Along with the rest of the country, I was heartbroken at the plight of the two little girls in East London who were attacked in their cot by a fox. I sincerely hope that they will recover and that the wonders of modern surgery will be able to minimise the effects of their injuries. I send my love to the family.
It does, however, bring the problem of foxes, usually considered to be a ‘countryside’ issue into a much broader focus. I am going to nail my colours to the mast here and now so there is no confusion. Despite living in a cottage owned by The Fernie Hunt I am not in favour of fox hunting. Not because of the elitism of the hunt, or because I have romantic notions about foxes, but because it is a very inefficient way of culling. In fact, (and don’t tell them this will you) I suspect that the hunt actually strengthens the fox population because the hounds are far more likely to catch the old and the sick ones. When they do catch one, it’s a horrible business, as horrible as the fate of lambs and poultry that are attacked and killed by foxes.
Foxes have to be controlled around humans and livestock in the same way that other vermin have to be controlled. They have no natural predators in the UK and just because they’re beautiful, that doesn’t make them any less verminous. If rats were fluffy with cute little ears, would we hesitate before feeding them poison which kills them over several days with internal bleeding? If foxes carried rabies, as they do in other countries, would there be as many hunt saboteurs?
I would suggest that, in the countryside, other than taking all reasonable precautions to protect livestock, the livestock farmers and particularly the gamekeepers, nearly all of whom own guns, should have training as marksmen. This is a far more humane and efficient method of control.
Regarding the towns and cities, the first thing we should do is to ask ourselves what the foxes are doing there in the first place. They are unlikely to have come in for the culture, but they are absolutely there for the fine dining. The increasing amount of waste food lying about in the streets and piled up in bins is the fox equivalent of a safari supper. I swear I saw one in Leicester wearing chinos and loafers, whilst snuffling daintily at a discarded vindaloo.
Another massive incentive for them is the utter idiots who deliberately leave food out for them. The Aged Parent’s next door neighbour used to leave chicken carcasses, often with half the meat still attached, out on her lawn “for the lovely little foxes”. Apart from the wickedness of wasting half a chicken, the local rat population must have thought the God of Takeaways had come to Earth in human form.
Wednesday’s Telegraph reported that a local wildlife expert had suggested that the fox who attacked the baby girls was probably a cub that was attracted by the smell of nappies and that, as soon as it realised that the nappies were attached to a human, it panicked and injured them.
There is nothing that can be said or done to make this incident less frightening and tragic for the Koupparis family, but let us use this incident as a wake up call. Foxes belong in the countryside in manageable numbers. If we treat our urban environment with such contempt by leaving our filth and detritus scattered about the streets, then we are inviting trouble. Rats are already increasing in frightening numbers, foxes will inevitably become emboldened by their familiarity with the towns.
This country is in financial meltdown and very soon the new coalition government is going to start making economies and rightly so. Let’s all start to take some personal responsibility and, at the very least, help to keep our towns and cities clean by disposing of our rubbish responsibly. Better still, consume less in the first place or we’ll be playing ‘Where’s Wall-e?’ whether we like it or not.