The need for wildlife management
In a man made world, the welfare of wildlife (particularly foxes with no natural predator) is better served by management by man rather than left to its own devices. It might be accepted that man has a moral obligation to manage foxes having removed its natural predators.
As mentioned in “Foxes their control and management [link]&rdquo, the need for wildlife management is recognised by political parties, farmers and conservationists.
Foxes will predate new born lambs, piglets, poultry, leverets, ground nesting and game birds far beyond their dietary requirements. On the other hand they help to control rabbits, rats and other small mammals. They will also kill wounded animals and birds. In welfare terms this is particularly relevant to wounding, whether from traffic accidents or shooting. This reinforces the argument for management rather than for methods of control that could lead to extinction.
The aim of management.
The aim of population management should be to maintain a healthy and balanced population of the fox at a level which can be sustained by its local environment, and which is acceptable to livestock farmers and the overall balance of all other indigenous wildlife. Traditionally it has been hunting that has been solely concerned with population management.
The health and fitness of populations.
The fox, as an indigenous species, has its place in the overall balance of the UKs wildlife. Like other wild mammals, it has a status as a hunted species without which it may be classified merely as a pest. As such it may face eradication. A zero population of any indigenous species is not acceptable. As in many other countries, the hunter is likely to be the quarrys greatest ally.
Wildlife management should be concerned primarily with welfare of populations and biodiversity. For the individual there needs to be the distinction between welfare at a specific point, such as the moment prior to death, and welfare over a life time i.e. the positive welfare where animals are left to flourish in accordance with their natural environment.
The comparisons made on the legal control methods above focus on the individual animal culled, but it is important that all the methods are evaluated for their effects on the health and fitness of the entire population.
Hunting with hounds offered 3 unique advantages to this health and fitness:
- A closed season complimentary to the breeding period.
- Selectivity; it was most likely to cull the weak, injured or old foxes.
- Dispersal; it dispersed high concentrations of foxes, thus reducing the probability of local damage.
Huntings beneficial impact on species was proved by the health of all species which were hunted. Even opponents of hunting did not suggest that it was detrimental to any species; their attack was focused exclusively on the individual animal hunted. A balanced view should take into account huntings impact on the species as a whole.
It is the well being of the species as a whole that has to be weighed against any adverse welfare consequences of culling procedures to the individual.