Twenty-five M.F. - H's on the Digging of Foxes IN a footnote
to one of the letters on Fox-hunting which we recently printed, we wrote : "Setting aside for the present the _ethics of fox-hunting, there can be no two opinions as to the degrading practices of ' blooding ' and of digging out the quarry, except, in the latter case perhaps, in quite exceptional circumstances. We think that followers of hounds are much the same as ordinary mortals, no better and no worse, and we know that ninny of them dislike both these practices. Will they not make a serious attempt to rid their sport of a well- deserved odium which attaches to it in thesetwo matters?" Mr. Henry B. Amos, Secretary of The League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sports, with our permission quoted this suggestion in a letter which he circulated to Masters of Fox-hounds in Great Britain. We publish below some of the replies received :— Albrighton F. H. (Wolverhampton). 29/12/1927.
"Dear will not on behalf of the Mbrighton Hunt under- take to 'draw off the hounds when a beaten fox goes to ground or seeks sanctuary in a dwelling or other place.' Whether I try to dig a fox -out or bolt him with a terrier or otherwise or leave him, must be entirely at my own discretion, also whether it is a beaten fox or not.' Often a fox will get into a drain soon after finding and not having shown any sport, then I naturally try to bolt him and get a run, but if a fox gets into a drain after a good gallop I generally leave him in the hopes of his giving us another good gallop in the • future. T. E. HICKMAN (Master)."
Area Vale F. H. (Wilts). 28/12/27.
"Dear Sir,—I am not willing to agree to your demands as I consider the way we hunt the fox here, which after all, is all I am responsible for, is done without any abuses, although no doubt not in accordance with the wishes of those who possibly have never been out hunting, except to look for something to find fault with. If we did not kill foxes whenever we have the chance I tremble to think what my post would be like in the morning, with poultry. keeping as it is nowadays. I wonder if you noticed a letter in one of the papers which stated that out of the 270 foxes reported as found in one week's account of the sport, only seventy-seven were killed. If your desires were agreed to the number would have been
halved.. T. HOLLAND-HIBBERT (Master)."
Brecon F. H. 1/1/28.
" am obliged for your letter with your leaflets and propaganda, etc. Of course, I, as a Master of Fox-hounds, cordially_ disagree with you on a number of points therein, but it would serve no useful purpose to anyone for me to start argument with you. . . . If it were- not for this; there are certain items, in connexion with which I would have gladly given my support, but having carefully read every printed word you have sent me, I can only say that I have consigned the lot to the W.P.B., with a feeling of considerable disgust. However, on December 28th you sent me a letter, which contains a perfectly civil question, and, therefore, demands a civil answer. I know nothing about any stag-hunt, so your reference to these does not interest me. I reply thus : (1) This would be my personal affair, as I hunt the hounds myself, and 'does not affect the Hunt, as such. Of course, the subscribers could request me to resign, if they wished, as it is a subscription pack.
(2) To the main questions, then : (a) 'When a fox goes to ground '—often, yes, if I am assured that he would not be subjected to a really cruel and brutal end, if I left him there. You may be interested to hear that I have always favoured this policy. (b) I don't quite understand what you mean by !seeking sanctuary.' If you mean entering a building just as hounds are catching him, all I can tell you is that we never get there quick enough to affect the issue. In other words, hounds catch their fox. Joint D. D. EveNs (Master)."
Clifton-on-Teme F. H. (Worm:). 29/12/27. Dear Sir,—As regards 'blooding,' I look upon this as a rolio of barbarism and it shall never have my approval. As regards 'digging out,' I note that the Editor of the Spectator, whom you quote, admits that there are exceptional circumstances which may justify it. I dislike the operation of digging as much as anyone, and it is never approved by the majority of the field, for it is dull work for them. I think that it is regarded by all of us as a necessary evil, and necessary only in the exceptional circumstances referred to above. Unfortunately in may Country these circumstances are always present, for it is a wild hilly country, with large woods, and it is admittedly difficult to kill foxes above grourd. I am therefore bound to dig if there is a really good prospect of reaching the fox quickly. For if my hounds do not kill the foxes, they will be .killed by some other means ; keepers and farmers will protect themselves and will either shoot, trap, or poison the foxes. .• J. E. MUNBY (Master)." Craven P. H. (Berke. 30/12/27. " Dear Sir,—There is no one who dislikes the necessity of digging more than I do, but there can be rib doubt that in a great many cases (almost all) it is a necessity. It does not seem to strike your League that the fox has a great many more enemies than hounds and hunting. I have known several instances of a fox being marked to ground by hounds and left, and then dug out and killed by other people. And a great many more where I have run a fox to ground and wished to leave him, only to be told by the farmer, or others there, If you don't have him, we will.' If a reasonable number of .foxes could be killed without digging, I should be only too pleased to agree to yotir suggestion, but, with the exception of a very few • countries where conditions are exceptionally favourable, this is an unapproachable ideal. • ESSEX (Master)."
