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February 22, 2005

I'll Show You a Red Coat

They say that modern media has desensitized us, and I would have to agree-I can watch TV shows or movies that show people being stabbed, and yet I know so well that it's just TV, that at the end of the take the actor stands up and dusts himself off, reaching for coffee while simultaneously licking the peppermint-tasting red blood from his fingers. I can watch scenes on TV and in the movies that, were they actually happening in front of me, would put me in therapy for life. I can distance myself from it enough to not be affected by serious scenes of mayhem (although I have my limits. I did not watch Natural Born Killers and, in fact, have a problem with gratuitous violence.)

But injure or kill an animal in a movie and I'm out of there.

Kill all the people you want, since I have never in my life seen a human dead in front of me. But I have seen dead animals and it's something I never want to be confronted with and absolutely cannot stomach. I abhor violence to animals, and have always been a bleeding heart, even as a little girl.

Which is why this weekend I saw something that was utterly traumatic to me, and this is the other issue that has me deeply affected.

Fox hunting has been banned in this country which pleases me no end. I find the sport barbaric and repulsive to the very fabric of human nature. Although I am a vegetarian I can concede that man was built to hunt and to eat meat. But that's just it-while I can (only just) support hunting for human consumption and for wildlife cull in times of over-population, I utterly reject the notion of hunting just for the sport of it. In my world, if you hunt it, you must therefore eat it. If you do not, it is a waste of a life that was not yours to take.

Once upon a time fox hunting was useful to protect populations of chickens in flimsy cages. Foxes were possible rabies carriers and were to be shot if they started frequenting homes. There were periods of time when foxes were so overpopulated that the culling of them was a necessity.

And now? Chicken farms are often enormous concrete buildings-a fox couldn't get in if he tried. Rabies doesn't exist in the United Kingdom and Ireland (thanks to quarantine throughout this country) and that's not an issue either. And foxes are not only not overpopulated, but in some areas they are being bred for the express purpose of being set free and hunted down.

Fox hunting, which is practiced by only a very small percentage of the population in this country, has been banned'but this past weekend they did it anyway using sneaky methods to get past the laws. They didn't even follow the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. The truth of the matter is, the people that support dressing up in their red jacket and riding their horses to a froth while following a braying pack of hounds and then finding a fox and killing it hasn't changed. They only kill the fox with a shot to the head first.

I didn't know they didn't shoot the fox before, I thought that was always part of the process.

I was wrong.

I found out this weekend what really happens in a fox hunt. That previous to this law, the hounds chased the scent and the horsemen chased the hounds. When a fox went into a burrow, a terrier man then digs out the frightened animal'and the dogs then rip the animal limb from limb while it's still alive.

This weekend they showed it on TV that they shot the fox and then threw the beautiful red body to the pack of hounds which set upon it in a sea of teeth and gore. The fur flew and although I grabbed the remote, my procrastination in replacing the dead batteries meant I was confronted with 30 seconds of it while I screamed at the remote and hoped to God I could just change the fucking channel.

And I cried like a baby.

To make a point, this weekend 91 foxes were hunted down and killed. They were chased across open fields into their burrows, where they were dug out by terrier men and shot, then thrown to the dogs. The so-called gentrified felt they needed to make a point to Tony Blair and massacre foxes across the country. Is this law more humane to the fox? In a cold analysis, I suppose shooting the fox first so that it doesn't experience the actual sensation of being disemboweled is a perk, but is that really the point?

This shouldn't be happening at all. I find anyone that can partake in the celebration of the destruction of such an animal to be so completely depraved and masochistic that I have trouble accepting that this beautiful country I love so much supports this. The hunters held protest hunts in secret locations to avoid being prosecuted, often feeding wrong reports and location info to the police.

If I ever see the flash of a red coat of a fox hunter on fields around my house, I will be on the phone in a heartbeat and I will turn every last mother fucking one of them in.

I dreamt all weekend (and still do) about that picture of the fox getting ripped apart. It haunts my thoughts and riddles my Kafka dreams with the dreams of me trying to save foxes. I can't explain why this has affected me so much, Angus doesn't understand it, and I can't explain why. All I know is I am fully shaken to the nerve-endings with repulsion for people that do this 'sport'. I ripped the picture off of the front of the newspaper we bought on Sunday since I couldn't bear to see a picture of a dangling dead fox from the hand of a jubilant hunter, hounds right behind licking their chops (the linked article gives more info). This topic makes me cry and scream and I simply can't get my head around it.

The hunters say they're protecting English heritage. Are you really? There are a lot of things that I think are fabulously worthwhile to protect- Stratford-upon-Avon. Tea with scones. The English seaside. The V&A Museum. The Downs.

