Royal Agricultural University: Sick stunt as fox corpse tied to car roof

Protect the Wild and the Daily Mail don’t often agree on matters concerning wildlife, but their headline on Feb 7th “Outrage after students at Britain’s top agricultural university strap dead fox to the roof of a car for charity rally” just about nails it.

As the Mail explained, “Students at a prestigious university dubbed ‘Oxbridge for farmers’ strapped a dead fox to the roof of a car during a charity rally”.

They went on to say that, “A photo from the fundraising event at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) in Cirencester, Gloucestershire shows the lifeless animal sprawled on the vehicle’s roof with each of its legs secured by blue rope” and posted an image lifted from an unnamed RAU social media account.

Does it get anymore ciren?

As if the image wasn’t disturbing and casually abusive enough, the smirking poster decided to add a jaw-dropping and revealing caption: “Does it get anymore ciren”.

This is how students (or, to be fair, some of them) choose to show the world what ‘Cirencester’ (whose motto, we’re told in a grandiloquent section on the university’s website, “is ‘Arvorum Cultus Pecorumque‘; a quote from Virgil’s Georgics, it means ‘Caring for the Fields and the Beasts’. What more appropriate maxim could there be for a University which, in every facet of its teachings, now incorporates a wider understanding of our countryside?”) really thinks about the wildlife they will be looking after (or ‘managing’ in farmer-speak) after they graduate.

And that’s the real point here.

The RAU, renowned for rowdy behaviour and a heavy drinking culture, is a hot house for hot-headed ‘young farmers’ who will carry their appalling lack of empathy and self-awareness into the wider countryside. These are in fact the sort of haughty and hubristic people who will be working hard to repeal the Hunting Act while welcoming hunts onto their estates, and lobbying for the shooting industry while banging on about ‘woke townies’ and how Chris Packham should be booted off the BBC.

Notable alumni?

Is that going too far just because a couple of idiots got hold of a fox and thought it would be perfectly acceptable (at least to some of their equally disconnected peers) to abuse the animal’s poor body for ‘fun’?

One look at the list of so-called notable alumni of ‘Ciren’ (whose Patron is the pro-hunting and pro-shooting King of England) shows that it really shouldn’t come as any surprise that (some) current students have picked up on an ‘animals as playthings’ motif at the university.

Graduates include some heavyweight estate owners and lobbyists for hunting and shooting, including Torquhil Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll (who owns Inverray Castle and Estate where according to its website “some of the most prolific and sporting snipe shooting is available on the Isle of Tiree. The island boasts the Guinness Book of Records entry for the amount of snipe shot with one barrel. The Island also provides exciting wildfowling, especially goose shooting”); James Spencer-Churchill, 12th Duke of Marlborough (who owns Blenheim Palace, ‘home of the world-famous CLA Game Fair, the World’s largest celebration of game shooting and fishing’),  Lord Richard Benyon (a current Defra Minister and grouse moor owner who controls the Englefield Estate, a 14,000 acre estate which offers ‘high-quality driven pheasant and partridge shooting’), and Simon Hart MP (former chair of bloodsports lobbyists the Countryside Alliance).

As well as actively being part of bloodsports, alumni are well-placed to ensure the killing goes on. As the Daily Mail piece is at pains to (inaccurately) point out, “Wild foxes are considered vermin, so while it is against the law to hunt them with dogs it is not illegal to shoot them humanely with a registered firearm“. Foxes have actually never been classified as vermin, but it is legal to kill them all year around – and that’s down to landowners and farmers who make and pass legislation in the Houses of Commons and Lords. And the RAU can count on a raft of relatively recent graduates to allow the ‘fun’ to continue (and oddly enough can also claim amongst its alumni some – er, deep thinkers that include prominent UKIPpers Stuart Agnew and Roger Knapman).

The Royal Agricultural College (RAC) Beagles

Just to add to the sense that the RAU is doing its utmost to keep hunting on the agenda is the fact that along with Stowe School (which also operates a beagle pack) it is just one of a very small handful of ‘educational’ establishments to have its own hunting pack. Lauded in the hunting fraternity’s very own magazine Horse and Hound as having “produced the greatest number of masters and huntsmen of foxhounds over the past 50 years…The RAC trace their history back to the late 19th century and have been bound by high-quality sport with their eminent foxhound neighbours in Gloucestershire ever since”, the infamous pack has made the headlines in recent years.

This is by no measure a comprehensive list, but back in November 2013 American Libby Gilbert, the former joint master and huntswoman of the Royal Agricultural Beagles fled overseas rather than answer a charge of illegally hunting hares; in January 2015 the Wilts and Glos Standard reported “Police investigating claims by hunt saboteurs after alleged confrontation in Tetbury with hunt group linked to Cirencester’s Royal Agricultural University”; in Dec 2017 a Hunt Sabs Association press-release stated that “Hunt Saboteurs were in action to stop the Gloucester-based Royal Agricultural College Beagles from killing hares in Aberdeenshire”; and in 2020 Cirencester Illegal Hunt Watch posted a video on Facebook which they said showed the RAC “taking a pack of beagles to chase hares around a field”.

Disingenuous non-apology of the week

The University has now posted an official statement which (perhaps unsurprisingly) parrots the sort of airy fantasy spouted by hunts when they’re caught breaking the law (again) or the self-serving garbage that shooting lobbyists come out with about ‘a few rotten apples’ when yet another gamekeeper is caught with yet more dead birds of prey (again).

That would almost be credible but for the fact that ‘Cirencester’ students and alumni have been happily showing what they really think about foxes (and hares and pheasants and grouse) for a very, very long time.

Does tying the corpse of a fox to a car and parading for Rag Week ‘get anymore ciren’? We doubt the university will be using this image in their glossy promotionals, but perhaps nothing else could sum up the place so horribly perfectly…