The Ecologist

 
Captive foxes held in a 'fox farm' barn as discovered by investigators. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.
Captive foxes held in a 'fox farm' barn as discovered by investigators. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.
More articles about
Related Articles
  • One of the captured foxes being rehabilitated in a wildlife sanctuary. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.
    One of the captured foxes being rehabilitated in a wildlife sanctuary. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.
  • One of the captured foxes being rehabilitated in a wildlife sanctuary. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.
    One of the captured foxes being rehabilitated in a wildlife sanctuary. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.
  • Captive foxes held in a 'fox farm' barn as discovered by investigators. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.
    Captive foxes held in a 'fox farm' barn as discovered by investigators. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.
  • Offal dump apparently intended to attract foxes into the area to be hunted. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.

    Offal dump apparently intended to attract foxes into the area to be hunted. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.

  • Man dumping offal under a tree, apparently to attract foxes into the area. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.
    Man dumping offal under a tree, apparently to attract foxes into the area. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.
  • Offal dump apparently intended to attract foxes into the area to be hunted. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.

    Offal dump apparently intended to attract foxes into the area to be hunted. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.

Kidnapped fox cubs explode the myth that hunting is ‘wildlife management'

Dr Toni Shephard

21st June 2015

The discovery of a secret 'fox farm' apparently linked to the Middleton Hunt exposes the lie that is used to justify fox hunting, writes, Dr Toni Shephard: that it's a legitimate means of wildlife control. On the contrary, foxes are deliberately fattened up for the kill, also indicating possible violations of the 2004 Hunting Act, which prohibits the hunting of wild animals, including foxes, with dogs.

Though hunts insist they provide a wildlife control service, the fact they break the rules over and over again shows that this just isn't the case. They're still in it purely for the blood 'sport', with a nasty, cruel streak and no respect for the law.

The League Against Cruel Sports' discovery of 16 fox cubs held captive in a barn located just 200 metres from the Middleton Foxhound's kennels is big news.

That's not so much because it involves a high profile hunt whose members have multiple convictions for illegal hunting - although that's true.

It's rather that it sheds light on the widespread practice of 'fox farming' apparently associated with hunting - undermining the hunting lobby's last line of defence, that they provide an essential wildlife management service.

It also casts doubt on the idea that foxes are only killed accidentally in the course of perfectly legal drag hunting, and suggests that police should investigate possible breaches of the Hunting Act 2004.

The evidence in this case firmly disputes the Middleton Hunt's conflicting claims that the fox cubs were nothing to do with them. We filmed their terrier man, an employee of the hunt whose registered address is the hunt's kennels, going into the shed.

The Hunt also claimed that the foxes were being looking after by the hunt for their welfare. DNA analysis carried out by the police revealed the cubs were from four separate litters. The prospect of the hunt being called upon to care for any orphaned fox cubs, let alone 16 cubs from four separate litters, is laughingly absurd.

Capturing foxes to be hunted is widespread

In just the last 15 months, the League's Wildlife Crimewatch hotline has received information about 20 different hunts capturing foxes to be hunted. It was one such tip off that led to the discovery of those 16 cubs. While the scale of the fox 'factory' discovered in that barn is shocking, it is not the first time hunts have been caught with captive foxes.

In 2012, an employee of the Fitzwilliam Hunt was convicted under the Animal Welfare Act for holding a pregnant vixen captive in appalling conditions. During the height of the campaign for a ban on hunting, both the Sinnington Hunt and Cottesmore Hunt were caught keeping fox cubs captive for hunting.

According to Clifford Pellow, a kennelman and huntsman for 23 years and now retired, these incidents are just the tip of the iceberg:

"I've worked with many hunts across the country and seen foxes kept in milk churns, cages and sheds and encouraged to breed in artificial earths so there's a ready supply to be hunted. I've even seen a fox deliberately strung up in a tree to send the hounds into a frenzy, so it's no surprise to me this cruelty carries on.

"Though hunts insist they are there to provide a wildlife control service, the fact they break the Master of Foxhounds Association rules over and over again shows that this just isn't the case. They're still in it purely for the blood 'sport', with a nasty, cruel streak and no respect for the law.

"The hunting world's last possible justification for repealing the Hunting Act has been well and truly blown out of the water."

Encouraging foxes with artificial earths and feeding

Pre and post ban, anti-hunt campaigners have witnessed and recorded evidence of hunts building homes and providing food for wild foxes, all to ensure a ready supply of animals to be hunted.

In 2011, six years after the hunting ban came into force, a League Against Cruel Sports investigation found that the use of artificial earths - man-made structures designed to mimic fox earths, usually made out of drain pipes or concrete blocks and designed provide a place for foxes to breed and shelter - was widespread.

Evidence of structure maintenance and supplementary feeding of foxes was recorded at sites in 14 counties, on land used by 21 hunts. In November 2014, ITV broadcast footage of the North Cotswold Hunt dumping dozens of dead chickens, rabbits and eggs at an artificial fox earth over a period of several weeks, and then hunting in the same area, made national headlines.

In May 2015 we received footage of dead chickens being dumped outside an artificial fox earth where the Pytchley Hunt had been filmed hunting just months before.

Lest you think these are just a few bad apples, the 10th Duke of Beaufort confirms the prevalence of artificial earths in his 1998 book Fox Hunting:

"In countries where earths are scarce it is sometimes found necessary to make artificial earths, to provide somewhere for local foxes to have their cubs; in other words, for breeding purposes. An additional advantage is that if an artificial earth is left open, it will only take a few minutes to bolt a fox. Also if it is a blank day, one knows where to go with some certainty of finding a fox."

Why would hunts encourage or rear foxes?

For all the pro-hunt lobby's claims of fox control and wildlife management, hunting is really about prestige. Ensuring that foxes are killed when esteemed guests ride with the hunt, and on important days such as the final meet of the year, is important for the hunt's reputation.

Providing food and shelter for wild foxes means the hunt will always know where to find them on hunting day. And of course, when the hounds come across foxes during the course of an apparently legal drag hunt, the resulting fox kill can be put down as an unfortunate accident.

Rearing fox cubs in captivity could serve several purposes. Some may be released during 'cub hunting' season in early autumn when young hounds are taught how to track and kill by chasing fox cubs. Others may be released at artificial fox earths dotted throughout the terrain, thus providing 'quarry' for the upcoming hunting season.

In some cases the purpose could be even more disturbing. For several years our Wildlife Crimewatch line has received reports of a trade in foxes, with hunts in areas with healthy fox populations providing foxes for those in areas where the animal is scarce. While technically this is wildlife management, it's not the 'natural' kind that hunts claim to provide.

No justification for a return to hunting

All of this evidence demonstrates what anti-hunt campaigners have known for decades; hunting has absolutely nothing to do with fox control or wildlife management - and it certainly isn't natural.

Fox cubs belong with their parents and adults should have to forage for food, not have it delivered to their doorstep. The truth is that hunting is simply a cruel sport without any justification.

We urge all MPs to stand against this cruel and unnatural treatment of wild animals and vote against repeal of the Hunting Act.

 


 

Action: The League Against Cruel Sports is currently offering people the chance to contact their MP about the Hunting Act. Take the simple League Against Cruel Sports action.

Dr Toni Shephard is Head of Policy and Research at the League Against Cruel Sports.

To find out why foxes don't actually need to be 'controlled', go to the League Against Cruel Sports Foxycology page.

 

Previous Articles...

ECOLOGIST COOKIES

Using this website means you agree to us using simple cookies.

More information here...

 

FOLLOW
THE ECOLOGIST