And there are a lot of things that the English did have as heritage that had to be given up. How about Prima Nocte? The right of the English to rape virgin Scottish brides on their wedding day. Is that a keeper? Or what about cutting off the index and middle finger of your enemies the French when you caught them in battle, so they could no longer pull back the bow and let loose an arrow (this has led to the British two-fingered salute they have in answer to the American middle finger.) Is that one that should be preserved?

England is a glorious and gorgeous country with many things that are good. It has such a rich history and so much to be proud of. The landscape is fantastic and the accents across the country are incredible.

But foxhunting is archaic, pathetic, and horrific. I don't understand people that not only do this sport, but bring their whole family into this. If you were a child perpetrating an act of animal cruelty it would put you in a high risk category, as abuse to animals is generally a symptom that you are or will be a psychotic.

Some symptoms hold true for adults and children, I think. One fox hunting chap, quoted in another Times article, said: It's not foxes they love, it's people like me they hate. Well, you're half right there. But I do love foxes, so if you corrected that it'd make your statement then 100% clear.

Fox hunters? You make me physically sick. Someday I hope the powers that be decide that your afterlife will be spent running for your life, before you get torn limb from limb. And I'll be there watching and cheering with the foxes as the trumpet sounds the call to the hunt.


Posted by Everydaystranger at February 22, 2005 08:37 AM .

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Or that rescuing a baby would cause less time in therapy.

That might be something.

Posted by: Helen at February 23, 2005 03:29 PM

That WAS limited:) In fact, I didn't intend to thump at all; I was merely stating where my reasoning comes from. I intentionally didn't go into details out of respect for your blog rules (End of defensive mode:)

I agree with Jim (minus the curse words of course). Well put.

I wonder though, are all animals really equal in value? If there was a baby and a puppy about to fall off a high ledge, and you could only save one, which would you save? Every person reading this would save the baby (if you wouldn't, no baby sitting jobs for you:). Why? Because we think a human is more valuable than a puppy.

Posted by: Solomon at February 23, 2005 01:39 PM

oh gosh, i feel the same way. i've actually read books where an animal was killed and had to put it away. my heart broke when i read about the fox hunts.

((hugs and love))

now, go snuggle up your kitties.

Posted by: kat at February 23, 2005 04:56 AM

When I was about 15 I saw footage of a foxhunt on the television... and I nearly threw up afterwards. It was exactly as you described, Helen, except the hunters I watched took the 'brush' from the fox before tossing it to the dogs.

It's completely barbaric and insanely cruel... and 100% unnecessary.

Posted by: Melissa at February 23, 2005 04:01 AM

Couldn't agree more. xx

Posted by: flikka at February 23, 2005 12:13 AM

helen, you're a star. even though i'm in b-school, the thought of actually managing and having responsibility for big things terrifies me. you're beautiful and smart and funny... what more could a team want? well, the rooster.... hey, it may be the chinese year of the rooster but that doesn't mean you can't fry him up and serve him for dinner for your team, if it comes to it.

Posted by: reflectionary at February 22, 2005 11:33 PM

Oh my how horrible! The whole concept makes me ill!

How could anyone condone such cruelty?! I just lost a little more respect for "civilized man"

I'm sorry you had to witness that sweetie! {{HUGS}} to you and a hope this won't follow you into your dreams.


Posted by: Lorri at February 22, 2005 11:20 PM

In my blog, in my world-all creatures are equal in value. Although I am DAMN glad ice cream was invented, let's limit the Bible thumping here.

To me, all creatures are equally valuable and nothing is superior.

Well...except the Rooster. He may be the exception.

Posted by: Helen at February 22, 2005 10:34 PM

Humans are most definitely superior to animals but this superiority does not give one immunity from being labelled a fucktard when one behaves as such.

Killing things for fun, whether you label it as your heritage or as a sport, pretty much automatically labels you as a fucktard.

That said, the vast majority of us have done so. As kids we stepped on worms and bugs, put magnifying glasses on ants, etc. The thing is, most of us grow up. Those fox "hunters" haven't.

Posted by: Jim at February 22, 2005 08:24 PM

If people are going to skirt the law (as Americans did during prohibition) the law will eventually fail. Questions on how it will be enforced (How will they stop a hunt is on private land and only a few people are aware of it) need to be addressed.

Otherwise it will just go underground.

Posted by: drew7203 at February 22, 2005 07:30 PM

Humans ARE superior to animals. Humans have invented planes, skyscrapers, the wheel, chocolate ice cream, and pizza. We've developed vaccines, cures for illnesses, the ability to replace a heart or lungs, and interstate highways. We help the poor, the needy, the sick, hurt animals, and sometimes don't even know them.

