One of my most precious possessions is an original document – Grey Owl’s farewell to the children of the British Isles. It dates from 1937 and it has something very important to say about fox hunting, something the Conservative Party that has just been voted back in would like returned to legality. Here’s what Grey Owl had to say on the matter.
“Could you promise me never to take advantage of the weakness of another, human or animal – never to take the life of a poor defenseless animal merely for amusement?
I’ll ask you, too, if you will never join in a chase where foxes, stags, or otters or hares, are driven to the last extremity of terror, and misery, until at last, with no chance of escape, they stand there looking for mercy, but finding none, surrounded by a horde of dogs and men, and sometimes, I am ashamed to say, women and even children, and then defenseless, terrified, helpless, and alone – no one near to help them – they are literally mobbed to death.
Is that fair play? Is that sport?
In that case, I ask you, please don’t be a sportsman or a sportswoman.
But, remember the word “sportsman” may mean something rather fine – consideration for those who are weaker than ourselves, who stand so much in need of the kindness for which they cannot ask.
Sportsmen claim that an animal that is to be killed for fun – can you imagine it? – should be given an even chance. Is that an even chance, a hundred to one, I ask you?
Fair play, good old British fair play – play the game – give everybody a square deal. Remember that brave people are always the kindest. But when we go out against a lesser creature a hundred to one, is that courage? – is that kind?
Remember that only those whose lives have been too easy, with too much money and not enough to do, who do not understand what hardship and pain can be, would inflict such misery on a helpless fellow creature. I have heard, this last time I am here, of a fox that ran into a house for protection, and was seized by a huntsman as he jumped through a window, bleeding from several cuts he had received from the broken glass; only trying, poor creature, to save his life – the only one he had – and was thrown to the dogs to be torn to pieces – alive – on Christmas day.
What joy for the hunters, what fun for the dogs, and at a time of the year when the whole world is full of goodwill to everybody. What a Christmas for that poor fox, whom God made as He made you and me!
Yes every man and his dog is fully aware that Grey Owl was a Brit. That isn’t the point. The point is in what he had to say, as valid today as it was 80 years ago.