Knight A. Insults only show hunt lobby’s desperation. Vet Times [UK] 2005; 35(16): 39.

Vet Times columnist Manda Scott sparked off a heated debate amongst veterinarians lasting several months with a 1,000 word self-proclaimed “rant” in favour of hunting (Vet Times, 28th Mar. 2005, p.8). The fact that such a debate could even occur is a damning indictment of the ethics of many veterinarians. Here is one of my contributions.

Were I one of those foxes unlucky enough not to be hunted, forced instead to linger in my burrow until I died of “hyperthermia” in the winter as described by Dr Allen (25th April issue), and had I picked up a copy of the Veterinary Times to help while away my oddly elongated time, I’d have been amazed to read Dr Allen’s romanticised descriptions of fox hunting. “The hunted fox is killed almost instantly,” proclaims Dr Allen. “Remember, hunting leaves no wounded survivors,” he boldly reaffirms. Such news would have come as a profound shock to my friend Copper the fox, had he also perused a copy of the Veterinary Times, while apparently dead in his burrow. Copper’s near-death experience at the hands of fox hounds made national headlines in 1999, when after being chased and caught by the hounds, he escaped and bolted down a rabbit hole. Luckily, Hunt Saboteurs then physically blocked the hounds using a convenient policeman's helmet. Copper sustained severe bite wounds to his hind legs and was haemorrhaging from his penis. Further debilitated by the stress and exhaustion suffered during his long pursuit, his condition was described by Richard Edwards, the veterinarian who treated him, as: “I have never seen such trauma in a dog, even a badly injured one.”[1]

Misleading claims about the “quick, clean and certain” deaths experienced by hunted foxes made by advocates similar to Dr Allen when attempting to stave off the UK anti-hunting legislation led to a Home Office inquiry into hunting, carried out by Bristol and Cambridge University veterinary pathologists and reported in 2000.[2] Their post-mortems established that, in fact, it is extremely rare for hunted animals to be killed instantly. Multiple bite wounds to the face, head, throat, chest and abdomen are common, and in many cases foxes are disemboweled prior to death.

The admittedly creative attempts by hunting advocates such as Dr Allen to publicly bludgeon their opponents with insults such as “absurd, unknowing, froth-blowers” in the face of such evidence serve only to highlight their desperation, and will never rectify the obvious factual and ethical bankruptcy of their arguments. The audiences forced to listen to such language are not stupid, and the inevitable outcome can only be a loss of respect for veterinarians as sincere and intelligent advocates of animal welfare. Simply as human beings, let alone as veterinarians, we can, and should, do much, much better.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Knight BSc., BVMS, MRCVS
Director, Animal Consultants International