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Title: Killing For Sport - Essays By Various Writers
Author: Various
Language: English
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                           KILLING FOR SPORT

                     _This volume is published by_
                        MESSRS. G. BELL & SONS
                    _for the Humanitarian League_.

                           KILLING FOR SPORT

                       ESSAYS BY VARIOUS WRITERS

                           WITH A PREFACE BY
                             BERNARD SHAW

                        EDITED BY HENRY S. SALT

                        G. BELL AND SONS, LTD.
                      YORK HOUSE, PORTUGAL STREET


During the past twenty-five years, chiefly owing to the action of the
Humanitarian League in giving continuity to what had previously been
only an occasional protest, the subject of certain cruel pastimes,
called by the name of “sports,” has attracted a large share of public
attention. The position of the League as regards the whole question
of “sport”--_i.e._, the diversions and amusements of the people--is
this, that while heartily approving all such fair and manly recreations
as cricket, rowing, football, cycling, the drag-hunt, etc., it
would place in an altogether different category what may be called
“blood-sports”--_i.e._, those amusements which involve the death or
torture of sentient beings.

But as it is recognised that humane reform can only come by
instalment, and that legislation cannot outrun a ripe public opinion,
the League has asked for _legislative_ action only in the case of the
worst and most demoralising forms of “blood-sports”--viz., those which
make use of a tame or captured animal, and not one that is really
wild and free. For the same reason the League pressed, and pressed
successfully, for the abolition of the Royal Buckhounds, not because
that particular hunt was in itself more cruel than others, but because
it stood as the recognised and State-supported type of a very degraded
pastime. “Your efforts have gained their reward,” wrote George Meredith
to the League on the occasion of the Buckhounds’ fall, “and it will
encourage you to pursue them in all fields where the good cause of
Sport, or any good cause, has to be cleansed of blood and cruelty. So
you make steps in our civilisation.”

But these steps in civilisation have not been easily made. It is
not as widely known as it ought to be that since the prohibition of
bull and bear baiting, more than half a century ago, there has been
practically no further mitigation of those so-called sports which in
this country absorb a great part of the thoughts and energies of the
wealthier classes. The Acts of 1849 and 1854, which prohibited the
ill-usage of domestic animals, gave no protection to animals _feræ
naturæ_, except from being “fought,” or baited; and the Cruelty to Wild
Animals in Captivity Act, of 1900, applies only to those animals that
are actually in confinement, or are released in a maimed condition to
be hunted or shot. Thus, while humane feeling has steadily progressed,
legislative action has obstinately stood still; and while we shake our
heads at the cruel sports of our great-grandfathers, we are ourselves
powerless to stop present brutalities which are as intolerable to
humane thinkers _now_ as were bull and bear baiting _then_.

In a civilised community, where the services of the hunter are no
longer required, blood-sports are simply an anachronism, a relic of
savagery which time will gradually remove; and the appeal against them
is not to the interested parties whose practices are arraigned--not
to the belated Nimrods who find a pleasure in killing--but to that
force of public opinion which put down bear-baiting, and which will in
like manner put down the kindred sports (for all these barbarities are
essentially akin) which are defended by similar sophistries.

At a time when widespread attention is being drawn to questions
concerning the land, it is especially fitting that the part played by
the sportsman should not be overlooked, and that not only the cruelty,
but the wastefulness of the practice of breeding and killing animals
for mere amusement, should be made clear.

By including in this volume a number of recent essays, the work
of several writers (each of whom is responsible only for the views
expressed by himself), it has been possible to present the subject of
sport as regarded from various standpoints, and in a fuller light than
has ever been done before. The book, in fact, is the first one in which
the humanitarian and economic objections to blood-sports have been
adequately set forth.



    PREFACE. BY BERNARD SHAW                                          xi

    THE CRUELTY OF SPORT. BY GEORGE GREENWOOD, M.P.                    1

    SPORT AND AGRICULTURE. BY EDWARD CARPENTER                        34

    THE COST OF SPORT. BY MAURICE ADAMS                               45

    THE ECONOMICS OF HUNTING. BY W. H. S. MONCK                       60

    FACTS ABOUT THE GAME LAWS. BY J. CONNELL                          69

    THE DESTRUCTION OF WILD LIFE. BY E. B. LLOYD                      85


    BIG GAME HUNTING. BY ERNEST BELL                                 101

    BLOOD-SPORTS AT SCHOOLS. BY AN OLD ETONIAN                       116

    FALLACIES OF SPORTSMEN. BY HENRY S. SALT                         130

       I. SPORT AS A TRAINING FOR WAR                                149

      II. “BLOODING”                                                 155

     III. THE HUNTING OF GRAVID ANIMALS                              158

      IV. DRAG-HUNT _VERSUS_ STAG-HUNT                               162


      VI. COURSING                                                   170

     VII. THE GENTLE CRAFT                                           174

    VIII. SPOILING OTHER PEOPLE’S PLEASURE                           179

          INDEX                                                      183



Sport is a difficult subject to deal with honestly. It is easy for
the humanitarian to moralize against it; and any fool on its side can
gush about its glorious breezy pleasures and the virtues it nourishes.
But neither the moralizings nor the gushings are supported by facts:
indeed they are mostly violently contradicted by them. Sportsmen are
not crueller than other people. Humanitarians are not more humane
than other people. The pleasures of sport are fatigues and hardships:
nobody gets out of bed before sunrise on a drizzling wintry morning
and rides off into darkness, cold, and rain, either for luxury or
thirst for the blood of a fox cub. The humanitarian and the sportsman
are often the self-same person drawing altogether unaccountable lines
between pheasants and pigeons, between hares and foxes, between tame
stags from the cart and wild ones from the heather, between lobsters
or _paté de foie gras_ and beefsteaks: above all, between man and the
lower animals; for people who are sickened by the figures of a _battue_
do not turn a hair over the infantile deathrate in Lisson Grove or the
slums of Dundee.

Clearly the world of sport is a crystal palace in which we had
better not throw stones unless we are prepared to have our own
faces cut by the falling glass. My own pursuits as a critic and as
a castigator of morals by ridicule (otherwise a writer of comedies)
are so cruel that in point of giving pain to many worthy people I can
hold my own with most dentists, and beat a skilful sportsman hollow.
I know many sportsmen; and none of them are ferocious. I know several
humanitarians; and they are all ferocious. No book of sport breathes
such a wrathful spirit as this book of humanity. No sportsman wants to
kill the fox or the pheasant as I want to kill him when I see him doing
it. Callousness is not cruel. Stupidity is not cruel. Love of exercise
and of feats of skill is not cruel. They may and do produce more
destruction and suffering than all the neuroses of all the Neros. But
they are characteristic of quite amiable and cheerful people, mostly
lovers of pet animals. On the other hand, humane sensitiveness is
impatient, angry, ruthless, and murderous. Marat was a supersensitive
humanitarian, by profession a doctor who had practised successfully in
genteel circles in England. What Marat felt towards marquesses most
humanitarians feel more or less towards sportsmen. Therefore let no
sportsman who reads these pages accuse me of hypocrisy, or of claiming
to be a more amiable person than he. And let him excuse me, if he will
be so good, for beginning with an attempt to describe how I feel about

To begin with, sport soon bores me when it does not involve killing;
and when it does, it affects me much as the murder of a human being
would affect me, rather more than less; for just as the murder of a
child is more shocking than the murder of an adult (because, I suppose,
the child is so helpless and the breach of social faith therefore so
unconscionable), the murder of an animal is an abuse of man’s advantage
over animals: the proof being that when the animal is powerful and
dangerous, and the man unarmed, the repulsion vanishes and is replaced
by congratulation. But quite humane and cultivated people seem unable
to understand why I should bother about the feelings of animals. I have
seen the most horrible pictures published in good faith as attractive
in illustrated magazines. One of them, which I wish I could forget,
was a photograph taken on a polar expedition, shewing a murdered bear
with its living cub trying to make it attend to its maternal duties. I
have seen a photograph of a criminal being cut into a thousand pieces
by a Chinese executioner, which was by comparison amusing. I have also
seen thrown on a screen for the entertainment of a large audience a
photograph of an Arctic explorer taking away a sledge dog to shoot it
for food, the dog jumping about joyously without the least suspicion
of its human friend’s intentions. If the doomed dog had been a man or
a woman, I believe I should have had less sense of treachery. I do not
say that this is reasonable: I simply state it as a fact. It was quite
evident that the lecturer had no suspicion of the effect the picture
was producing on me; and as far as I could see, his audience was just
as callous; for if they had all felt as I felt there would have been
at least a very perceptible shudder, if not an articulate protest. Now
this was not a case of sport. It was necessary to shoot the dog: I
should have shot it myself under the same circumstances. But I should
have regarded the necessity as a horrible one; and I should have
presented it to the audience as a painful episode, like cannibalism
in a crew of castaways, and not as a joke. For I must add that a good
many people present regarded it as a bit of fun. I absolve the lecturer
from this extremity of insensibility. The shooting of a dog was a
trifle to what he had endured; and I did not blame him for thinking it
by comparison a trivial matter. But to us, who had endured nothing,
it might have seemed a little hard on the dog, and calling for some
apology from the man.

I am driven to the conclusion that my sense of kinship with animals
is greater than most people feel. It amuses me to talk to animals in
a sort of jargon I have invented for them; and it seems to me that it
amuses them to be talked to, and that they respond to the tone of the
conversation, though its intellectual content may to some extent escape
them. I am quite sure, having made the experiment several times on
dogs left in my care as part of the furniture of hired houses, that an
animal who has been treated as a brute, and is consequently undeveloped
socially (as human beings remain socially undeveloped under the same
circumstances) will, on being talked to as a fellow-creature, become
friendly and companionable in a very short time. This process has been
described by some reproachful dog owners as spoiling the dog, and
sincerely deplored by them, because I am glad to say it is easier to
do than to undo except by brutalities of which few people are capable.
But I find it impossible to associate with animals on any other terms.
Further, it gives me extraordinary gratification to find a wild bird
treating me with confidence, as robins sometimes do. It pleases me to
conciliate an animal who is hostile to me. What is more, an animal who
will not be conciliated offends me. There is at the Zoo a morose maned
lion who will tear you to pieces if he gets half a chance. There is
also a very handsome maneless lion with whom you may play more safely
than with most St. Bernard dogs, as he seems to need nothing but plenty
of attention and admiration to put him into the best of humors. I
do not feel towards these two lions as a carpenter does towards two
pieces of wood, one hard and knotty, and the other easy to work; nor
as I do towards two motor bicycles, one troublesome and dangerous, and
the other in perfect order. I feel towards the two lions as I should
towards two men similarly diverse. I like one and dislike the other.
If they got loose and were shot, I should be distressed in the one
case whilst in the other I should say “Serve the brute right!” This
is clearly fellow-feeling. And it seems to me that the plea of the
humanitarian is a plea for widening the range of fellow-feeling.

The limits of fellow-feeling are puzzling. People who have it in a high
degree for animals often seem utterly devoid of it for human beings of
a different class. They will literally kill their dogs with kindness
whilst behaving to their servants with such utter inconsideration that
they have to change their domestic staff once a month or oftener.
Or they hate horses and like snakes. One could fill pages with such
inconsistencies. The lesson of these apparent contradictions is that
fellow-feeling is a matter of dislikes as well as of likes. No man
wants to destroy the engine which catches him in its cog-wheels and
tears a limb from him. But many a man has tried to kill another man for
a very trifling slight. The machine, not being our fellow, cannot be
loved or hated. The man, being our fellow, can.

Let us try to get down to the bottom of this matter. There is no
use in saying that our fellow-creatures must not be killed. That is
simply untrue; and the converse proposal that they must be killed is
simply true. We see the Buddhist having his path swept before him
lest he should tread on an insect and kill it; but we do not see what
that Buddhist does when he catches a flea that has kept him awake for
an hour; and we know that he has to except certain poisonous snakes
from his forbearance. If mice get into your house and you do not kill
them, they will end by killing you. If rabbits breed on your farm and
you do not exterminate them, you will end by having no farm. If you
keep deer in your park and do not thin them, your neighbors or the
authorities will finally have to save you the trouble. If you hold the
life of a mosquito sacred, malaria and yellow fever will not return
the compliment. I have had an interview with an adder, in the course
of which it struck repeatedly and furiously at my stick; and I let it
go unharmed; but if I were the mother of a family of young children,
and I found a cobra in the garden, I would vote for “_La mort sans
phrase_,” as many humane and honorable persons voted in the case, not
of a serpent, but of an anointed king.

I see no logical nor spiritual escape from the theory that evolution
(not, please observe, Natural Selection) involves a deliberate
intentional destruction by the higher forms of life of the lower. It
is a dangerous and difficult business; for in the course of natural
selection the lower forms may have become necessary to the existence
of the higher; and the gamekeeper shooting everything that could
hurt his pheasants or their chicks may be behaving as foolishly as
an Arab lunatic shooting horses and camels. But where Man comes, the
megatherium must go as surely as where the poultry farmer comes the fox
must go unless the hunt will pay for the fox’s depredations. To plead
for the tiger, the wolf, and the poisonous snake, is as useless as to
plead for the spirochete or the tetanus bacillus: we must frankly class
these as early and disastrous experiments in creation, and accept it
as part of the mission of the later and more successful experiments
to recognize them as superseded, and to destroy them purposely. We
should, no doubt, be very careful how we jump from the indisputable
general law that the higher forms of life must exterminate or limit
the lower, to the justification of any particular instance of the
slaughter of non-human animals by men, or the slaughter of a low type
of man by a high type of man. Still, when all due reservations are
made, the fact remains that a war of extermination is being waged daily
and necessarily by man against his rivals for possession of the earth,
and that though an urban humanitarian and vegetarian who never has
occasion to kill anything but a microbe may shudder at the callousness
with which a farmer kills rats and rabbits and sparrows and moles and
caterpillars and ladybirds and many more charming creatures, yet if he
were in the farmer’s place he would have to do exactly the same, or

In that case why not make a pleasure of necessity, and a virtue of
pleasure, as the sportsmen do? I think we must own that there is no
objection from the point of view of the animals. On the contrary, it is
quite easy to shew that there is a positive advantage to them in the
organization of killing as sport. Fox hunting has saved the existing
foxes from extermination; and if it were not for the civilization that
makes fox hunting possible, the fox would still be hunted and killed by
packs of wolves. I am so conscious of this that I have in another place
suggested that children should be hunted or shot during certain months
of the year, as they would then be fed and preserved by the sportsmen
of the counties as generously and carefully as pheasants now are; and
the survivors would make a much better nation than our present slum
products. And I go further. I maintain that the abolition of public
executions was a very bad thing for the murderers. Before that time,
we did exactly as our sportsmen now do. We made a pleasure of the
necessity for exterminating murderers, and a virtue of the pleasure.
Hanging was a popular sport, like racing. Huge crowds assembled to
see it and paid large prices for seats. There would have been betting
on the result if it had been at all uncertain. The criminal had what
all criminals love: a large audience. He had a procession to Tyburn:
he had a drink: he was allowed to make a speech if he could; and if
he could not, the speech was made for him and published and sold in
great numbers. Above all, such fair play as an execution admits of
was guaranteed to him by the presence of the public, whereas now he
perishes in a horrible secrecy which lends itself to all the abuses of
secrecy. Whether the creature slain be man or what we very invidiously
call brute, there is no case to be made against sport on its behalf.
Even cruelty can justify itself, as far as the victim is concerned, on
the ground that it makes sport attractive to cruel people, and that
sport is good for the quarry.

The true objection to sport is the one taken by that wise and justly
famous Puritan who objected to bear baiting not because it gave pain
to the bear but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. He rightly
saw that it was not important that we should be men of pleasure, and
that it was enormously important that we should be men of honor. What
the bear would have said if it had had any say in the matter can only
be conjectured. Its captors might have argued that if they could not
have made money by keeping it alive whilst taking it to England to be
baited, they would have killed it at sight in the Pyrenees; so that
it owed several months of life, with free board and lodging, to the
institution of bear baiting. The bear might have replied that if it
had not been for the bear pit in England they would never have come
to hunt for it in the Pyrenees, where it could have ended its days in
a free and natural manner. Let us admit for the sake of a quiet life
that the point is disputable. What is not disputable by any person who
has ever seen sport of this character is that the man who enjoys it is
degraded by it. We do not bait bears now (I do not quite know why);
but we course rabbits in the manner described in one of the essays in
this book. I lived for a time on the south slope of the Hog’s Back; and
every Sunday morning rabbits were coursed within earshot of me. And I
noticed that it was quite impossible to distinguish the cries of the
excited terriers from the cries of the sportsmen, although ordinarily
the voice of a man is no more like the voice of a dog than like the
voice of a nightingale. Sport reduced them all, men and terriers alike,
to a common denominator of bestiality. The sound did not make me more
humane: on the contrary, I felt that if I were an irresponsible despot
with a park of artillery at my disposal, I should, (especially after
seeing the sportsmen on their way to and from their sport) have said:
“These people have become subhuman, and will be better dead. Be kind
enough to mow them down for me.”

As a matter of fact there is always a revulsion against these
dehumanizing sports in which the killing can be seen, and the actual
visible chase shared, by human beings: in short, the sports in which
men revert to the excitements of beasts of prey. Several have been
abolished by law: among them bear baiting and cock fighting: both
of them sports in which the spectators shared at close quarters the
excitement of the animals engaged. In the sports firmly established
among us there is much less of this abomination. In fox hunting and
shooting, predatory excitement is not a necessary part of the sport,
and is indeed abhorred by many who practise it. Inveterate fox-hunters
have been distressed and put off their hunting for days by happening
to see a fox in the last despairing stage of its run from the hounds:
a sight which can be avoided, and often is, by the hunters, but which
they may happen upon some day when they are not hunting. Such people
hunt because they delight in meets and in gallops across country as
social and healthy incidents of country life. They are proud of their
horsemanship and their craftiness in taking a line. They like horses
and dogs and exercise and wind and weather, and are unconscious of the
fact that their expensive and well equipped hunting stables and kennels
are horse prisons and dog prisons. It is useless to pretend that these
ladies and gentlemen are fiends in human form: they clearly are not.
By avoiding being in at the death they get all the good out of hunting
without incurring the worst of the evil, and so come out with a balance
in their favor.

Shooting is subtler: it is a matter of skill with one’s weapons. The
expert at it is called, not a good chicken butcher, but a good shot.
When I want, as I often do, to pick him off, I do so not because I
feel that he is cruel or degraded but because he is a nuisance to me
with the very disagreeable noise of his explosions, and because there
is an unbearable stupidity in converting an interesting, amusing,
prettily colored live wonder like a pheasant into a slovenly unhandsome
corpse. But at least he does not yap like a terrier, and shake with
a detestable excitement, and scream out frantic bets to bookmakers.
His expression is that of a man performing a skilled operation with
an instrument of precision: an eminently human expression, quite
incompatible with the flush of blood to the eyes and the uncovering
of the dog-tooth that makes a man like a beast of prey. And this is
why it is impossible to feel that skilled shooting or fox-hunting
are as abominable as rabbit coursing, hare-hunting with beagles, or

And yet shooting depends for its toleration on custom as much as on
the coolness with which it has to be performed. It may be illogical to
forgive a man for shooting a pheasant and to loathe him for shooting
a seagull; but as a matter of plain fact one feels that a man who
shoots seagulls is a cad, and soon makes him feel it if he attempts
to do it on board a public ship, whereas the snipe shooter excites no
such repulsion. And “fair game” must be skilfully shot if the maximum
of toleration is to be enjoyed. Even then it is not easy for some of
us to forget that many a bird must have been miserably maimed before
the shooter perfected his skill. The late King Edward the Seventh,
immediately after his recovery from a serious operation which stirred
the whole nation to anxious sympathy with him, shot a stag, which got
away to die of just such internal inflammation as its royal murderer
had happily escaped. Many people read the account without the least
emotion. Others thought it natural that the King should be ashamed,
as a marksman, of his failure to kill, but rejected as sentimental
nonsense the notion that he should feel any remorse on the stag’s
behalf. Had he deliberately shot a cow instead, everyone would have
been astounded and horrified. Custom will reconcile people to any
atrocity; and fashion will drive them to acquire any custom. The
English princess who sits on the throne of Spain goes to bullfights
because it is the Spanish fashion. At first she averted her face,
and probably gave offence by doing so. Now, no doubt, she is a
_connoisseuse_ of the sport. Yet neither she nor the late King Edward
can be classed as cruel monsters. On the contrary, they are conspicuous
examples of the power of cruel institutions to compel the support and
finally win the tolerance and even the enjoyment of persons of full
normal benevolence.

But this is not why I call shooting subtle. It fascinates even humane
persons not only because it is a game of skill in the use of the most
ingenious instrument in general use, but because killing by craft from
a distance is a power that makes a man divine rather than human.

                    “Oft have I struck
    Those that I never saw, and struck them dead”

said the statesman to Jack Cade (who promptly hanged him); and
something of the sense of power in that boast stimulates every boy with
a catapult and every man with a gun. That is why there is an interest
in weapons fathoms deeper than the interest in cricket bats and golf
clubs. It is not a question of skill or risk. The men who go to Africa
with cameras and obtain photographs and even cinematographs of the most
dangerous animals at close quarters, shew much more skill and nerve
than the gentlemen who disgust us with pictures of themselves sitting
on the body of the huge creatures they have just killed with explosive
bullets. Shooting “big game,” like serving as a soldier in the field,
is glorified conventionally as a proof of character and courage, though
everyone knows that men can be found by the hundred thousand to face
such ordeals, including several who would be afraid to walk down Bond
Street in an unfashionable hat. The real point of the business is
neither character nor courage, but ability to kill. And the greater
cowards and the feebler weaklings we are, the more important this power
is to us. It is a matter of life and death to us to be able to kill
our enemies without coming to handgrips with them; and the consequence
is that our chief form of play is to pretend that something is our
enemy and kill it. Even to pretend to kill it is some satisfaction:
nay, the spectacle of other people pretending to do it is a substitute
worth paying for. Nothing more supremely ridiculous as a subject of
reasonable contemplation could be imagined than a sham fight in Earls
Court between a tribe of North American Indians and a troop of cowboys,
both imported by Buffalo Bill as a theatrical speculation. To see
these grown-up men behaving like children, galloping about and firing
blank cartridges at one another, and pretending to fall down dead, was
absurd and incredible enough from any rational point of view; but that
thousands of respectable middle-aged and elderly citizens and their
wives, all perfectly sober, should pay to be allowed to look on, seems
flat madness. Yet the thing not only occurred in London, but occurs now
daily in the cinema theatres and yearly at the Military Tournaments.
And what honest man dare pretend that he gets no fun out of these
spectacles? Certainly not I. They revived enough of my boyish delight
in stage fights and in the stories of Captain Mayne Reid to induce me
to sit them out, conscious as I was of their silliness.

