All About Animals: The Issues (Ages 14-16): Hunting

Take a look at the following fascinating facts about wild animals:

  • Red deer who are two years and over grow antlers and the size of their antlers depends on the food they eat. Deer who live in forests have larger antlers than those who live on moor land.
  • Hares look similar to rabbits but have larger ears, live above ground and can run at an amazing 55 kilometres per hour!
  • Urban foxes may have a territory of just two square kilometres while the hill fox may roam over 40 square kilometres.
  • Mink are related to otters and stoats and are just as happy in the water as they are on land. They are great swimmers but also very good at climbing.

But the one thing these incredible wild animals have in common is that until recently hunters in the United Kingdom regarded them all as quarry. In 2002, hunting with hounds was banned in Scotland, and in February 2005 a law banning hunting with hounds came into force in the rest of the United Kingdom. Legal challenges are still being mounted against this legislation but it looks as though hunting is gone for good. Despite that, some hunters insist they will continue hunting.

Deer Hunting

Before the ban, there were just three deer hunts operating, all in the West Country. As with fox hunting, deer hunters dress in the traditional gear and follow a pack of hounds on horseback. The deer is chased until exhaustion, at which point the animal is shot. The hind-hunting season ran from November to February, and the stag-hunting season from August to October and March to April.

Hare Hunting

Despite the number of hares having declined massively, hares continued to be hunted across the country right up until the date of the ban, either on horseback or on foot. Because hares are regarded as harmless, hare hunting did not attract a large following, and even fox hunters may not agree with hunting hares. Hares were chased by beagles or basset hounds and killed by the dogs. The season ran from September to March and each pack would go out up to three times a week.

Mink Hunting

As the fur trade declined, farmers released many thousands of mink into the British countryside. Many of these animals have adapted to the habitat and thrived. Before the ban, there were nineteen mink packs in England and Wales, and hunting was conducted on foot with dogs along the banks of the waterways where mink may live. Mink were killed by the dogs. The season ran through the summer and packs may have gone out twice a week.

Fox Hunting

Before the ban, the number of fox hunts was dropping each year, with 194 still remaining. Each pack would go out up to three times a week. Cubbing – the practice of training new hounds to kill fox cubs – began at the end of August. The main season started in November and ran through to April, when many of the hunted vixens were pregnant. Foxes taking refuge below ground could be dug out and shot or thrown to the hounds.

A hunter might say…
Foxes are pests and they must be controlled. Hunting is the least cruel method of doing this, as shooting and poisoning may cause more suffering and a more protracted death.

Hunting is a traditional sport and those who have curbed this do not understand the countryside. Hunting is natural; it’s the way of nature. Hunting provides a service to farmers, as we pick up dead livestock for free and use the carcasses to feed the hounds. We also deal with troublesome foxes who take lambs or poultry.

Now hunting is banned, many jobs will be lost and a whole way of life is gone forever.

Opponents say …
Like all species, if foxes were left alone, their numbers would be controlled by the availability of habitat and other natural factors. Foxes should not be blamed because farmers fail to take proper care of their animals and ensure their safety. And what damage do deer, mink and hares cause?

We should remember that the countryside is the animals’ home, too, and learn to appreciate our wild neighbours.

A simple switch to drag-hunting – where a scented rag is used instead of a live animal – will ensure that no jobs are lost now that hunting with hounds is banned.

This is not a town versus countryside issue. Many country-dwellers, including farmers, oppose hunting of all kinds.

You want more info? This is where to go:

The League Against Cruel Sports 01483 524 250
The Countryside Alliance 0207 840 9210