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FOXHUNTING....

There are over 200 foxhunts in Britain, each hunting 2 to 4 times a week.

The main season is from November until late March, although some carry on until the start of May. All hunts also 'cub hunt' (hunt young fox cubs as training for new hounds) for 2/3 months before the start of the main season.

The hunt itself will gather in late morning, although an 'earth stopper' will have been out at dawn to block up any known fox earths, drains and badger setts, so that foxes returning from a night's foraging will be exposed above ground. The huntsman will lead the hounds to a wood or covert where there is a known earth. The hounds are sent into the wood to flush out any foxes. As all underground escape routes are blocked, the fox is forced to run to escape the hounds. Riders positioned around the wood will 'holloa' to let the huntsman know the direction the fox has run.

Foxhounds are bred to be slower than foxes, but have far better stamina. Thus, the fox will initially out-pace the hounds, but tire quicker, allowing the hounds to eventually catch up with it. It is almost always an older, experienced hound who will catch a fox on the run, snapping at any part of the fox to slow it down. The rest of the pack then catches up and the fox is torn to pieces.

If the fox manages to find refuge in an un-blocked earth, the hunt employ terriermen who will put their terriers down the earth to force the fox into the open to be re-hunted, or attack the fox underground while the men dig down through the soil to catch the terrified animal. Once they have dug out the fox, the terriermen are supposed to shoot it, but many will simply give it a blow with a spade. It is not unheard of (although against fox hunting rules) for the fox to be thrown alive to the waiting hounds.

AND HOW TO STOP IT....

The only way to prevent a foxhunt killing foxes is to sabotage it! The best campaigning in the world means nothing to the thousands of foxes and other animals that will be chased towards a violent and bloody end in the meantime. After thirty years of practice, hunt saboteurs have become skilled in the art of saving lives through sabotage. The tactics can be basic, and learned after a morning's explanation, or more complicated, but all can be mastered in a season or two.

The tactics themselves range from spraying scent maskers to disguise the scent line of the hunted fox; to imitating the huntsman's voice and horn calls to get control of the hounds; to sitting on a fox earth to prevent a dig-out. A personal stereo linked to a small amplifier and loud hailer (nicknamed a 'gizmo') can be used to play tape recordings of the hounds in cry to encourage them away from foxes and towards sabs.

You don't have to be super fit, or know every tactic inside out to come sabbing and save lives. All any hunt saboteur needs to do is recognise that hunts are killing wildlife now and want to do everything they can to stop them.

SOME ARGUMENTS AGAINST FOXHUNTING�:

    90% of agricultural land is used for crops, beef and dairy farming. The fox's diet of rabbits and rats actually makes it an asset to most farmers. A 1996 MAFF booklet stated that only 0.4% of lambs that die do so due to accidents, dog attacks, and all other animal predation (including being taken by foxes). Besides, efforts at control are useless as the fox regulates its own population and is a territorial animal. This means that if one fox is killed another soon moves into its place from a surrounding area.

    There are numerous cases where hunts have provided artificial earth's and stick piles to encourage foxes to breed to provide 'sport'. One hunt master openly compared breeding foxes for hunting to 're-stocking a trout stream'!

    The hunters privately admit that they do not hunt to 'control a pest'. A 10 year Oxford University study found that only half of the Hunt Masters questioned mentioned fox control as any justification for their 'sport'. 82% claimed that the hunt's main role was as 'a recreational and social force embodying a traditional rural pastime'.

    Every part of a foxhunt is cruel; from the chase, to the dig-out; to the kill. A US Agricultural report compared physiological stress responses in foxes pursued for 5 minutes then killed by dogs (most foxhunts pursue their quarry for far longer) and foxes caught by leg-hold (gin) traps for 2-8 hours. The study showed that foxes caught by dog and in leghold traps showed equivalent responses to stress even though the time spent being chased was far shorter than the time caught in the traps. Leg-hold traps are so barbaric, have been banned in Britain for thirty years.

    There is no 'nip to the back of the neck' in hunting. Lead hounds will snap at any part of the running fox, before the pack rip it to pieces. If the fox outwits the hunt and gets to ground, then it will be forced to fight with terriers for hours before being hauled out and, if lucky, shot.

    Cubhunting is best described by the late 10th Duke of Beaufort "It is essential that hounds should have their blood up and learn to he savage with their fox before he is killed".

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