Please do not revile me for telling you what I felt instead of what
I ought to have felt. What prevents the sport question and every
other question from getting squarely put before us is our habit of
saying that the things we think should disgust us and fill us with
abhorrence actually do disgust us and fill us with abhorrence, and
that the persons who, against all reason and decency, find some sort
of delight in them, are vile wretches quite unlike ourselves, though,
as everyone can see, we and they are as like as potatoes. You may not
agree with Mr. Rudyard Kipling about war, or with Colonel Roosevelt
about sport; but beware how you pretend that war does not interest and
excite you more than printing, or that the thought of bringing down a
springing tiger with a well-aimed shot does not interest you more than
the thought of cleaning your teeth. Men may be as the poles asunder
in their speculative views. In their actual nervous and emotional
reactions they are “members one of another” to a much greater extent
than they choose to confess. The reason I have no patience with Colonel
Roosevelt’s tedious string of rhinoceros murders in South Africa is not
that I am not interested in weapons, in marksmanship, and in killing,
but because my interest in life and creation is still greater than
my interest in death and destruction, and because I have sufficient
fellow-feeling with a rhinoceros to think it a frightful thing that it
should be killed for fun.

Consider a moment how one used to feel when an Irish peasant shot
his landlord, or when a grand duke was blown to pieces in Russia, or
when one read of how Charlotte Corday killed Marat. On the one hand
we applauded the courage, the skill, the resolution of the assassin;
we exulted in the lesson taught to tyrants and in the overthrow of
the strong oppressor by the weak victim; but we were horrified by
the breach of law, by the killing of the accused at the decree of an
irresponsible Ribbon Lodge under no proper public control, by the
execution of the grand duke without trial and opportunity of defence,
by the suspicion that Charlotte Corday was too like Marat in her lust
for the blood of oppressors to have the right to kill him. Such cases
are extremely complicated, except for those simple victims of political
or class prejudice who think Charlotte Corday a saint because she
killed a Radical, and the Ribbonmen demons because they were common
fellows who dared to kill country gentlemen. But however the cases
catch us, there is always that peculiar interest in individual killing,
and consequently in the means and weapons by which individuals can kill
their enemies, which is at the root of the sport of shooting.

It all comes back to fellow-feeling and appetite for fruitful activity
and a high quality of life: there is nothing else to appeal to. No
commandment can meet the case. It is no use saying “Thou shalt not
kill” in one breath, and, in the next “Thou shalt not suffer a witch
to live.” Men must be killed and animals must be killed: nay, whole
species of animals and types of men must be exterminated before the
earth can become a tolerable place of habitation for decent folk. But
among the men who will have to be wiped out stands the sportsman: the
man without fellow-feeling, the man so primitive and uncritical in his
tastes that the destruction of life is an amusement to him, the man
whose outlook is as narrow as that of his dog. He is not even cruel:
sport is partly a habit to which he has been brought up, and partly
stupidity, which can always be measured by wastefulness and by lack
of sense of the importance and glory of life. The horrible murk and
grime of the Pottery towns is caused by indifference to a stupid waste
of sunlight, natural beauty, cleanliness, and pleasant air, combined
with a brutish appetite for money. A _battue_ is caused by indifference
to the beauty and interest of bird life and song, and callousness to
glazed eyes and blood-bedabbled corpses, combined with a boyish love
of shooting. All the people who waste beauty and life in this way are
characterized by deficiency in fellow-feeling: not only have they none
of St. Francis’s feeling that the birds are of our kin, but they would
be extremely indignant if a loader or a gamekeeper asserted any claim
to belong to their species. Sport is a sign either of limitation or of
timid conventionality.

And this disposes of the notion that sport is the training of a
conquering race. Even if such things as conquering races existed,
or would be tolerable if they did exist, they would not be races of
sportsmen. The red scalp-hunting braves of North America were the
sportingest race imaginable; and they were conquered as easily as the
bisons they hunted. The French can boast more military glory to the
square inch of history than any other nation; but until lately they
were the standing butt of English humorists for their deficiencies
as sportsmen. In the middle ages, when they fought as sportsmen and
gentlemen, they were annihilated by small bodies of starving Englishmen
who carefully avoided sportsmanlike methods and made a laborious
business (learnt at the village target) of killing them. As to becoming
accustomed to risks, there are plenty of ways of doing that without
killing anything except occasionally yourself. The motor-cyclist
takes more trying risks than the fox-hunter; and motor-cycling seems
safety itself compared to aviation. A dive from a high springboard
will daunt a man as effectually as a stone wall in the hunting field.
The notion that if you have no sportsmen you will have no soldiers
(as if more than the tiniest fraction of the armies of the world had
ever been sportsmen) is as absurd as the notion that burglars and
garrotters should be encouraged because they might make hardier and
more venturesome soldiers than honest men; but since people foolishly
do set up such arguments they may as well be mentioned in passing for
what they are worth.

The question then comes to this: which is the superior man? the man
whose pastime is slaughter, or the man whose pastime is creative or
contemplative? I have no doubt about the matter myself, being on the
creative and contemplative side by nature. Slaughter is necessary work,
like scavenging; but the man who not only does it unnecessarily for
love of it but actually makes as much of it as possible by breeding
live things to slaughter, seems to me to be little more respectable
than one who befouls the streets for the pleasure of sweeping them. I
believe that the line of evolution leads to the prevention of the birth
of creatures whose lives are not useful and enjoyable, and that the
time will come when a gentleman found amusing himself with a gun will
feel as compromised as he does now when found amusing himself with a
whip at the expense of a child or an old lame horse covered with sores.
Sport, like murder, is a bloody business; and the sportsmen will not
always be able to outface that fact as they do at present.

But there is something else. Killing, if it is to give us heroic
emotions, must not be done for pleasure. Interesting though the
slaying of one man by another may be, it is abhorrent when it is done
merely for the fun of doing it (the sportsman’s way) or to satisfy the
envious spite of the worse man towards the better (Cain’s way). When
Charlotte Corday stabbed Marat, and when Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh
shot the Regent Murray, they were stung by intolerable social wrongs
for which the law offered them no redress. When Brutus and his
fellow-conspirators killed Cæsar, they had persuaded themselves that
they were saving Rome. When Samson slew the lion, he had every reason
to feel convinced that if he did not, the lion would slay him. Conceive
Charlotte Corday stabbing Marat as an exercise of manual and anatomical
skill, or Hamilton bringing down the Regent as a feat of marksmanship!
Their deeds at once become, not less, but more horrifying than if they
had done them from a love of killing. Jack the Ripper was a madman of
the most appalling sort; but the fascination of murder for him must
have been compounded of dread, of horror, and of a frightful perversion
of an instinct which in its natural condition is a kindly one. He
was a ghastly murderer; but he was a hot-blooded one. The perfection
of callousness is not reached until a life is sacrificed, and often
cruelly sacrificed, solely as a feat of skill. Peter the Great amusing
himself by torturing his son to death was a revolting monster; but
he was not so utterly inhuman in that crime as he was when, on being
interested by a machine for executing criminals which he saw in a
museum on his travels, he proposed to execute one of his retinue to
see how the machine worked, and could with difficulty be brought to
understand that there was a sentimental objection to the proceeding on
the part of his hosts which made the experiment impossible. When he
tortured his son he knew that he was committing an abomination. When
he wanted to try an experiment at the cost of a servant’s life he was
unconscious of doing anything that was not a matter of course for any
nobleman. And in this he was worse than abominable: he was deficient,
imbecile, less than human. Just so is the sportsman, shooting quite
skilfully and coolly without the faintest sense of any murderous
excitement, and with no personal feeling against the birds, really
further from salvation than the man who is humane enough to get some
sense of wickedness out of his sport. To have one’s fellow-feeling
corrupted and perverted into a lust for cruelty and murder is hideous;
but to have no fellow-feeling at all is to be something less than even
a murderer. The man who sees red is more complete than the man who is

The triviality of sport as compared with the risk and trouble of
its pursuit and the gravity of its results makes it much sillier than
crime. The idler who can find nothing better to do than to kill is past
our patience. If a man takes on himself the heavy responsibility of
killing, he should not do it for pastime. Pastimes are very necessary;
for though a busy man can always find something to do, there comes a
point at which his health, his sanity, his very existence may depend
on his doing nothing of the smallest importance; and yet he cannot sit
still and twiddle his thumbs: besides, he requires bodily exercise.
He needs an idle pastime. Now “Satan finds some mischief still for
idle hands to do” if the idler lets his conscience go to sleep. But
he need not let it go to sleep. There are plenty of innocent idle
pastimes for him. He can read detective stories. He can play tennis.
He can drive a motor-car if he can afford one. He can fly. Satan may
suggest that it would be a little more interesting to kill something;
but surely only an outrageous indifference to the sacredness of life
and the horrors of suffering and terror, combined with a monstrously
selfish greed for sensation, could drive a man to accept the Satanic
suggestion if sport were not organized for him as a social institution.
Even as it is, there are now so many other pastimes available that the
choice of killing is becoming more and more a disgrace to the chooser.
The wantonness of the choice is beyond excuse. To kill as the poacher
does, to sell or eat the victim, is at least to act reasonably. To kill
from hatred or revenge is at least to behave passionately. To kill in
gratification of a lust for death is at least to behave villainously.
Reason, passion, and villainy are all human. But to kill, being all the
time quite a good sort of fellow, merely to pass away the time when
there are a dozen harmless ways of doing it equally available, is to
behave like an idiot or a silly imitative sheep.

Surely the broad outlook and deepened consciousness which admits all
living things to the commonwealth of fellow-feeling, and the appetite
for fruitful activity and generous life which come with it, are better
than this foolish doing of unamiable deeds by people who are not in the
least unamiable.

                                                               G. B. S.

_March, 1914._


[1] Copyright, George Bernard Shaw, 1914, U.S.A.




It is a favourite rhetorical device of the vivisectionists to divert
argument from the main question into side issues by instituting a
comparison between vivisection and the various forms of field-sports,
such as pheasant-shooting, for example. It is hardly necessary that I
should point out the futility of such controversial methods; for, as
Horace long ago taught us, there is no use in an illustration which
merely substitutes one dispute for another. Vivisection may be wrong,
though pheasant-shooting be right; while if pheasant-shooting be
wrong, it is obviously absurd to appeal to it in aid of the cause of

But for those who recognise that it is the duty of man to abstain
from all practices which involve cruelty to the lower animals, it is
important to consider the whole question of sport, and to endeavour to
arrive at just and logical conclusions upon the ethical issues which
are raised by its pursuit.

Here, at the outset, I think it is necessary, in order to avoid
confusion, to attempt some definition of the word “cruelty.” By so
doing we shall escape the absurdities of those who tell us that
all sport is cruel, and yet that its pursuit can, nevertheless, be
justified by other considerations. The late Professor Freeman long
ago pointed out that those who speak in this slipshod fashion are
ignorant of the very elements of logical reasoning. “Cruelty” is a
word which carries its own condemnation with it. It denotes something
which is morally unjustifiable, just as the word “lie” denotes a
morally unjustifiable falsehood. Justifiable falsehoods are not lies,
neither can a lie ever be a justifiable falsehood. For the purposes
of this paper, therefore, I am content to define “cruelty” as “the
unjustifiable infliction of pain.” I think that is better than defining
it as “the _unnecessary_ infliction of pain.” For, to take an example,
the shooting of a partridge can hardly, in any ordinary case, be looked
upon as a _necessary_ act. To define cruelty, therefore, as “the
unnecessary infliction of pain” would be to settle the question--or,
rather to beg it--in such a case, by means of a definition. It is true
that the definition which I have preferred leaves the question what is
or is not justifiable, in any given case, open for discussion; but that
is, of course, inevitable, whatever definition we may adopt.

If, then, we are compelled to say of any sport that it is cruel, we
are compelled also to admit that such sport is morally unjustifiable.
Now, sport, according to the general acceptation of that term, is of
two kinds. There are, first, sports such as cricket, football, golf,
rowing, and many others, which do not involve the taking of animal
life; and, secondly, there are the sports of hunting, coursing, and
shooting, in all their various branches, which are frequently denoted
by the compendious term of “blood-sports”; and it is with the latter
class of sports only that this essay is concerned.

Let us, therefore, examine these blood-sports, and ask ourselves in
each case whether they are cruel, and therefore unjustifiable, or
whether, notwithstanding the pain and suffering which they necessarily
involve, they are, nevertheless, justifiable forms of amusement and
recreation, such as a humane and thinking man need not scruple to
indulge in.

But before proceeding farther with the discussion, I must own that
I am not a little appalled at the audacity of undertaking such an
inquisition. For is it not the boast of our countrymen that England
is the home and the motherland of sport? What appellation does an
Englishman more ardently desire than that of “sportsman”? “A good
sportsman,” “a good all-round sportsman,” “a fine old sportsman”--what
names are more honourable than these? I have frequently heard it
said of a man that “he was always ready for a bit of sport,” and it
was generally recognised that very high praise was implied by such a
description. Fox-hunting, hare-hunting, rabbit-coursing, ferreting,
ratting, badger-baiting--it was all one to him so long as he could get
“a bit of sport”! What higher character could a Briton possibly aspire
to? No wonder the man was so popular with his neighbours, and so highly

And so, if we begin to question the humanity or the propriety of any of
these forms of amusement, the crushing answer invariably is, “But it’s
_sport_!” Surely that is amply sufficient! Surely that is final! What
more do you want? Sport is always excellent. Sport is an end in itself.
Sport is a god worshipped in a thousand temples throughout the length
and breadth of the United Kingdom. Let us burn incense on those altars;
let us reverently bow the knee at those shrines. Great is God Sport of
the Britishers!

Nay, does not our very Empire depend on Sport? Is it not Sport that
knits the fibres and fashions the sinews of an Imperial race? It were
almost as well, then, to speak disrespectfully of religion itself as
to speak slightingly of Sport. And yet, as philosophers, as social
students, as humanitarians, we must nerve ourselves even for this
perilous quest. We must not shrink. We must not be deterred from
pushing our investigation even into the Holy of Holies of this great
god which the people of England have set up.

And let us face our worst dangers at once. First, then, I would say
a few words about the most honoured and the most celebrated of all
our British sports, “the noble science,” as it has been called--the
glorious sport of fox-hunting.


Now, fox-hunting seems to most of us almost a part of the British
Constitution. It takes rank among the best-established of our
time-honoured institutions. What would become of the glory of England,
were it not for fox-hunting? And speaking as one who in days gone by
was, so far as time and opportunity and a shallow purse allowed, a
votary of the chase, I can honestly say that the sport has more to
say for itself than some who have never fallen under the sway of its
fascination are able to realise or understand. Let us see what _can_ be
said for it.

Great and undeniable are the pleasures of the meet; great the delights
of the country-side as the hounds are thrown joyfully into cover, with
a burst of melodious chiding. What a picturesque sight! The busy,
eager, indefatigable pack; gallant steeds impatient for the coming
race, and scarlet coats lighting up the wintry woodland scene! Then
the excitement of the “find”; the still greater excitement of the cry,
“Gone away! gone away!” hounds in full cry, and the cheery blasts of
the huntsman’s horn to rally the stragglers in the rear!

And if there be anything at all which can in any way justify the
high-sounding title of “the noble science,” we may look for it now. For
the man who can ride straight to hounds and hold his own over a stiff
country must possess some qualities which are not to be despised. He
must not only be a fine horseman--and fine horsemen are few and far
between--but he must know how to combine courage with judgment, prompt
decision with sound discretion. Here for the good rider, whose heart is
in the right place, are the true pleasures of the chase.

But let us now look at the other side of the picture. It has been
a splendid run, but the end approaches. The fox has been viewed
dead-beat, painfully crawling into a hedgerow, with coat muddy and
staring, tongue hanging out of his mouth, brush trailing on the ground.
What sight more piteous can be conceived? A few minutes more and
his merciless pursuers are upon him; and, to use the words of Whyte
Melville, the Laureate of the chase,

    “’Twas a stout hill-fox when we found him, but now
    ’Tis a thousand tatters of brown!”

This, then, is the end, and aim, and object of our sport--“the kill”!
It is our pride to be “in at the death.” I confess I have often felt
no little ashamed of my brother-man--man, that “paragon of animals,”
“in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god!”--as
I have listened to those wild shrieks and yells of “Who-whoop” that
proclaim--what? That a little animal has been hunted to its death. And
it is this thought from which the thinking man can never escape, and
which is to his enjoyment as the canker to the bud--the thought that
it is necessary for his pleasure that a poor little animal, in all the
agony of terror and exhaustion, should be running for its life before
him! And since this is the inevitable concomitant of the sport--even
the great and glorious sport of fox-hunting--the thinking man must
ask himself, “Am I justified--morally justified--in purchasing my
pleasure at such a price?” Can we for a moment doubt what the answer
of the thinking man must be? I do not say that all fox-hunters are
cruel men; it would be absurd, indeed, to bring such a charge. Many
good and humane men--men who would shrink from and abhor anything that
they recognised as cruel--are, nevertheless, habitual followers of
the hounds. They have persuaded themselves--it is so easy to persuade
oneself in accordance with one’s inclination, especially when the
object to which one is inclined has all the sanction of custom and long
usage--they have persuaded themselves that the sport is justifiable in
spite of the suffering which is its necessary accompaniment and result.
Or, perhaps, especially if they are young men, they have not thought
about it at all. But I cannot help the belief that, as thought and true
civilisation advance, it will be recognised that to seek pleasure in
the hunting of any animal to its death is unworthy of a thinking and
humane man. If the humane man can do these things, it must be because
he has not yet become a thinking man. If the thinking man can do them,
it must be because he is not a humane man.

And this conclusion will, I think, be fortified if we consider,
very briefly, some of the arguments by which it is sought to justify
sport of this kind. We are frequently told that the fox is a thief
and a marauder--a robber of hen-roosts--and that, therefore, he must
be destroyed. The simple answer to this is that the fox is carefully
preserved; that when foxes are scarce in a hunting country they are
imported from elsewhere; and that the man who shoots a fox is held up
to odium and scorn as guilty of the heinous crime of “vulpicide.”

But we have no sooner answered this flimsy argument than we are met by
another of a quite different character. We are told that if foxes were
not preserved to be hunted they would be exterminated; and that a fox,
if given his choice, would much prefer to take his chance of escaping
the hounds to the alternative of extermination. This is certainly a
quaint specimen of the sportsman’s logic. We are asked, in the first
place, to assume an impossibility--namely, that a fox should be endowed
with reason to enable him to consider and come to a decision upon the
suggested question; secondly, we have to assume what his answer would
be; thirdly, that that answer would be a wise one for the foxes; and,
fourthly, that man ought to be bound by it. To this puerile argument
it is sufficient to say that the question before us is not what a fox
might, in an imaginary and impossible contingency, conceivably think
best for himself, but what is right for man to do. If, therefore,
the alternative be between the extermination of foxes, by methods as
painless as may be, and their preservation to be hunted by man, I
cannot doubt in what direction the true interests of humanity will be
found to lie.

To this conclusion, then, I think our reason must inevitably lead
us, even with regard to the best and most popular of blood-sports as
practised in this country. I do not hesitate to confess that I was
brought to it with reluctance, knowing full well the pleasures of
riding over a country with hounds in front and a good horse under me.
But, in truth, the case seems too clear for argument. On one side are
inclination and pleasure, and prescription, and the false glamour of
“sport”; on the other side are “that incomparable pair”--humanity and


But if the inexorable laws of reason and of ethics compel us to cast
our vote against “the noble science” of fox-hunting, what shall we say
of such sport as the hunting of the red deer in the West of England?
Its votaries would fain cast over it the glamour of poetry. They dilate
on the glorious country--the woods of Porlock, the bright heaths of
Exmoor, the exhilaration and excitement of a wild gallop over a wild
country in pursuit of this magnificent wild creature--“the antlered
monarch of the waste.” But we have only to turn to the acknowledged
textbooks on the subject (such as Collyns’s “Chase of the Wild Red
Deer,” for example) to learn of the horrible cruelties which are the
inevitable concomitants of this much-extolled sport--to learn how the
hunted animal, in its terror and despair, will dash over cliffs into
the sea, or vainly seek refuge in the waves from its merciless pursuers
upon the land. I will not waste time and words over it. I regard it as
a cruel form of pleasure which every humane man should shun and shrink
from. A relative of mine, who for many years acted as secretary to a
fox-hunt in the West of England, and who had a great reputation as a
rider to hounds, told me that he had once gone to see the sport on
Exmoor, and that nothing would induce him to repeat that experience, so
terrible and so disgusting were some of the things which he witnessed
there. Alas! that woman should be a participator in such cruel
deeds--ay, and pride herself on her rivalry with brutal man! But we
know the type. Their eyes are blinded lest they should see, and their
ears closed lest they should hear. They know no better. They have never
learned to think![3]

Here again we are told there is only one alternative: either these deer
must be preserved to be hunted or they must be exterminated. But again,
also, there can be no doubt as to what our choice should be. We should
lament the loss of these wild denizens of the forest and the moor; but
better, far better, would it be that their lives should be ended, as
painlessly as may be, by the rifle, than that they should be preserved
for a sport which is an outrage upon humanity.


I have touched upon hunting; let us now consider the twin-sport of
shooting, and let us first consider it in its most favourable aspect.
How well do I remember those bright September evenings, long ago,
when the rays of the westering sun, striking obliquely on the ruddy
clover-heads, bathed them in the rosy light of a summer that still
lingered on “the happy autumn fields”! Youth, health, and hope were
ours then--youth, health, and hope, and friends! Life lay all before
us; and, what was more to the purpose for the present moment, before
us, too, were the partridges--a covey scattered among those smiling
clover-heads. We go forward to beat them up with all the joy and
excitement of that golden time when life has not yet been saddened by
the pale cast of thought. The birds rise before us, singly, or in twos.
The last shots are fired. The old retriever picks up the fallen game.
Then we turn homewards, just as the glorious sun sinks at last behind
the high Hampshire hills, and “barred clouds bloom the soft-dying
day.” Were we then guilty of cruelty? I answer “No,” because the moral
qualities of an act exist only in the mind of the agent,

    “For there is nothing either good or bad
    But thinking makes it so;”

and it had never occurred to us to question the morality of a sport
which gave us such days of happiness, such nights of unbroken repose.

And truly, if we admit, for the sake of argument, at any rate, and
making no assumption as against the vegetarian, that it is legitimate
for man to use birds and beasts for his food, I see not much that can
be justly said in condemnation of shooting such as this. If birds
may be used for food, how better can they be killed than by the gun?
And thus it appears that it is that much-maligned and much-ridiculed
individual the “pot-hunter” who is the best justified of all the
shooting confraternity!

Again, if rabbits must be kept under for the sake of agriculture (a
proposition which few will be found to dispute), it is certainly
far better that they should be shot than be taken by that hideous
instrument of torture, the steel trap, or the hardly less cruel
contrivance known as “the wire.”

But when we come to the shooting of artificially reared and carefully
preserved pheasants, and especially to what is known as “battue
shooting,” very different considerations arise. Let us take an instance.

The short December day has drawn to a close. There has been warm
work in the coverts. A thousand head of game--pheasants, hares, and
rabbits--have been brought to bag. In fact, we have had, not indeed a
tremendous battue, as these things are reckoned nowadays, but simply “a
jolly day’s covert-shooting.” But now darkness--thick, gloomy, winter
darkness--has settled down like a pall upon the woods. There is some
snow upon the ground, and with the night has come a sharper frost and
a bitter, piercing wind. But what is that to us as we gather together
in the warm dining-room, where the lamps are so bright, where the
logs burn so keenly, and where thick curtains ward off the draughts
of that nipping, eager air, and deaden the sound of the gusts moaning
fitfully without? How delightful a festive dinner like this after our
day of woodland sport! And yet, as I have raised the first glass of
champagne to my lips, a thought has sometimes come to me which has gone
nigh to spoil my pleasure. It is the thought of that cover where the
fun was so fast and furious, and which literally seemed to swarm with
game. I picture it as it is _now_ under the darkness of night. There,
within sight of the bright lights around which we are so joyously
gathered, _there_ are scores--hundreds may be--of miserable creatures
with mangled limbs and bleeding wounds; some with hind-legs broken,
dragging themselves piteously over the frosty ground; some writhing in
agony which death comes all too slowly to relieve. Ah, if that wounded
hare could speak, as she looks at the line of light streaming from
our dining-room windows, what a curse might she not breathe against
the cruel savages within! What a contrast! _Here_, light, warmth,
and pleasure; _there_, darkness, cold, and pain unspeakable! Are not
_these_ considerations which should give us pause?