Pour Burrow F. H. (Cornwall). 31/12/27.
" Sir,—I can not take any notice of your society's wishes as long as they take no notice of the cruel steel trap, which is being set in the open on nearly all farms in Devon and Cornwall. I might say I have found as many as three foxes and one cat dead in one valley field, being too weak to drag the traps up the hill. These animals had all come over a mile as there were no traps set in this district. I found another fox yesterday in a stream with a trap on his leg, and too weak to pull himself out of it. On inspecting him I found the trap had eaten into the bone. No society seems to prevent these vile gins being set in open paths and gateways, where all birds and animals run. I might add it ie not my practice to dig out beaten foxes; but consider it a matter entirely at the discretion of the Master. G. P. Wimmems (Master)."
Hambledon F. H. (Hants). 29/12/27. "I can assure you that I hate digging as much as you do' and I think you will find that the majority of Masters agree. The trouble is that the county people, farmers and poultry-keepers, etc., insist on digging out and killing the foxes, and if the Hunt don't do it, the local people do after the Hunt has gone, and the fox then gets much more cruel treatment. I am afraid I do not understand the reference to ' blooding ; I don't know what the expression means. I have hunted for some forty-five years and been a Master of Hounds for twelve, but the expression is new to me. E. F. TALBOT-PONSONBY, Major (Master)."
Herefordshire (South) P. H. 6/1/28.
"Dear Sir,—I might say I never dig a fox if I can help it, and I can tell you this, that sometimes it has got to be done, mostly in cases when we know a fox is lame.
U. R. CORBETT-WINDER (Mader)."
Lamerton F. H. (Cornwall). 31/12/27.
"Dear will do my best to check this practice as far as possible, but here in this country even foxes are very difficult to catch in the open. I find I am bound to dig at times ; if [didn't the foxes would be killed by other means by the farmers themselves, either trapped in gins, shot and probably only wounded to go away and die, or else poisoned, or as very often happens, the local roughs fetch their terriers after I have left the earth and dig the fox out themselves, so what is one to do.?
J'. E. B. LETHBRIDGE (Master)."
Ludlow F. H. (Salop). 6/1/28. "Sir,—Personally I hate digging out a fox which has gone to ground, but if I consider the circumstances demand that I should do so, I then have to have recourse to the epodes. My hunting diary will show the large number of foxes which my hounds have run to ground this year and the very, very few which I have dug out or bolted with a terrier because I knew the circumstances demanded it. No one except the Master can decide this question'; but I
hate all cruelty. H. C. Mmaeorra (Master)."
Milvain's P.. H. (Northumberland). 30/12/27.
" Sir,—I do not dig a hunted fox unless I consider it absolutely necessary. I do not think that your League realize that there are many hunting countries, like mine, which are mostly wild country and moorland in which stopping' cannot be properly carried out, and that in these countries a certain amount of digging is necessary in order to keep the supply of foxes within limits. I have now hunted for some forty years and have very seldom seen cases of unnecessary cruelty or killing with hounds. As regards 'blooding,' I do not consider the remarks .of the Editor of the Spectator worth
notice. R. MILVAIN (Master)."
Pembrokeshire F. H. 29/12/27. • "Dear Sir,—We Masters do not dig out foxes that go to ground if it is not necessary. There is no sport in it, and I strongly object to it myself. Now your people should make a stand in Parliament against rabbit trapping, which is cruel and not necessary. The practice in this county is to leave their traps set on Saturday, and they don't look at them again until Monday.
