Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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norman.karen.farnleyPhoto by Karen MyerSome Foxhunting Life readers have already seen this opinion piece, published more than a year ago. While it attracted a number of comments for which I’m grateful, the message hasn’t, and of course never will reach everyone. So after having seen a new batch of newspaper articles  from around the country, containing cringe-worthy quotes by foxhunters attending Opening Meets this season, I’m obliged to re-publish my argument. If it reaches another pair of eyes or ears and changes the mind attached, it will be worthwhile!

As Pogo once famously said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” I think of that bit of comic strip philosophy whenever I hear foxhunters attempt to con the public or distance themselves from the truth about our sport.

It’s my belief that we should be honest and truthful when discussing our sport. Anti-hunting proponents comprise a small, vocal majority with fixed ideologies, and we will not change their minds no matter what we say. We can tell them that our hounds never kill a fox, that the fox enjoys the chase, and any manner of falsehoods and obfuscations, and even if they believe us they won't change their minds about us.

We must, however, be perceived as credible and trustworthy to the vast majority of citizens who have no preconceived or strongly-held notions of hunting. If they think we’re trying to bamboozle them, we’ll lose them. People aren’t stupid.

The challenge is, then, to portray our sport in the most favorable light possible to the non-hunting public, without resorting to the sins of fanciful fibs, hanging other hunters out to dry, or syrup-speak. Some examples:

Fanciful Fibs
"We never kill a fox."

It may happen rarely, but if hounds come upon a sick fox...if a fox gets tangled in wire...if a fox makes a mistake, hounds will kill it. It’s probably true and fair to say that the vast majority of foxhunters today do not want to see a fox killed. They are out for the thrill of the chase, not the kill. But the word, “never,” hurts our credibility. Wouldn’t it be better to say that we rarely kill a fox, and when do it is often a sick fox that if left, would suffer.

"The fox enjoys the chase, too."

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that one from a foxhunter attempting to explain the sport to the uninitiated. OK, the fox may appear to behave with total nonchalance during the chase, and sometimes will be seen sitting and watching hounds, but to say he enjoys it? He enjoys eating and procreating, yes. As for the rest of his life, his business is to put food on the table and avoid predators. If scenting conditions are difficult, he may not be greatly concerned about being trailed by hounds, but being hunted surely has to be a nuisance at the very least and an interruption of his more important tasks for the day. Surely it’s a wishful exaggeration to say he enjoys the chase.

Hanging Other Hunters Out to Dry
"We are a drag hunt; we don’t kill foxes."

In the last couple of years I have read too many newspaper articles in which a participant in a drag hunt felt compelled to emphasize that point to the reporter. I well understand the urge to make that statement; it let’s the drag hunter off the hook in having to counter any anti-hunting sentiments. But foxhunters would like to believe that drag hunters are kin, and would have our backs in a fight.

By this I refer to euphemisms for hunting that don’t actually use the word, “hunting.” This doesn’t really harm our cause as do the first two sins, and it does avoid use of the h-word, but, really, what is wrong with hunting? If we back away from a legitimate, lawful, ancient sport just because some people don’t like it, aren’t we giving it up, bit by bit? Do we think the antis will ignore us after we hide behind a phrase? Do we think that people can’t peer behind a euphemism? Doesn’t it make us appear defensive about what we do? Where does that path lead?

Also, harking back to Sin Number 2, aren’t we abandoning other hunters—quail, pheasant, duck, deer hunters—and hanging them out to dry? Aren't they entitled to believe that we would have their backs in a fight, too?

In the end, I feel that we shouldn’t hide behind fibs or euphemisms. For foxhunting to endure, I think foxhunters should strive to be perceived as truthful and credible, be known as custodians and preservers of the land, and good neighbors.

Posted July 26, 2015
Republished December 23, 2016


+6 # Richard Patton 2015-07-28 09:42
Norm: You are to be commended for bringing this issue to center stage and shinning a light on it. Thank you. Your admonition for solidaity is quite appropriate. Many of us wince at the fact that foxhunting at bottom is a blood sport, but pretending otherwise is to delude yourself. As you point out, there are ways to acknowledge this truth yet still accentuate the positve. Richard Patton, MFH, Caza Ladron.
+1 # Eric Myer 2015-07-28 11:06
I,ve seen a lot of hunted fox and to me their expression and action indicate they,re pissed off, bothered!!
I often point out the odds picture "we hunt 60+ days a season and most hunts have fewer than 10 kills a yr. Cars kill a lot more fox than we do"
# Guest 2015-07-28 11:08
well said Norm, thank you. Our message needs to be that hunting is not inherently cruel.
# Ellen Jefferies 2015-07-28 12:32
Sorry, I think the "not inherently cruel" one is right up there with the fox enjoying it. Better to just not go there because that falls right into the Vegan pit.

As a perfectly useless aside, according to a course I took recently "What Plants Know", it would appear that they are aware and might know we are eating them, which puts you right back to the "this is a dog eat dog world". Sadly, I've never met an anti- that responded to the idea that hunting was a normal, moral activity since they all know that food springs into being spontaneously at the grocery, or even better the farmers market.
+1 # Guest 2015-07-28 12:02
Well said and I totally agree. Here in Maryland we seldo, encounter outright hostility from the so-called "antis". Perhaps our gun hunting brethren are an easier and certainly larger target. The need for solidarity and truthful response as you point out is clear. Also, the need for solidarity with all other hunters is critically important.

Thanks for a very significant article.

MFH Goshen Hounds
+1 # Guest 2015-07-28 12:03
Such a refreshing, direct perspective, Norm. I hope it will spread and catch on.
I grew up hunting-blooded at age 8, in fact. There was never any silly business about it.
When I relocated in recent years, I was dismayed by the "syrup speak" I was greeted with and had to wonder whether the speakers were idiots or if they just took me for one. Either way, it is transparent and off-putting to those in the know and those who might otherwise be supportive.
# Guest 2015-07-29 23:06
Unlike most hunting sports (deer, duck, fishing), our sport is hugely visible - large groups of people on horses in the open with trailers, hounds, and red coats - so it's especially important we are seen as approachable and forthright. It's clearly in our best interests to engage in honest conversation and take heed not to misrepresent the sport. When I find myself tempted to defend hunting because our quarry tends to be coyote rather than foxes, I will hear your voice, Norm, and heed it.
# Guest 2016-12-29 09:22
:-) Very well said indeed....
# Guest 2017-01-01 09:34
I think that it doesn't do anyone any favours to fib about hunting. Now that we have the ban in the UK, there should be no reason for antis. They're still there, though, dressed up in masks like terrorists. If you believe in something, why would you hide behind a frightening mask? Anyway, I always said - while it is much more emotive to go on about hounds tearing foxes apart, in reality on the occasions I have seen a fox killed - mostly when I used to foot follow - the lead hound kills with a bite to the neck and yes, after that the fox is dismembered at speed Hunting was so much more random and interesting when we never knew where the fox might be, where he was running etc. etc. Fish have a much more extended death. Who has not heard the fisherman extolling the "fighting" capabilities of a fish? Imagine if it were a fox on the end of the line? I think all hunters should stick together but in UK, at least, fisherman often decry the cruelty of the foxhunt...

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