‘Fox hunts observed a close season, not hunting foxes during most of their breeding and rearing cycle in spring and summer,’ writes Michael Clayton. Photograph: edevansuk/Getty Images
It is no coincidence that the proliferation of foxes in urban areas (A brush with nature, G2, 10 April) has greatly increased since the Blair government’s Hunting Act 2004. Life for the fox is nowadays far worse in many parts of our countryside, and consequently this intelligent animal seeks sanctuary in towns and suburbs. The Hunting Act was intended to ban hunting foxes with hounds, but in so doing it has greatly harmed the rural fox. Fox hunts observed a close season, not hunting foxes during most of their breeding and rearing cycle in spring and summer. The hunts culled foxes comparatively lightly, according to the needs of local farmers.
Since the Hunting Act, the status of the rural fox is entirely that of vermin, rather than a conserved sporting quarry, which means that it is shot or snared at all times of the year, methods which can involve prolonged suffering compared with instant death when caught by hounds. Urban life is far from idyllic for the fox. Many become scavengers, “dustbin foxes”, making them far more prone to contract mange, a horrible way to die. Before the Hunting Act, registered packs of hounds operating under a code of conduct allowed rural fox populations to survive with a far better lifestyle in the countryside where they could thrive as hunters not scavengers.