with Horse and Hound

Fanciful Fibs and Other Sins

norman.karen.farnleyPhoto by Karen MyerSome Foxhunting Life readers have already seen this opinion piece, published more than a year ago. While it attracted a number of comments for which I’m grateful, the message hasn’t, and of course never will reach everyone. So after having seen a new batch of newspaper articles  from around the country, containing cringe-worthy quotes by foxhunters attending Opening Meets this season, I’m obliged to re-publish my argument. If it reaches another pair of eyes or ears and changes the mind attached, it will be worthwhile!

As Pogo once famously said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” I think of that bit of comic strip philosophy whenever I hear foxhunters attempt to con the public or distance themselves from the truth about our sport.

It’s my belief that we should be honest and truthful when discussing our sport. Anti-hunting proponents comprise a small, vocal majority with fixed ideologies, and we will not change their minds no matter what we say. We can tell them that our hounds never kill a fox, that the fox enjoys the chase, and any manner of falsehoods and obfuscations, and even if they believe us they won’t change their minds about us.

We must, however, be perceived as credible and trustworthy to the vast majority of citizens who have no preconceived or strongly-held notions of hunting. If they think we’re trying to bamboozle them, we’ll lose them. People aren’t stupid.

The challenge is, then, to portray our sport in the most favorable light possible to the non-hunting public, without resorting to the sins of fanciful fibs, hanging other hunters out to dry, or syrup-speak. Some examples:

Fanciful Fibs
“We never kill a fox.”

It may happen rarely, but if hounds come upon a sick fox…if a fox gets tangled in wire…if a fox makes a mistake, hounds will kill it. It’s probably true and fair to say that the vast majority of foxhunters today do not want to see a fox killed. They are out for the thrill of the chase, not the kill. But the word, “never,” hurts our credibility. Wouldn’t it be better to say that we rarely kill a fox, and when do it is often a sick fox that if left, would suffer.

“The fox enjoys the chase, too.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that one from a foxhunter attempting to explain the sport to the uninitiated. OK, the fox may appear to behave with total nonchalance during the chase, and sometimes will be seen sitting and watching hounds, but to say he enjoys it? He enjoys eating and procreating, yes. As for the rest of his life, his business is to put food on the table and avoid predators. If scenting conditions are difficult, he may not be greatly concerned about being trailed by hounds, but being hunted surely has to be a nuisance at the very least and an interruption of his more important tasks for the day. Surely it’s a wishful exaggeration to say he enjoys the chase.

Hanging Other Hunters Out to Dry
“We are a drag hunt; we don’t kill foxes.”

In the last couple of years I have read too many newspaper articles in which a participant in a drag hunt felt compelled to emphasize that point to the reporter. I well understand the urge to make that statement; it let’s the drag hunter off the hook in having to counter any anti-hunting sentiments. But foxhunters would like to believe that drag hunters are kin, and would have our backs in a fight.

By this I refer to euphemisms for hunting that don’t actually use the word, “hunting.” This doesn’t really harm our cause as do the first two sins, and it does avoid use of the h-word, but, really, what is wrong with hunting? If we back away from a legitimate, lawful, ancient sport just because some people don’t like it, aren’t we giving it up, bit by bit? Do we think the antis will ignore us after we hide behind a phrase? Do we think that people can’t peer behind a euphemism? Doesn’t it make us appear defensive about what we do? Where does that path lead?

Also, harking back to Sin Number 2, aren’t we abandoning other hunters—quail, pheasant, duck, deer hunters—and hanging them out to dry? Aren’t they entitled to believe that we would have their backs in a fight, too?

In the end, I feel that we shouldn’t hide behind fibs or euphemisms. For foxhunting to endure, I think foxhunters should strive to be perceived as truthful and credible, be known as custodians and preservers of the land, and good neighbors.

Posted July 26, 2015
Republished December 23, 2016