Humans have the capacity to reason, theorize, lament, rejoice, and joke at a much deeper level than any other animal. We're superior to animals in intellect, compassion, morality, and any other area one can think of. Don't confuse all of mankind with a small, cruel subset.

Does that mean we're more valuable? No, it doesn't. I derive that belief from the Bible. If one isn't a Christian, I can understand him saying all creatures are equal in value, but logically one can't say (Christian or not) that we aren't superior. Clearly we are.

Posted by: Solomon at February 22, 2005 06:55 PM

I've always felt the same way about animals being mistreated in films. Children too. I've become somewhat jaded about violence to adults on TV and movies, but not kids or pets. Huge knee-jerk reaction in me to even hint at mistreating a child or pet.

I feel that as humans we have a duty to be as kind as possible to animals who don't stand a chance against our weapons and superior intelligence. Even in killing them for food, to be as humane as possible. I like the attitude of the Native Americans who would stop and give thanks to the spirit of the animal who was giving up their life so the tribe could eat. That attitude makes sense to me.

Slaughtering an animal for "sport" does not.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS for the movie "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" (Do not read further if you don't want the plot spoiled)

This movie was billed as a light-hearted comedy and so it was. Pure fluff and Dan and I were enjoying it on a casually stupid/funny level, a few giggles here and a few guffaws there, right up to the moment this biker takes Ron's dog out of his car and kicks it off this very high bridge. There is a shot of the dog (obviously a dummy, I'm sure) soaring through the air.

I freaked OUT! I immediately looked at Dan in panic and said, "Idon'twannawatch, I don'twannawatch, IDON'TWANNAWATCHANYMORE!!!!!"

Dan was already reaching for the remote, found it, stopped it and deleted it from our Tivo. He did this within *seconds*. We were both horrified. We love animals and we just didn't think it was funny. We both thought they crossed a line. Big time.

I have watched a thousands of movies in my life and I know the writers thought this was humorous.And I'm sure there were people in the audience simply screaming with laughter at that scene.

But we did not think it was funny at all. It felt to us the same as if the guy had grabbed a small child and booted the child off the bridge.

Would that be "funny" too? WHERE IS THE HUMOR IN IT? Kicking a helpless animal off a bridge. Tell me what's funny about that, I want to know.

If that is what passes for funny these days, count me out of comedies from now on.


Posted by: Amber at February 22, 2005 06:10 PM

I couldn't look at the newspaper... the whole idea makes me sick and want to cry. I am like you... can't stand he idea of any animal suffering.

Posted by: Jess at February 22, 2005 05:15 PM

That is repulsive. I really thought they were done with all that.

Fine English tradition, pah. Why couldn't they have just taken to drink like the Irish?

Posted by: ilyka at February 22, 2005 02:35 PM

Hunting--gah. I don't see what's so sportsman-like about a bunch of guys with high powered binoculars and insanely tuned in rifles. You strip those men down and make them fashion their own weapons out of rocks and sticks, and make them run barefoot after the animals they want to kill, and I'll call it hunting.

Posted by: Ms. Pants at February 22, 2005 02:13 PM

So sad that the human population believes that we as humans are superior, when an animal of any kind continues to show us that they hold life and dignity far above us. Turn them in girl, turn them all in!

Posted by: jennifer at February 22, 2005 02:01 PM

A sport requires willing competitors. Hunting and fishing are more survival skills than anything, and they shouldn't be made into a sport. I have to agree that fox hunting sounds harsh.

Good thing we don't have anything like that with humans; that would incite great outrage. But wait...we do, and it doesn't. My bad.

Posted by: Solomon at February 22, 2005 01:19 PM

Foxes are more or less vermin, but that's no excuse to train dogs to tear them limb from limb. Somehow I thought that most foxhunts no longer involved an actual fox, and it was more or less a day spent riding through the countryside.

What you describe is barbaric, and despicable. I fail to see any sport there.

Posted by: Easy at February 22, 2005 01:16 PM

Reflectionay-yesterday blew big donkey chunks.

My manager got me in front of the team and basically Roostered me.

It was a horrible day.

Posted by: Helen at February 22, 2005 01:08 PM

I don't really know much about fox hunting per se. Here in Canada foxes are pretty much considered vermin along with rats. Sorry that this has affected you so deeply, maybe you could become involved with the animal rights people in supporting the ban on fox hunting?

Posted by: Lost at February 22, 2005 12:14 PM

ummm... sad... :(

but... hey, how did it go yesterday? you're leaving me hangin!

Posted by: reflectionary at February 22, 2005 11:13 AM
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