Saturday, September 18, 2004

Fox-Hunting, Bull-Fighting, and Fair Play

The debate in Britain on fox-hunting is puzzling. Like many Americans, I cannot see why the legal apparatus of the state is to be brought to bear on a few silly-buggers who want to chase foxes up hill and down dale. Norm is probably right to note that fox-hunting involves a form of cruelty to sentient beings. But the same might be said of fly-fishing. And no one has proposed criminalizing that. Clearly, these are "sports" and not comparable, as he suggests, to the mindless clubbing of animals just for the hell of it. Moreover, in an excellent post, Harry has pointed out the hypocrisy of a society of carnivores rallying behind the fox. It strikes me that a better solution to the whole problem is to recognize that hunting--like bull-fighting--is a sport with the wrong, unfair rules.

I have written earlier on how a few simple changes of the rules of football would improve the spectacle of the game. I think that a few similar changes ought to apply in both bull-fighting and fox-hunting. The problem with these sports is that they are unfairly one-sided. In bull-fighting, the Toreador rarely gets gored; the bull invariably gets killed. In the spirit of fair play, the answer is to limit the size of the Toreador's cape (or whatever it's called) to the size of a man's handkerchief (say, 6 inches square). This would make the Toreador's task incomparably more difficult--and give the bull a fighting chance of victory.

The rules of fox-hunting ought to be similarly re-jigged. The problem here is the beagle. It's much too large, has too much stamina, and there are simply too many of the damn things for the hunt to be fair. The rules ought to change in the following way: Only dogs of similar or smaller size to the fox are allowed to participate in the hunt. We could then look forward to the more equitable chase of the Corgi, the Yorkshire Terrier and the like . This simple rule-change would, in my opinion, make the sport much fairer and solve a lot of the current unpleasantness.

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