And can it be denied that the man who has learnt to stand at “a warm
corner” unmoved while wounded beasts and birds are struggling or
piteously crawling in agony all around him, who can listen unmoved
to the terrible cry of the wounded hare--a cry like that of a child
in pain--can it be denied that that man, who has so deadened his
susceptibility to the sufferings of his humble and helpless kindred of
the animal world, has himself suffered grievous injury to that which is
best in human nature--that sacred instinct of compassion, wherein some
thinkers of no mean order have thought they discerned the origin and
the very basis of morality?

And what a curse to our country is this selfish mania for the
preservation of game--preservation for the purpose of destruction! For
this are the country-folk warned off from the quiet woodland ways; for
this are the children prohibited from entering the copses to gather
wild-flowers; for this are enclosures made, barbed-wire fences erected,
footpaths and commons filched from the public, and the landless still
further excluded from the land; for this must temptation be constantly
set before the eyes of the labourer; for this must the offender
against the game laws be called up for sentence before a tribunal
of game-preservers; for this must the woods and the country-side be
denuded of their most delightful inhabitants--the jay and the magpie,
with their lustrous plumage and wild cries; the squirrel, embodiment of
life and graceful activity, with his curious winning ways; the quaint,
harmless, and interesting little hedgehog; the owl, with its long-drawn
melancholy note, as it hawks in the summer moonlight--for this must
wood-sides be disfigured by impudent notice-boards, telling us, in the
arrogant language of the rich Philistine, that “All trespassers will
be prosecuted, all dogs destroyed”; for this must millions of innocent
creatures be pitilessly condemned to shocking mutilations and atrocious
agonies, long drawn out. Such is “Merry England” under the rule of the

    “Strange that where Nature loved to trace
    As if for gods a dwelling-place,
    There man, enamoured of distress,
    Should mar it into wilderness.”

I have now briefly considered those blood-sports which are generally
spoken of as “legitimate” sports--namely, hunting and shooting.
“But,” someone will ask me, “what of hare-hunting, and coursing, and
otter-hunting--are not these ‘legitimate’ sports also?”

Well, over these I care not to delay; a few words will suffice for each.


Well has it been said that

    “Poor is the triumph o’er the timid hare.”

It is to my mind indeed a pitiable form of pleasure that men should
go forth to hunt to death this, the most timorous of animals. Even in
the days of bluff King Hal, when humanitarians were indeed few and far
between, and it was hardly recognised that men had any duties to the
lower animals, there was found a great and good and enlightened man to
raise his voice in protest against this sport. “What greater pleasure
is there to be felt,” wrote Sir Thomas More in his “Utopia,” “when a
dog followeth a hare than when a dog followeth a dog? For one thing is
done in both--that is to say, running, if thou hast pleasure therein.
But if the hope of slaughter and the expectation of tearing in pieces
the beast doth please thee, thou shouldest rather be moved with pity to
see a silly, innocent hare murdered of a dog, the weak of the stronger,
the fearful of the fierce, the innocent of the cruel and unmerciful.”

Ought we not to feel some shame if we have not advanced farther than
this old teacher of nearly four hundred years ago? But it seems that
the age of King George V. has still something to learn from the age of
King Henry VIII.

And but a few years later, in the reign of that famous King’s still
more famous daughter, in “the spacious times,” when kindness to poor
animals was but little thought of, do we not hear the voice of the
great poet who is not of an age, but for all time, in an exquisite
description of the miseries of the hunted hare?--

    “By this, poor Wat, far off upon a hill,
      Stands on his hinder legs, with listening ear,
    To hearken if his foes pursue him still.
      Anon their loud alarums he doth hear;
    And now his grief may be compared well
    To one sore sick that hears the passing-bell.

    “Then shalt thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch
      Turn and return, indenting with the way;
    Each envious briar his weary legs doth scratch;
      Each shadow makes him stop, each murmur stay.
    For misery is trodden on by many,
    And, being low, never relieved by any.”

And here let me say that, if some of us have been loud in our protest
against hare-hunting by schoolboys (and I refer especially to the case
of the Eton beagles), it is because we believe it to be of paramount
importance that this duty of kindness to animals should be inculcated
upon the young; that this sacred instinct of compassion should be
fostered in young minds; and that boys should be restrained from
pursuits which tend to deaden this best of all human feelings.

    “’Tis education forms the common mind;
    Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined.”

And who shall say what harm may be done to character, if the men who
are responsible for education allow it to be supposed by those under
their charge that animal suffering is a thing of no account?

As to otter-hunting, or the “otter-worry,” as it is better called,
it is a kind of sport of which I have seen a good deal in bygone
days, but which I always found abominable. Let me give one example
from my own experience. It is a lovely day and a lovely country. The
beautiful River Plym is flowing clear and cool in its lower valley
depths, between wood-clad hills. I see before me an old quarry-pool.
Precipitous rocks stand over it. One little stream, or adit, alone
connects it with the river. At the farther end, away from the entrance
of this adit, the hillside slopes more gradually, and is covered with
broken fragments of rock and quarried stone. On my left the pool lies
open to the woods. We had found an otter in the morning, and it was
supposed that the creature had taken refuge in the “clitter of rocks”
above the pool. Accordingly, men armed with otter-spears, and aided
by terriers, endeavour to dislodge it. Suddenly another otter, much
larger than the one we have been hunting, emerges from this retreat
and dashes into the water. Instantly the pool is surrounded by excited
hunters. A man with a spear stands at the adit-head, blocking that
way of escape. The water is alive with swimming hounds, while others
stand baying on the banks. Now, an otter can stay long under water,
but it must rise at intervals for breath; so, after a pause, we hear
the shout of “Hoo, gaze!” and I catch sight of a small dark face and
large brown eyes for one moment above the surface of the pool. Again
and again, at ever-shortening intervals, I see that face appear and
disappear. I can never forget it--that wild, scared face, and the
terror of those hunted eyes! There is no possibility of escape. Hounds
and “sportsmen”--yes, and “sportswomen” too--surround the pool, and
the only exit is carefully and effectually guarded. The otter, wildest
and most timid of animals, must either attempt to run the gauntlet or
be actually drowned in the pool. Only one thought possesses me--that
of sickening compassion for this poor, beautiful, hunted creature.
Men--and, good heavens! women too--seem frenzied with the desire to
kill. No thought of pity seems to dawn upon their minds. So at length,
amid yelling men and baying hounds, the wretched “beast of the chase”
is forced for dear life’s sake to try the desperate shift of taking to
the land, in the vain hope of finding sanctuary in the friendly waters
of the Plym, that are so near and yet so far. Vain hope indeed! Scarce
twenty yards of flight, and the hounds roll her over. From the carcass
thus barbarously done to death the “pads” are cut off as trophies by
the huntsman, and the master goes through the ceremony of “blooding”
his little son, who has now seen his first “kill.” The boy’s cheeks
and forehead are smeared with blood from one of the dripping “pads,”
and the “young barbarian” goes home swelling with pride at this savage
decoration. What a lesson for him! Thus is the rising generation taught
to be gentle and compassionate, and to love “all things, both great
and small”! O Sport, what horrible things are done in thy name! How
long shall the nation continue to bow the knee to this false god--this
bloody Moloch of Sport?


But of all the sports of killing which we have hitherto reviewed, this
much at least may be said--namely, that they are concerned with the
hunting or shooting of wild animals at liberty, in their native haunts.
We now have to consider certain other blood-sports, the differentiating
feature of which is that they are concerned with the hunting or
shooting of animals liberated from captivity for that purpose. Such
are rabbit-coursing, the hunting of carted deer, and the shooting of
pigeons from traps, which are very commonly referred to as “spurious
sports”--a title which they most justly merit.

On pigeon-shooting I will not waste many words. To shoot a strong
“blue rock,” released from one of five traps, at a rise of between
twenty and thirty yards, is not, as some people think, an easy thing
to do. On the contrary, it is a very difficult thing to do, the result
being that, even when good shots are competing, many birds get away
wounded, to die a lingering death. Moreover, if a test of skill be all
that is required, the clay pigeon answers the purpose quite as well
as, if not better than, the living bird. I might dwell, too, on the
injuries sometimes done to the birds when closely packed in hampers for
transport purposes. But it is, I think, sufficient to say that it is
now generally recognised in this country that the practice of shooting
captive birds from traps has about it none of the elements of “sport”
properly so-called. It is a mere medium for betting and money-making,
or money-losing, without any of those healthy, invigorating, and
athletic concomitants which do something to redeem genuine “sport”
from the reproach of cruelty; and if cruelty be the unjustifiable
infliction of pain, then it can, I think, hardly be doubted that
pigeon-shooting must be classed among cruel sports. Of this opinion
was the House of Commons thirty-one years ago; for in the year 1883 a
Bill passed through that House, on second reading, to put down this
spurious sport by law. And to show how poorly it is now esteemed, even
in fashionable circles, it may be mentioned that the Hurlingham Club,
where pigeon-shooting was once regularly carried on, some years ago
decided to prohibit this unworthy practice in their grounds.

It remains to consider the two spurious sports of rabbit-coursing and
the hunting of carted deer. Let us take the latter first.

What are the animals employed for this form of fashionable amusement?
They are park-bred deer, kept in paddocks or stables, and carefully fed
and exercised. It is said on behalf of the “stag-hunters” (so called)
that to do the deer any injury is the last thing they wish for; on the
contrary, their desire is to recapture the animal alive and well, in
order that he or she may afford sport another day. This, doubtless, is
true enough; but, unfortunately, the deer is terrified by the chase,
and becomes exhausted in the course of it. Unfortunately, too, there
are such things as spiked iron railings and barbed-wire fences, to
say nothing of walls and other obstacles with which the hunted deer
is confronted in his cross-country flight. The result is inevitable,
and such as all reasoning men know to be inevitable--namely, that from
time to time terrible “accidents,” as they are euphemistically called,
take place, some of which, but by no means all, find their way into the
columns of our newspapers. Thus, to give an example, it twice happened
within a period of eight months that a miserable hunted deer impaled
itself upon a spiked iron fence at Reading, which in its terror it
essayed to jump, but which in its exhaustion it failed to clear. I
could give case after case in which a hunted deer has lacerated itself
in the attempt to leap a barbed-wire fence; broken a leg, or perhaps
(more mercifully) its neck, in trying to clear a gate or wall; cut
and wounded itself by jumping on a greenhouse or glass frames; fallen
exhausted before the hounds, and been bitten and torn by them; sought
refuge in a river, canal, or pond, and been drowned by the pursuing
pack. Ten such cases are known to have occurred in six months with one
pack only, hunting in the Home Counties, and six tame deer were done to
death by that same pack within that period.

These cases formed the subject of questions put by me to the late
Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, in the House of Commons.
I should like to quote his answer given to one of such questions on
March 14, 1907: “If such cruelties are perpetrated, and we can do
anything to stop them, I shall be very glad. I am against cruelty of
any sort, whether under the name of sport or otherwise. I like it
rather less under the cloak of sport than otherwise.” Nay, this cruel
and contemptible travesty of sport was once, in a lucid interval,
condemned, even by that well-known and recognised organ of sport, _The
Field_, “the country gentleman’s newspaper.” For in _The Field_ of
September 3, 1892, we read as follows:

    “If we look at this fiction of chase from an unprejudiced
    standpoint, we must admit that it is only prescription and
    usage which enable us to retain it in our sporting schedule and
    to tolerate it as legitimate. Strictly speaking, it stands on
    the same footing as bull and bear baiting, both of which have
    had to go to the wall under the influence of what is called the
    march of civilization.”[4]

Need I say more? Surely the case is too clear for argument--except,
indeed, for certain peers in the Gilded Chamber, whose hidebound
prejudice seems to be impervious to reason!

So much for the hunting of carted deer, the spurious sport of the
rich. What shall we say of rabbit-coursing, which has been described
as the sport of the poor, but which would, I think, be better called
“the spurious sport of the spurious poor”? Here, too, I can speak as
an eye-witness, and I will repeat the description of what I saw, as it
appeared in a London newspaper:

    “Wishing to see for myself what goes on at the ‘sport’ of
    rabbit-coursing, I took train on Sunday morning to Worcester
    Park Station, whence a walk of about a mile leads to the field
    where the entertainment is provided. Here was soon gathered
    together an assembly of about three hundred ‘sportsmen,’ mostly
    lads and larrikins. There was a large number of dogs, chiefly
    of the ‘whippet’ breed, and many of them carefully clothed
    after the manner of greyhounds. The ear was assailed by the
    noise of continual barking, and the nose by whiffs from a
    neighbouring sewage farm. After we had waited some little time
    a van was drawn on the ground heavily laden with large shallow
    hampers packed with live rabbits. Three or four of these
    hampers were brought forward to the starting-point; a stout
    gentleman who carried a revolver and appeared to ‘boss the
    show,’ gave the order ‘to get behind the ropes,’ some juvenile
    and promising bookmakers mounted stools, and the fun commenced.

    “Two dogs are led to the starting-point amidst shouts of ‘I’ll
    lay three to one,’ ‘I’ll lay seven to four,’ etc., quite in
    the approved sporting style. A man opens a sort of trap-door
    in the lid of one of the hampers, seizes one of the cowering
    rabbits by the skin of the back, presents it to each dog
    alternately, in order, I presume, to excite him to the utmost,
    runs with it, still held in one hand by the skin of the back,
    some thirty-five yards, and then flings it down, whereupon a
    shot is fired from the revolver, the dogs are released and rush
    madly for the prey. What follows requires some explanation.
    Let it be remembered that these are, or were, wild rabbits,
    among the most timorous of wild creatures; that they have
    probably undergone the horrible experience of being driven from
    their burrows by the ferret some days (and who shall say how
    many days?) before; that they have been sent by rail to town;
    that they are carted to the scene of action closely packed in
    hampers; that they are, for a long time previously to being
    ‘coursed,’ surrounded by shouting men and barking dogs, and
    that after all this, weak, dazed, and half paralysed with fear,
    the victim is ‘dumped down’ in the middle of a strange field.

    “The result is what might be expected. He can hardly run, and
    knows not where to run. Some come straight back into the mouths
    of the dogs, others make a feeble attempt to seek shelter in
    the distant hedge. But the result is always the same. In a few
    seconds the dogs are upon him. The first seizes him by the back
    or hind-quarters; the second, overtaking the first, and not to
    be balked of his share of the prey, grabs the victim by the
    head and shoulders. Then ensues a tug of war, during which the
    miserable rabbit is frequently more than half disembowelled
    before he is taken, still alive, or half alive, from the jaws
    of the dogs. Not one escapes; he is not given a chance. One
    that was put down a few yards in front of two very young dogs,
    who were evidently new to the business, might have got away,
    but when this was seen a large dog was at once sent after the
    fugitive. I am told that at North Country meetings when a
    puppy is entered a rabbit is frequently mutilated by having
    a leg broken or an eye put out; but I saw nothing of this at
    Worcester Park.

    “I should mention that I was joined by a friend from New
    Malden, well known in the neighbourhood for humanitarian
    efforts, and that we were at once ‘spotted’ as alien
    interlopers, and looked at askance in consequence. Possibly
    the result was greater caution in the management of the
    proceedings. But we saw quite enough. Fifteen wretched
    creatures were done to death in forty-five minutes, and the
    ‘sport’ goes on all day and every Sunday. I counted the steps
    taken by the man who ran forward with each rabbit, and never
    did they exceed thirty-five. A really wild rabbit in his own
    familiar haunts might have some chance at that. But these
    poor cowering things, tortured to make a hooligans’ holiday!
    The mere monotony of it was sickening. And yet when a Bill is
    brought into Parliament to make such abominations illegal, a
    noble lord, one of the pillars of the Jockey Club, opposes
    it because it ‘would affect the poorer classes far more than
    themselves,’ and because it is ‘a piece of class legislation’
    (Lord Durham in the House of Lords, _The Times_, March 4,
    1902). Why not go back to cock-fighting and bull-baiting at

Such are the sports that make England great, that strengthen the
muscles and sinews of a conquering Imperial race! Let us rejoice,
then, that we have an Hereditary Chamber, where faddists and fanatics
are unknown, to throw the ægis of its protection over the pleasures
of rich and poor alike, and where the high-souled, high-bred scions
of a time-honoured aristocracy magnanimously defend the cherished
institutions of our forefathers against the attacks both of blatant
democrats and sickly sentimentalists!


It was said by a noble lord in the Upper House not long ago that
“Physical courage and love of sport have been for centuries the
distinguishing characteristics of the British race.” Is there any
necessary relation between these two things? I take leave to doubt
it--indeed, I entirely deny it--if by “sport” these “blood-sports”
are intended. But let us set beside this wonderful pronouncement the
statement of a cultivated and enlightened Englishman who was for
many years resident in Burmah. In that charming book, “The Soul of a
People,” Mr. H. Fielding writes as follows:

    “It has been inculcated in us from childhood that it is a manly
    thing to be indifferent to pain--not to our own pain only,
    but to that of all others. To be sorry for a hunted hare,
    to compassionate the wounded deer, to shrink from torturing
    the brute creation, has been accounted by us a namby-pamby
    sentimentalism, not fit for man, fit only for a squeamish
    woman. To the Burman it is one of the highest of all virtues.
    He believes that all that is beautiful in life is founded on
    compassion, and kindness, and sympathy--that nothing of great
    value can exist without them.”

May not our much-vaunted Christianity learn something from this
despised religion of the Buddha, first taught by Gautama on the banks
of the Ganges some six hundred years before Christ? For what is it that
Buddhism teaches us? It teaches as a first principle to do no harm
to any living thing; it teaches mercy without limit, and compassion
without stint. Of the Burmese Buddhists we read: “They learn how it is
the noblest duty of man, who is strong, to be kind and loving to his
weaker brothers, the animals.”

Contrast with that the following, taken at random from among my
newspaper cuttings (it is a paragraph from the _Morning Post_):

                                                   _June 14, 1904._

    “The Carlisle Otter Hounds met at Longtown yesterday, and had
    the best hunt that has taken place in the Esk for fifty years.
    A splendid otter was put up at Red Scaur, and for four hours
    he kept men, hounds, and terriers at bay. He left the river
    several times for the woods and rocks, and ran the woods as
    cunningly as a fox. Eventually, when climbing a steep rock for
    a hole, he fell back exhausted into the water, and the hounds
    despatched him. His body was presented to Sir Richard Graham.”

No thought of pity here for the poor wild creature, hunted, harried,
and remorselessly pursued by men and hounds for four mortal hours--in
water, through woods, over rocks, ever flying in all the agony of
fear, till the last dregs of strength are exhausted, and, on the very
threshold of the longed-for refuge, he falls, hopeless and helpless,
in the stream, where “the hounds despatched him.” Such is a “grand
otter hunt,” the best that had taken place in the Esk for fifty years!
Truly we may smile at those holy men of the Buddhists who carried bells
on their shoes in order to give warning as they walked to the little
creatures in the long grass; but for my part I own that, upon the
whole, I would far sooner be classed with these poor sentimentalists,
who have seen in their hearts the coming of that “milder day” for which
the great poet who sang of “Hartleap Well” so devoutly longed, than
with that flower of muscular Christianity, the stalwart Britisher, so
distinguished for his love of sport and his contempt for pain--his own
generally excepted!

How, then, stands this question of sport considered as a question of
ethics? A great German thinker, as we all know, believed that he had
found the very basis of morality in the sacred instinct of compassion.
I will not argue whether Schopenhauer was right or wrong in that
contention, but this, at any rate, we must all admit--namely, that
without compassion all our boasted morality would be but as sounding
brass and as a tinkling cymbal. Nay, whether it be or be not the
basis of morality, this at least is true that, without compassion, no
morality worth having could exist at all.

Let us listen for a moment to Rousseau on this matter:

    “Mandeville was right in thinking that, with all their systems
    of morality, men would never have been anything but monsters if
    Nature had not given them _compassion_ to support their reason;
    but he failed to see that _from this one quality spring all
    the social virtues_ which he was unwilling to credit mankind
    with. In reality, what is generosity, clemency, humanity, if
    not _compassion_, applied to the weak, to the guilty, or to the
    human race as a whole? Even benevolence and friendship, if we
    look at the matter rightly, are seen to result from a constant
    compassion, directed upon a particular object; for to desire
    that someone should not suffer is nothing else than to desire
    that he should be happy.… The more closely the living spectator
    identifies himself with the living sufferer, the more active
    does pity become.”

And again:

    “How is it that we let ourselves be moved to pity if not by
    getting out of our own consciousness, and becoming identified
    with the living sufferer; by leaving, so to say, our own being
    and entering into his? We do not suffer except as we suppose
    he suffers; _it is not in us, it is in him_, that we suffer.…
    Offer a young man objects on which the expansive force of his
    heart can act--objects such as may enlarge his nature, and
    incline it to go out to other beings, in whom he may everywhere
    find himself again. Keep carefully away those things which
    narrow his view, and make him self-centred, and tighten the
    strings of the _human ego_.”

It is upon this theme that Schopenhauer becomes so eloquent, and with
larger view even than that of Rousseau, as it seems, he brings the
lower animals within the protection of his moral system.

    “There is nothing that revolts our moral sense so much as
    cruelty. Every other offence we can pardon, but not cruelty.
    The reason is found in the fact that cruelty is the exact
    opposite of _compassion_--viz., the direct participation,
    independent of all ulterior considerations, in the sufferings
    of another, leading to sympathetic assistance in the effort
    to prevent or remove them; whereon, in the last resort,
    all satisfaction and all well-being and happiness depend.
    It is this compassion alone which is the real basis of all
    _voluntary_ justice and all _genuine_ loving-kindness.… There
    is another proof that the moral incentive disclosed by me is
    the true one. I mean the fact that _animals_ also are included
    under its protecting ægis. In the other European systems of
    ethics no place is found for them, strange and inexcusable as
    this may appear. It is asserted that beasts have no rights;
    the illusion is harboured that our conduct, so far as they
    are concerned, has no moral significance; or, as it is put in
    the language of these codes, that there are no duties to be
    fulfilled towards animals. Such a view is one of revolting
    coarseness--a barbarism of the West.… Compassion for animals is
    intimately connected with goodness of character, and it may be
    confidently asserted that he who is cruel to living creatures
    cannot be a good man.”[6]

So wrote a young German philosopher some seventy years ago; and all
that has since happened in the world of thought has but served to
strengthen his teaching as to our duty towards the lower animals. For
since he wrote science and thought have become profoundly modified by
one of those epoch-making inductions which, at very rare intervals,
some great thinker is inspired to make. We have seen the establishment
and the almost universal acceptance of the doctrine of evolution,
involving as one of its corollaries the unity of life and the
“universal kinship” of man with his humbler brethren--or cousins, if
you will--of the animal world.

