friends and family and encourage them to do the same if they are also passionate about it.
- Support your local hunt saboteurs group, whether that’s through joining them, making a donation or just dropping their Facebook page a like.
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