Oh stop grousing about grouse hunting! Or fox hunting for that matter. YES we will have to just get over the fact that grouse hunting is exempt from the “Rule of Six” (Covid restriction) but something had to be first, and walking or riding outside -- while receiving an actual dosing of Vitamin D seemed an obvious choice. And before one screams unfair…
Since when was fox hunting the sport of the masses? Covid-19 has done a lot of things, but no one ever expected it to be the great equaliser. That however, hasn’t stopped the Americans from grousing about the fact that their president received the best medical care for his Covid bout and flew in a helicopter (as he does every day) to the closest military hospital (which is where they take Presidents), but I guess people thought he should have gone by metro.
But back to fox hunting… it is undeniably among the most British of pastimes, it promotes sportsmanship, socialisation, commerce, employment, exercise and maintains tradition, but there is no denying— it’s a really bad day for the fox! Those cuddly adorable, little creatures for whom I have to ask since so few end up as coats… why kill them? Well, I have a solution!
First we must consider the environment. Foxes are very good for the environment, they are actually inclined to laziness and are scavengers that choose road kill or easy prey first. And yes, they do kill grouse, rats, rabbits and other individuals but mostly the surplus that would likely die from other causes.
Rabbits alone are huge pests and cost arable farmers more than £120m a year. Foxes also aid commercial forestry by predating species that can damage young trees. Clearly we must keep foxes alive!
My solution is then to train dogs to run as foxes. We would train them, scent them, and provide them with the thing dogs love the most…A JOB! Nothing makes a dog happier than to have a job, I suspect we could use three or four in the course of a hunt, and anyone who has seen a dog win a competition knows, they are never happier than when they know they have pleased their master.
Using dogs also solves the issue of cruelty once and for all. The horses and all of the dogs will have a rousing day of exercise without the loss of any excitement because no one finds the final yelp of the fox the reason for the day. We would simply fire a shot, to signal the end of the hunt and continue on as we always have done—cocktails and dinner!
I envision too… Americans pouring into the country and lining up to be photographed in what would constitute an entirely new revenue stream for Britain -- selling our new (and vintage) clothes to them. How could they resist our hunt coats and hats? It’s the thing these anti-hunters just don’t understand—there is a style and a tradition to be upheld here, and one I happen to know the rest of the world would absolutely swoon over if we just told them they could.
Especially with inclusion of a photograph of their (our) beloved Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy dressed in her hunt coat and in good standing as a former member of not one, but two fox hunting clubs in the states.
I told my plan to father in great detail and he floated the idea of my being knighted. Yes I know he’s just being daddy but I know he thought it a good idea. So I continued.
“Aside, from my likely knighthood and environmental award…”
“Yes, aside from that.” Daddy responded.
“I was thinking about it from a strict marketing perspective," I said, wishing he’d stop trying to master the perfect lime slice.
“How strict? Fake stuffed fox heads and fake taxidermied foxes for Americans to cart back to their basements?”
“Not quite that strict", I responded—not taking his bait today. “But I was thinking about it as an enterprise, yes for the world, but also to really end the debate.”
“Won’t happen” he countered. “Those wets are like the Huns, they won’t give up, next it will be that the horses prefer working indoors or that earthworms are trampled in greater number.”
“Well, that’s absurd."
“And now you understand the whole green leftist movement.”
“I’m being serious.”
“So am I. If it’s commerce you want, appeal to the faction that understands it. As you know I drill as responsibly as I can but no one ever says, gosh thanks for not making me live in utter darkness and cold.”
“But they can’t get enough of our tradition… look at Downton Abbey?” And as soon as I said it, I knew I’d exposed the hypocrisy of swooning over the nostalgia of an English estate but brought to us by public television schemes—they’re all about profits when it means their survival but their programming would suggest they want the rest of us to perish.
I had my answer. Despite what anyone purports, we are all capitalists at heart, we are survivalists, unless we are suffering or ill. And without money I cannot save the planet. Or the foxes.
I went up to my childhood room and raised the asking prices of the dressage clothes I’d listed on eBay. I remembered too, reading Nancy Mitford—she and her siblings adored playing the role of the fox as their own father hunted them on horseback when real foxes were in short supply. The question now was whether to join forces with Patrick or Annabel… something in it for each of them. Patrick to restore the tradition and elevate his event, Annabel to prove money does buy standing. Something to ponder during my bath.