I venture, then, to offer this teaching for my readers’ consideration.
In its light I would ask them to view these questions, and if they
shall think that that light is the light of reason and truth, then to
follow it wheresoever it may lead. I do not think it will lead them to
offer fresh hecatombs upon the blood-stained altar of Sport.


[2] One of the strongest objections to fox-hunting consists in this,
that each season must necessarily be preceded (so at least we are told)
by the barbarities of “cub-hunting.” The slaughter of these poor little
cubs is cruel and pitiful work. Sometimes, too, a vixen falls a victim
to the hounds while her cubs are still dependent on her for their
food. No doubt an early ride on a fine September or October morning is
a pleasant thing, and the “sportsman” need not know much about what
goes on in the coverts, or trouble himself to think about it! But the
fact remains that this is a miserable and cruel form of “sport.” And
what shall we say of the practice of “digging out” a wretched fox
when, perhaps after a long run, he has sought refuge by “going to
ground”? Can anything be conceived more callous or more cowardly? Yet
educated, and, presumably, thinking men, and women too--Heaven save
the mark!--stand by and enjoy the fun! Such is the debasing effect of
“sport” upon the human mind and character!

[3] In the _Westminster Gazette_ of August 15, 1908, a woman wrote
on “The Enchantments of the New Forest,” and this is what she says:
“Anyone with a drop of sport-love in them, given a nag of some kind,
will not be a day in the forest before he finds himself chasing some
animal, alive or dead.” The sentiment is surely even more deplorable
than the grammar.

[4] It must in fairness be added that the article from which the above
extract is made was subsequently repudiated by the editor as being
“quite opposed to the line which _The Field_ has always taken.” It
seems that “by an oversight the article was inserted during the absence
of the departmental editor.” I quote it, nevertheless, as showing that
over twenty years ago the truth as to this matter had dawned upon the
mind of at least one of the leader-writers of a great sporting paper.

[5] Moreover, there is a sport which, as the Rev. J. Stratton
has pointed out, might well supersede rabbit-coursing--viz.,
whippet-racing. “It cannot be pleaded,” he says, “that if we were to
stop the coursing of captured rabbits we should be unduly depriving
workmen of recreation, for ‘whippets’ could be employed just as well in
races as in chasing rabbits. Of the first of these sports I can speak
as an eye-witness. In whippet-racing a course is formed, which is kept
free for the dogs by ropes on either side. At one end, men have in hand
the whippets that are about to compete, and here stands the starter,
holding his pistol. ‘Runners-up’ now come on to the course, carrying
in their hands a towel or scarf, and starting from the front of the
dogs, and frantically waving the article they hold, and whistling, and
calling to the animals, they begin to run towards the far end of the
course, where the winning-line is marked out and the judge has taken
up his post. When the right moment has arrived, the pistol is fired,
and the whippets are liberated, and commence to travel the course with
the speed of the wind, the ‘runners-up’ always getting well beyond the
winning-point before the dogs overtake them, in order that the latter
may pass it at their utmost pace. It is altogether a remarkable sight,
and had I never seen the thing, I could not have believed that the
little dogs would enter into the contest with the ardour they do.”

[6] My quotations are from Mr. A. B. Bullock’s translation of “The
Basis of Morality,” see pp. 170, 208, 218.



It has frequently been pointed out that the enthusiasm for “sport”
is the relic of a very primitive instinct in man. In that sense it
is quite natural. In early days the sheer necessity of pursuing and
killing animals for food, or of hunting down and destroying beasts of
prey, must have become very deeply ingrained; and the satisfaction of
that need became an instinctive pleasure, so much so that oftentimes
nowadays the pleasure remains, though the need has long disappeared.

In the village where I live there is a countryman of a very primitive
type, who goes almost mad with excitement when the hunt is out. Though
over forty years of age, he has been known more than once to leave
his horses with the plough in the field and career wildly after the
hounds for two or three hours on end, careless of what might happen to
his deserted team. At the public-house afterwards in the evening he
recounts in a shrill voice every detail of the “find” or the “kill.”
“Talk about your oratorios and concerts,” he shouts, “_there’s no
music, I say, like the ’ounds_!” On one occasion when the hunt was
baffled by the fox getting into a narrow cleft in some rocks, and with
the fall of evening the hounds had to be drawn off, this man positively
remained on the spot, watching, all night; and when the huntsmen
returned in the morning with a terrier, he followed the terrier as far
as ever he could--head and shoulders--into the hole, helped the dog
to clutch the fox, and all three--dog, fox, and man--suddenly freed,
rolled together down the steep cliff-side into a stream below! Such is
the force of the old instinct, and the story helps one to realise the
strange conditions of sheer necessity under which primitive man lived,
though in the light of actual life and the present day it is ludicrous
enough, even if not revolting in its ferocity.

So far from there being any necessity in this case to rid the
country-side from a beast of prey, it is quite probable that the
fox in question had been imported from Germany--as a certain number
undoubtedly are--simply in order to provide a country squire’s holiday!
A French lady, herself very fond of riding, told me lately that in her
native Burgundy foxes are still very numerous, and have to be hunted
down in consequence of the damage they do; but when I informed her that
our foxes are largely “made in Germany,” and brought over in order to
do artificial damage and so be artificially hunted, she laughed almost
hysterically--as surely she was entitled to do.

There is this futile artificiality about almost all our “sport.” It
is one thing to sit all night in the lower branches of a spreading
tree just outside some little Indian village, in order to get a chance
of shooting the dangerous man-eating tiger as he comes forth from
the jungle, and quite another to pot tame pheasants at the corner of
a wood, or half-tame grouse as they fly over the “battery” in which
you (and a gamekeeper) are safely ensconced. The pheasants have been
reared under a barnyard hen and fed by hand till they are as tame as
fowls, and the grouse can only be persuaded to fly to the guns by a
quarter-mile-long line of “drivers,” who with much shouting and waving
of flags compel them to rise from the heather. The gamekeeper gets his
guinea tip, and you in return get the credit of a large bag secured by
his kind assistance! The force of humbug could no further go. The truth
is, all this modern “sport” is a simple playing at hunting and shooting.

And if it were merely playing, though it might be somewhat laughable,
there would be no need to protest. But, unfortunately, there are two
serious considerations involved, which are by no means “play” to
those concerned. One (which has been touched on elsewhere) is the
needless cruelty to the animals; the other is the serious ruin of our
agriculture and detriment to our farm populations.

The damage done by fox-hunting to fences and crops is obvious enough
to everyone. But there are other complications. In a hunting district
the tenants far and wide are invited to find homes for the puppies
which are being reared for the replenishment of the pack. It is an
ungrateful task. The puppy is a pest on the farm; it is in everybody’s
way, and it has its muzzle eternally in the milk-buckets. Its board and
lodging are not paid for; but--oh, gracious compensation!--the farmers
who “walk puppies” are given a dinner at the end of the puppy-rearing
season, and get their chance of a prize for the best exhibited. Partly
in consideration of these favours, but more because they do not want
to offend the gentry in general or their own landlords in particular,
the tenants put up with these obnoxious additions to their households.
Furthermore, as foxes must on no account be killed by private hands,
even though they are constantly raiding the farmyards, the owners of
the hunt offer compensation for fowls killed or wounded, as they also,
of course, do for fences and crops damaged.

But what a situation for any self-respecting farmer! To see a tribe
of “gentlemen and ladies” tearing over his land and making havoc of
his new-sown wheat, to find half a dozen fowls some morning with
their heads bitten off, to have his wife at her work tumbling over
an intruding puppy--and then to have to go, cap in hand, to ask for
compensation for all these things! What an unworthy position for him to
be in, and how galling to think that his life-work and the very dignity
of his profession are so lightly regarded, or that the loss of them can
be counted as easily atoned for by a few shillings.


As to the grouse moors, the damage done to agriculture and to the
popular interest in connection with them--though it might not appear
obvious at first--is very considerable. A hundred years ago the moors
in my neighbourhood--as in many other parts of the country--were common
lands. The people had rights of pasture over them for their cattle
and sheep, they kept down the rabbits, using the latter largely for
food, and they were able to grow farm crops up to the very edge of
the heather. To-day these same lands--enclosed on the plea of public
benefit!--are given over to grouse. The rabbits have become to a great
extent the gamekeepers’ perquisites, and very valuable “perks” too.
They are allowed to swarm, and consequently they not only destroy what
pasturage there is on the moors, but, penetrating into the farms along
the moor edges, they damage very seriously the cereal and other crops.
I know places where I am credibly informed that a hundred years ago
oats were commonly grown, but which now are quite impossible for such
a purpose. And--such is the sway of the institution--young farmers
desiring to shoot the rabbits on their own tenancies are looked askance
at and discouraged from doing so for fear they might possibly bag a
brace of grouse! When we consider the well-known expense involved in
rearing and shooting these sacred birds, and at the same time the
damage, just described, to ordinary agriculture, we have again a
sad picture of the prevailing futility. On some farms--especially,
I believe, in Devonshire--where grouse are not concerned, but where
rabbit-shooting is a favourite recreation of the landlord class--the
spinneys and copses are allowed to become so infested with bunnies that
general farming is greatly paralyzed in consequence.

Indirectly in a similar way does pheasant-shooting lead to
agricultural damage. In the present day--partly out of fear of Lloyd
George and all his works--the tendency of landowners is to sell and
make ready money from the old oak and other timber in their woods,
and by planting plentiful spruce and fir to turn the plantations into
pheasant covers. The number of gamekeepers charged with preserving
these plantations multiplies,[7] and _their_ idea of duty consists in
the destruction of any and every winged and four-footed creature that
might possibly be harmful to the pheasants or their eggs. It would
probably surprise the reader to have a complete list of such--and I do
not presume to supply it--but it includes hawks and owls of various
kinds, jays, magpies, stoats, weasels, and even the beautiful and
probably innocent squirrel. All these fall victims to the gun or the
trap, and, needless to say, the balance of Nature is seriously upset
in many directions. For our purpose here we need only point out the
consequent and ruinous swarming of mice and sparrows. The destruction
of hawks and owls in particular has led to this result. Clouds of
sparrows, ever multiplying, occupy the hedgerows and descend upon the
cornfields as soon as ever the corn is ripe, doing countless damage--to
which the mice contribute their share. No one who has not witnessed it
with his own eyes could believe the loss to the farmer from this cause
alone. And again we are struck with the foolishness which allows this
to go on merely for the sake of breeding tame birds for the guns of
very tame sportsmen.

The pheasant is a very beautiful bird, and if allowed to breed in our
woods under natural conditions, would hold its own in a modest way,
and with the other denizens of the woodlands, the squirrels and the
jays and the owls and the hawks, would render these places really
interesting and delightful resorts. It seems sad that all these animal
possibilities should be destroyed for the sake of what is often little
more than human brag and bag! As an instance of the unintelligent way
in which these things are worked, it may be mentioned that even that
stately bird, the heron, is a mark for, and is commonly shot down by,
the gamekeeper. And why? Because, forsooth! it not unfrequently feeds
upon _trout_. The trout is a sacred fish, and therefore the glorious
heron must be shot! Whether the gamekeeper wars upon the kingfisher
for the same reason I do not know. But it seems quite possible that he
does, for beauty and rarity are no defence.


There is another aspect of the subject which must not be passed over.
To-day the small-holding question is coming very much to the fore.
The splendid results obtained by a combination of small farms and
agricultural co-operation, already conspicuous in Denmark, and coming
into sight in Ireland, are strongly urging us in England in the same
direction. A large multiplication of small-holders, with facilities for
their combined action and co-operation, is to-day the one promising
outlook for British agriculture. Yet it is notorious that the County
Councils are much more inclined to hinder than to help this movement.
And why? There may be different reasons; but undoubtedly one of the
most powerful is--sport. It is obvious that a population of small
holders--particularly if associated and combined--would form a very
serious obstacle to the latter. A squire with three or four farms under
him, of 500 acres each, can easily make terms with his tenants, and
persuade or compel them to favour the hunting and shooting; but what
would he do with fifty small-holders? It would be a very different pair
of shoes, and he would have to walk (like Agag) somewhat delicately.
The compensations, and the obstructions, and the complications
generally, would bring the old order to an end.

Thus we come very clearly, I think, to a certain parting of the
ways in the matter of our agricultural future in this country. It
all comes to this: Are we going to continue for ever playing at the
land question--that question whose vitality and importance we daily
more and more perceive--or are we going to be serious about it? We
cannot take both ways. On the one hand, we have the Scottish Highlands
depopulated for the sake of deer; we have English farms more or less
ravaged, and farmers terrorised for the sake of fox-hunting; we have
grouse-moors and pheasant-covers, with their concomitant evils, let to
rich Americans and titled grocers; and, on the other hand we _may_ have
a real live agriculture and a brisk independent rural population. We
cannot have both. If we retain the present system--conducing, no doubt,
to a healthy schoolboy type of squire--it means a downcast, stupefied,
unenterprising peasantry. If we turn seriously to the re-establishment
of agriculture, and of a real live, manly population on the land, that
will undoubtedly mean the abandonment of a good deal that goes by the
name of sport.[8]

The time grows short, for indeed anxious problems lie in the near
future before this country, and a choice has to be made--a choice that
may have a good deal to do with the position of England in the world.
The country-sides have got to stop playing at rural life, and to take
it up seriously. Nor, after all, would the abandonment of sport as the
chief object of the country gentleman’s existence mean the abandonment
or discouragement of all wild life. Rather the contrary. We all in
these over-civilised times appreciate the value and importance of
wild nature; and however effective and widespread we may make our
agriculture, we shall surely also demand the establishment of extensive
natural reserves for all kinds of free plants and creatures. We have
seen that “sport” is not really favourable to wild nature life, but
only to some very artificial and limited forms. With the abandonment
of sport in its present shape, it is possible that the landowners of
the future--whether private individuals or public bodies--will turn
their attention to the making of splendid nature-resorts in wood and
mountain and moor, where every kind of creature may have free access
and free play, unharmed by man, and open to his friendly companionship
and sympathetic study.


[7] The following is quoted from Mr. Lloyd George’s speech at Bedford
(October, 1913):

“In 1851 you had in this country 9,000 gamekeepers; in 1911 there were
23,000. During that period the number of labourers on the soil went
down by 600,000. The number of gamekeepers went up by 250 per cent.,
and the number of labourers down by 600,000. Pick up a copy of the
_Field_ and look at the advertisements there, and you will realise
the extent of the evil. Here is one advertising shooting rights for
estates where last year 5,000 pheasants were shot. Here is a sportsman
who advertises 1,000 acres, with coverts to hold 7,000 rabbits on his
estate. You try a small holding _there_! Agriculture has had a bad
time. It has had to pass through a time of great crisis. What would
have been done in any other trade if it had to face the difficulties
which agriculture had? A great capitalist would have introduced new
machinery, got the best labour, and would have put the whole of his
energy, brain, and enterprise into restoring that industry. He would
have gone, if necessary, for years without any return, and at last he
would have pulled through. That is what has happened in many industries
in this country. What has happened here? What has the great capitalist
done in agriculture? He has trebled the number of his gamekeepers, he
has put land out of cultivation, he has increased enormously the number
of pheasants which have been turned on to the land.”

[8] See the “Report of the Land Enquiry Committee,” vol. i., 1913,
which in its chapter on “Game” contains a severe condemnation of the
practice of excessive game preserving. “The damage done by game is
too serious to be overlooked. Even when the tenant farmer is fully
compensated the damage amounts to a national loss.… Not merely is land
under-cultivated, but large areas are altogether out of cultivation
owing to the preservation of game. This land, instead of providing food
for the people, provides sport and delicacies for the few, and is the
source of much damage and annoyance to neighbouring farmers.”



    “Now Dives daily feasted and was gorgeously arrayed,
    Not at all because he liked it, but because ’twas good for trade;
    That the people might have calico, he clothed himself in silk,
    And surfeited himself on cream, that they might get the milk;
    He fed five hundred servants, that the poor might not lack bread,
    And had his vessels made of gold that they might get more lead:
    And e’en to show his sympathy with the deserving poor,
    He did no useful work himself that they might do the more.”

                                                         ERNEST BILTON.

In a tract entitled “Sport, A National Benefactor,” dedicated to
the sportsmen of the nation, Mr. Henry R. Sargent gives elaborate
statistics to prove that large sums of money are devoted to the
maintenance of sport, while about £25,000,000 are annually spent upon
it. Of this amount he estimates that wages absorb some £6,000,000.
Rents of shootings and fishings, and the price of race-horses, come to
£5,500,000, which sum, though “going principally to the upper classes,
is recirculated in various ways,” while, “except the few pounds paid
for dead horses, we have from hunting, shooting, and racing, over
£6,000,000 a year paid for oats, meal, hay, straw, beans, and bran;
and let it be understood that it is all British produce. No infernal
foreign stuff is given to our hounds or horses, though we may eat it
ourselves, and thus encourage Free Trade--that curse of our country.”

After we have thus been shown “what a gigantic medium sport is for the
circulation of money--the vertebræ (_sic_) of our common weal,” we are
not surprised that “to these facts and figures, which no sophistry can
dispute and no method of statement darken,” Mr. Sargent should “draw
the attention alike of sportsmen, prigs, prudes, and the public,” and
should “invite the consideration of Radicals and Socialists” to the
subject. For he continues gravely: “Let these political step-brethren
ponder well before they strive to injure the classes who maintain our
sports. Let them recognise the fact that as a universal benefactor in
bringing to the poor the rich man’s money, a substitute for sport can
never be found. These revolutionists should also assure themselves
of the fact that never can they devise a system which will carry
out the principles of Communism as practically and universally as
that which has always been adopted by our resident landlords. Be it
£5,000, £20,000, or £100,000 a year, which may be focussed in the one
individual, he spends it all among the community. Yet these are the men
who are marked for destruction by the Radical, the Socialist, and the
Anarchist; and not the landlords alone, but all moneyed men, no matter
of what class.”

It is small wonder, then, that the heart within him is grieved when
he thinks of those bold bad men, the agitators, for they, he informs
us tearfully, “as a rule, dislike the upper classes,” while those
pre-eminently wicked men, the land agitators, to a man, “hate them with
ferocity.” It was to gratify that hatred, as our author is assured,
“and not so much to benefit either the land tenants or crofters, that
agitation has been got up in Ireland and Scotland.”

    “In Ireland hunting was attacked, as was openly avowed, to
    drive the landlords out of the country, but happily hunting
    is as strong there as ever, except in Waterford; and although
    they be not so well off as formerly, we still have the
    landlords. In Scotland the same game is being played by the
    agitators. Although they strive to hide the motive under the
    kilt of the crofter, they have no desire but to injure the
    landlords through means of attacking the shooting. Hunting was
    also assailed by other parties, in alleging that cruelty was
    practised by hunting carted deer! An outcry is also raised
    for the tourists, that in pursuit of their vocation they are,
    forsooth, to be allowed to disturb the Highland forests, and so
    scare away the wild red-deer, animals which the agitators know
    well cannot abide the sight of a human being, much less the
    slightest noise. What do agitators care for tourists, anyway?
    Then comes this raid upon racing. Of a truth, therefore,
    it is high time that all sportsmen, from the peer to the
    pantry-boy, should coalesce and defend themselves in organised
    phalanx against those who, with intolerance and impertinence,
    gratuitously assail us.”

For just consider the money spent on racing, and the number of men
employed. Some 8,000 young men, says Mr. Sargent, “are employed in the
racing stables of the kingdom--a number equal to that of more than ten
regiments of the line.”

    “When we come to consider what has been spent upon the stables
    at Newmarket, and other places … the amount becomes absolutely
    appalling! The sum has to be counted in thousands--and it runs
    into millions--all of which is spent in labour and material. As
    do the other branches of sport which I have dealt with, racing
    sends money flowing from the rich to the poor man’s pocket, but
    at the same time nearly all classes derive monetary benefit
    through this special branch of sport.”

One seems to have heard something of gambling at races, but our
author tells us that “it is the misfortune of racing, and not its
fault, that betting should be connected with it,” but he holds that
“to stop gambling on the Turf, which has existed from time immemorial,
is an impossibility: so no one need attempt to do so.” With the true
democratic feeling engendered by the “principle of Communism” animating
sport, he asserts that “no man abhors gambling more than I do, and I
would, if I could, put a stop upon the shop-boys and humble classes
indulging in the vice, but I would let the others do as they choose.”
For the author is sure that “to interfere with any old-established
institution which is working well is a most dangerous thing.” “God
knows,” he exclaims in despair, “what would be the result, if these
latter-day saints, who are now on the prowl, were to succeed in their
attempt to interfere with racing, even if only so far as betting is


The pamphlet from which the foregoing extracts have been taken is not,
as one might imagine, a huge joke, nor is it a sly attempt to pour
ridicule upon sport. It was published by the Sporting League--on the
executive committee of which we find the names of many noble lords
and distinguished commoners--apparently with the serious intention of
furthering the fifth of the League’s praiseworthy objects--“Generally
to do whatever may from time to time seem advisable for counteracting
the pernicious influence of ‘faddists.’” It seems that we can hardly
reckon a sense of humour among the many “inestimable benefits” that
sport bestows on its devotees, however much food for laughter the
publications of the League may give to “faddists” and the public.

Although this tract was published some years ago, its arguments have
not deteriorated with age, since we find them essentially reproduced in
an address delivered in November, 1908, at the Surveyors’ Institute,
by the President, Mr. Howard Martin, and commented on with approval
by _The Field_. Mr. Martin, like the author of the tract, seriously
insists on the great benefits which agriculture and business derive
from fox-hunting. He estimates that on the upkeep of hunters £3,500,000
a year are spent. Shooting also involves a large outlay for the
feeding and rearing of birds, and attracts much cash to the pockets of
residents in the country. And, further, the prosperity due to sport
radiates in all directions. Not merely farmers and farm-hands, but
local innkeepers, country fly-drivers, and village shopkeepers share
in the stream of wealth which sport pours forth over the country.
There are even tips for the inn-servants and the porters at the
railway-stations! Indeed, Mr. Martin declared that he had taken great
pains to get at reliable facts and figures on which to ground his
arguments, and his conclusion was that not only did hunting and the
preservation of foxes generally benefit agricultural districts, but
that hunting and the exercise of shooting rights indirectly benefited
the country at large “by checking rural depopulation.” _The Field_
is not unmindful of the rich physical and moral gains which the
gamekeepers, beaters, and others ministering to sport, derive from a
shooting-party. “They are all of them fond of sport; they like to see
birds well killed, they enjoy the pick-up, they enjoy (a matter of no
little moment) a good beaters’ lunch, they like a good glass of ale
at the close of the day, and are better off in mind and pocket for a
few hours which interrupt the routine of their ordinary life like a

It is amusing to note how largely the anti-Budget protests of the
distressed Dukes and other wealthy persons were based on the egregious
fallacy that “giving employment” is conducive to the welfare of the
community, without regard to the character of the employment given.
Nothing, for instance, could be more absurd than the remarks made by
Lord Londonderry on August 23, 1909, and solemnly reported in _The

    “What was his position if he had to curtail his expenditure, as
    he was told by his Radical friends that he must do? The great
    interest in the property to him was the shooting and gardens,
    which gave employment to a large number of men. Could it be
    said that these two enjoyments were to him absolutely selfish?
    He was able to send out large consignments of game as presents,
    and was also able to benefit those out of employment in times
    of depression. Therefore that amusement was not a selfish one.”

