Legal Hunts

(Photo by Mukbil Rifaat).

What is the difference between Trophy Game hunting (legal in USA, parts of Africa and elsewhere) and Fox hunting ( banned in UK)?

For a start, the people who practice these contrasting sports are very different human beings.

Whereas legal game hunting is presented as a conservation and economic issue in Africa, it often caters to the pathological arrogance of an individual. Such  “hunters” derive satisfaction from “taking” a substantial wild creature out of its life and transferring it into theirs, often slowly and painfully. Their aim is to de-capitate, skin and display the untamed beast in order to impress a group of like-minded, grinning, heartless killers.

Fox-hunting, by contrast, evolved over centuries as a rural activity primarily rooted in a local community of farmers without whose positive support no hunt across privately-owned land can be sustained. The ancient “culture of the horse” creates the conditions for the sport which brings together people from every background to share common experiences by participating. It became an intimate, sensitive relationship with the land, its wildlife and inhabitants. Landowners, farmers and penniless villagers partake in or follow the events which culminate from a breeding, tending, and exercising of the horses for which there is no longer any practical, economic, purpose. The rhythms of the hunt season bring together often isolated , hard-pressed individuals for whom working in the country is not as sociable as working in cities or offices. High suicide rates amongst farmers and countryfolk are significantly mitigated by the morale-boosting camaraderie of a mutually supportive fraternity determined to match the rigours of the coldest months with an essential gritty cheerfulness. Hunting on horseback is no easy, whimsical, impromptu pastime.There is nothing spontaneous about this sport’s rush of blood.

The traditions which long existed in some hunts of displaying the mask and brush of a killed fox did not spring from egotistical vainglory, but was customarily part of a ritual of respect. The fox is either treated as an honoured adversary, with tales glorifying his cunning and courage, or he is trapped and shot by farmers struggling against the depredations he inflicts, as vermin, upon his livestock. The fox only continues to exist as a species with the acceptance of humans into their landscape. In Britain, a fine compromise evolved, woven into the weft of its social fabric. Countrymen understood the ways of the fox, admired the fabled creature, and lifted the necessary task of controlling predatory vermin to the level of a communal sport which elevated the fox to the status of gallant, brilliant, adversary. This delicately balancing relationship pitted horsemanship against the fox’s fitness and skill, according Reynard the honour of a contest in which the hunted had more than a fair chance of success and survival. The oldest and weakest were most likely to be culled, liberating the best strains to continue their genes into future fox evolution.

Film and tv theme composer Laurie Johnson produced the haunting soundtrack for a realistic tale of the contest between a huntsman and a beguiling fox . To see who triumphs you need to watch the movie, based on the novel ” The Ballad of the Belstone Fox”. Unsentimental, but moving.

Watch the film!

And read more:

Jorrocks Jaunts and Jollities by Surtees
“Mémoirs of a Fox-hunting Man” by siegfried Sassoon.

Only those who have witnessed at close quarters the exhilaration and primal challenges of The Chase upon riders, hounds and horses can share the experience of adventure which is often to risk human life itself.

By contrast, there is nothing symbiotic, honourable nor culturally valuable about senselessly killing game which is usually not even fairly hunted. Beautiful creatures are neatly served up for slaughter, as if on a plate, by skilled local trackers; a procedure which can gratify only an individual who bears neither respect nor admiration for wildlife. Instead these pseudo hunts are merely a visible demonstration of victory over the magnificently free and unconquerable. Such plundering of life also assumes a certain blood-lust which in today’s civilisation is surely an unacceptable trait lingering on in some crassly cowardly human beings… long after the many ages of barbarism. (Penstorm)


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