4 MARCH 1995, Page 30

An ad too far

Sir: The RSPCA's contemptible advertise- ment in The Spectator (18 February) attempts, by implication, to lump hunting in with the gratuitous cruelty of yobs, i.e., using hedgehogs as footballs and beating rabbits to death with bricks. With attempted subtlety it does not mention hunting, but states that `deer can be pursued for hours and then sav- aged to death by dogs', the implication being that staghounds do this — a deliberate and all too often repeated lie. The RSPCA knows perfectly well that staghounds do not touch the deer, which when brought to bay is shot at close quarters. Three years ago, a similarly untruthful advertisement (not by the RSPCA) was suppressed by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Deer and foxes have to be controlled, their natural predators having been exter- minated in the middle ages. To read the RSPCA's page of intellectual garbage one would think that only the very occasional troublesome 'wild animal' (i.e., fox) had to be killed. Foxes are kept at their present level only by the killing of an estimated 100,000 a year in Britain. About half of them will be vixens. A vixen has a litter of two to eight cubs every year. Of the 100,000 or so, a recorded 12,000 to 15,000 are killed by hounds. The rest are killed by shooting, snaring, trapping, gassing, or poisoning (the

last is illegal, but widely practised). Which method does the RSPCA recommend? All five are much more effective than hunting, but quite unselectivc as to species and/or individual animal — and cause vastly more suffering, but how often do we hear the antis condemn them?

In 1950, the Scott Henderson Commit- tee, set up by a Labour government, report- ed unanimously that hunting was the most humane method of controlling foxes. Aneurin Bevan himself voted against a ban. Since 1950, neither foxes nor hunting have changed in any relevant way.

Perry Wood

St James's Chambers, 68 Quay Street, Manchester