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
VAT: Never!
Total: Aaaaaaaaaaarrgh!!!!
(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.


Tessa said...

"The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable" just about sums up fox hunters as far as I'm concerned. So I hope you are proud of your nefarious deeds as a hunt sab, Laura. Good for you.

KAZ said...

Congratulations Laura - that was very brave.
I always thought I should be doing it myself.
I read that David Cameron is to facilitate the return of fox hunting by having 'free' vote.

Steve said...

Foxes kill so few chickens - they really don't deserve the bad press they get. Fox hunting is the same as badger baiting or dog fighting. It's animal being set on animal in the so called name of sport. "Tradition" does not sanitize it in my opinion, only highlight how selfishly, willfully stupid men can be sometimes.

mhayworth said...

Great story! I happen to love foxes as you can see from the campaign link below. David Cameron does intend to repeal the ban. He calls it a free vote but the CA and Vote OK are campaining and leafletting for free for pro-hunt candidates - which tells you how the vote is being stacked.

Drag hunting is legal. The sense of community, pageantry, heritage, and jobs are all still intact and yet these disgraceful people can’t manage to enjoy themselves unless they are terrifying and killing animals.

If you support the hunting act, please get your names on the R.O.A.R. (Register Online Against Repeal), an ‘all party’ list at:

Please make your voices heard!

The Sagittarian said...

I can't bear the documentaries which show animals in the wild doing what they do (eg lion hunting antelope, snakes gathering up small creatures in their slimy jaws etc), so the idea of hounds hunting foxes is equally awful. Good on you Laura!
I used to go hunting with my brother but only to make a lot of noise to give the animals a change to run for it!

Nota Bene said...

A saboteur...good for you. I've always thought that hunting was awful, and never a 'sport'. Foxes can be a problem, but there are better ways of dealing with them. I love to see the foxes near our cottage...and there was one in the middle of the yard at the office - in the centre of London, in the middle of the day...and he was a fat one, not like the scrawny urban foxes we usually get...

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Well done whoever you are. You are both brave and honest. You young uns can teach us old uns!

Wisewebwoman said...

I can never get the sounds of those hounds baying at the unfortunate fox out of my head. It was so primitive and savage and downright unfair....
Good for you, Laura...

Duchess said...

I used to live in a part of the England where fox hunting was a regular activity and I had to learn to bite my tongue. The idea that they were controlling pests was the most ludicrous of all. Real foxhunters actively encourage fox breeding -- so I thought species preservation was, ironically, the best argument for the practice.

Reluctant Blogger said...

Foxes aren't my favourite creatures at the moment since I am pretty certain that it was the fox who took my poor cat. But I would rather that than that she had been run over. The fox has to survive I suppose.

I am too chicken to be a hunt sab though!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Thank you all for your comments. I will indeed sign your petition mhayworth. Thanks for dropping by Grumpy Old Ken. Yes Kaz, I cannot understand why Mr Cameron considers the re-legalising of hunting to be a significant enough vote winner to be worth it, since only a minority of 25% has been shown to support hunting. Sadly I was far from brave and feel inadequate for not doing more, not least being a friend of the late Jill Phipps, who was killed in the course of a live export protest.