The fact that Lord Londonderry’s shooting gives employment to a large
number of persons is in truth its greatest condemnation; for though
the individuals employed may be glad of the work, the community loses
by the waste of time, labour, and money involved in such a perfectly
futile occupation as that of game-preserving, in which every pheasant
killed has cost far more than its own food-value.

Here, again, is a delightful extract from a sporting paper, October 6,

    “Rearing of pheasants is a very costly matter, and one
    which I anticipate will be seriously curtailed in the near
    future if this so-called ‘Working Man’s Budget’ is passed.
    County gentlemen will be very hardly hit if this iniquitous
    Bill becomes law, and they will consequently have to effect
    economies in every direction. One of the very first will be
    in reducing their shootings, or in giving up rearing birds
    altogether. Pheasants which are hand-reared cost about 4s. each
    to feed, from start to finish. Thus it is easy to understand
    what sums of money find their way into farmers’ and tradesmen’s
    pockets for the purchase of food alone, for hundreds of
    thousands of pheasants all over the kingdom have to be fed
    for months every year. The money which is expended one way
    or another over shooting is quite enormous, for it must be
    remembered that, in addition to the purchase of eggs and food,
    there are wages, clothes, and fuel for keepers; there are also
    endless expenses in connection with rearing. When the shooting
    commences, there are beaters at 2s. 6d. and 3s. per day, with
    meat, bread, cheese, and beer. And there is the expense of
    hospitality to guests. Take it all in all, the old saying that
    each pheasant shot costs, one way and another, a guinea, is not
    far wrong.

    “Now, who benefits from all this? The poor owner certainly does
    not, for it is all pay, pay, pay with him, and if he does sell
    his surplus birds, he will only get back 2s. to 2s. 6d. a bird.
    But the public gets the benefit, for they can purchase these
    costly-reared birds for the price of chickens. One day those
    people, the farmers, tradesmen, working-classes, and labourers,
    will wake up to what they have lost, when they find the country
    house shut up, and shooting, as it used to be, a thing of the

No doubt all these crumbs of blessing fall from the rich man’s pocket
on the happy gamekeepers, beaters, and others who are employed by
a shooting-party. No doubt the country lads, servants, and porters
rejoice in the tips they receive. Much money is spent on sport, and a
great deal of it finds its way as wages and gratuities into the pockets
of dependents, but to contend seriously that sport checks depopulation
is ludicrous. It is an insult to our intelligence to argue that the
country is more prosperous and supports a larger population when the
land is portioned out in great estates, many of which are only farmed
to the degree necessary to keep the game on the land; when the people
are driven from the country-side into the town; when in Scotland whole
counties have been cleared of inhabitants in order to form vast deer
forests for the sport of a few rich men.


Of the 56,000,000 acres in Great Britain something less than 15,000,000
are actually cultivated, although there are 35,000,000 acres of
cultivable land. Thirty years ago there were more than 2,000,000
agricultural labourers in Great Britain, but in 1907 they had decreased
to 1,311,000. In the same year there were more than 17,000,000 acres
of pasture. In “Fields, Factories, and Workshops,” Prince Kropotkin
estimates that the soil of the United Kingdom would produce enough food
for 24,000,000 people, instead of for only 17,000,000 as at present, if
it were cultivated as thoroughly as it was only thirty-five years ago,
while if it were cultivated as thoroughly as Belgium it would produce
enough to feed 37,000,000.

Take, again, the question of Afforestation. The Report of the Royal
Commission, issued on January 15, 1909, is a most important paper
in many ways. Of special interest are the references made by the
Commissioners to the responsibility of blood-sports for much of the bad
condition of our woodlands.

    “Considerations of sport have played an important part in
    determining the method of management of our woods. Clean boles,
    with high-pitched crowns, the exclusion of the sun’s rays,
    and ground destitute of grass, weeds, and bushes, are not
    conditions favourable to either ground or winged game. On the
    contrary, trees that are semi-isolated, and with low-reaching
    branches, and a wood that is full of bracken, brambles, and
    similar undergrowth, present conditions much more attractive to
    the sportsman, and it is these conditions that many landowners
    have arranged to secure. Ground game, too, has been the cause
    of immense destruction amongst the young trees, and thus it
    has, in a measure, directly brought about that condition of
    under-stocking which is so inimical to the growth of good
    timber and to the successful results of forestry. Nor is it
    possible in the presence of even a moderate head of ground
    game to secure natural regeneration of woodlands, the young
    seedling trees being nibbled over almost as soon as they appear
    above ground. So intimate is the association in the United
    Kingdom between sport and forestry that even on an estate
    that is considered to possess some of the best-managed woods
    in England, the sylvicultural details have to be accommodated
    to the hunting and shooting, and trees must be taken down in
    different places to make cover for foxes, and so on.”

If, then, the land of our country, instead of lying almost idle or
in permanent pasture interspersed with parks and copses as cover for
game, or left desolate as moor and deer forest, were covered with the
small farms of prosperous peasants, like Belgium or Denmark, and the
more rugged and uncultivable districts turned into national forests
giving regular and healthy employment to large numbers of men, would
not far better results be obtained, even from the purely economic point
of view? _Now_ we have a few gamekeepers and beaters, a few grooms,
jockeys, stablemen, and horse-dealers, and other dependents of the
sportsmen, and a few farmers, breeding horses and growing fodder for
them, while the labourers are turned out of their native village for
want of work and house-room, and drift into the already overcrowded
and hideous towns which daily absorb more and more of the country,
or are even forced to leave their native land altogether and seek a
livelihood in lands beyond the sea, free, as yet, from the blessings
of sport; _then_ we should have some millions of free men earning an
honest living in healthful surroundings, and producing a thousandfold
more wealth for themselves than is distributed by the aristocrats and
plutocrats, who, according to the protagonist of the Sporting League,
so fully “carry out the principles of Communism.”

But it is surely needless to labour the point. The arguments of the
economic defenders of sport are so grotesque that it is difficult to
believe that a sensible man of business like Mr. Martin can really be
in earnest in his advocacy of sport as a means of finding employment
for the people.

But sports, and especially blood-sports, are not only defended on the
ground that they give employment, circulate money, and confer other
economic advantages on an ungrateful nation. As _The Field_ contends,
there are “assets which cannot be calculated in shillings and pence,”
and the author of our entertaining tract challenges those “who, with
the bigotry characteristic of all faddists,” attack the chasing of
hares and foxes, or the worship of the sacred bird, to “look at the
matter straight and see what inestimable benefit sport is to the
nation. Should we ever lose our love for sport,” he continues, “or be
prevented indulging it, we shall assuredly lose our manliness, and very
likely our wealth, and then what will become of the nation?”

The word “sport” is a very loose and indefinite word. It covers all
kind of healthful and innocent exercises as well as hunting, shooting,
and racing. No one doubts that an open-air life is a natural and
healthy life; that running and riding, and swimming and sailing, and
other outdoor exercises and games, are good both for mind and body; but
the “moral and intellectual damages” of all blood-sports are a very
serious set-off against any physical advantages they may have.

A staunch defender of sport was once dwelling--in debate--on the
glories of a day with the hounds, and describing how a ride across
country in the fresh frosty air swept the cobwebs from the brain of the
jaded city man and sent the blood coursing healthily through his veins.
He was met by the rejoinder that all these advantages could be got by
a gallop over the downs, or, at any rate, by a “drag” hunt. “Ah, but
that’s not all,” he cried, “one must have the zest of running down and
killing an animal, and thus satisfying a natural instinct.” The reply
that such an instinct was an echo of primeval savagery, and just one
of those which hinder the upward progress of the race--one, also, more
completely gratified by the butcher or the slaughter-man--only provoked
the anger of the sportsman, and failed to shake his rooted belief in
the blessings of sport.

    “Ah, Sport is the pride of the nation!
      It made Britons the men that they be;
    It does good to the whole population,
      And knows neither class nor degree.”

This doggerel, with which Mr. Sargent concludes his tract on sport,
encourages the notion that blood-sports develop manliness, and that
if Englishmen ceased to ride to hounds, to hunt the hare or otter, or
shoot the pheasant and partridge, they would become effeminate. This
superstition ought surely to have received its death-blow by the events
of the Russo-Japanese war. When we hear of the rice-eating, gentle
Japanese, who prefer taming wild creatures by kindness to shooting or
mangling them, performing prodigies of valour apparently quite beyond
the capacity of the fiercer nations of the West, it is surely time to
revise our conceptions of what true courage is, and how it is nurtured.

And any manliness which might be nurtured by sport is steadily being
reduced to a minimum. The author of our ingenuous tract descants,
indeed, on the hardships endured by fox-hunters, grouse-shooters, and
deer-stalkers, but says nothing of the noble sportsmen who merely wait
till the pheasants are driven past them, to slaughter them at their
ease as fast as loaded guns can be handed them, or of those who find a
manly pastime in shooting pigeons let loose from cages. Shall we form a
high opinion of the manly virtues of the well-to-do cowards who chase
tame stags, or of the low-class ruffians who let frightened and dazed
rabbits out of bags for a hopeless run for life before savage dogs? The
insensibility which delights in seeing a fox torn to pieces by hounds,
or which feels no pain when that excessively sensitive and timorous
creature, the hare, is seen dropping from exhaustion with a pack of
harriers in full cry on its track, is not an element of true manliness,
but a survival from a pre-human state. In the savage state the mighty
hunter was a hero because he bravely risked his life for the defence of
wife and child against strong and fierce beasts that might else have
devoured them, or endured toil and hardship, and encountered danger
in the search for food and clothing. But in England to-day hunting
is an anachronism, which survives only because land-monopoly, and an
unjust distribution of the national inheritance, have led our “splendid
barbarians,” in the absence of the need for work, through the pressure
of social distinctions, and the want of higher mental development, to
seek release from boredom and fill up an aimless life by the indulgence
and artificial stimulation of subhuman instincts.

Even those sports which, like cricket and football, take the form of
health-giving games in the open air, and may really help to develop
manliness, are to a large extent spoiled by the rise of professionalism
and gambling. The great crowds which assemble to see other men engage
in the hazardous game of football, and to exercise themselves merely
in betting on the players, are being trained neither in manliness nor
morals. We should indeed do all in our power to cultivate manliness,
but it must be the quality which truly answers to the name; a fortitude
capable of enduring hardships without whining, and a deliberate human
courage which realises the danger, and consciously and resolutely
faces it, not the mere brute fearlessness of animal excitement,
insensibility, and stupidity.

It behoves all, therefore, who have the interest of humanity at heart,
and are striving to help it on its upward way, to set themselves
resolutely against blood-sports in any form, as a relic of savagery and
an enemy to true manliness, and to endeavour to dissociate manly and
health-giving sports from gambling, and to abolish the professional.
To do all this effectively we must work for the abolition of the
parasitic classes; we must strive to give all a share in the national
inheritance, and such an education, mental, moral, and physical, as may
fit them for the work of life, and for a wise and healthy use of the
increased leisure in which all should share.



It is often maintained that hunting, whatever objections may be
raised to it on grounds of humanity, is beneficial to the public. The
reasoning by which it is sought to establish this thesis reminds one of
that by which Dr. Mandeville endeavoured to prove that private vices
were public benefits; but it is proposed in this article to examine
the subject more fully. Cruel sports, generally speaking, are not, I
believe, public benefits, even from the pecuniary point of view; but as
the grounds for this assertion are not the same in all instances, they
cannot all be dealt with in a single article. Nor do I propose in the
present instance to deal with all sports that come under the head of
hunting. I shall confine myself to hunting animals with hounds, the men
and women who participate in the sport being usually mounted.

Labour generally may be referred economically to the two heads of
productive and unproductive. It is productive if it produces more than
the cost of the labourer’s maintenance (taking his past maintenance
preparatory to his work into consideration), and unproductive if it
produces less. And in general there is an objection to employing labour
in a less productive manner than it might otherwise be employed. A
great author or a great statesman might be able to earn more than his
bread by breaking stones on a road, but everyone would regard forcibly
employing him in this manner as a waste of labour. Horse-labour and
even dog-labour may be similarly regarded; or, to put it otherwise,
the labour of every horse and every dog represents a certain amount of
human labour which must be regarded as usefully employed or as wasted,
according to the work which the horse or dog does. If I set a horse to
draw a big stone to the top of a hill and then down again, everyone
would regard this amount of horse-labour as wasted; but it would be
different if the same horse were employed in drawing stones to the
site of a building where they were required. And in estimating the
productiveness or unproductiveness of labour in any given case, we must
have regard to the value of what it produces to society in general, and
not merely to the amount which the labourer receives for producing it.
One might earn £100 by walking a mile in the shortest period on record
without producing anything of the slightest utility to mankind.

Human labour, however, in a country like this, is capable of
producing more than is required to feed and clothe the population and
to supply them with fire and shelter. There remains a surplus which
may be devoted to mental improvement or to any innocent recreation.
Recreation must be regarded as a good thing, and labour employed in
producing recreation cannot be regarded as absolutely unproductive.
It may, however, be unproductive in the wider sense in which I have
used the term--viz., the value of the product does not suffice to pay
for the maintenance of the labourers. I mean, of course, the value of
the labour _to society_. Those who employ it, I presume, consider it
worth what they expend on it--_to themselves_. But they might be of a
different opinion if they had less money to expend.

Turning then to our recreations, I think I may lay down in the first
instance that the best recreations are those in which the largest
number of persons can participate. And it is more especially desirable
that the working-classes should participate in them, for the man who
spends most of his available time at hard labour stands in much greater
need of recreation than the man or woman who has little or nothing
to do--whose ordinary life, perhaps, includes more recreation (or,
at least, idleness) than labour. But working men cannot afford to
keep or to hire horses, and seldom possess any skill in horsemanship;
and if one of them did happen to obtain a mount and was able to ride
successfully, his presence at a hunt would be resented as an intrusion.
Hunts are recreations for the wealthy classes only, and this mainly
results from their expensiveness. The poor could not join in a hunt
without paying more than they could afford to pay. But money always
represents labour, and an expensive recreation means a recreation on
which a large amount of labour has been expended without any useful
result except this recreation.

In these last remarks I have anticipated the next condition of a good
recreation--viz., that the expenditure of labour on it should be small.
The more labour we can spare from recreation for works of more abiding
utility, the better. But hunting is very expensive, and the promoters
are not philanthropic enough to expend the additional sum which might
enable a greater number of persons to participate in it. The hounds
consume a large amount of food which could be used to better purpose if
they were out of the way. A number of persons are employed in looking
after the hounds whose labour has no productive result except in
contributing remotely to the pleasures of the chase. Kennels have to
be erected for keeping them, and horses and machines are required for
moving them. Great numbers of horses used in hunting do no other useful
work whatever, and these are often high-class and high-priced horses.
Then there are huntsmen, whippers-in, etc., to say nothing of the food
supplied to the horses, and of the persons employed to look after
the foxes or other animals intended for the chase. Fox-coverts often
occupy land that would otherwise be valuable, and the preservation of
deer and hares prevents land from being put to the best agricultural
uses. That hunting always reduces, and very materially reduces, the
proceeds of labour available for the use of the public cannot, I think,
be seriously disputed; and in many cases labour is diverted from these
productive uses to the production of recreation for others, in which
the labourer himself does not participate. A similar remark is often
applicable to grooms.

Another condition of a good recreation is that it should do no harm
to others. But can this be said of hunting? As regards fox-hunting
in particular, the fox is a mischievous animal, and would have been
exterminated like the wolf long ago if he had not been preserved for
the pleasure of hunting him. He kills young lambs, fowl, and anything
of the kind that comes in his way; and woe to the farmer who revenges
himself by killing the depredator! Even the hare and the deer are far
from innocuous. But the hunt does more mischief than the animals that
are hunted. The hunters break down the farmer’s fences and frighten
his cattle and sheep, often causing the loss of his calves or lambs,
and injure his crops, while he has no redress because the landlord has
reserved the right of hunting over the land.


We are told that hunting necessitates a large expenditure of money
in the district. Every expensive amusement must do that. But if the
most expensive amusement was the most valuable to society, it would
follow that the way to benefit society was to increase the amount
of unproductive labour. But even with productive labour our great
object is to obtain the desired product with as little labour--as
little expense--as possible. The more cheaply we can produce the
necessaries and conveniences of life, the better it will be for the
people. This will hardly be disputed. Why, then, should we apply a
contrary rule to recreations, and lay down that the more expensive
they are, the more beneficial they will prove to society? Granted that
a hunt produces a large expenditure of money in the district, that
some deserving shopkeepers and tradesmen make a profit thereby, and
some honest labourers are employed at better wages than they would
receive if the money in question were not expended--what then? What
would become of the money thus expended if there were no hunt? It is
almost certain that it would be expended in a manner more advantageous
to the community. Even if the owner of the money wished to invest it
rather than to spend it, he would probably do so by employing it in
the working of a railway, or a mine, or some other work of public
utility. If he simply lodged it in a bank it would enable the bank to
lend more money to its customers to be employed by them for useful
purposes; and if he kept it in his house in bank-notes the results
would be pretty much the same as if he had lodged it in the bank. It
might not, of course, be expended in the district, but we should look
to the interests of the kingdom rather than those of the district.
But save in the few cases in which persons come from a distance to
enjoy the pleasures of hunting in a particular district, I believe the
money would usually be expended in the same district, and with greater
advantage to the inhabitants, if there were no hunt. The comparison
should not be made between the district with this expenditure and
the same district without it, but between the district with this
expenditure and the same district with the same sum expended in a
different manner. Would the same sum, if otherwise expended, be likely
to prove less beneficial to the district? I think not.

Hunting is, therefore, objectionable as a recreation on many distinct
grounds. It affords recreation to only a small number of persons, these
being the very persons who are least in need of recreation. It involves
the expenditure of a large amount of labour (direct or indirect) as
compared with the amount of recreation produced; and, passing over the
sufferings of the hunted animal altogether, it involves no small amount
of injury and accidents both to men and animals. But, in the wider
view of the modern economist, it is also objectionable as cultivating
a callousness of feeling and disregard of suffering which is in the
last degree undesirable--and especially as cultivating this feeling
among the class from which our legislators are largely drawn. They
become inured to regard with indifference not only the sufferings of
the hunted animal, but those of other animals and even people which
they witness. If there were less hunting and shooting among the class
from which the majority of the legislature is drawn, the humanitarian
cause would receive a fairer hearing in Parliament, as would also be
the case if flogging were abolished at the public schools, where the
members of this class are for the most part educated. But what are
we to think of education at a school like Eton, where flogging is
supplemented by a pack of beagles? I would rather “teach the young idea
how to shoot” than how to hunt, or how to flog. How often do we hear
the argument--stated in somewhat more circuitous terms--“I hunt, and
therefore hunting must be right. I was flogged, and therefore flogging
must be right!”

We have only to break down the barriers between the different classes
somewhat farther, in order to put an end to all such class-amusements
as hunting undoubtedly is. In cricket, for example, we see gentlemen
and professionals playing side by side and vying with each other as
to who will do the best service for his county, while thousands of
spectators of all ranks assemble to watch the play. But in games
conducted on horseback the public can rarely participate. When, like
polo, they are conducted in a confined space, the public can look on,
but they cannot keep the hunt in view for any considerable time.

In dealing with sports and their cost, there is a principle which
we must never lose sight of: Sports do not produce money or wealth.
Their function is merely to distribute money or wealth when otherwise
produced. Is the mode of distribution which we are considering a good
one? It is certain that those who decided on expending their money
in this manner were not actuated solely or chiefly by considerations
of public utility; and considering how difficult it often is to
determine what mode of expending a given sum will on the whole
prove most beneficial to the public, the chance of our hitting on
an almost perfect distribution, when we are looking at the whole
subject from a totally different standpoint, seems rather remote. This
undesigned coincidence may have taken place, but it is one which, in
the circumstances, requires to be strictly proved. I assume that the
majority of sportsmen are not fools or bad people. How would such men
and women as they are have spent this money if the hunting-field had
been closed against them? And would this new mode of spending it be
better or worse for the public than the present one?



    “The Game Laws are the tribute paid by the over-worked and
    over-taxed people of England to the Lords of the Bread--to
    the predatory classes who have appropriated the land and
    depopulated the hills and valleys, to increase their own
    selfish pleasures. The destruction of the Game Laws is as
    inevitable in the long-run as was the destruction of Slavery,
    the repeal of the Corn Laws, the overthrow of an alien
    Church in the sister isle; but the fight will be a stiff one
    between the freemen of this country and our savage or only
    semi-civilised aristocracy and plutocracy.”--ROBERT BUCHANAN.

By the common law of England and Scotland, following that of Rome, wild
animals in a state of nature are common to all mankind. A legal writer
says: “By the very nature of the case wild animals cannot be made the
subject of that absolute kind of ownership which is generally signified
by the term _property_. The substantial basis of the law of property is
physical possession, the actual power of dealing with things as we see
fit, and we can have no such power over animals in a state of nature.”

It is, for instance, impossible to confine pheasants, partridges,
grouse, etc., to a particular estate, and, taking fences as they are,
the same may be said of the great majority of hares and deer in this
country. Moreover, the individuals of each species are so much alike
that it is impossible for anyone to identify them as his property. All
legal writers without exception acknowledge that living wild creatures
are not property. Nevertheless, the Game Laws were placed on the
Statute Book to establish a proprietary right in those animals, and,
as Mr. Barclay, Sheriff of Perthshire, once told a House of Commons
Committee, they “put game, which was not property, in a higher scale
than property.” They did this by means of a system of licences for
killing and selling game, and by making trespass, which, in itself, is
only a civil offence, a criminal offence of great magnitude.

At an early stage it was discovered that a free right of hunting was
incompatible with the preservation of game in sufficient numbers to
afford enough sport to the monarch and the nobles, and accordingly a
series of laws known as the Forest Laws were enacted, by means of which
certain districts were reserved for purposes of sport to the sovereign.
The increase of population soon rendered protection necessary for areas
outside the Royal Forests if the supply of game was to be kept up, and
the result was a series of enactments known as the Game Laws. It will
thus be seen that the right of taking wild animals, which originally
belonged to the whole people, was filched from them by a selfish and
privileged class, who, we need hardly add, stole the common lands, by
means of “Enclosure Acts,” in much the same manner. It is strange but
true that, except in Ireland, and in the north of Scotland, the people
have come to acquiesce more readily in the robbery of the land than in
the robbery of the game.

The Act which is considered the first or oldest of the Game Laws became
law in the thirteenth year of Richard II., and it is interesting to
observe the reasons for placing it on the Statute Book which the
legislators of the time advanced. Said they:

    “It is the practice of divers artificers, labourers, servants,
    and grooms to keep greyhounds and other dogs, and on the
    holidays when good Christian people be at church, hearing
    Divine service, they go hunting in parks, warrens, etc., of
    lords and others, to the very great destruction of the game.”

We know hundreds of districts, from Kent to Caithness, of which the
same might be written to-day, thus showing that the Game Laws have
utterly failed to obtain a moral sway over the people.

The term “game” includes hares, pheasants, partridges, grouse,
black-game, ptarmigan, and bustards. In addition to these there
are a number of animals to which one or other of the game statutes
extends protection. These are rabbits, deer, roe, woodcock, snipe,
quail, landrails, and wild duck. Although there is no property in
wild animals, it has been settled by the Courts that the right to
pursue or take game is a private privilege. In England this privilege
belongs to the occupier of the soil, in the absence of any agreement
to the contrary, and in Scotland to the owner. In the former country
agreements reserving the game to the owner are almost universal. The
occupier or the owner of the soil has the right to claim any game
killed on his land; but such is the curious state of the law that the
poacher who takes away what he kills is not guilty of theft.

