Back to main page =>
The cunning old fox ?!?
Most people think of the fox as a smart, shy and beautiful animal. These thoughts have often caused the death of many foxes. For as long as we can remember, this animal has been the victim of human fancies: fashion, pleasure hunt, competitor of our hunting
fellowmen, folklore,...It's hard to determine what exactly has led to the fox's bad reputation, but it's a fact that this is an exceedingly personal matter. A nice example of this subjectivity is the 'Roman de Renard' or the story of
'Reynaert the fox'. In France, this story was so immensely popular that the original French name for the fox, 'Le Goupil', was at once replaced by the name of the main character in the story, 'Renard', which is now the overall French name for fox. Or take a look at the church's 'Bestiarium'. This book describes the fox as a devil. According to the church, this justifies the
intens persecutions of the fox...
On the basis of this belief, the nobility of England started to go foxhunting, a very popular sport in which a pack of dogs is sent after a fox. The dogs are followed by hunters on horseback or by all terrain vehicles. The exhausted fox will finally be torn in pieces by the routed pack of dogs...Although a majority of the British people condemns this barbaric and totally useless form of entertainment, foxhunting is still organized. The reason is that foxhunting is a sport for the noble (in other words 'important' people). Although this kind of fox-hunting is mainly for pleasure, these few supporters of foxhunting fool people into believing that this kind of hunting is necessary to achieve a well-balanced fox population and that this way of hunting is completely natural. Nothing is further from the truth: fox populations depend on the population of animals of prey. This means that a population of foxes is regulated automatically, without help from the outside. Moreover, fox hunting is not practised sufficiently enough to effect a complete fox population. And if they started practising foxhunting at that level, the damage of such a hunt to plants and animals would be enormous, so enormous that soon nothing would be left of our beautiful landscapes as they are now. It would have the same effect as a huge motor-cross in rural landscape, and more, it would only drive the foxes closer to residential areas, but could never extinct it. Recently, small-scale breeding centres, run by a few fox hunting clubs, have been discovered. These clubs bred halftame foxes, spreaded them out and hunted them. This has rightly crushed the image of fox hunting and this also sufficiently proves that fox hunters try to gloss over the true character (merely pleasure) of fox hunting. In Flanders, this way of hunting is strictly forbidden !
Unfortunately, the fur trade also claims a huge amount of fox's lives (and not only of foxes). Although most of the foxes, that are destined to hang round your (?) neck, are nowadays to a great extent bred, the fur trade is still responsible for the near dying out of the Afghan fox, the San Joaquin kitfox, the kitfox and the Simian fox. And also for the total extinction of the Falklandfox, a species that doesn't exist anymore. The furs of our Belgian foxes are no high-quality products, but they are still used to decorate clothes (the collar of a winter coat f.e.). Keep this in mind if you are planning on buying such clothes. Because no matter what, foxes terribly suffer from it: they die a slow and painful death in a trap or they are bored stiff in their small breeding cages. And the one thing that a fox is fond of is his freedom, believe me: if you have observed foxes living in the wild, then you just know that this animal can't get used to emprisonment and that a caged fox is a (brain) dead fox !!! Anyway, every day a lot of animals and even people are killed for various reasons, but that is no excuse for killing more animals or people and also certainly no excuse for a product that we don't really need. Fur is a luxury product, something we don't really need and which has no positive influence on our quality of life. And this is what makes fur so controversial and why most people rightly condemn the fur trade. As a consequence, the suffering and the killing of animals for the benefit of this product is completely useless. If you have just a bit of sympathy for the 'live and let live'-philosophy, then you don't buy clothes that are made of animals. After all, there are enough modern clothes of good quality these days.
Our hunting fellowmen don't really like foxes at all; the prove is that prominent hunters incite people to hunt foxes intensively. This mentality, which is encouraged by the threat of rabies (in some countries), has led to the disappearance of the fox out of large regions in Flanders a few decades ago. Fortunately, the government has restrained this mentality -now that the shooting off of foxes is not the solution to fight against rabies anymore- by protecting foxes as soon as they have cubs. This was the perfect opportunity for the fox to reconquer his place in the natural landscapes of Flanders. Thereupon, frustrated hunters began to spread lies in the press by telling that environmentalists had set out foxes. The purpose of these lies was to deny the natural resurgence of the fox in Flanders and in that way to consider the presence of the fox as unnatural. This would be the perfect explenation to gain public opinion for the intens killing of foxes. To these hunters the fox is public ennemy number one and that's why they try to portray the fox as a harmful predator (these days, a looted chicken coop already seems a good reason to shoot every fox in the country !!!). A lot of these reasons are easily refuted on a scientific basis and in reality it's like this: foxes hunt the same preys (pheasants, rabbits, hares,...) as hunters. That turns the fox into a direct competitor and that's where the shoe pinches! But let's be clear, fortunately not all hunters think about foxes in that way. Even in the milieu of hunters, opinions about foxes differ. If you go to the region of the Viroin, you don't just bounce into a fox. On the contrary, foxes in the Viroin are hunted intensively and shot without mercy. The reason is that in the Viroin hunters want to shoot small or big game as much as they can (large sums of money are coughed up to participate in a hunting party. And because foxes are competitors of the hunters they are killed because of rabies. If you go f.e. more to the eastward side, near Libramont, you run into a lot of big and small game, not only foxes, but also deer, wild boars, hares,...After a conversation with a very friendly forester, I learn that in this region people go hunting only to prevent agricultural damage caused by f.e. wild boars. Also some local people go hunting to shoot a hare or a roe deer for the family dinner (they are right there, hunting is much more animal-friendly than factory farming !). "And what about the fox, sir ?" It is wisely left alone. Vaccination campaigns in this area made rabies disappear. Moreover, foxes take care of a considerable part of rodents that cause damage to the agricultural sector. So there is no reason to persecute foxes, on the contrary !
One thing about foxes: if a fox has the chance to loot a chicken coop, he will do so, and that's not funny at all. If something like that happens, you have two possibilities (in both cases you will curse the fox): you can scream blue murder and shoot every fox in the neighbourhood and for the rest leave everything like before. Then you have one quiet year, but after that year the fox will return and sooner or later he will loot that chicken coop again. Or you can play it smart and see to it that the fox can't kill your chickens. A good watchdog, a locked up chicken coop...no holes in the chicken coop that are bigger than 7 cm, a firm roof (or a fence of at least two meter high, bearing off to the outside; place the fence some 20 cm under the ground and then bend it to the outside, or place a firm floor covering). With these precautions in mind you can sleep like a log.
Let it be clear, the fox plays an important role in nature, even in agricultural and silvicultural environment the fox is always welcome: it destroys rodents that bring damage to these kinds of environment (in nature reserves, the fox's presence was necessary because of the overpopulation by some animals, f.e. pheasants). So far, there is no founded scientific reason to persecute the fox. For years, the animal has been absent in some regions of Flanders, and that is an unnatural thing!
© Hans Schockaert