It is hard to believe that for some people Christmas is the time to go out killing animals.
In this day and age when we have already proven all over the world that traditions need to take second place to human rights, animal welfare principles and environmental factors, I cannot help wondering how those that go out on Boxing Day trying to chase and kill foxes illegally can justify their actions.
Surely the Christmas spirit should be about charity, compassion, solidarity with those in need and a general sense of “being nice to your neighbour”.
It should not be about breaking the law, chasing wild animals for fun and using dogs as lethal weapons.
Those who choose blood sports as a way to spend their free time should at the very least give it a few days of rest around Christmas time, so they can temporarily be “nice” to the other animals we share our land with.
But no, Boxing Day has become the hunting day “par excellence”, and nobody involved in organised hunting seems to want to miss it.
These days Boxing Day is really “Hunt PR Day”, when the hunts meet to try to persuade the public that they are more popular than ever, and that they do not break the law.
However, this year they may find it a bit more difficult to claim this, not only because the number of people successfully prosecuted under the Hunting Act has already passed the 200 mark, but because just a few weeks ago, for the first time in history, an entire hunt (The Heythrop) was successfully prosecuted as a “corporate body”.
The “breaking the law has nothing to do with us” mantra is sounding increasingly weak.
Is it true that during the Boxing Day meets, hunters may be more reluctant to break the law, because they face more media scrutiny than on any other hunting day of the year?
Is it true that those who oppose hunting and do not want their land to be trespassed on by the hunt, or their day being ruined by the sound of hounds in cry, feel more intimidated around Boxing Day, since the hunts seem to get out in bigger numbers?
I don’t know, but what I do know is that the Boxing Day hunting bravado is not having an effect on the general public.
The latest opinion poll on hunting carried out by Ipsos MORI for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the League Against Cruel Sports and the RSPCA, shows that 76 per cent of people in Great Britain think that fox hunting should remain illegal, and only 15 per cent want hunting with dogs legalised.
This is not new. Last year a similar poll again showed 76 per cent in favour of keeping the ban and 18 per cent who wanted it legal again. And the same year after year.
So, despite the eight Boxing Day PR shows that have been staged since the Hunting Act of 2004, the British public seems as opposed to fox hunting as they were when they demanded their elected representatives outlaw it for good.
The support for the ban is not just a one-off event or even an afterthought.
People do care about British wildlife being persecuted, from badgers being under threat from an irrational cull, to foxes, deer or hares being constantly chased and harassed by wildlife criminals.
Protecting wildlife is a deep belief entrenched in British culture.
The Hunting Act was an important step to get rid of this wildlife abuse, and most people do not want it repealed. What country in its right mind would bring back a blood sport?
We at IFAW will continue our hunt monitoring because we know how important it is to help enforce the Hunting Act and ensure those who break it face justice.
However, we wish that we were not needed for this, and we could spend the holidays with our families, rather than protecting the wildlife under constant threat.
We really hope that in the future Boxing Day becomes Foxing Day, the day when all foxes are safe, and people remember those that have been unnecessarily killed by hunters who could not get the true meaning of Christmas.
For more information on our efforts to end the hunting of foxes with dogs, visit our campaign page.