The Game Laws are held in abhorrence by the majority of people,
chiefly for two reasons: first, on account of their injurious economic
effects, and, second, because of the harsh punishments which they
inflict for trivial offences. By their action large tracts of land
have been rendered almost totally unproductive, cultivation has been
abandoned and immense numbers of labourers thrown out of employment;
the crops of farmers near preserves, although often on a different
estate, have been injured or even destroyed; ill-feeling has been
engendered between the authors and the victims of game preserving,
and not infrequently the landless, workless labourer has been driven
to break the law in order to procure food, thus landing himself in
violence, or even murder. In addition to all this, the irrepressible
sporting appetite of the people, sustained by a consciousness of having
moral right on its side, leads to a reckless love of breaking laws
which are unjust, unfair, and injurious. No believer in democratic
government, no lover of order, can uphold statutes which demoralise
those who live under them.[9]


But bad as are the Game Laws in essence, the manner in which they are
administered makes them far worse and more hateful. It is notorious
that a large number of Justices of the Peace are game preservers. The
people who break the Game Laws almost all belong to one class, the
people who sit in judgment on them almost all belong to another and
hostile class. The effect of this arrangement is made very clear by the
following questions and answers:--

    When Mr. J. S. Nowlson was asked by a Select Committee of the
    House of Commons, “Do game preservers ever act as magistrates
    in cases of offences against the Game Laws?” he replied, “Yes,
    but not in their own cases. For instance, if A has got a case B
    will take it, and if B has got a case A will take it.” Again,
    “In case a man was brought up for an offence against the Game
    Laws, and there was a certain amount of evidence given, do you
    think he would stand a greater chance of conviction than if it
    were an offence against some other law?” Reply: “We do consider

Everybody acquainted with agricultural labourers is aware that a
strong feeling prevails among them that justice is not to be expected
in cases of offence against the Game Laws. A House of Commons Committee
reported that “very few of the Game Law convictions are regular in
point of form, and they would have to be set aside had they gone before
the Judges.” It was a common occurrence for justices to sentence
poachers to longer terms of imprisonment than the law allowed. For
this and other reasons the Home Office has liberated a vastly greater
proportion of offenders against the Game Laws than of any other class
of offenders. An impartial observer might be excused for thinking
that the penalties for poaching are high enough to satisfy the most
exacting. For instance, the penalty for trespass in pursuit of game in
the daytime is a fine of two pounds with imprisonment in default, and
if the offence be committed by a party of five or more the penalty is
five pounds each with imprisonment in default. In the case of night
poaching, the penalty for a first offence is three months’ imprisonment
with hard labour, and at the expiration of that period the offender
is compelled to find sureties for his good behaviour for a year, or
undergo a further imprisonment for six months with hard labour. For
a second offence the penalty is six months’ imprisonment with hard
labour, and at the end of that time the offender must find sureties for
his good behaviour for two years or undergo a further twelve months’
imprisonment with hard labour. For a third offence the penalty is seven
years’ penal servitude. But this is not all. If a party of three or
more enter land at night for the purpose of taking game or rabbits, and
if any of the party be armed with gun, crossbow, firearms, bludgeons,
_or any offensive weapon_, each and everyone of such persons shall be
liable to penal servitude for fourteen years.

Yet there are persons who think that those laws are not severe enough.
A witness, for instance, before that Select Committee cheerfully
proposed that poaching be made felony all round. It is needless to say
that the harshness, or rather barbarity, of the punishment in store for
them renders poachers but little inclined to yield themselves up when
they find themselves confronted by gamekeepers. This accounts for much
of the bloodshed of which we read in connection with poaching. It also
accounts for much of the sympathy which is felt for poachers by all
classes of the population except game preservers and their agents.


Among the many unsatisfactory products of the Game Laws not the least
objectionable is the gamekeeper. Mr. Joseph Arch once said: “Keepers
are generally taken from the louting men one sees idling about.” The
knowledge that their masters sit on the Bench of Justice, and that
their evidence will be believed in preference to that of trespassers,
frequently emboldens them to acts of the worst brutality. Some years
ago, in charging a Grand Jury at the Nottingham Assizes on certain
indictments for malicious wounding and murder, arising out of poaching
affrays, Mr. Justice Vaughan Williams commented on the way in which
these private police of individuals go out armed to the teeth,
accompanied by savage dogs, _and without any code of instructions to
regulate their proceedings_. Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, referring to
arrests, etc., said: “I believe myself that in three cases out of
four, the gamekeepers act illegally.” Whatever the men may have been
originally, it is certain that their method of living demoralises the
great majority of keepers. They are often selected at first because
of their brutality. A humane man would be useless in such a post.
Head-keepers, who are generally well paid, as a rule act honestly by
their employers, but it is a fact known to the writer that the more
poorly paid ones not only take game for their own use, but frequently
sell it in order to provide themselves with drink. In almost every
district in which game is preserved it is well known to the working
people that the keepers will purchase, on behalf of their masters, eggs
which they know to have been stolen.

In August, 1900, a show of gamekeepers’ dogs was held at the Royal
Aquarium, London. We quote from a London paper:

    “I would rather have one of these dogs with me in a night
    row than three men,” said Mr. W. Burton to a representative
    yesterday. He was gazing fondly at five ferocious-looking
    bull mastiffs in the Westminster Aquarium, where a show of
    gamekeepers’ dogs is being held. “If they were unmuzzled,” he
    added, “one alone could tear a strong man to pieces in five
    minutes. At Thorneywood Kennels, Nottingham, I have trained
    these dogs to help the gamekeeper in catching night poachers,
    and although they are kept muzzled a man has no chance with
    them. If he attempts to run away he is knocked down instantly
    and kept a prisoner until the keeper arrives. They are the
    same breed of dogs that were used for bull-baiting in the last

With long imprisonment, or even penal servitude staring him in the
face, and the prospect of immediate violence from man, or dog, or both,
it is not to be wondered at that the poacher often turns out “a rough
handful.” All will remember Kingsley’s lines:

    “There’s blood on your new foreign shrubs, squire,
      There’s blood on your pointer’s feet;
    There’s blood on the game you sell, squire,
      And there’s blood on the game you eat.”

It is probably not too much to say that hundreds of encounters between
poachers and gamekeepers occur every winter in this country. Except
in cases where life is lost, the London papers do not report them,
and even then they do not always do so. Local papers, published in
districts where game is preserved, are the sheets to search for such

It may be mentioned here that in the neighbourhood of London
gamekeepers are much less aggressive and brutal than in remote
districts. Near London they seldom attempt to arrest poachers. Acting
under orders, presumably, they content themselves with following
poachers and identifying them if possible, for the purpose of summoning
them afterwards. Moreover, the punishment meted out to poachers in the
neighbourhood of the Metropolis is much lighter, as a rule, than in the
provinces. This is believed on all hands to be due to the criticism and
denunciation of harsh sentences by _Reynolds’s Newspaper_ and other
Radical organs. Such is the effect of this criticism that some years
ago, after the occurrence of some bloody affrays, orders were given on
some estates near Croydon, that in future poachers were to be simply
ordered off the land, and were not even to be summoned unless they
resorted to violence. These orders were afterwards withdrawn, but the
fact that they were given shows that game-preservers are fearful of
losing their privileges if public attention is directed to them.

In reading reports of poaching affrays it is well to remember that
it is almost invariably the gamekeeper’s side of the case that is
presented to the public. If the poacher escapes, he of course is
never heard from. Even if he be caught he is seldom believed, and his
description of the encounter seldom reported. There are exceptions to
every rule, but it is the sincere belief of the present writer that,
when they find themselves confronted by keepers, the vast majority of
poachers would go away quietly if allowed. The abolition of the power
of arrest would, therefore, be a long step in the direction of peace.
The poacher, whether he poach for food or for sport, never believes
that he is guilty of a moral crime. For this reason, the gamekeeper
will never command the respect which is almost invariably accorded the
policeman, even by the most hardened criminals. Policemen, as a rule,
are humane in their treatment of prisoners, and chiefly because they do
not suffer from any sense of personal wrong. With gamekeepers the case
is widely different. From the depredations of the poacher they suffer,
or think they may suffer, in repute or convenience, or even in pocket.
In the circumstances it is little wonder that they frequently act
brutally. As there are exceptions to all rules, there are, of course,
exceptional magistrates who occasionally let light in on the dark ways
of game-preserving. The following paragraph, culled from the _Airdrie
Advertiser_ of March 5, 1898, reveals a case in point:

    “CHARGE AGAINST GAMEKEEPERS.--On Thursday, before Sheriff
    Mair, at Airdrie, Robert Connor M’Guire, steelworker, 14,
    Watt Street, Mossend, pleaded guilty to a charge of daylight
    poaching. He was fined 31s., including expenses. Accused
    complained to the Sheriff that he had been assaulted by
    the two gamekeepers, and that he still bore marks of their
    violence upon his arms, which he was desirous of showing. The
    gamekeepers were called in and appeared to treat the accusation
    lightly, one of them remarking that ‘it was immaterial to him.’
    The Sheriff sent for the Inspector of Police, whom he directed
    to take the gamekeepers into custody and M’Guire to make the
    charge of assault against them.”

We may here mention that all appointments of gamekeepers are invalid
unless registered with the Clerk of the Peace. Very many of them
are not so registered, and, therefore, their arrests, and attempted
arrests, of poachers are illegal. The truth is that on many preserves
nearly all the young labourers are keepers’ assistants. Many of them
are desirous of getting appointed as keepers so as to escape from hard
work, and these are often anxious to distinguish themselves by brutal
conduct towards not only poachers, but the most harmless trespassers.


And what sort of man is he against whom all this machinery of law and
authority and brutality is directed? We refer to the poacher. There
is probably no better-abused individual on earth; but abuse is not
argument, and still less is it evidence. If the reader will turn to
the report of the Select Committee of 1846, he will see that after
carefully sifting the evidence the conclusions arrived at were: (1)
That the poacher was generally far superior to the average agricultural
labourer in intelligence and activity; (2) that the great majority
of poachers would break no law other than the Game Laws; (3) that
the poacher was not regarded as a criminal, either by himself or the
people amongst whom he lived; and (4) that this opinion was shared even
by the game-preserver, who not infrequently offered him employment
as gamekeeper. The reader may not be aware that many poachers become
keepers. The well-known writer, “Stonehenge,” remarks on this:

    “Reformed poachers, if really reformed, make the best keepers,
    but it is only when worn out as poachers that they think of
    turning round and becoming keepers.”

It is worthy of remark that every writer on sport of any ability (as
far as we are aware) feels himself constrained to say a good word of
the poacher. We have just now at our elbow a well-known and standard
work, entitled “The Moor and the Loch,” by John Colquhoun. Writing of
poachers in bulk (so to speak) the author denounces them in unmeasured
terms, but when he comes to speak of individual poachers whom he had
known, his tone is altogether different. We quote from vol. ii., p. 146:

    “When I first knew Gregor More, of Callander, his poaching days
    were over, for he had a mortal disease from having lain out in
    the fields one cold night. He still managed to saunter down the
    river and give those beautiful sweeps with his line and salmon
    fly which were the admiration of the whole clachan.… I looked
    at him with some curiosity; a nobler specimen of manhood I
    never beheld. Upwards of six feet high, of the finest herculean
    proportions, and straight as an arrow, he seemed equally formed
    for activity and strength. There was nothing mean or sneaking
    about his manner. His face was open and manly, and, despite the
    sad discipline to which he had exposed both mind and body, he
    had not effaced the natural and sure marks of force and truth
    from his countenance. Although wan and emaciated, there was a
    coolness, a will to dare in his eye, backed by his tremendous
    shoulders and still powerful frame, so that I could not look at
    him without thinking of the words, ‘Majestic though in ruins.’

    “Very unlike Gregor More was ----. Strange to say, he had once
    been a placed minister of the Kirk (answering to a beneficed
    clergyman), and although he often returned late on the Saturday
    night, after being all the week poaching the deer, his sermons
    were both clever and popular. I met him once when traversing a
    wild range of hills, and was impressed both with his general
    information and the courtesy of his address.”


Among the evils incidental to game-preserving, not the least is the
destruction of rare and beautiful birds and beasts. I remember how
there was on exhibition in the window of a Liverpool taxidermist a
splendid specimen of the golden eagle, measuring 7 feet 2 inches from
tip to tip of the wings, and 3 feet 2 inches from beak to tail. It had
built its eyrie in a small cave in the face of a high cliff at Benula
Forest, Glencannich, Beauly, N.B. It was watched by a keeper, who
descended the face of the cliff after dark, killed the mother bird, and
carried away the only eaglet from the nest.

In most preserves steel traps are set for the purpose of catching
birds or beasts of prey. When they are caught they are often allowed
to linger in agony for hours, or even days before being despatched.
The writer has seen dozens of hares which had each lost a leg in these
traps. When a fox is caught in this manner it will often gnaw the leg

The horrors of the battue have been described and denounced so often
that little need be said about it here. It is simple butchery, often
very clumsily performed. For days after a battue hares may be seen with
broken backs, dragging their hind-quarters after them among the bushes,
and pheasants may be seen running about with broken wings trailing the
ground. Pigeon-shooting from traps is justly condemned, but the evils
attending it are small compared with those inseparable from the battue.
Mr. Frederick Gale, in “Modern English Sports,” says: “At the Gun
Club Grounds and similar places, which are frequented by noblemen and
gentlemen, the cruelty is comparatively _nil_ to that occasioned by the
battue.” It is within our knowledge that the battue is condemned even
by gamekeepers. They cannot be expected to speak their minds freely
before their employers, but if questioned privately many will be found
to condemn it as affording no test of marksmanship, no opportunity for
exercise or excitement, and as being wasteful of the game. The animals
that escape wounded often become emaciated, or even die of hunger
before being found.

The game preservers are never tired of arguing that the preservation
of game increases the food-supply of the people. To this there are two
answers, either of which is crushing. In the first place, with the
exception of rabbits, game is scarcely ever touched by the masses, for
the very good reason that its price is far beyond their ability to pay.
In the second place, that which they do buy occasionally, rabbit, in
order to come within their reach has to be sold at a price far below
its cost of production. This is equivalent to saying that the same
amount of time, energy, capital, etc., employed in the production
of any other sort of food, would increase the food-supply to a much
greater extent.

It seems impossible to obtain an accurate estimate of the loss and
damage occasioned by game-preserving. We know, however, that the
Scottish deer forests alone cover an area of over two million acres,
and the best authorities assure us that all land which will rear
deer will rear sheep. The latter are vastly more profitable to the
community, although not always so to the landowner. But all must be
sacrificed to game-preserving. For this purpose are footpaths closed,
and labourers compelled to walk long distances to their work. For this
are children debarred from playing or picking flowers in the woods or
the glens. For this is the factory-worker or the slum-dweller forbidden
to breathe the pure air of the hills. For this are vast areas kept
barren, whilst millions hunger for the produce which they might have
yielded, and willing hands, only too anxious to till them, are driven
to seek employment in the already overcrowded docks.

And we think ourselves a practical people!


[9] See the “Report of the Land Enquiry Committee,” vol. i. (1913), Ch.
“Game.” Also, for some descriptions of Highland “Clearances,” the Rev.
Donald Sage’s book, “Memorabilia Domestica,” and “Gloomy Memories,” by
Donald McLeod.



There is one most regrettable result of killing for sport (and more
especially of game-bird shooting) which, though important in itself,
is yet frequently overlooked in discussing the question. This is the
destruction of wild life involved, other than those forms directly
slaughtered for pleasure. Sir Harry Johnston has written forcibly of
the necessity of insisting on the æsthetic value of wild animals in our
landscape, and the desirability of preserving the species that remain,
because they are beautiful and intellectually stimulating;[10] and
the ordinary Nature lover, not to mention the naturalist, cannot but
regard with detestation the ceaseless war of extermination waged by the
devotees of “shooting” on so many of our finest and most interesting
birds and mammals. Indeed, numbers of so-called bird-lovers not
actively opposed to shooting might change their views if they would but
reflect seriously on the damage to our native fauna, and the consequent
dulling of the charm of our country-side, which game-preserving
inevitably brings in its train. For--putting on one side the moral
issue--our British “game birds” cannot compare, for interest and
beauty, with many of the species which are sacrificed on their behalf,
or rather on behalf of the thoughtless folk who slaughter them for
amusement. Moreover, it must be remembered that we do not even possess
any great tract of natural country as a National Park or reserve, such
as Yellowstone Park in the United States of America, or its Canadian
equivalent, or the grand Swedish Wild Park in Lapland.

The gamekeeper, generally speaking, is the most ruthless of beasts of
prey. If he is a good gamekeeper his great aim is to see that there
is always a plentiful supply of partridges in his master’s fields,
pheasants in his master’s coverts, or grouse on his master’s moors, as
the case may be. With this object in view he endeavours to extirpate
all wild life which either is, or is supposed by him to be, in any way
inimical to the birds in his charge; and, unfortunately, owing to the
abysmal ignorance of the average keeper in all that relates to Nature’s
intricate interplay of what we choose to call useful, harmless, and
harmful forms, the list of _supposed_ enemies is a long one.[11]
Moreover, the special position occupied by the gamekeeper gives him the
power (a power all too frequently exercised) of shooting, either for
amusement or profit, any strange or rare bird that strikes his fancy,
besides making it very difficult to restrain his murderous propensities
even in the case of legally protected species. On the whole it may
safely be said that gamekeepers as a class are just as unappreciative
of the true beauty and interest of animal life as are their masters
the sportsmen. To quote one who, among all living writers, is probably
at once the most sympathetic and penetrating observer and the most
delightful interpreter of wild bird life: “The gentleman, like the
gamekeeper, cannot escape the reflex action of the gun in his hand. He,
too, has grown incapable of pleasure in any rare or noble or beautiful
form of life until he has it in his hand--until he has exercised his
awful power and blotted out its existence.”[12]


To come now to the _species_ which are thus warred upon on the plea
of facilitating “sport.” Taking the mammals first--and the list of
our British mammals is at best a miserably scanty one--we find that,
leaving out of consideration such exceedingly scarce ones as the wild
cat, polecat, and pine-marten, and such admitted marauders as the
stoat and rat, there still remain among those classed by gamekeepers
as “vermin,” the badger, the weasel, and the hedgehog: the first
perhaps the most interesting of all our wild quadrupeds, the two latter
certainly not the least interesting and charming. Yet although the best
authorities are agreed that the harm done by the badger to “game” is
almost infinitesimal, the keeper is usually his sworn foe.[13] Badgers
also suffer at the hands of the fox-hunting fraternity, being destroyed
because they are said to be harmful to young foxes, and because they
sometimes open up fox-earths which have been “stopped” in readiness for
the hunt.[14] This, it may be noted, affords another example of the
falseness of the argument so often advanced that fox-hunting is “fair”
because the fox has every chance left him to escape. Fortunately the
badger is a very shy, nocturnal animal, exceedingly wary and clever,
and in some few districts the landlords are enlightened enough to see
to it that he is left in peace.

The fiery little weasel--ruthlessly persecuted--is one of the farmers’
most trusty allies, for its food consists chiefly of voles, mice, and
rats. As for the hedgehog, deadly enemy of slugs and snails and insects
though it be, the fact that it will suck eggs if it gets the chance
suffices to make its corpse a welcome addition to the gamekeeper’s
museum--that collection of the rotting bodies of birds and small
mammals nailed or hung on to a tree or fence, with which all who have
rambled much in the woods and fields of our country-side must be
familiar. What a motley company may often be seen thus strung up on one
of these gibbets in some upland hedgerow or woodland glade: a selection
of stoats, weasels, moles, hedgehogs, crows, jackdaws, magpies, jays,
owls, sparrow-hawks, kestrels, merlins, and so forth, according to
the locality. The writer has actually seen--and it is not an isolated
instance--that delightful bird, the green woodpecker, occupying a
place among these trophies of the keeper’s prowess; and with regard to
another victim, the harmless nightjar (Wordsworth’s “buzzing dor-hawk,
twirling his watchman’s rattle about”), whose strange, churning note
is so pleasant a feature of an evening ramble in woody or heathy
districts, one keeper told Mr. Hudson: “I don’t believe a word about
their swallowing pheasants’ eggs, though many keepers think they do.
I shoot them, it’s true, but only for pleasure.”[15] The kestrel
again--the expressively named “windhover,” which hangs aloft poised so
gracefully against the wind--

    “As if let down from heaven there
    By a viewless silken thread”--

a little hawk which preys almost exclusively on voles, mice, insects,
etc., is a valuable friend to the farmer, and certainly no enemy to
the gamekeeper. Yet large numbers are destroyed by the latter; for as
Charles St. John, himself an ardent sportsman, wrote in his well-known
“Wild Sports of the Highlands”:[16] “It is impossible to persuade a
keeper that any bird called a hawk can be harmless; much less … that a
hawk can be useful.” And much the same still applies, it is shameful to
relate, to other extremely useful species, such as the barn-owl--which
farmers ought to encourage--and the tawny-owl, etc. Worse than this:
incredible as it may sound, there are several well-authenticated cases
of _nightingales_ having been destroyed by keepers because their
singing kept the pheasants awake at night! And Mr. Hudson, among
other instances, records a case where a whole heronry was blotted
out, the birds being shot on their nests after breeding had begun,
because their cries disturbed the pheasants; and yet another, where
a whole tract of woodland estate was denuded of doves, woodpeckers,
nuthatches, blackbirds, missel and song thrushes, chaffinches, and many
other smaller birds, all of which were shot, any nests found being
also destroyed. The keeper said he was not going to have the place
swarming with birds that were no good for anything, and were always
eating the pheasants’ food.[17] Though these, of course, are extreme
cases, they are notable as showing to what lengths this folly may be
carried--what monstrous sacrifices are made to the insatiable Moloch of

Besides such striking birds as the brilliant, eager jay, the elvish
magpie, the crows, the fierce sparrow-hawk, and the bold little merlin,
which are still, relatively speaking, common, and the various beautiful
birds of prey--the kite, the harriers, the peregrine falcon, and many
others now almost exterminated--the British craze for game-preserving
has led to the bitter persecution of two especially fine species,
both of which have been almost extirpated in Southern England, at any
rate--the raven and the absolutely innocent buzzard. The former, round
which centres so much of myth, legend, and story, is now seldom met
with, save in a few secluded mountainous districts, though less than
forty years ago the head-keeper of Exmoor Forest was able to record the
destruction of fifty-two of these grand birds in a single year;[18]
while the Common Buzzard, which in virtue of its voice, appearance,
large size, and grandeur of flight, is about the nearest approach to
the eagle still left to us, is now, alas! exceedingly uncommon. Not
long ago, while wandering near Dartmoor, I was fortunate enough to
watch six buzzards floating high in the air together, circling round
above one another in great spirals, and uttering from time to time
their wild plaintive cry: an extremely rare sight in England to-day,
and one the beauty and impressiveness of which I shall not soon
forget. Any true nature-lover who has watched these splendid soaring
birds on the wing will readily understand what an irreparable loss
the gamekeeper’s ban on them is inflicting on our landscape, more
especially in these days when, in spite of the trammels of modern
civilisation, an ever-increasing number of people are learning to
appreciate the joy of a more direct communion with wild nature, and,
incidentally, are discovering the truth of the poet’s words:

    “… that such beauty varying in the light
    Of living Nature, cannot be portrayed
    By words, nor by the pencil’s silent skill;
    But is the property of him alone
    Who hath beheld it, noted it with care,
    And in his mind recorded it with love.”


