Oxfordshire resident Penny Little, an independent hunt monitor and associate of Protect Our Wild Animals
Should fox hunting be a thing of the past? It certainly should be, and many people believe it is. Unfortunately, that is far from the reality.
As a hunt monitor with 20 years’ experience I am appalled by what is still happening in the countryside.
Hunters chase and kill foxes with almost total impunity – I sometimes think they have actually forgotten they are supposed to be doing anything else, so contemptuous of the law and so blasé have they become. After all, if caught out hunting a fox they have in their back pocket the well-used, all-purpose excuse that it was an “accident”.
This fatuous explanation has got them off the hook time and again. The authorities should be ashamed that they have allowed this one section of society to demonstrate how utterly above the law they consider themselves to be.
However, the “accident” excuse has now become completely threadbare, thanks to the reams of film – captured by monitors since the ban – of foxes being hunted, shocking exposures of foxes being held captive in barns and sheds in readiness for the hunt, and a detailed report exposing that “trail hunting” is used as a cover for illegal hunting.
And yet once again we have seen the Boxing Day pantomime of hunts posing and swaggering in our country town centres, their diehard supporters ogling them with admiration.
This parade hides the squalid reality of hunting. It hides the gut-wrenchingly cruel world of dig-outs, the heart-stopping sight of an exhausted fox, stumbling from fear and exhaustion, forced to keep running for her life. It hides the horror of the hounds overwhelming the far smaller fox, bowling her over and tearing into her exposed belly and thorax. It hides the aftermath of the kill, the pieces of fur, the blood, the torn internal organs left behind.
Some will find these words upsetting – and they are. But I have seen all these things, and they haunt me.
They also drive me on to campaign until we can say truly that the barbaric cruelty of fox hunting is in fact, and not just in theory, a thing of the past.
Paul Scott, joint-master of the Bicester with Whaddon Chase hunt
It is 11 years since the Hunting Act was passed, but hunts still thrive in Oxfordshire and around the country, as does support for hunting.
How is it that an activity that was outlawed after an epic and bitter political campaign remains so popular?
There are many reasons, but high among them is the fact that hunting has never been shown to be doing anything wrong.
Despite 700 hours of parliamentary debate, a government inquiry and tens of millions of pounds spent by the animal rights movement, the case against hunting could not be proved.
The chairman of that government inquiry, Lord Burns, stated clearly there was no evidence that hunting was cruel, yet a majority of MPs was determined to ban it anyway.
Urban politicians and the animal rights movement have never understood hunting, or its place in the countryside. Many thought hunts would disband and hunting people take up another activity.
But anyone who knew hunting and hunting people, knew that would not happen.
And while hunting might be a minority activity, the wider rural community was always going to lend its support. The countryside knows the campaign against hunting is just the first item on the progressive agenda of the animal rights movement.
The battle for hunting had been won and the battle for shooting was beginning, while racing and farming were also in the sights of animal rights organisations.
Ironically, the Hunting Act provides absolutely no protection for foxes. It remains perfectly legal to shoot or trap a fox.
Hunts also continue to offer a legal fox control service to farmers, using terriers or two hounds to flush and shoot foxes.
There are a tiny number of prosecutions each year under the Hunting Act involving hunts in England and Wales, but more than 94 per cent involve casual hunting or poaching.
In summary, there is no reason for a ban on hunting and for the sake of landowners who need to protect their livestock, hunt staff, the legal system, and even the fox itself, it should be overturned.