Nikki Baker 
Chapter Six - Discussion

Participant Profile.
The sport of fox hunting has over the years had a lot of negative publicity to contend with, with the majority of people claiming that it is a violent and cruel sport inflicting pain on helpless animals.  However the participation levels offer some contrast to the view that it is a dying sport if society is becoming uniformly more civil.  The stereotypical view that the majority of supporters and followers are from higher classes, is generally over exaggerated, and the actual participant profile is varying.  The results obtained from the questionnaire showed that the majority of participants questioned were female (74%), although this could just be because women are more likely to complete questionnaires.

47% of those who completed the questionnaires fell into the age category of over 45 years, and the second largest age group fell into the age group of fifteen to thirty.  The remaining respondents fell into the age category of 31 – 45 years.  This supports the research findings that the majority of followers are from an older generation.  This could be because in the generation that they were born into this sport was a lot more acceptable.  However it does not support the civilisation process, as then surely the youngest age group would be the smallest, with them being born into a world and society that finds violence and cruelty less acceptable.  This is one consideration, but it could also be reversed and young people may feel more able to participate in a controversial sport as today’s society is more tolerant and freedom of choice applies to all.  It all depends on what civilisation means and how even it is.

From the literature review, the article by Ward (1999) [see references], suggests that most of the participants live in rural areas.  This has been supported by the primary research, which found that 79% of people questioned live in a rural area.  However the 21% of participants who commute from urban areas to participate have provided the researcher with evidence that a lot of commitment is required and received from those who are involved in hunting.

Obviously the length of time that a person has been hunting will depend on their age, or even the amount of time they have lived in a rural area.  It would have been better therefore to calculate the proportion of adult life the respondents have spent as a hunt follower.  The responses to this question demonstrated a massive commitment from some members, which indicates that the motivations and attractions that intrigued the followers in the beginning still exist.  This also displays that any pressure from the civilisation process has not affected the opinions of long time hunt followers, as they have continued to hunt and support hunts even though it is less acceptable to do so in today’s society.

A surprising find from the primary research, found using both the questionnaires and participant observation was the amount of hunt followers who do not follow by horse.  Although a large percentage of those who responded stated in the questionnaire that riding was the method of transport used when hunting, it was surprising to discover the number of people who followed by foot or car.  This was noticed also when conducting the participant observation.  As the researcher also followed by car it was easy to see that a lot of other followers went around the countryside by car to follow a hunt.  It was also interesting to find that many of the followers use more than one method to go hunting.  They do not necessarily ride every week.  This can contradict the stereotypical perspective that on landed gentry, aristocrats or upper class people have the opportunity to go hunting.  The various other forms of transport makes hunting a lot more accessible for anyone who may be interested in being involved in hunting.  It also shows different levels of commitment even in the same people.

Fox Hunting – A Sport?

Although a large proportion of the responses said that fox hunting was considered to be a sport (79%), a small amount claimed that fox hunting was not a sport.  Sport is difficult to define and is applied to many leisure pursuits.  Fox hunting was one of the first activities to have sport as a title, without this title it would lose some prestige.  “It’s a natural way of life” was one response and “It’s a means of killing foxes” was another, which may demonstrate that the civilisation process is developing in some cases but not all.  The first statement shows the civil behaviour that is known among society, and the latter statement is one that would not be expected, as it is an unacceptable response in modern society.  Both seem to be avoiding any responsibility, and both attitudes are controversial, as no one really knows what is ‘natural’, and there maybe better ways of killing foxes.  These answers are therefore examples of how difficult it is to find out exactly what people think.

Motives for Starting Fox Hunting.

The results obtained from the questionnaires as to why people started hunting seem to suggest a variety of reasons.  Many of them demonstrate that many pleasures are independent of actual hunting, although not all.  Some of the reasons provided for starting hunting were as predicted in the literature review, for example, family tradition, part of country life, and the enjoyment factor.  The reasons provided that seemed to be independent of hunting, for example the social aspects, could mean that these people could have received the same pleasures from another social group, unless these pleasures are really connected to hunting in a deeper sense.  It could also be that the respondents are aware of the need not to say that the killing of the fox is the source of the pleasure.

The reasons provided by some that fell into the category of part of country life, fits into the civilisation theory.  References are made to nature, the bravery of the horse, and the survival of the fittest.  All of these can be referred to as the civilised pleasures derived from hunting.  No mention of the violence and cruelty leads the researcher to believe that the participants may feel that this part is not enjoyed anymore, or it is simply not acceptable to admit this.

