The hunting instinct

Normally Colin Tudge's articles are stimulating and well argued, but I found his piece about hunting (NS Essay: "Why this scene is unnatural", 18 February) confused and ill-informed. When people talk about hunting being "natural", they mean natural in the primary sense (according to Chambers) of "normal, unsurprising", not the secondary sense of "instinctive". It is natural in the latter sense for foxes to kill chickens, game birds and other small animals. It is natural in the former sense for farmers to want to keep fox numbers down. Some of them think it's fun to follow on horseback while trained dogs perform this task. It's not to everyone's taste, but that doesn't ipso facto make it unethical.

Second, foxes are intelligent animals that (naturally) know their home territory and refuges better than visiting hounds. They rarely end up, in my experience, being chased to exhaustion across miles of countryside. If and when they are caught, death is quick and certain. If fox-hunting were let alone, it would probably die out in a generation. I suspect that the threat of a ban is one of the things keeping it alive.

Carol Orchard