Soap boxes and Charlies

Roy gets all excited about foxes on TV… but not in a good way!Last month proved to be an excitable time for me. Unfortunately, not because of an exhilarating roebuck stalk or the satisfaction of dealing with a problematic Charlie, but whilst I was sitting in the comfort of my own home watching television. We had been promised a balanced production by the producers of the Foxes Live programme. We had even been asked to provide dead ‘country foxes’ to be dissected in order to compare urban and country foxes; producers were interested in examining their stomach contents to illustrate the differences in their diet. It was not long into my viewing pleasure that I found myself shouting at the television. Instead of the level-headed, true representation of foxes interacting with modernday society, I witnessed a blatant propaganda machine promoting the fox as a fluffy, almost puppy-like companion that walks amongst us and should be viewed as a cheeky pup. One of the first scenes was of them releasing a fox that had caught a gentleman’s chickens and inadvertently trapped itself in the chicken run. Rather than disposing of this animal, they took it away, treated it for mange and then amazingly released it on a footpath, next to a road, and filmed it as it ran down the middle of the road with onlookers from the surrounding houses. Although I can see their view that the fox has a right to live, and I admire his adaptability, I do have to question the legality of releasing a fox on a road in the middle of town, as I have always believed the law states that you may only release a captured fox on ground where you have the owner’s consent. This, however, proved to be just the tip of the iceberg with regard to their Disney-style anthropomorphism of our foxes. It was soon brought home why the behaviour of Britain’s foxes is changing so much. The programme highlighted just how many people are feeding foxes by hand and the number of animal charities that are imprinting foxes by hand rearing them and then, as they put it, ‘soft releasing’. This means they give them a steady supply of dog food as they leave their pens, supporting them until they find their own territories. What they then do is aggressively defend these very foxes that they have basically trained and habituated to man, stating that foxes don’t enter houses or bite people as they have an inherent fear of humans! Again, one of the most worrying aspects that I witnessed was seeing Brian May cuddling and petting a young fox cub that was due to be released. This is, in my mind, morally wrong, as this animal has been reared to have no fear of humans and in fact relies on people for its food. Also, the image that this transmits to the British public is incredibly twisted and misleading, with Brian May even stating that the education that these foxes receive is similar to that of a child that you have to prepare to go out into the world! The pitch of my shouting and screaming reached an all time high when the Foxes Live presenter Mark Evans, whilst interviewing a lady whose dog was bitten by a fox and almost carried off, actually turned round and accused the woman’s dog of starting a fight with the fox in his own garden. In truth, a fox is an opportunist and will predate on anything smaller than itself, if it has the opportunity. We were then almost accused of being deficient as a hunting and shooting community in some way when Charlie Jacoby from Fieldsports Channel bravely stepped forward into the ‘lion’s den’ to try and put forward a view from the other side. Taking into consideration that he was heavily outnumbered, it was not long before he was cut down. Brian May was almost calling into question Charlie’s morality for wanting to be able to protect livestock and pets against foxes, with a view that it is our fault for not caring for our animals in an adequate way and stating we should keep our stock penned in secure fox-proof housing. He clearly disagrees with the production of free range eggs and would prefer to see a swing back to battery farming.It was only after the series had ended that my disappointment in what I had witnessed truly set in, with the fox huggers and our detractors scoring a huge victory over us. As I found myself speaking to shooting friends and colleagues about the show, it saddened me how few people had taken the time to watch or partake in the event. Most stated that they had watched it for a few minutes before the propaganda got too much for them. The huge error that we all made was not realising the damage that can and has been done by shows such as this. As we sit in blissful ignorance, taking full advantage of our relatively interference-free way of life with regard to shooting and fox control, there is a large and ever-growing movement, fuelled by programmes such as this and social media sites whose agenda is to stop fox control and indeed any shooting or wildlife management. As we all know, it is mass public opinion that soon changes political ideals and agendas. This was particularly highlighted at the end of Charlie Jacoby’s interview on the programme when Mark Evans went to their fox popularity monitor and stated that 86% of the country like foxes and so therefore must be against us as a shooting community. With figures like these being brandished by outspoken organisations, I do somewhat fear that our future and way of life may not be trouble free. With over 10,000 people taking their survey I cannot help but think that the majority that did so came from the decidedly pro-fox communities, especially as they were urged to do so on their social media sites. In contrast, we as a community simply buried our head in the sand, brushing it off with the contempt it ‘deserved’. However, I do feel we have been negligent and foolish in our attitudes, as the highly biased and grossly misrepresented figures from their survey will no doubt be shoved down our throats and used to beat us in the future. With the benefit of our shooting organisations, such as BASC, Countryside Alliance and the NGO, I hope that we don’t get caught with our trousers down again. Although I do not post on forums and cannot get on with social media sites, I do believe that we may all benefit from being in contact through these mediums (such as the Sporting Shooter Facebook page and Twitter account), as it is a very quick way of communicating and rallying support from our community in order to protect our future. Time to fight fire with fire?