J. H. HOWELL, Capt. (Master)."
Bufford P. H. (Notts). 30/12/27. "Dear Sir,—I will do all in my power to help you, except a fox goes to ground in a short earth from which he can be evicted in a few minutes. And I should always kill a fox that took refuge in a house or outbuilding, as this is a quick death. T. Losco EBADLEV (Master)." Penykin P. (Carmarthenshire). 9/1/28. "Dear, am in a somewhat curious position and in this wild district it is necessary to kill foxes as they do great damage at lambing time and kill a good many young lambs. It is impossible to shoot these foxes, as they carry out their raids at night. (I may mention that shooting rt fox, with the- chance of wounding him, is rather more cruel than hunting him, but that is only my opinion, for what it is worth.) If a fox goes to ground and you -leave him, the farmers set traps and he is caught and killed in a very much more painful way than dying fighting. I want to know what your League advises under the circumstances: I have always the greatest respect for people who wish to stop unnecessary suffering, and it often surprises me why' both the R.S.P.C.A. and your League de nbt interest yourselves in that most cruel of all kinds of cruelty, namely, trapping. In Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire thousands of traps are set nightly and thousands of rabbits, not to mention dogs, Cats, pheasants, and, in feet anything that moves; stiffer most horrible torture for hours. Why does not your League or the R.S.P.C.A. take up this matter ? Not only is it illegal to set traps in the open, but it causes more real torture and suffering than any other form of cruelty in this country and yet nothing is done. Do w deserve that the French say of us 'that we are a nation of humbugs' ? Instead of traps, ferrets or snares can be used, with a tithe of the cruelty. I shall be glad of a reply from your League. It is full time something were done as thousands of animals die in agony each day in traps and the BUM total of cruelty is a thousandfold
greater than anything caused by hunting. •
• Deism DAVIES-EVANS, Lt.-Col. (Master)."
[Replied 10)1/28.—The question is outside the scope of the work of the League, but the R.S.P.C.A. have for several years carried on an agitation against rabbit trapping and have produced a snare which holds but does not strangle the victim. I am sending one of these snares to Col. Evans.—H. B. Amos.]
Shropshire (South) F. H. 2/1/28.
Dear Sir,—Having given the matter careful consideration I am firmly convinced that it is for the good of the English country- side that fox-hunting should continue and long may it do so.
E. A. El:ELDEN, Major (Master)."
Teme Valley F. H. (Herefordshire). 30/12/27.
" may say I never allow any cruelty with my pack. I only occasionally dig a fox, when it is the wish of the inhabitants that I do so, and then allow no more cruelty than for anyone to shoot a pheasant, or for a butcher to kill a pig or lamb. STEPHEN DENT (Master)."
Ullswater F. H. 30/12/27.
"Deer Sir,—I wish to explain that I cannot comply with your wishes for several reasons which I will give you. I am personally in favour of not digging or bolting foxes which have gone to ground. But the country we hunt consists of the Lakeland Fells and East Fells : Helvellyn, High Street Range, Cross Fell, etc. No earth stopping is possible and [earths] are very numerous and many of them impregnable. In fact a fox can go to ground practically anywhere amongst boulders with which the fells are covered. Foxes are not preserved, and if they were not kept down by the hounds would be a great source of trouble to the sheep farms. In May the hounds are not advertised so that any farmer who is losing lambs can send for them. I may add that just in this district forty-one foxes were killed by keepers this spring—mostly cubs, so you will understand we hunt to kill. When we do bolt a fox it is always given a fair chance. We hunt on foot and the hounds hunt the foxes unaided
after they find. ANTHONY Mirrca.r..e-Gissos (Master)."
United P. H. (Shropshire). Undated.
"Dear Sir,—In my opinion blooding is a very harmless custom, and, when a small boy, I was delighted when I was blooded and felt that I had now become a fox-hunter. Fox-hunting is not the only pastime which carries out the custom of blooding. Many gillies blood those who have not shot a stag before. It is also the custom with some keepers to blood a young sportsman the first grouse or pheasant he shoots. It's an old custom, which I hope will survive as long as the world goes round. The abolition of a custom like this would add another nail in the coffin of Great Britain's hardihood. The nation as a whole is getting much too soft, and will quickly get worse if ideas like abolishing blooding are encouraged. Concerning your suggestion that we should cease to dig out foxes in this country, I can tell you that the idea is quite stupid. There are so many foxes dug out and killed in this country by poachers that we are only too pleased to get them out ourselves and save them from such an ignoble death. Anybody who knows the smallest thing about fox-hunting knows that nothing would spoil hounds quicker than if you never got them their fox, when they had marked to ground. Nobody enjoys digging—no one less than me. But it is a necessity. No one would ever become a Master of Hounds unless he was fond of animals and a sportsman, so you can be quite satisfied that nothing cruel is ever done with the sanction of any Master or really sporting hunting man or woman. I may add for your information that, should we cease to dig foxes in this country, our hounds would be so short of blood, that it would not be worth while keeping a pack of fox-hounds going here. Leagues like yours (if they are allowed to interfere in things they do not understand) will soon be the cause of stopping fox-hunting in England. This would spell ruin for the country, as a large sum of money is spent throughout the whole country on fox-hunting every year. No one is fonder of animals than I am, but as long as I have hounds I shall continue to blood those who wish to be blooded, and I shall dig a fox new day of my' life, if I think it is necessary for the-sport in the country where- I live. W. B. Scow (Master)."