The motivations that many people stated when they started hunting had remained the same throughout their hunting life.  There were few responses from the questionnaires that implied their feelings had changed.  This could be another demonstration of the civilisation thesis not continuing in this social group.  Or it could be that their original reasons have not changed but simply become stronger.  Some reasons that were provided however are consistent with political debates on the existence of fox hunting in England.  The influence of the political debate whether to continue with a sport, shows that it is important to be allowed to spend free time in whatever way a person cares to.  In this particular case it shows that the participants are not politically naïve.  The results from the continual attraction led the researcher to discover whether or not the participants are more or less passionate now than when they started.  61% of responses stated that they were more passionate now but the remaining 39% said that they were less passionate now than initially.  Possibly, only after being associated with it and participating in the sport regularly for a number of years, can a hunt follower take part in the sport from another dimension.  Maybe only then do they realise that hunting is potentially dangerous, and that it requires a degree of fitness.  Maybe the civilisation process is partly to blame here, it is less acceptable to be associated with it and this has affected their attitude and commitment to the sport.  Perhaps the constant questioning over the cruelty and pestering from anti hunt saboteurs has deterred them, and as a result deflated their enthusiasm for the sport.

The Prospect of a Ban.

The replies received from question eleven asking if a ban would put an end to hunting, provided the researcher with the possibility of a new investigation.  A strong response suggesting that a ban would not end hunting indicated to the researcher that these people feel so passionately about their sport that they are prepared to break the law.  This would certainly be going against the civilisation theory that suggests a calmer, more civilised, accepting, society.  Surely the continuation of a sport after it has been banned would provoke all sorts of violent outbursts from anti hunt campaigners, and possibly from hunters protesting against a ban?  It is difficult to comprehend how hunting would continue illegally as it is not a conspicuous pastime, not something that is easy to hide.  Perhaps it is the passion that excites this group of people is only something that you can feel when involved in the sport itself and its’ community, it is an esoteric experience.  This also became obvious whilst conducting the participant observation, as the researcher felt somewhat distant from the group and the atmosphere that was being generated.

Although previously stated in this discussion that there appeared to be some knowledge of the political orientations surrounding fox hunting by some of the followers, the response to question twelve revealed that parliaments imminent interference with the sport had little affect on motivating this group of people to go hunting.  57% said that yes, the prospect of a ban influences their continuing involvement with the sport, and 43% claimed that it has no influence.  This illustrates how actual policies can marshal opposition once they are implemented.  This finding also questions the sincerity of the passion that some may have for the sport.  Are the 57% of respondents who said politics affects their involvement with fox hunting only continuing to hunt because of the possible ban? Do they really have the same feelings for the sport as they always have; it could be that these feelings have been altered as a result of such political intervention.

Emotions and Feelings.

The responses obtained from question 13 helped to provide an emotive discovery of what feelings hunt followers go through on a typical hunting day.  A variety of emotions and replies were given showing that a hunt is not something that is easily prepared for.  It helped develop an understanding prior to the participant observation to explain that a hunt does not just occur, but that a lot of preparation is needed, which leads through to an enjoyable, pleasurable experience, followed by further hard work at the end with a collaboration of renewed excitement for the forthcoming week.  Some responses could be associated with the civilisation theory.  Some people stated that the hunt offers them a form of relaxation, where stresses and tensions can be relieved, implying that hunting provides a civilised method of relieving stress rather than exercising their frustrations in a more violent way.  This can also be said for many other sports of course.  This question also helped to uncover that the participants of this sport all have satisfying experiences, and so fox hunting provides them with the peak experiences necessary to encourage them to participate again.

When asked what the best part of the hunt is, the social aspect was something that appeared to play a large role among those involved in hunting.  This questioned the previous discovery of peak experiences through hunting and appeared to offer another contradiction.  If they enjoy the social side most out of everything involved in a hunt, they would be able to experience these peaks in other ways, with other groups of people.  The participant observation however, helped to understand that no other sport provides the same kinds of social gathering as a fox hunt.  Sharing Port and cake on a Saturday morning at a meet is unlike any other leisure pursuit, and definitely an experience that has different values for everyone.  Again, the feelings involved with the social aspects of hunting are something that you can only begin to comprehend when involved with the sport.  Further responses that related to the nature of the sport helped to understand that there are few other field sports that could replace fox hunting, and all its traditions.  Again the majority of the replies to this question showed that it is amore civilised sport than years ago, with behaviour on a hunt being less violent, either that or again it is just unacceptable to admit the true feelings of joy of the kill.