Are you pro or anti hunting? Want to try hunting but find it ethically wrong? In this post I will give my personal opinions on hunting with reasons why and suggest a few activities you could try if you would feel too guilty fox hunting.
If you read the Equine Media you will know that fox hunting has been in the press a lot recently, or more specifically the hunt saboteurs. The stories have manly been about ‘disguised’ Sabs terrorising the hunts. Their actions have included; pulling children off ponies, calling the hounds onto main roads and attacking adult hunt members. There have been several cases where members of the hunt have been put in hospital. I am by no means accusing all those who are against hunting, I just personally feel that the majority of those taking part in these activities are the same type of people who joined in the London riots a few years ago, they just need an excuse to reek havoc.
Although I am not particularly pro or anti hunting, I feel that being in the equine industry and being at an agricultural university gears me closer towards the pro side. However, my point is, whether you agree or not with hunting and what goes on during the hunt, surely you can see that the latest Hunt Sab action is wrong. My personal opinion is, Hunt Sabs are against harming animals, therefore their anti hunting actions should not endanger or hurt any animals (such as laying false trails). Calling hounds on to main roads and pulling horses riders off puts these animals at risk.
Foxes in the Countryside
Back to my personal (possibly blinkered) opinion on hunting. Firstly, I feel it is important to point out about foxes role in the countryside. There are two main points I feel I need to make here. Foxes have no natural preditors in the UK (unless you count humans…), therefore there is always the risk that the population to grow uncontrollably (although I’m not sure this is the case, as there are many other factors). The second is that foxes can have devastating consequences for livestock. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for farmers to shot foxes on site. These two are the usual reasons for justifying fox hunting, as it is argued that they are ‘doing a service’ or if they are hunting on farmland the fox will be killed if seen anyway. Whether you believe or disagree with these pro arguments, I feel they are important to know for perspective.
At the end of the day, Hunting is a huge tradition in the UK Equine industry with it being closely linked to training race and event horses. Not only this, but it has its own set of shows based on it and has changed its ways over the years to reduce any suffering to the fox. Traditionally, when you had a young horse, you would back it early summer and ride it away to have it ready for the hunting season that year. This shows all the possible benefits it has to the horse (and rider).
Fox Hunting Alternatives
Apart from Drag Hunting, there is no getting around the fact that it is still hunting an animal for sport, which is what I believe most people have a problem with. However, I believe that a lot of the time, they either never find the fox or it gets away. As hunting has evolved, it has become less and less about the hunt, and more about the social and training experience. Bringing us back to the idea of drag hunting (has several different names). Drag hunting is where there is no fox involved at all, the huntsmen lay a false trail in advance. Although this is the more ethical choice, riders have to take into consideration that it tends to be a lot quicker, therefore it may not be suitable for younger/less experienced horses and riders.
Another hunting activity is hounds exercises. This also involves no fox and is as simple as it sounds and is basically a glorified dog walk on horseback with a few jumps involved. This can be a great way to introduce a young or new horse to hounds and gain confidence over jumps and in the field (for horse and rider!)
Finally we come to hunter classes. These can be ridden or in hand with various different types. Generally the horse judged on its movement, being a hunter ‘type’, behaviour/manners and jumping ability and style if its a ridden class. The movement should be correct, fluid and comfortable, the horse should be able to cover the ground easily. Your horse should match the type requirements for the class, but also be handsome and eye catching. The horse should show very good manners at all times and show a quiet, bold jump. I am no expert on these classes, but they are separated by type. I could be wrong (please correct me if I’m wrong!!), but this is the list and my understanding of the classes:
carry at least 12.7 stone
8 inches of bone
carry at least 14 stone
9 inches of bone
9.5 inches of bone
- Small Hunter
smaller than 15.2h
should look like a mini middleweight
- Riding Horse + Working/Ridden Hunter
from what I can gather it depends on what ‘type’ your horse is…
I have never been hunting before and think that I would like to take Scottie at one point. Since I recently found out that thoroughbreds often do well in show hunter classes I think I would also like to take part in these in the future as they tie in nicely to what is required for eventing.
However you may feel about hunting, you must agree that how the Hunt Sabs are acting is not okay. I also hope that if you have been interested in hunting, but never wanted to hurt a fox, I hope this have given you a few alternatives!
Any comments greatly appreciated as I think I definitely need some more opinions in here…