V. W. H., Cricklade (Wilts) P. H. 1/1/28. "Dear Sir,—I am sorry that I cannot give you the assurance that you ask for. Much as I appreciate your League's good intentions to prevent as far as possible cruelty in sport, which intentions I think all Masters of Hounds and true sportsmen will reciprocate, there are occasions (i.e., when foxes doing much damage in a district as poultry-killers are marked to ground, and much damage has been done, it is necessary in the local land occupiers' interests to kill them) upon which your suggestions cannot be accepted. I think you will find that very few Masters of Hounds would dig when foxes go to ground with their own natural fox earths. This has been my invariable custom here, and I regret that I cannot give you any further assurance except that we never dig during the hunting FULLER if we can help it. W. F. Ful (Jt. Master).'
Woodland Pytchley F. H. (Northants). 29/12/27.
"Dear Sir,—You have my most sincere sympathy in doing whatever can be done to eliminate unnecessary cruelty in all forms of sport. Further, I wish something could be done to stop the barbarous slow boiling of live lobsters and trout. I cannot, however, pledge myself to refrain from bolting or digging them out. If I did not kill every fox I get the chance of killing, I should be absolutely overrun and intensive trapping would be the only alternative. Trapping of any sort is terribly cruel though I admit it is sometimes necessary. But as a fox-lover as well as hunter, I should hate to think of their numbers being kept down by this means.
G. E. BELLVILLE (Master and Huntsman)."
&gland F. H. (Yorks). 30/12/27.
" may say in this country that fox-hunting has always been carried on in a perfectly humane way and always will be. We do not propose making any change.
HERBERT STRAKER (Master)."
Jed Forest F. H. (Rorburghehire). 31/12/27.
" Sir,—I never dig foxes out unless I have reason to do so on account of excessive numbers or one that is known to be doing damage. I can't give up the right to use my discretion when I think it necessary. I consider the shooting or trapping of foxes is more cruel than digging them out. T. W. RoBsox-Scorr (Master)."
Lauderdale P. H. (St. Boswells). 2/1/28.
" Sir —I thoroughly dislike digging out a fox, and only resort to this when I consider it necessary. I regret, however, that I cannot undertake to comply with your request.
ALEXANDER MiTciami. (Master)."
County Galway ("The Blazers"). Undated. "Dear Sir,—I have to kill the foxes. If not they will die by poison and trap and gunshot, often gangrene, and in torture. The fox is at war with man, he destroys.our food. As a matter of fact, however, I often neglect my duty in this matter and digging out if a fox has given us a good gallop. Fox-hunting is on quite a different level of humanity from the pursuit of friendly or unhostile garlic,. Your society, if it is to do any good, should concentrate on bag fox hunting. (a barbarity). In country with lots of holes, hounds won't hunt without an occasional success. Think this over. lf,foxes were gifted with man's reason developed, they would all liote.for hunting. It gives 100,000 happy well-fed lives otherwise largely to be denied. H. O'MALLEY-KEYES, Lt.-Col. (Master)."
Limerick P. H. 31/12/27. Dear Sir,—I do not hold with digging out foxes except under a*Ceptienal circumetanees, and very often a . fox which seeks sane- 'Wary in a dwelling-house is a chicken-stealing animal, that is guilty of depredations on poultry and. is better out of the way. One must not, however, be oblivious of the fact that a fox is strictly preserved
Madt hunting countries, and if it was not for this he could be exterminated very shortly by shooting or trapping.
ROBERT B. BRASBET (Master)."
It will be seen that, of the twenty-five representative expressions of. opinion which we have printed, twelve show a very decided dislike of digging a fox that has gone to ground ; and one or two give definite assurance that the practice will be checked as far as possible.