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VICTORY: Fife Foxhounds fold after 267 years

Some hunt supporters have said the Fife Foxhounds are planning to fold following the recent passage of Scotland’s new anti-hunting bill. However, the link may not be as direct as it first appears.

On 29 January, a person by the name of Leslie Bain posted to Facebook that the “Fife Foxhounds are disbanding”. Bain attributed this to the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill, which the Scottish government voted to pass on 24 January. Bain went on to lament the loss of “200 years of Hound breeding” and, in a repeat of 20-year-old rhetoric, claimed the law:

“will not save a single fox infact [sic] it will cause the exact opposite farmers and landowners will now have no alternative other than to shoot any fox seen on their land”

Isle of Wight Hunt Sabs shared a screenshot of Bain making a similar claim in a different post on Facebook.

This sentiment was echoed by Twitter user @verygamegirl, who said it was “so sad to hear… the Fife Foxhounds have called it a day”. However, one person in @verygamegirl’s replies highlighted the truth of the matter.

User @lurcherwork, AKA Adam, said the hunt had “called it a day before the legislation went through”.

https://twitter.com/lurcherwork/status/1619807775470804996

In further comments, Adam said that the end of the Fife Foxhounds was because “nobody there [is] interested in hunting”. And, in a dig at hunt saboteurs, said he “wouldn’t give them any credit” for the end of the hunt. Meanwhile, Edinburgh Hunt Sabs told Protect the Wild that the Fife Foxhounds were “in a bad way before the change in the law”.

Protect the Wild contacted Fife Foxhounds for comment on the rumours. Treasurer Graham Scott confirmed that the hunt is planning to disband, but said that the reasons were “purely financial”.

With Fife Foxhounds’ decision to finish, the nation will house just nine foxhound packs and one minkhound pack.

Leslie Bain talks about the end of the Fife Foxhounds on 29 January

Cultural turn

Far from Bain’s claim that the new law is responsible for the end of the Fife Foxhounds, it is the result of a wider cultural shift. As Protect the Wild previously said following reports of the end of the Airedale Beagles, a wide variety of factors can lead to a hunt folding. Yet at the same time, contrary to Adam’s claims that sabs deserve no credit, it’s clear that anti-hunting direct action often plays a crucial role. It does this by feeding into and helping foster the cultural turn away from hunting.

The Fife Foxhounds were the subject of a string of notorious incidents captured by sabs in the mid-to-late 2010s. This included a high profile video published by sab groups in March 2019. It showed huntsman Robert Howarth tousling with the pack of hounds over the body of a fox that the pack had just killed. Grampian Hunt Sabs said it believed the fox was a “lactating female” with her cubs then missing their mother.

Roberth Howarth, huntsman of the Fife Foxhounds, tousles with hounds over the body of a dead fox.
Howarth tries to pull a fox’s corpse away from the hounds, via Grampian Hunt Sabs.

Edinburgh Hunt Sabs published video of Howarth in 2019 holding up the tail of a fox in front of sabs. This received more than 15,000 views. And in 2017, Perthshire Hunt Sabs published footage it had filmed of Howarth whipping a hound. It went viral with nearly 30,000 views.

The specific impact of sabs and monitors is often unclear. What is clear, though, is that direct action is essential in fostering and maintaining a cultural turn away from hunting. A change that impacts all hunts, even if they aren’t frequently sabbed. And, with the new law coming into effect later this year, we are likely to see many more reports of hunts following in Fife Foxhounds’ footsteps.

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