I have never been a fan of fox hunting. There has always seemed something uncivilised in a load of people deriving joy from chasing and killing an animal.
But after a few nights of fox noises, the — how-shall-I-put-it? — “marking” of our front path, the assaults on rubbish bags and the worry about running into one when walking a small dog who seriously overestimates her combat skills, I am re-evaluating some of my instincts.
It is time, in other words, for urban hunts. There have already been early forays into this new pastime. The well-known anti-Tory lawyer Jolyon Maugham gained notoriety with a Boxing Day tweet on how he had clubbed a fox to death after it became trapped while trying to get into a henhouse in his garden, while dressed in his wife’s “small green kimono”. I should clarify that it was Maugham rather than the fox wearing the kimono, green not being the animal’s best colour and foxes, in any case, being more into trackies.
Anyway, in spite of his heroic efforts, the Boxing Day kimono fox hunt did not catch on. The pests remain free to terrorise our suburbs, strolling brazenly in the streets, entirely unmolested by men in Japanese couture. In the face of continued marking, howling, digging and destruction, we city dwellers need to hit back.
I have googled other options for keeping foxes away. One recommended deterrent is male urine but, well, you know, we have neighbours. So I’m afraid it’s got to be hunting. Other areas will want to do their own thing but the south-west London hunt will obviously be substantially different from the rural variety. The Meet will therefore gather at an agreed location, some time after Parkrun has finished.
Hunting pink is not, I think, going to be the uniform for urban hunts but gilets are definitely acceptable and we will probably insist on Jack Wills hoodies and Lululemon leggings. We will dispense with the traditional alcoholic stirrup cup before the hunt begins, opting instead for soya lattes and pains aux raisins, brought to us by Deliveroo riders.
There is, alas, a distinct lack of beagle packs in the area, so some improvisation will be required. We may instead go for cockapoos, which are in any case the dominant south-west London breed, although there is also a caucus for westies.
Horses are not practical. We did consider Chelsea tractors, which are in plentiful supply and, sadly, not yet in violation of the ultra-low emission zone, but you do want a bit of exposure to nature for the thrill of the chase. So we have opted for e-scooters, even though the legal ones have a top speed of about 12mph and are no good in ditches.
There may be a case for e-bikes instead, although, if we want to be sporting, we may ultimately settle for Bromptons. Naturally, the fox will be expected to stay within approved cycle lanes. There are not many opportunities for jumps but we may try to incorporate some parkour into the chase.
We are not naive. We know, naturally, that not everyone will approve of the new hunts and we do anticipate some trouble. On the upside, hunt saboteurs will have considerably less distance to travel, in many cases just a few stops on the Northern Line or the Overground from Dalston. We do worry that the sabs could get there early and rent out all the bikes, forcing us to chase the fox on foot. They may also deploy bubble machines to distract the cockapoos.
Other well-known sab tactics for urban hunting include efforts to split the hunt by the laying of false trails with directions to artisan food markets. They sometimes yell “view halloumi”, at which point all the chasers divert to their local delicatessen.
There is the issue of animal cruelty. And here I admit there is a problem. Being metropolitan weaklings ourselves, none of us is terribly keen on the killing bit of the hunt. Even the cockapoos are trained to prefer a nice vegan treat. Many members don’t even like the idea of the fox being terrified. Mildly disconcerted is more the emotion we are hoping for.
We’ve all read The Little Prince and have a bit of a soft spot for things vulpine, at least at an intellectual level. So the question is what to do with the fox once we have it cornered. Ideally, we just want to chase them over the bridges to north London, but these can get terribly congested and Hammersmith Bridge is still closed to vermin.
Others have suggested that if we are not prepared to kill the foxes, we might speed their relocation by asking them to help canvas for the Liberal Democrats or forcing them to come to book-club meetings. Sadly, this latter idea has not worked terribly well in trials as the fox insists on discussing novels about chickens.
So, yes, there is still some work to be done but this is an idea whose time has come. Scooter up, my friends.
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