Next to the gamekeeper, who, after all, is but the instrument of
the game-shooter, and the “collector” (whose crimes in respect of
our rarer avifauna would fill a volume), the worst sinners are those
gun-sportsmen whose amusement is the wanton destruction of wild life,
without even the flimsy pretext that their victims are eatable. Nothing
comes amiss to them--from seals,[19] and rare birds like the osprey and
the great northern diver, to seagulls, shore-birds, and waders, and
even poor little pipits and thrushes. These are the folk of whom Sir
Harry Johnston has truly observed that “they are often not nearly so
interesting, physically and mentally, as the creatures they destroy.”
They are dingy-souled Philistines, to whom a dead bird in the hand
is worth more than many living birds in the bush. Some even profess
themselves bird-lovers.[20] A West Country farmer’s wife once observed
to me: “My husband is a great lover of birds; he’s got several cases
full of stuffed ones that he shot himself.” This is as though one
should prefer an ancient Egyptian mummy to the chance of watching and
studying a living breathing being of that race. Little wonder if, when
thinking of this senseless and careless and callous destruction of
so much feathered loveliness, we should feel inclined to echo Robert
Burns’s angry words:

    “Inhuman man, curse on thy barb’rous art,
    And blasted be thy murder-aiming eye.”

Moreover, the “deep-rooted instinct,” about which we hear so much,
can easily be diverted to a far finer, more beautiful, and more useful
pleasure than the absurd, antiquated, and useless one of _killing_ for
sport. I can speak from my own personal experience in saying that the
actual thrill and joy of tracking and watching wild creatures for study
and observation is far superior to that which is derived from tracking
and watching them for slaughter. In other words, hunting animals to see
how they _live_ is finer sport than hunting them to see how they _die_.

It seems, therefore, that the real issue is between Natural History
as opposed to _Unnatural_ History. On the one hand, grouse, pheasants
(“semi-domesticated exotics”), and partridges (very likely imported),
reared at immense cost for slaughter: on the other, all these
infinitely more varied and natural and gracious creatures--the true
sylphs and elves of our woodlands--whose glad, free beauty so thrilled
Meredith, and drew from him that impassioned cry:

    “For joy in the beating of wings on high,
    My soul shoots into the breast of a bird,
    As it will for sheer love till the last long sigh.”

And all this wild, winged life possesses a twofold beauty: for it is
beautiful both in itself, and--as poetry all down the ages has borne
witness--in its influence on the mind of man.


[10] “British Mammals,” 1903.

[11] I can speak from a fairly extensive acquaintance with keepers in
various districts; and (to quote impartial opinion) a pheasant-shooting
friend lately observed to me, while discussing the absurd destruction
of kestrels: “The English gamekeeper is a fool: there’s nothing to be
said for him.” And Mr. J. G. Millais, another sportsman, in his great
work on “British Mammals,” remarks that “gamekeepers are often among
the most unobservant of men” (vol. ii., 1905). _Cf._ also, _e.g._,
Seebohm’s “British Birds” (Falconidæ, _passim_).

[12] W. H. Hudson, “The Land’s End,” 1908.

[13] See, _e.g._, Sir A. Pease, “The Badger,” 1896.

[14] Similarly, one of the reasons often given for otter-hunting is
that otters eat trout and salmon, and so lessen the angler’s chance of
killing more of them.

[15] “Adventures among Birds,” 1912.

[16] Ninth edition, 1907.

[17] “Adventures among Birds,” 1912.

[18] W. H. Hudson, “Birds and Man,” 1901.

[19] Here is one instance selected from many. “During a yachting cruise
in the summer of 1902, the suite accompanying ‘very distinguished
persons’ gleefully took advantage of their proximity to little
frequented Scotch islands, to shoot and leave, to kill uselessly
without excuse, quite a large number of the seals which still remain in
Scottish waters” (Sir H. H. Johnston, _op. cit._).

[20] Perhaps from similar causes to those which lead Sir Alfred Pease,
in defending his hunting habits, to inform us, “I hunt, paradoxical as
it seems, because I love the animals” (see “The Badger,” 1896).



Undoubtedly we are a complacent and unimaginative nation, which defects
probably explain and excuse certain indictments brought against us by

Complacency and practicality may have raised us commercially and
politically, but they do not breed the finer graces, and they are apt
to misrepresent us. No one, for example, would say that the English or
British race was callous or cruel in comparison with other races. On
the contrary, its reputation for kind-heartedness stands higher than
that of its compeers and rivals. Yet this same race is engaged to-day
in the practice and pursuit of the most brutal sport conceivable.

Of bull-baiting, of cock-fighting, of various barbarous pastimes of
our fathers we know nothing now save by hearsay; but it is safe to say
that whereas bull-baiting and cock-mains have long been prohibited by
law, the most cruel sport remains unpenalised and undiscouraged; nay,
even protected by the law. I can only attribute the continued existence
of fox-hunting to that lack of imagination to which I have referred.

It is necessary for one making a desperate protest of this kind
against an inhuman sport to dissociate himself at the outset from
sentimentalism and the sentimentalist. Death is inevitable. We must
look facts in the face. The law of life is Death, and Nature has
ordained that the strong should prey on the weak throughout her serried
ranks of organic life. The sentimentalist will shriek in vain against
the destruction of animal life, simply because he is shrieking against
an ultimate law of Nature. Nature destroys ruthlessly, and so does
man, who is part of Nature. But what civilisation may and must demand,
what humanitarianism should and does demand, is that this inevitable
accomplishment of death should happen with the least possible pain.

Death, in short, is necessary, but torture is not. And fox-hunting
is framed to produce the maximum of torture to the quarry. A fox is
“vermin,” they say; then in Heaven’s name let it be classed as vermin,
and destroyed as such. But what happens is precisely the reverse of
this. Foxes are carefully preserved in order that they may be hounded
to a hapless, miserable death, the conception of which transcends any
ordinary imagination. Gamekeepers and farmers, to whom foxes are a
grave nuisance, are paid _not_ to destroy them painlessly by gun or
otherwise. Gamekeepers, indeed, receive so much for each fox found on
their preserves.

The object, then, of the hunt is to keep foxes from being destroyed in
the natural course of that warfare between item and item of human and
feral life, and to preserve them for a more cruel fate. Let us see how
cruel that is. The gamekeeper on land which is announced to be hunted
on a certain day has carefully during the night earthed up a fox’s hole
so that the beast cannot get back to it in the morning. At a certain
hour pack and company arrive, and the master learns from the gamekeeper
that he is likely to “find” in such and such a spinney. Thither all
proceed, gay ladies and fresh-coloured men, and presently hounds give
tongue and are in cry. They have “found.”

Immediately the field is in commotion. Gay ladies and fresh-faced men
thunder off irregularly. The fun has begun; they are going to enjoy
themselves. But what is the fun? To each of those amiable people it
no doubt is involved in the music of the hounds, in the company, in
the cross-country ride, in the excitements and hazards and humours of
the run. To the master and his huntsmen it involves in addition the
responsibility for keeping hounds in hand--a matter of considerable

But what does it involve to the fox? This sleek, furry creature that
steals chickens and ducks, and young pheasants and partridges, who is a
nuisance to farmer and gamekeeper alike, but to preserve whom is made
worth their while--this poor “vermin,” having no “earth” to hide in,
is flying for his life before a pack of strong dogs, any one of which
would be capable of answering for him.


He has (it may be) three or four hours’ run before him, with that
terrible bell-tongued chorus behind him. One can conceive him towards
the close, his strength failing, even his vulpine cunning, his eyes
starting from his head and glassy with terror, his jaws dropping
foam, his heart like a hammer that must break, straining--straining,
helplessly, hopelessly towards some covert that he knows now is not.
And upon that at last the more merciful rush, the feeble turn at bay of
an exhausted creature, the mellay of hounds, and--Death. Is it possible
to conceive that to a creature any greater torture could be applied?

Is it really necessary to deal with that fatuous argument--the
argument of minds that are either wholly dishonest or ignobly
unintelligent--that the fox is “vermin,” and that he enjoys the run?
Surely it has only to be stated to glare at one in all its farcical
absurdity. I know of a household in which it is considered cruel to
allow the cat to play with the mouse she has caught, and yet this
household--men and women--is engaged in hunting other “vermin”--the
fox--three days a week during the season.

Is it credible? But it is true. Women, who I have no reason to suppose
are not kind daughters and affectionate mothers, will gleefully
boast how they were in at the death--to see, that is, one poor furry
creature torn into pieces by a swarm of hounds while in the throes of
exhaustion, of terror, and of despair. Is it lack of imagination, or is
it worse?

And that time-worn defence of all sport is no defence here--I mean the
plea that men are improved in health and certain lofty animal qualities
by the pursuit of this savage sport. For, to speak plainly, the fox is
wholly unnecessary. The essentials of hunting are the hounds, who enjoy
themselves, the horses, who as a rule must be admitted to do likewise,
unless over-ridden, and the hunters, to whom the gratification of the
hunt is the ride through brisk air, the cross-country fences, the air
of adventure surrounding the run.

All these essentials are found equally in a drag hunt. Those who
have had experience of drag hunts (from which an animal quarry is
eliminated) will admit that there is as much pleasure in them as in
the fox-hunt. Nay, they are more advantageous, and for two reasons. In
a “drag” you are sure of a run; you are not dependent on the accident
of a “find.” And, secondly, you have the benefit of knowing when you
may order your change to meet you, and thus avoid inflicting pain on
your horse. The drag obviates all cruelty in a sport which is otherwise
invigorating and virile. Therefore, in Heaven’s name, let the masters
of hounds, who are also men of feeling, cease to preserve the fox, and
cultivate the drag.

The abolition of the Royal Buckhounds did much to throw into disfavour
the abominable sport of hunting a tame stag, and it is known that
aristocratic circles do not look with favour on the atrocious sport of
coursing. Is it impossible to enlist the sense of the upper classes in
this country in the abolition of fox-hunting?


[21] This article originally appeared in the _Daily Mail_ of February
8, 1905.



    “If asked why I had gone elephant-hunting at the age of
    nineteen, I would say that it is simply because I am the lineal
    descendant of a prehistoric man.”

                                                          F. C. SELOUS.

Apparently there is a considerable public who like reading books about
the slaughter of what is called “big game,” or we should hardly have
such a continuous supply of them issued from the press. As, however,
vanity is apparently no small incentive to the deeds of the big-game
hunters, it is perhaps a fair deduction that the same feeling may have
something to do with the publication of their records, and that such
books are in fact not always speculations on the part of publishers,
but are sometimes printed by the authors themselves.

Certainly the unbiassed reader might be excused for agreeing with the
sentiment expressed in the preface of one of the exponents of the art,
when he writes: “I shall guard myself against the desire to make the
reader be present at the death of my 500 victims, which would be very
monotonous to him, for after all, though circumstances may vary, the
result of a hunt after wild animals is always the same.”

A study of several books of the sort certainly confirms the impression
that the subject is a very monotonous one. The illustrations also share
the same want of variety, for almost all represent dead animals, varied
only by the arrangement of guns and naked savages about them. They
apparently illustrate nothing at all but the one fact--which one would
think was neither surprising nor creditable--that the perpetrators,
with the aid of Express double-barrelled rifles, Winchester six-shot
repeaters, revolvers, explosive bullets, smokeless powder, rockets,
the electric projector, Bengal lights, etc., and a band of natives to
load and work the machinery, succeed in destroying the lives of some
more beautiful animals. As it is expressed by one author: “At the very
spot where a minute before there rose, in all its savage beauty, this
majestic conception of Nature, the largest and the most powerful of the
animals of the earth, nothing more than a mass of grey flesh appears
in the blood-spattered grass.” The climax is reached when we see the
“hero,” as sometimes happens, sitting with proud mien on the top of
some huge animal, not apparently realizing that the same juxtaposition
which brings out the size of the animal is apt to suggest also the
_smallness_ of the man whose greatest pride and delight can be wantonly
to destroy so grand a creature. We must beg to differ with this
writer’s enthusiastic exclamation that elephant-hunting is certainly
“the greatest and noblest sport in the world.” Rather we should be
inclined to call it the meanest and most contemptible abuse of man’s
superior powers.


Of the means employed to accomplish the hunters’ ends let us say a few
words. Explosive bullets we know have been universally condemned in
human warfare on account of their barbarity, but against defenceless
animals they are still held to be legitimate by so-called sportsmen.
Thus, we read: “The impact causes the bullet to expand. Often it
breaks into pieces or else takes a mushroom shape, the head in its
tremendous velocity dragging and catching with its edges the flesh and
viscera; and it often happens in the case of delicate animals that
upon leaving the body it makes a hole as big as the crown of a hat.”
That a sportsman writing for other sportsmen should feel no shame in
making such a statement shows only how we take our morality from our
surroundings, and how demoralising in this case the surroundings must
be. After this, we cannot expect to find much chivalry displayed in
this “the greatest and noblest” of sports, and we cannot be surprised
to find the author telling us with pleasure how in pure wantonness
he hid behind a tree within 10 yards of a female elephant and lodged
a bullet in her heart. This, however, is outdone by an incident in
another volume we remember, where we were told that the finest stag was
shot by a certain Grand Duke, “while it was asleep, at 20 yards.” In
fact, most big-game hunters seem--perhaps not unnaturally--to suffer
from a similar want of chivalry. We find Mr. Seton-Karr, an authority
on the subject, relating how one of his party imitated the young fawn’s
cry of distress, when, as he says: “The immediate result was to entice
within range numbers of Virginian deer or blacktail, most of them
does, and eight fell victims to this somewhat unsportsmanlike device.”
Whether such treachery is to be considered “unsportsmanlike” must
depend on what meaning we attach to the word, but if it means “unlike a
sportsman,” we fear the word is misused here.

Of the impartiality of the big-game hunter in his slaughter we have
many instances. Any creature that can be shot is fitting game for
him, and he delights in shooting it. One well-known writer gives the
following list of creatures killed by him during six weeks:

    “Five elephants, 2 lions (male), 8 leopards, 2 wart hogs, 11
    great spotted hyænas, 7 striped hyænas, 4 oryx beisa antelope,
    10 awal antelope, 2 common gazelle, 2 bottlenose antelope,
    2 gerenuk antelope, 1 lesser koodoo, 18 dig-dig antelope, 4
    bustard, 2 small bustard, 2 sand grouse, 3 genet, 14 guinea
    fowl, 22 partridge, 4 hares, 30 various.”

Thus 155 animals--mostly wholly unoffending creatures--were
slaughtered by one man in six weeks. We are assured that on a second
expedition much the same bag was made, but that he then got no
elephants (which are rapidly being exterminated in that country). To
further whet the appetite, the would-be young slaughterer is favoured
with a view of a room in the mighty hunter’s house, which is decorated
(or disfigured) apparently from floor to ceiling with the heads,
skulls, and skins of these slaughtered animals--“trophies,” they are
called--with a lavishness hardly inferior to that exhibited in a
butcher’s or poulterer’s shop at the season when we commemorate the
birth of Christ.


Of the actual cruelty involved in this kind of amusement--for it
professes to be nothing more--we may give a few specimens:

    “My victim, which I see only through a curtain of raindrops,
    visibly suffers, her flank swelling out abnormally and then
    subsiding; she is shot in the lungs. We pass round her in such
    a way that she shall not see us approach, but she seems more
    taken up with her sufferings than with us, and at the moment I
    am going to fire she falls down on the grass, still breathing.
    I draw near and give her the _coup de grâce_ behind the ear.
    Around her is a large pool of blood, which the rain carries in
    a red stream towards the bottom of the little valley.

    “It is the male at which I fired first of all. As I afterwards
    found, his shoulder was broken. Maddened by pain and his feeble
    efforts, the animal roars with rage, and, blowing furiously
    with his trunk, tears at everything within reach.… His cries
    and groans become so terrible that they must be heard a mile

    “Poor beast!… Never have I been able to contemplate so near
    the death of an elephant in all its details. She is lying eight
    yards from us in the full sunlight at the edge of the water,
    which is tinged with red, and we look on in silence while
    life leaves the enormous body; her flank heaves, blood flows
    from breast and shoulder, her mouth opens and shuts, her lip
    trembles, tears flow from her eyes, her limbs quiver; with
    her trunk hanging down, her head low, she sways to right and
    left, then falls heavily on one side, shaking the ground and
    spattering blood in every direction.… All is over!

    “Such a spectacle is enough to make the most hardened hunter
    feel remorse. It seemed to me that I had done a bad action.
    Several times have I said to myself, upon seeing those splendid
    animals suffer, that I ought to place my rifle in the gun-rack
    for ever.”

That a man who has spent several years in little else but the
destruction of animals for his own pleasure should feel even a
temporary remorse is evidence of the brutality of this particular
scene, but we do not know how to characterise the combination of
easy sentiment, costing nothing, with the cruel selfishness which
immediately turns to the account of fresh slaughter.


Or take the following bloody tale, told with evident pride:

    “As I came round a bush, I saw at the bottom of a kind of
    natural alley in the forest, framed in like a picture by the
    trees, a massive old female rhinoceros. She was facing me,
    and standing half in sunshine, half in shadow. From a bush
    protruded the hind-quarters of another. The distance was about
    seventy yards. I at once sat down and ‘drew a bead’ upon her
    chest. However, she swerved off, and the two broke away across
    the forest, crash after crash, dying away in the distance,
    marking their course as they receded. I followed, and once
    again caught sight of the animal standing motionless behind
    a bush; I fired, and the shot was followed by a couple of
    short, angry snorts, the stamp of heavy feet, and an appalling
    crashing which advanced and then swept round toward the left.
    A shot delivered standing, from the shoulder, was followed by
    two shrill squeaks, as the animal tottered a few paces and
    fell over on its side; I shall not easily forget that cry, a
    sound most disproportionate to the size and bulk of so large
    a creature, but which I instantly recognised, from Sir Samuel
    Baker’s description, as the death-cry of the rhinoceros; and
    the hearing of it filled me with a hunter’s joy!”

The hunter’s joy is in the death-cry of his victim, and he glories in
the fact that he is the descendant of a line of prehistoric savages.
What more evidence can we want of the barbarity of the whole proceeding?

Or, again, take and ponder the following extract from Ex-President
Roosevelt’s recent book, “African Game Trails”:

    “Right in front of me, thirty yards off, there appeared from
    behind the bushes, which had first screened him from my eyes,
    the tawny, galloping form of a big maneless lion. Crack! the
    Winchester spoke; and as the soft-nosed bullet ploughed forward
    through his flank the lion swerved so that I missed him with
    the second shot; but my third bullet went through the spine
    and forward into his chest. Down he came, sixty yards off,
    his hind-quarters dragging, his head up, his ears back, his
    jaws open, and lips drawn up in a prodigious snarl, as he
    endeavoured to turn to face us. His back was broken, but of
    this we could not at the moment be sure; and if it had merely
    been grazed he might have recovered, and then, even though
    dying, his charge might have done mischief. So Kermit, Sir
    Alfred, and I fired, almost together, into his chest. His head
    sank, and he died.”

Is it right, seriously speaking, that people who, by their own
admission, are still under the influence of very primitive impulses,
should be allowed to take their pleasure in this barbarous fashion
without some voice being raised on behalf of the innocent victims?


It appears that there are various ways of hunting the lion. One is to
track him to some thick part of the jungle, and having set fire to it
at one end to wait at the other with several guns until the terrified
beast rushes out and meets his fate.

Another method, which seems to us a specially dastardly one, is the
tying up of some domestic animal--donkey, bullock, or goat--as a “live
bait” for the larger carnivora, while the sportsman lies in wait,
safely concealed, to shoot the “game” or afterwards to track him out to
his lair. We read in one instance as follows:

    “I woke up to find myself being vigorously shaken by the
    watchman. A terrible struggle was going on between the donkey
    and the lion, but a cloud of dust completely obscured them,
    notwithstanding the brilliant light of a tropical moon. The
    lion succeeded in breaking the ropes and carrying off the
    struggling animal for some distance. The latter, however,
    gaining his legs, emerged from the cloud of dust and made
    slowly for the camp. Before he had gone many yards the lion had
    got him again, and this time he killed him without giving me a
    chance of aiming at all on account of the great cloud of dust.”

This practice is also mentioned in the Hon. J. Fortescue’s “Narrative
of the Visit to India of Their Majesties King George V. and Queen
Mary,” where we read:

    “Overnight, or in the afternoon, bullocks are tied up in likely
    places for a tiger, generally at the edge of thick jungle; and
    in the morning the shikaris (or gamekeepers, as we should call
    them) go round to see if any of these have been killed.”

Mr. Fortescue mentions that “the reports of the morning of December 26
set forth that, though sixty bullocks had been tethered in the jungle
on the previous night, only one had been killed.” The paucity of the
kills on this occasion is explained by the fact that many tigers had
already been shot and the “game” was becoming scarce. It is not stated
how many oxen in all were thus sacrificed.

Now we submit that, whatever may be said in defence of big-game
shooting in general, this usage of domestic animals--animals towards
whom in all civilised countries it is recognised that mankind has
moral, and often legal, obligations--is a very shocking malpractice.

That the actual suffering witnessed and chronicled is a small part
only of the whole is everywhere obvious. These books teem with cases
in which the animals escape wounded, to linger for days, or perhaps
weeks. We read, for instance: “I kill a big male (elephant). As to
the other male and a female, I wound but lose them both after a day’s
pursuit. However, as the male seemed to me to be doomed, I send four
men in search of it. They return without result after passing the night
out of doors. I found this elephant dead on the 26th”--that is, after
seventeen days in a climate where bodies do not lie long on the ground.
We can quite believe that this author does not overstate the case when
he candidly admits: “A good hunter, however careful, adroit, or well
seconded he may be, must count one out of every two animals which he
pursues as lost, owing to the many difficulties of his profession. This
is the minimum, for how many wound or miss three or four animals before
killing one!”


It remains only to say a few words about the morality of this form of
amusement. It is often said amongst humane people that hunting is only
a relic of more barbarous times, but it seems to us to be something
more than this. It may have taken its origin with primitive man, but it
has certainly made important developments of its own in recent times.
There is little in common between the act of the primitive savage,
who, for the sake of his food, pitted his strength and skill against
an animal, and the wholesale and reckless slaughter, aided by the
appliances of modern science, and carried on merely for the pleasure of
killing. Acts otherwise disagreeable and disgusting may sometimes be
justified by the motive, but a search through several volumes devoted
to this sport has failed to reveal any more exalted motive than the
desire for trophies--as they are called--to show to admiring friends,
and the love of killing. “At daylight we start on the trail, on which
there are spots of blood, followed by spurts and large clots. When we
see that, ‘the heart laughs,’ as the natives say, and victory is almost
certain.” We learn that “to bring down an animal as big as an omnibus
horse with each barrel, to roll it over as though it were a rabbit, is
a pleasure which one does not often experience”; and we are also told
how the author had “the pleasure of looking at a magnificent maneless
lion stretched in a pool of blood.”

Of the real motive there can unfortunately be little doubt, and the
excuses that are made by the perpetrators for their murderous work are
hardly worthy of serious consideration.

