Now what, the reader may well ask, have such scenes
as these to do with the subject of " Field Sports and Wild Life," and in particular, with our duty towards animals ? They have a great deal, insomuch as such scenes—which, by the way, are actual descriptions of what has been witnessed and not efforts of the imagination—could not occur were it not for field sports. The red deer of the Highlands depend for their preservation on deer stalking, as do the Exmoor deer on hunting ; the foxes of England, Ireland and the Lowlands of Scotland owe their all to fox-hounds ; and equally the pheasant and the partridge survive because of shooting.
It is not always realized by those who in their love of animals, and horror of anything involving killing, hate all forms of sport, that Nature is indeed " red in tooth and claw," and that life is of no importance in her economy. Her rule is that life must go that life may go on, and it is kinder so ! For under that law lingering illness and long- drawn-out death are rarely known, wild life continuing joyously until near its final moment.
To this it may be objected that a hunt is the opposite for the end is prolonged, to which I would reply that the apparent length of a run and the supposed drawn-out suffering of a hunted fox is more imaginary than real,. The fox is accustomed to hunt and be hunted, so unless hard pressed is not especially perturbed by pursuit. I have watched foxes slip away from a covert with the coolest collectedness, pausing when a short distance away to look back and listen for the hounds. Moreover, foxes have been known to stop in their flight and pick up a tempting fowl or rabbit, for nothing is so fleeting in animal life as fear and other emotions. The actual hunt to kill, with the quarry aware of being - in dire straits, is short, very short compared with the hours suffered by tortured animals in traps and snares. .
It is my opinion as a lifelong lover of animals, and an enthusiast for the British fauna, that it would be a sad day for the animals and birds involved, and the fishes, when hunting, shooting and fishing were abolished ; and that these so-called " blood sports " are the greatest safeguards the red deer, the fox, the hare, &c. possess, ensuring for them happy lives ; whereas in the absence of these sports, they would be but vermin with every man's hand against them. They would be harried and perse- cuted to the point of extinction as in the case. of the pine marten and the wild cat, or quite exterminated as were the wolf and the wild boar.
Yes, I believe the support of field sports. to be the duty of the true nature lover and to be compatible with the highest sense of duty towards animals.