Friday, June 21Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Fox Hunting: A Thing of the Past or the Future?

Izzy Swanson discusses why this activity is back on the political agenda.

With the current political climate, I doubt that you were thinking about fox hunting a couple of weeks ago when you were deciding who to vote for in the general election. But now that Theresa May has revealed that she is continuing the Conservatives’ trend of putting the repeal of the fox hunting ban on the party’s manifesto, it has brought the debate into the foreground again. However, as a YouGov poll made known in 2015, the majority of the UK do not want to see a return of the ‘sport’ in its original form, which was outlawed in 2004, so why does the Prime Minister want to revive something so unpopular?

One reason is Theresa May’s personal preference as, in her own words, she has “always been in favour of fox hunting”. Just to be clear, foxes can be killed by farmers and homeowners, but they cannot be chased by up to 40 dogs and eaten alive after a 10-mile chase. According to David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, killing foxes in this way is, “barbaric and brutal” and has “no place in civilised society”. One Conservative MP agreed, stating that it is unnecessary and will distance the party even further from an increasingly significant section of the electorate – the 18-24-year-old age bracket. Other reports have suggested that it is her way of affirming the support of traditional Tory voters, especially in rural areas – but these are people who generally do not need encouragement to put a cross in the Conservative box.

Defenders of the traditional pastime argue that it is a humane and ecological way to control the population of the animals, targeting the weaker foxes which are less likely to survive and reproduce. Furthermore, according to the Countryside Alliance, the hounds are more efficient than alternative ways of killing, meaning death is instantaneous and not traumatising. Supporter James Delingpole states that fox hunting, “combines so many of the things that make life worth living: the matchless beauty of our countryside… the thrill of the chase… the relationship with your horse”. Others also suggest that the ‘sport’ contributes to the conservation of the landscape and encourages trade and socialisation which are vital to rural communities. But can the countryside not be preserved, regulated and enjoyed without the gratification of killing animals in a way that makes the majority of the population uncomfortable?

Time will only tell if fox hunting will return. But one thing is for sure, if the vote finally makes it to the floor of the commons, the result is sure to continue to divide opinions.