Driving through a London suburb the other day, I saw a red fox trot boldly across the road in broad daylight with a smile on its face, as if it expected the traffic to get out of its way. It was near to a supermarket and perhaps it was interested in the contents of the shop's rubbish bins.
Thanks to Labour's anti-hunt legislation, there are now at least 250,000 foxes in the UK and about one in five of them is roaming at large through the suburbs of London and other cities. They plague every town, village and farm in the country. They can't help being carnivores, but as their numbers rise they are looking further and further afield for food. They damage crops and attack chickens, ducks, rabbits and geese if they can get hold of them. Gnawing their way through wooden sheds and steel mesh, they kill every bird in the coop, not just the one or two they can eat. They leave behind a mangled mess of blood, bones and feathers. You would have to house your poultry in a brick barn with iron doors to make it really fox-proof. Free-range poultry are particularly vulnerable.
Sentimentalists claim that foxes rarely attack humans or even other animals unless they are attacked first but this does not correspond to experience. In in Hackney, East London, recently a fox attacked and mauled two baby girls lying in a cot. The fox entered the house at night, through a ground-floor window and went upstairs following the scent of the children. Their parents Pauline and Nick Koupparis heard cries and came into the room but the fox was completely unafraid of them. By the time they fought it off, both children were badly mauled and had to be taken to the Great Ormond Street Hospital. 9-month-old Isabella was particularly badly injured, and needed intensive care, while her twin sister Lola will be facially disfigured for life.
Council pest control installed a trap in the Koupparis's garden and later turned up and shot that particular fox, but not long afterwards, another child was attacked by a fox in North London. Marius Rook, aged five, woke up screaming when a fox broke into his bedroom and bit his ear. He rushed to his mother's room and she rang the police, who merely used a rope to drag the fox into the garden, then released it. They told her that to destroy it would be inhumane.
In Brighton, in June 2010, a three-year-old boy was playing outside when he was bitten by a fox, which was living in the playground of the Dorothy Stringer nursery. The child was treated for injuries at the Royal Sussex county hospital. In 2002, mother Sue Eastwood reported that her baby boy, Louis, was injured when a fox crept into the house in Dartford, Kent while she slept. The fourteen-week-old suffered bite marks on his head.
Only last month, in November 2012, there were three cases of people attacked by foxes. In Sidcup, Mrs Louisa Power, 46, was pounced on by a fox as she walked home with her shopping. The fox ran off with her bag of food! On 21st November two teenagers, Kelly Lloyd and Jack Larkins, of Bexley, south-east London, were attacked by a fox as they stood at a bus stop. The animal bit Jack on the foot. The most serious case was that of an angler in East Sussex who woke up in his tent to find a fox sinking its teeth into his face! Andrew Thomas managed to suffocate the fox with his hands, but if he had been a child he would have stood little chance. He needed 26 stitches in his face, and nearly lost an eye.
Animal-lovers will persist in deluding themselves that all creatures are lovable and can be treated as pets. Martin Hemmington, founder of the National Fox Welfare Society, a rescue charity that treats and feeds sick foxes, admits he has been bitten many times in the line of duty, but still denies that foxes are dangerous. These people can delude themselves - but should they delude us?
The Boxing-Day meet used to be part of our British tradition, until it was outlawed by Labour, which has no love for our customs and culture, and no understanding of why hunting existed in the first place. Although I never ride and certainly never hunt (I have never killed any animal in my life apart from perhaps a few wasps) I would be happy to see the tradition revived. The anti-hunt lobby has created a problem for all of us, and the arguments they use are overwhelmingly sentimental or emotive. They know little about foxes and nothing at all about agriculture. When you tell them that foxes need to be kept down on farmland, they get hysterical and start accusing you of being a "sadist" who gets a "thrill" from seeing or contemplating an animal being hunted. If you're faced with a fanatic like that, try telling them that they are sadists who enjoy thinking about babies having chunks bitten out of their faces.
***10th February 2013. Another baby attacked by a fox in Bromley, London. Baby's finger bitten off. This situation is getting worse.
Lenten Meditations: Tuesday 28 March
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