I am a deer hunter. Deer hunting, like duck hunting, turkey hunting, and other game has a primary purpose: putting food on the table. One of the rules you’ll find with game hunting, regardless of the state it is conducted in, is that the kill should be swift and humane. This mirrors that way farm animals are slaughtered. If you saw the movie, “No Country for Old Men,” that nasty pneumatic device that Javier Bardem’s character carried around and killed people with, is used to slaughter cattle. Touch the device to the cow’s head, push a button, cow dies without suffering.
Enter fox hunting. I was out hunting for deer to donate to a local charity when all of the sudden, the buck I was stalking comes flying by my stand followed by a pack of dogs. On one end of the field, I hear a man yelling as if he was berserk. On the other end of the field were men in red coats, white riding breeches, black riding helmets and boots. They were riding pristine white horses. Trumpets were blaring. The dogs were running all over the place, urinating on the deer runs, and scaring off every animal from the site to include squirrels. Even five hours later, not a single animal returned. My friend that owns the land said that the deer had scampered off into the woods and were huddled together in a most uncharacteristic way, as if they were terrified. What was the objective of this “hunt” where the “hunters” outnumbered the foxes 20 or 30 to one, not including the dogs? They simply wanted to chase a fox, an animal with nothing to contribute as far as food is concerned, to the point where its heart was about to burst. The elitist asses that participate in the “sport” are flaunting their wealth and their self-assumed positions of superiority. Their pretty white horses and their starched white breeches come back as clean as they left. They leave for their “sport” in the middle of the day when it is warm and return to their clubs for high tea. These people have few skills apart from being able to ride horses without getting mud splashed on their knickers. They pay others to groom their horses and train their dogs. Their “hunting” gear could easily cost $20,000-$30,000 per “hunter.” Fox hunting came to the U.S. and other nations from the U.K. In the U.K., fox hunting is considered to be so cruel and savage that it has been banned since 2005.
Game hunters, on the other hand, rise before dawn in the cold winter weather. We climb into tree stands or sit in duck blinds patiently waiting for hours until our quarry comes along. In the 10 1/2 months where we cannot hunt, we go to archery and rifle ranges, and gun clubs to perfect our art so we can kill our prey swiftly and efficiently. We wear heavy hunting clothes and boots and we come home far dirtier than when we left. We make sure to leave the hunting grounds in better shape than when we arrived. Our rifles and bows are purchased at sporting goods and department stores. Most hunters I know have spent no more than $1,000 on everything they need to hunt: weapons, clothing, ammunition, cleaning materials, etc. We succeed by doing hard work, not by paying others to do the work for them. We are instructed on ethical hunting and tested before getting a license. We work closely with our Departments of Natural Resources to make sure we don’t disturb the natural balance of things and help manage the population in relationship to land for feeding and habitation. If we are successful in our hunts, we put food on the table, sometimes for ourselves, other times for those less fortunate. Most of the hunters I know work with an organization called Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (fhfh.org). In the last year, FHFH has donated almost 47,000 pounds of high-quality, low-fat, GMO-free meat to those in need.
To call fox hunting a sport is like calling deer hunting with HUMVEEs, machine guns, and night vision optics a sport. A sport is a competition where both parties have a chance of winning. In my state of Maryland, we practice something called “fair pursuit.” Fair pursuit is accomplished by limiting armaments and munitions. In the majority of our counties, hunters may only use arrows, shotguns that fire slugs (think big bullet), and muzzleloading weapons (e.g., a rifle that has gun powder poured down the muzzle of the barrel, followed by a bullet that is rammed in place, which is then ignited by a percussion cap, similar to those used in the Civil War. While there have been some advances in muzzleloading weapons, they are still limited to one shot per load, at which point they must be completely reloaded. An expert can reload one or two times in a minute. Unlike high-powered hunting rifles, muzzleloaders are limited to one or two hundred meters. Shotgun hunters have similar limits. Archers have a range of 30 to 50 meters. In the counties that allow high-powered rifles, restrictions include caliber, muzzle velocity, and the number of rounds that a weapon can hold. Bullets must be of an expanding type so the kill happens quickly and efficiently. No automatic weapons are allowed, even if legally owned.
It is important to note that I am not referring to hunting foxes like any of the animals I mentioned. A hunter that is hunting fox in this way is usually trying to remove a threat to things like poultry farms. This sort of hunting is analogous to catching mice and rats. The rules of hunting foxes in such a manner are the same sort of humane rules used for game animals. In line with this is an important fact from Australia, where they have a huge problem with the fox population as they are well known for the damage they can do to crops and wildlife. In a year, over 90,000 foxes are killed using firearms whereas about 650 are killed as a result of fox hunts. Not only is fox hunting cruel, it’s inefficient.
I am a libertarian and a free-market capitalist, so I am not begrudging how people spend their money. If they want to have polo clubs or hunt pheasant with $8,000 shotguns and have it prepared by their private chefs, more power to them. However, these sick and perverted people that have the audacity to call themselves hunters and participate in group torture of an animal that scarcely weighs 12 pounds and is smaller than the dogs that pursue it, should be banned from ever doing this again. Our nation vilified Michael Vick for dog fighting. He was shamed, lost his job, jailed, and forced to do public service time. Is fox hunting any less cruel than dog fighting? How would one of these fox hunting barbarians feel if one of their hounds was chased for miles by a pack of coyotes? There is no difference.
I am not a big one for petitions, but I think this inhumane, evil practice needs to be outlawed in the U.S. as it was in the U.K. I have partnered with Change.org to start a petition. Please sign it: https://www.change.org/petitions/the-maryland-department-of-natural-resources-ban-the-inhumane-practice-of-fox-hunts