Here’s the first piece from our new columnist Sian Lovett, where she outlines her support for fox hunting, which was banned by the last Government
Hi! Sian here! Thanks for taking the time to have a look at my column. I am a keen writer, blogger and journalist who has recently finished a degree at De Montfort University, Leicester.
I’m currently working towards a Masters Degree in Sports Journalism a the University of Lincoln.
I have a keen interest in all things equine and can regularly be found competing with my dressage pony, Ceaser.
On February 19 2005, just a day after The Hunting Act 2004 came in to place, every hunt in the country vowed to carry on doing what they had previously been doing, but simply under different ruling.
Before the hunt sets off, someone will go ahead and lay a scent for the hounds to follow and ‘hunt’, as apposed to before the ban when hounds followed a natural scent that had not been laid for them.
As the nights draw in and the dark, miserable, misty mornings set in, it leaves most people dejected and yearning for summer again.
For others it signals getting up at the crack of dawn with a horse in tow to follow their local hunt. With many hunts getting ready for their opening season meet (in November) I take a look at what’s involved...
The organisation of hunting in the UK is not a case of a bunch of horse enthusiasts getting together at weekends to drink port out of hipflasks, dress up, chase foxes and shout ‘tally-ho’ to one another (though, I have to say that the port is quite nice!).
A lot of hard work goes into the care of horses and hounds, and behind closed doors members of the committee are constantly working hard to ensure the hunts can go ahead.
Although, fox hunting does not come without its controversial headlines and wherever you live, whether it is in a countryside or town, you will always find a split of opinions.
I am sure if you have had a conversation with someone in support of fox hunting they would argue their case for hours.
In my first year of university I managed to make myself well known throughout the campus by replying to a discussion in the university’s newspaper about fox hunting.
Three months and endless discussions later between me (a country bumpkin) and a local city boy, the editor published one final piece apologising to readers for our ongoing argument and publically told us to ‘meet and discuss it in person, not in his newspaper’.
We did as we were told and remain friends, but know what topic never to bring up over coffee.
Hunt supporters believe the alternatives to hunting – shooting, gassing, snaring or poisoning, inflict more pain and suffering on foxes.
According to research 10 times as many foxes were shot each year than hunted to death before the ban was introduced.
I remember that when I first moved to Lincolnshire I eagerly joined our local hunt for a day out hunting and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I was made to feel very welcome and now try to get out with them at least once a year to show my support.
Before last season came to a close I managed to get out with them for their closing meet and had a fantastic time.
My pony, Ceaser, energetically pranced around as I got ready to mount. The hounds were calling, knowing full well where they were heading and what to do.
As we set off, the pounding of hooves stampeding down a local farmer’s field echoed around the estate.
The adrenalin is second to none; there is no better thrill than galloping along with your four-legged friend, without a care in the world early on a spring morning.
We soared over every jump I pointed Ceaser at and many of times I found myself giggling and thinking how lucky I was to have the opportunity to experience this feeling.
I wasn’t there to hunt foxes, I was there to exercise Ceaser and meet up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while.
Going fox hunting is a brilliant way of exercising your horses in their natural habitat. It’s one of few chances that riders get to allow their horses to have a good gallop.
It is also a fantastic opportunity to meet up with friends and participate in something where you all share similar interests.
I know, I can hear many readers now saying ‘That’s no excuse to hunt foxes’, but why do people go fishing or shooting?
These are parallel sports that can have both for and against arguments.
I have always wondered why fox hunting was banned, yet something like fishing wasn’t. Surely it’s the same context?
I understand some of you will be sitting reading this with your pen and paper, or laptops booted up ready to complain that I’m cruel and not an animal lover.
I can tell you now I am one of the biggest animal lovers around. Give me a four-legged furry equine over a human anytime.
The boyfriend knows his place in the pecking order; my six horses, the dog, the cat and then him (poor soul!). At first he tried to get it rearranged but has since learnt that’s the way it will always be.
Before you judge, give a sparing thought to farmers that lose money and business from foxes killing or wounding their livelihood; chickens, cows and sheep.
Foxes are vermin that kill farmer’s livestock for fun. Imagine that farmer’s livelihood is all I have mentioned above.
Think that if a fox destroyed most of it, how would he put food on the table for his family? How would he provide?
Hunters are trying to protect the livestock of the farming community. Shooting the foxes can lead to a slow and painful death that isn’t as humane as allowing a foxhound to get it.
It is not the case that these hounds ‘maul’ the fox into a gruesome death.
Instead, they nip the fox on the back of the neck, making it as quick and painless as it can.
The population of foxes is so great that a way of controlling them is needed, much like the recent badger culling plans, and fox-hunting is one that has been in action for many years now.
Although I could spend the next few thousand words reeling off why fox hunting helps local farmers and controls the ever-growing number of foxes, I am no stranger to those who disagree with it (in fact every time I go my own dad tells me I shouldn’t).
Those that do not believe in it have to understand for some it’s a way of life.
It’s the way most country folk have been brought up and will continue to bring their children and grandchildren up. Whether or not people admit it, I am sure there are plenty out there who say they are anti fox-hunting but then have no real reasoning.
For those that don’t know or have never known much about fox hunting it can be perceived as a harsh sport that shouldn’t happen – BUT, we have shooting and fishing too.
Why are these sports allowed, yet something that dates back just as many years is not?
Next time you see a hunt setting off early one Saturday morning, rather than instantly disagreeing with what they are doing, try to find out more. You never know, it may just change your opinion.
To read more of my work please go to www.sianlovatt.blogspot.com or tweet me your thoughts about fox-hunting to @FurryMane.
Also, if you have any ideas about a future column, please get in touch via Twitter.