Friday, 25 January 2013

Fox and Hounds (Part 2)

Dormouse insists that shooting foxes to protect sheep raises ethical issues that are indefensible. I disagree so I have tried to put together a moral justification for fox control.

The case for mink control is even stronger, they destroy native wildlife.
Foxes impact on the interests of Crofters and their sheep. Shooting is obviously against the interest of foxes and a class of people who consider it cruel and unnecessary. So any ethical consideration of fox control by shooting must take into account the interests of both animals and people.

Fox control is only morally justified if all the harms (negative impacts) on people and animals (mainly foxes) are weighed against all of the benefits to people and animals (mainly sheep) and the benefits of control outweigh the harms in other words if fox control provides the greatest good for the greatest number. Further, the most humane method of killing foxes must be used and shooting is, in my experience  more humane than trapping and killing by hounds.

The Crofter’s interest is economic (loss of income) and moral (an interest in sheep welfare). Foxes have an interest in continuing to be foxes and to do what foxes do free of pain and suffering.

There are more Crofters and sheep with economic and a welfare interests than there are foxes with an interest in being foxes and people who might be upset by the idea of fox control. Ergo shooting foxes to protect sheep is morally justifiable.

My prediction is that Dormouse will say that moral philosophers are rascals; I am fudging the issue and not giving enough weight to the interests of those people who are against.  You might have an opinion too.


Anonymous said...

Although I see the points that the author is trying to make, you have to be realistic. Functioning eco-systems rely on a predator-prey relationship, populations of all things cycle and when it breaks down, intervention is necessary to maintain a degree of balance. The presence of the red fox and their breeding success is linked to the availability of prey and sufficient habitat to maintain territory. Their success will fluctuate from year to year dependant on the availability of prey and when unnatural food sources are available, this can lead to reliance of the fox in times of hardship onto introduced species such as sheep, geese and chickens - hunger is a sore master. To maintain our economic interests be it farming, crofting, sporting we have to interact with foxes to try and maintain our income and through time, this has lead to a changed landscape and the disappearance of other predators which in turn has influenced the fox. For them not to exist in our current eco-system would be detrimental but for them to reach unnatural numbers would be equally harmful. We should seek to maintain a level where other interests, ground nesting birds, sheep, deer and other animals have an ability to sustain themselves. It is best to look at whole systems rather than one or two animals. Bigger issues lie in the success of the wildcat in this area as it competes with an every increasing population of pinemartins. Ardnamurchan is like like any other part of the Highlands, wild it may be but wilderness it is not and the wise use of natural resources means we have to maintain a balance to maintain our presence.

Tom Bryson said...

Surely the utilitarian argument in favour of fox control is realistic. It is an attempt to weigh the interests of all involved(including foxes, sheep, Crofters, fox enthusiasts...) and to make the decision which results in the greatest good for the greatest number.