Richard Mawdsley, The Dash, Bassenthwaite, Keswick. Cumbria. CA12 4QX

Sir.

In our society we used to tolerate others and enjoy our freedoms. True, we still have the liberty of freedom of speech. No matter how erroneous or misguided our opinions we may express them vocally or in writing, unless of course they are critical of someone's ethnic origins, colour or religion in which case they are probably illegal.

Those of us who live in and gain our living from the countryside are now in the position of being a cultural minority in the land of our birth. We are worse off than any ethnic and religious minority because we have no protection from the law. By our own Government we are denigrated and belittled and, with that example, by anyone else with complete impunity. No-one listens to the small voice that we have.

One issue for example, hunting. A minority of your correspondents delight in telling us that "...the vast majority condemn hunting." I think the vast majority have more important priorities, like worrying about job security, a reasonable wage, a roof over their heads and food on the table. They also have the good sense not to make judgements on matters about which they realise they have insufficient knowledge.

We are told that hunting is 'barbaric'. Really? I say that the actions of our own Government and its agents implementing the 'cull policy' last year, legal or otherwise, were barbaric, yet I heard no word of protest raised by those who condemn hunting.

We are told that hunting has no place in a modern society. We are told so many things based, not on fact, but on emotion. Feelings and thoughts are ascribed to foxes based on imaginative anthropomorphism.

What we are not told is how we might effectively control a predator. The fox at its best is a supremely efficient, cunning, opportunistic scavenger and hunter...'.

It has been said by David Attenborough, [or Dr. David Bellamy,] that any species will expand up to the limits of its environment to support it. That's why toadstools grow in circles, the centre is exhausted and will no longer support that particular species.


So long as we humans keep sheep, pigs and poultry out doors, which is their natural environment, there will be a constant supply of food for foxes.
Recently one of the Wardens of the Essex Wildlife Trust was surprised and not a little shocked to see, with his own eyes, ground-nesting birds taken from their nests and lambs from their small flock of sheep taken live, by foxes.

Their policy bans hunting on their land, so they called in a man with a rifle. He was unable to find the fox, let alone shoot it, but some of the subscribers to the Trust heard about the plan and wished it to be stopped. [Daily Telegraph]

Either one accepts that predators must be controlled, or that many species will have their numbers reduced to very low levels. A fox doesn't distinguish between a hen bird, no matter how rare, sitting on its nest and the next meal. It is the next meal, with the eggs or chicks to follow. Lambs are easier to catch than rabbits, like shopping at the supermarket instead of trekking up and down the High Street from shop to shop.

Hunting with hounds is the best way of dealing with the problem. The fox is caught and killed or it gets away unharmed. Unlike some of the alternative methods of control. I'm in the middle of my 39th lambing, a mere beginner compared to some. Isn't it surprising that, over the years when lambs start to disappear and I've called in the hounds, the trail leads to a fox, not the neighbour's dog!