Wednesday, 17 February 2010
I Was A Teenage Hunt Saboteur
Since it's still that season, I thought this might be a timely post...
While other teenagers were enjoying all-nighters with assorted contraband and unsanctioned strangers, I was often to be found shivering in the back of some ropey white Transit van in the early hours, stomach lurching queasily, desperately trying not to need a wee. Last to leave the van in whatever misty wooded bit of copse we had managed to conceal the vehicle, crampy-legged, I half fell out onto the moist forest floor, fastened the back door padlock hasp and set off with my Citronella spraycan to spray my area of the map territory. The purpose of this was to throw the hounds off the scent and confuse them. I comforted myself it was the most useful thing I could do in the name of saving the fox and that it was quite alright to abstain from the nastier stuff later on where confrontation and physical obstruction and distraction of the hunt were involved. And in the days before camera phones, where video cameras were as large as sideboards and pricey as cars, anything could happen. At around that time a member of a fellow group was killed on a hunt sab when he jumped onto a hunt trailer to unhitch it and was allegedly pushed off to be crushed beneath the moving wheels. Unfortunately images either didn't exist of the incident or were too grainy for anything to be proven. He was not the only casualty.
So did I care about the fox?
Dare I say - it's never been my favourite of creatures, heart wrenching though the idea of a vixen being ripped apart by hounds was, when her cubs might be left to starve to death in their den without her.
No, I was actually more affected by the hounds being shot the moment they could no longer run fast enough (usually around the age of six) and the cubbing that preceded a hunt - where the hunt would train the hounds in bloodlust by encouraging them into dens to drag out fox cubs to rip apart.
Eventually though, I just couldn't go on hunt sabs in any capacity. They shredded my sensitive poetic nerves and I saw some very unpleasant sights when the hounds did get their fox.
So what did I learn from these experiences - except that I was the worlds' most pants hunt saboteur?
Well primarily that fox hunting as a valid form of pest control just doesn't stack up economically, no matter the valiant excuses made by huntspersons.
Urban legend has it that a lady in the Isle of Wight looked up Pest Control in her Yellow Pages to get rid of a fox that was taking a little too keen an interest in her chickens. A Master of the Hunt, six men in hunting pinks and ten women in black turned up within the hour.
This formation then proceeded to take the best part of four hours to seek out the fox, eventually finding nothing but a domestic cat, but causing damage to four boundary fences and a pool of Koi carp as they traversed private property in their pursuit.
Their customer's face was said to be a picture when the invoice dropped through her letterbox
Hunt master @ £90 per hour x 4 hours + travel
Whippers-in x 2 @ £60 per hour x 4 hours + travel
Assorted Pinkcoats x 6 @ £50 per hour x 4 hours + travel
Blackcoats x 10 @ £35 per hour x 4 hours + travel
Followers x 50 @ £10 per hour x 4 hours + travel
Hire of 20 pairs x hounds @ £5 per hour x 4 hours + travel
Damage to fences, 5 x replacement Koi and 1 x replacement cat
Policing bill to beat up saboteurs = £25,000
Subtotal: You must be joking
(and that’s not counting the champagne buffet she was expected to lay on for the hungry huntspersons afterwards!)
Whether these pest controllers bothered to inform her there were no foxes in the Isle of Wight until they were purposefully introduced there for hunting purposes over a century ago is dubious, since that would mean that really she should have just sued them, rather than paid them.