The moral defences for this kind of sport are of the same nature as the
famous snakes in Iceland--there are none; and the flounderings of the
big-game hunter, when he tries to defend himself, show that his ethics
and theology are of the same primitive kind as are his other springs of
action, handed down from barbarous ancestors.

One writer quoted above tells us, of course, that he gives place to no
one in his “love of all dumb creatures collectively”--whatever that may
mean--which he seems to think justifies his putting bullets into them
_individually_ whenever he has a chance, and letting them crash through
the forests, as he describes, in pain and terror, very likely to die in
agonies days afterwards.

Another excuse urged is that the hunting instinct in us has been
given us by God, and therefore should be followed. It apparently never
occurred to the writer that pity for the unoffending animals “butchered
to make a sportsman’s holiday” may also be a God-planted instinct, no
less than the love of slaughtering them, though apparently he vastly
prefers the latter.

That blood-sports develop and encourage a manly spirit, necessary for
the progress of the race and especially of the British nation, is
perhaps the most common. But here, surely, at the outset we need a
definition of terms. If manliness is synonymous with indifference to
the suffering of the weaker, and selfish gratification at the cost of
others, if it is manly to blow a piece “as big as the crown of a hat”
out of the side of a timid deer, just for amusement, then certainly
this sport is eminently manly. If, on the other hand, the qualities
which differentiate the civilised man from the barbarian are a greater
regard for the rights of the weak and a deeper sympathy with the
feelings of others, then without doubt these amateur butchers should be
regarded as an anachronism in civilised communities.

The chocolate-coloured native, we read in one book, “would not and
could not understand that we had not come to fight elephants and lions
like gladiators in the arena, but to overcome them by superior tactics
_without more risk than was necessary_, and by the judicious handling
of arms of precision” (italics ours). Certainly we think the naked
savage here shows a finer instinct for what may be noble and manly in
warfare than his so-called civilised brother. For the gladiator who
has the hardihood to meet his enemy in fair single combat, at mortal
risk to himself, we can feel some admiration, even though the game
is a barbarous one; but for the butcher who skulks behind a tree and
slays his innocuous victim by mechanical contrivances with as little
risk to himself as possible, we can feel nothing but contempt. “In
a short time,” we are told by our hero, “four elephants were lying
dead, shot through the head or heart, never having caught sight of
us. The remainder of the herd decamped.” A glorious achievement in
the estimation of the perpetrators apparently, but one to which we
personally should be ashamed to see our name attached.


In the preface to one of the books from which we have quoted, we are
told the story of a certain French hunter who, having been made an
officer, was asked by a friend if he intended now to give up killing
lions, to which he replied: “It is impossible; it seizes me like a
fever, and then I absolutely must go and lie in wait.” This does seem
in some cases to be the most charitable explanation of a strange mental
condition, and in view of the harm which these so-called sportsmen are
doing, it is becoming a question for the community, whether they should
not be temporarily confined, like others suffering from dangerous and
destructive mania. With shooting-galleries and a continuous series of
tin elephants and antelopes they could be allowed to indulge their
mania quite harmlessly, and in the evenings they could write up their
diaries and chronicle their wonderful adventures without fear of

Apart from the question of the cruelty involved, we have now the sad
spectacle of the rapid extermination of many animals merely for the
selfish gratification of a very small section of the public. The
recent efforts of Governments to save them are not likely to have much
effect. They are not based on any humane principles, of course, but are
directed apparently to preventing the total extermination of certain
animals, in order, at any rate partly, that a favoured few may still
have the pleasure of killing them under game restrictions.

Thus _The Times_ drew attention to the fact that in Nyasaland for a £10
licence you may kill 6 buffaloes, 4 hippopotamus, 6 eland, and so on up
to a total of 94 animals. For £10 you may buy the privilege to deprive
the world of 1 elephant, while you may kill 4 for £60. The writer of
the article from which we quote tries to show that the ivory of the
tusks will pay expenses.

We may quote here the following from an article by Sir H. H. Johnston,
on “The Protection of Fauna, Flora, and Scenery,” in the _Nineteenth
Century_, of September, 1913:

    “An agitation is again arising for leave to destroy the
    big game of Africa--especially in Rhodesia, Nyasaland, and
    East Africa--wherever there are possibilities of European
    settlement. The plea advanced now is that the big game, more
    than man or the smaller mammals and birds, serve as reservoirs
    for trypanosomatous or bacillic disease-germs, which are then
    conveyed by tsetse-flies or ticks to the blood of domestic
    animals and man. This argument should be examined with
    scientific impartiality, because so great is the blood-lust on
    the part of young Englishmen or their Colonial-born cousins
    that they are for ever trying to find some excuse to destroy
    whatever is large or striking in the local fauna.”

The only method which would have any likelihood of really protecting
the animals would be to make it penal for anyone to kill any of them,
or to have in his possession any skin, skull, or other “souvenir.”
Without their trophies and without the possibility of recounting their
exploits to their admiring readers, the big-game hunters would lose
their main stimulus, and might devote their time and energies to some
more useful and less barbarous pursuit.



We are often told that the true way to teach kindness to animals is “to
begin with the young.” Let us see how they begin with the young at the
chief of English public schools.

    “I have told the Master of the Beagles that he must not do
    anything which is unlawful. I am sure that he would not do
    anything cruel willingly. But until the common sense of the
    nation expresses itself in the shape of a law forbidding the
    hunting of wild animals, I cannot interfere with the Beagles,
    which are here an old institution.”

Such were the terms in which Dr. Warre, when Headmaster of Eton,
expressed his refusal--his first of many refusals--to substitute a
drag-hunt for the hare-hunt now in favour at Eton College; and his
argument has since been the subject of much humanitarian protest,
and of not a few memorials to the Governing Body. But there is one
point concerning Dr. Warre’s remarks which seems to have almost
escaped attention--that the Eton Beagles are not, after all, so old
an “institution” as his words would imply, in the sense of being
recognised and encouraged by the school authorities, for, as a matter
of fact, they have only been openly permitted since about sixty years
ago, and they were not actually legalised until 1871. In the old Eton
Statutes of Henry VI. it was ordained under the head of “Discipline”
that “no one shall keep in the college any hounds, nets, ferrets,
hawks, or falcons for sport,” and for this reason the authorities long
refused to give official recognition to the Beagles. In the reign of
Dr. Keate the hunt, according to Mr. Wasey Sterry’s book on Eton, was
“unlawful, though winked at,” and this state of affairs continued
until about the middle of the past century, when the Beagles began to
be regarded as on a par with cricket and football. At last, under the
revised Statutes framed by the new Governing Body, which was called
into being by the Public Schools Act of 1868, all earlier regulations
were repealed, and the Beagles became legalised, having thus passed
through the three successive stages of being prohibited, winked at, and
recognised as “an old Eton institution.”

It may seem strange that the sporting propensity of schoolboys should
have thus defied and survived the ban placed upon it by the pious
Founder; but the history of Eton shows it to have been always the home
of cruel sports. We are told by Sir H. Maxwell Lyte, the historian of
the school, that “sports which would now be considered reprehensible
were tolerated and even encouraged at Eton in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries.” “No work,” he says, “was done on Shrove Tuesday
after 8 a.m., and at Eton, as elsewhere on this day, the practice
prevailed of torturing some live bird. The college cook carried off
a crow from its nest, and, fastening it to a pancake, hung it up on
the school door, doubtless to serve as a target.” Then, again, there
was the once famous and popular ram-hunt. “The college butcher had to
provide a ram annually at election-tide, to be hunted and killed by
the scholars,” the unfortunate animal being hamstrung and beaten to
death in Weston’s Yard. Even in the nineteenth century such sports as
bull-baiting, badger-baits, dog-fights, and cat and duck hunts, were
“organised for the special edification of the Eton boys.”

It is from these good old times that the present hare-hunt is a
survival, and though it may now be conducted, as Dr. Warre has stated,
in a legal and “sportsmanlike” manner, this certainly was not the case
at a period no more remote than the headmastership of Dr. Balston
(1857-1864), as we learn from Mr. Brinsley Richards’ well-known book,
“Seven Years at Eton,” from which the following passage is quoted:

    “It is not pleasant to have to write that the Beagles were
    often made to hunt a miserable trapped fox which had lost one
    of its pads. Those who bought maimed foxes, as more convenient
    for beagles to hunt than strong, sound foxes, should have
    reflected that they might thereby tempt their purveyors to
    mutilate these animals. How could it be ascertained whether the
    fox supplied by a Brocas ‘cad’ had been maimed by accident or
    design? It was an exciting thing for jumping parties of Lower
    Boys, when out in the fields they saw the beagle-hunt pass them
    in full cry--first the fox, lolloping along as best he could,
    but contriving somehow to keep ahead of his pursuers; then
    the pack of about ten couples of short, long-eared, piebald,
    or liver-streaked hounds, all yelping; then the Master of the
    Hunt, with his short copper horn; the Whips, who cracked their
    hunting-crops and bawled admonition to the dogs with perhaps
    unnecessary vehemence; and lastly the Field of about fifty.”

It is specially worthy of note, as bearing upon a later controversy,
that Mr. Brinsley Richards states that “runs were far better when a
man was sent out with a drag.” The drag is thus proved to have been
in successful use at Eton almost as long ago as when the Beagles were
first openly tolerated.

The prohibition once being cancelled, the popularity of the hare-hunt
grew apace until it reached its zenith in the reign of Dr. Warre, when
the doings of the hunt were regularly reported--in choice sporting
jargon--in the _Eton College Chronicle_, so that the whole school,
even to the youngest boys, was made aware of them. A reference to old
numbers of the _Chronicle_ will show plenty of instances. Here are one
or two extracts taken almost at random from these records of the chase:

    “_March 20, 1897._--A hare was soon put up in the first
    wheat-field, and, running back through two small spinneys in
    the field she was found in, went away towards Ditton Park.
    Hounds ran very fast over the Bath Road and straight away into
    Turner’s gardens. After being bustled about for fifteen minutes
    in the gardens, our hare went away at the far end. Turning
    left-handed, our hare was viewed running parallel with the road
    and into some brickfields.… After we had been casting round for
    some time without success among the rows of bricks, hounds were
    taken back into a small hut. Hardly had they got inside before
    old Varlet pulled her out from under a rafter, absolutely

    “_February 23, 1899._--Time, one hour, fifty minutes. A very
    good hunt, since scent was only fair, and we were especially
    unlucky to lose this hare, which was beat when she got back to
    Salt Hill. On the next day we heard that our hare had crawled
    up the High Street to Burnham, and entered a public-house so
    done that it could not stand, and was caught by some boys, who
    came to tell us half an hour afterwards, but we had just gone
    home. Too bad luck for words!”

And so on, with repeated references to “breaking her up,” and hounds
“thoroughly deserving blood.”[22]

Here, again, is the published testimony of a spectator of one of these
successful runs:

    “On February 4, 1899, being in the vicinity of Eton, I had an
    opportunity of seeing one of these hare-hunts, and I will give
    a short and exact description of what took place.

    “At three o’clock some 180 boys, many of them quite young,
    sallied forth for an afternoon’s sport with eight couples of
    the College Beagles. A hare was found at 3.15 near the main
    road leading to Slough. It was chased through the churchyard
    and workhouse grounds at this town into a domain dotted with
    villas, called Upton Park. Escaping from this spot, it ran
    towards Eton, but soon doubled back to Upton Park, the numerous
    onlookers in the Slough Road lustily shouting at the dazed
    creature all the time. These circular chases were thrice
    repeated, the hare always getting back to Upton Park.

    “Twice did the animal come within a few paces of where I was
    standing, and its condition of terror and exhaustion was
    painful to behold. The boys, running after the hounds, were
    thoroughly enjoying the thing, and two masters of the College,
    I was told, were amongst them. Now for the final scene, at
    which a friend of mine was present.

    “The hare, which had been hunted for two hours, having got into
    a corner at Upton Park which was bounded with wire-netting, was
    seized by the hounds and torn. The master of the pack then ran
    up, got hold of her, and broke her neck. The carcass was handed
    to one of the dog-keepers, who cut off the head and feet, which
    trophies were divided among the followers. The keeper with his
    knife then opened the body, and the master, taking it in his
    hands and holding it high above the hounds, rallied them with
    cries, and finally threw it into their midst, as they had,
    in the language of the _Eton College Chronicle_, ‘thoroughly
    deserved blood.’

    “I make no comments upon these doings; I only say that I think
    the British public ought to know how boys are being trained
    at our foremost school in respect to the cultivation of
    compassionate instincts towards the beings beneath us.”

It is not surprising that the Humanitarian League should have
addressed remonstrances to Dr. Warre on the subject of the Beagles;
one wonders rather that this “old Eton institution” should have so
long remained unchallenged by societies which profess to protect
animals from injury, and to teach humanity to the young, especially
as Dr. Warre was himself a member of the committee of the Windsor and
Eton Branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals, and as Etonian subscriptions go yearly to provide a fund for
prosecuting carters and drovers who ill-use the animals under their


To all these protests Dr. Warre had practically but one answer--that
hare-hunting not being _illegal_, he could not interfere with the
liberty of the boys in the matter, many of whom, he stated, are in
the habit of hunting “when at home in the holidays, and with the
approval of their parents.” But this plea is at once invalidated by
the fact that many things are prohibited to schoolboys which may (or
may not) be permitted to them at home, and which are not in themselves
illegal. Some of the elder boys, for example, smoke when at home in the
holidays, and with the approval of their parents; yet if these young
gentlemen, relying on Dr. Warre’s argument, had started a smoking-club
at Eton, he would not have hesitated to interfere very promptly with
their freedom. Why, then, should an excuse which is not nearly good
enough to justify a smoking-club be seriously put forward by the
headmaster of a great public school when a cruelty-club is in question?

On one point only would Dr. Warre make any concession--viz., with
regard to the reports that appeared in the _Eton College Chronicle_ of
the “breaking up” of hares and the “blooding” of hounds. “The phrases
in question,” he said, “are among those current in sporting papers,
and I regret that they should have found their way into the pages of
the _Eton College Chronicle_, being objectionable in sound, and liable
to misinterpretation. I understand, however, that these phrases do not
imply anything more than that the dead hare is devoured by the hounds.”
This led to a pertinent inquiry in the press, whether the Eton boys
were in the habit of hunting “a dead hare.” The cruelty of the sport
obviously consists less in the actual killing of the hunted animal
than in the prolonged torture of the hunt that precedes the death--the
“bustling” which, as we have seen in the extracts from the _Eton
College Chronicle_, often renders the panic-stricken little animal
“dead beat,” “absolutely stiff,” “so done that it cannot stand.” And,
really, if the boys are encouraged to _do_ this thing, it is a somewhat
dubious morality which is content with forbidding them to _speak_ of
it! “Objectionable in sound” such practices are, beyond question; but
are they not also somewhat objectionable in fact?

Thus, while on the one side Dr. Warre hardened his heart and would not
lay a sacrilegious finger on the time-honoured institution which had
been forbidden in the Statutes of the Founder, humanitarian feeling,
on the other side, became more and more aroused, and memorial after
memorial was presented to the Eton authorities, suggesting that,
“as there is now an increasing tendency among teachers to inculcate
a more sympathetic regard for animals, it is desirable that Eton
College should no longer stand aloof from this humane spirit.” It is
significant of the growth of public opinion on this subject that,
whereas, some twenty years ago, the very existence of the Eton Hunt
was unknown to many except Etonians, we now find among the signatures
appended from time to time to these memorials such diverse names
as those of Mr. Herbert Spencer, Archbishop Temple, the Bishops of
Durham, Ely, and Newcastle, Dr. Clifford, Mr. Thomas Hardy, Mr. William
Watson, Mr. Frederic Harrison, Sir A. Conan Doyle, Sir John Gorst, Sir
Frederick Treves, and Lord Wolseley, also a number of heads of colleges
at Oxford and Cambridge, the headmasters of numerous grammar schools
and training colleges, officials of the branches of the Royal Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and many distinguished clergy
and laymen, representative of almost every shade of opinion.[23]

When it was known that Mr. Lyttelton was to be Dr. Warre’s successor
in the headmastership of Eton, it was thought probable that his
notorious humanitarian sympathies would lead him to the desired reform;
but these expectations proved to be too sanguine. The immense stability
of an “old institution,” in so conservative a stronghold as Eton, is a
fact that must be reckoned with; for Eton is not like Rugby, where a
reforming headmaster might venture, as Dr. Arnold did, to sweep away at
a stroke an ancient sporting custom which had nothing but its age to
recommend it. We all know the passage in “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”--the
speech of “old Brooke”--where Arnold’s abolition of the Rugby Beagles
is incidentally referred to:

    “A lot of you think and say, for I’ve heard you, ‘There’s this
    new doctor hasn’t been here so long as some of us, and he’s
    changing all the old customs.…’ But come, now, any of you, name
    a custom that he has put down.

    “‘The hounds,’ calls out a fifth-form boy, clad in a green
    cutaway, with brass buttons, and cord trousers, the leader of
    the sporting interest.

    “Well, we had six or seven mangy harriers and beagles, I’ll
    allow, and had had them for years, and the doctor put them
    down. But what good ever came of them? Only rows with all the
    keepers for ten miles round; and big-side Hare and Hounds is
    better fun ten times over.”

If we compare this passage with the report of Mr. Lyttelton’s address
to the Eton boys at the commencement of his headmastership, in which
he frankly avowed his own “strong opinions” on the subject of the
hare-hunt, but added that he did not hold these views in his boyhood,
and did not see why he should force them on the boys, we see the
difference, not so much between an Arnold and a Lyttelton, as between a
Rugby and an Eton. It is doubtful if even an Arnold could have safely
flouted Etonian susceptibilities in this matter of worrying hares with
hounds. The reason given by Mr. Lyttelton for allowing the hare-hunt to
continue is that all legislation which outstrips “public opinion” is
injurious and unwise, by which he presumably means the “public opinion”
of Eton itself--for it is certain enough that public opinion outside
Eton would bear the disappearance of the hare-hunt with equanimity--and
undoubtedly Eton opinion, to those who dwell under the shadow of
the “antique towers,” is a matter of serious consideration, however
medieval it may be. It is a curious fact that the large majority of
Etonians, though nowadays a bit ashamed of the ram-hunt and other
sporting pleasantries of a bygone period, do not in the least suspect
that their beloved hare-hunt belongs in effect to the same category of
amusement. Thus, Sir H. Maxwell Lyte, in his history of the school,
referring to the earlier barbarities, remarks that “it is evident that
in the time of Elizabeth cruelty to animals was not counted among the
sins for which penitents require to be shriven.” But what, it may be
asked, of the time of George V.? It is entertaining to find the _Eton
College Chronicle_ itself referring to the ram-hunt of the eighteenth
century as a “brutal custom,” and remarking that Etonians were “once so
barbarous.” Once!


The value of the moral instruction given at Eton, as far as the duties
of mankind towards the lower races are concerned, may be estimated
from the following sentiment of an Eton boy, quoted from a letter of
dignified remonstrance addressed to the interfering humanitarians: “A
hare is a useless animal, you must own, and the only use to be made of
it is for the exercise of human beings.” It will be seen that Etonian
philosophy is still decidedly in the anthropocentric stage. It is not
easy, even for the most progressively minded headmaster, to make any
immediate impression on such dense and colossal prejudice.

But let us at least take courage from the fact that the ram-hunt is
no more, that the college cook no longer hangs up a live crow to be
pelted to death on Shrove Tuesday, and that the Eton boys are not now
invited to indulge in the manly sports of bull-baiting, dog-fighting,
and cat-hunts. These recreations have gone, never to return, and it is
equally certain that, sooner or later, the hare-hunt will also have to
go. It is not to be supposed that Mr. Lyttelton, who is keenly alive
to the best and most humane tendencies of the age, is insensible to
the discredit which Eton incurs by thus prolonging into the twentieth
century a piece of savagery which Rugby, Harrow, and the other great
public schools have long outgrown and abandoned; or that he does not
feel the sting of Mr. W. J. Stillman’s remark that “the permission
given to the boys of Eton to begin their education in brutality,
when they ought to be learning to say their prayers, is the crowning
disgrace of all the educational abuses of a nation which instituted the
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.”

To those, of course, who regard blood-sports as not only a proper
pastime for men, but a desirable recreation for schoolboys, and
a fit form of training for military service, the whole protest
against the Eton hare-hunts must needs seem ridiculous; but even
these thoroughgoing sportsmen will have to admit that the trend of
public opinion is against them, else why does Eton now stand alone
among public schools in this matter? If the reasoning of the Etonian
apologists be sound, the _absence_ of Beagles at Rugby, Harrow, and the
other great schools, is a glaring defect in their system which ought
speedily to be remedied; yet we have not heard that any enthusiast
has gone so far as to suggest that the schools which have long since
abandoned hare-hunting should now make a return to it, and short of
this complete approval of the sport the excuses put forward on its
behalf are about as feeble as could be imagined.

It cannot, for instance, be seriously argued that boys whose
studies are notoriously endangered by the very numerous athletic
exercises--cricket, rowing, football, fives, racquets, running,
etc.--in which they are able to indulge, are in need of yet another
pastime in the form of hunting hares. Granted that it would be
inadvisable for the school authorities to preach advanced humanitarian
doctrines to boys whose family traditions and prejudices they are bound
to consider, still, it is not necessary to go to the other extreme
of encouraging them in familiarity with sights and scenes which must
tend to deaden the sense of compassion. From the moral standpoint,
blood-sports cannot be regarded in quite the same light as athletic
exercises; and there are many persons nowadays who, without raising
the question of the morality of field sports for adults, think that
the license given to young boys to spend their half-holidays in the
“breaking up” of hares is as great a stain on the English public-school
system as any of the admitted “immoralities” by which that system is

There is, in the opinion of humanitarians, a grave inconsistency
between the insistence of preachers and teachers on the duty of
kindness and consideration, and the sanction accorded by the school
authorities to practices the very reverse of these. Unconsciously,
perhaps, but none the less surely, the youthful minds which are trained
under such influences are affected in their turn, and learn to conform
superficially to maxims of piety and honour, while practically in their
own lives they are setting those virtues at defiance.


[22] It should not be forgotten that hare-hunting is also carried on
by our naval cadets. Here is an extract from the _Naval and Military
Record_ of March 1, 1906, describing a run with the Dartmouth
(“Britannia”) Beagles: “Just outside the covert a hare was moved in the
ploughing by hounds, and gave a most exciting chase around two fields,
and when killed was found to have only three legs.” A fine sport for
our future naval officers!

[23] It is also worthy of note that a memorial against the Dartmouth
Beagles, presented to the First Lord of the Admiralty by the
Humanitarian League in 1907, was signed by no fewer than twenty-five
headmasters of public schools. As a result of the League’s protests,
the grant of public money for the maintenance of this sport was



Everyone knows the old story of the Wildgrave, that spectral huntsman
who, for the wrongs done by him in the past to his suffering
fellow-creatures, was doomed to provide nightly sport for a troop of
ghostly pursuers.

    “The Wildgrave flies o’er bush and thorn,
      With many a shriek of helpless woe;
    Behind him hound, and horse, and horn,
      And ‘Hark away!’ and ‘Holla ho!’”

If we may judge by the signs of the times, a similar fate has now
overtaken the modern sportsman, who finds to his dismay that his proud
vocation no longer goes unchallenged, but that he is compelled to
stand on his defence before the force of ethical opinion, and to play
the part less of the pursuer than of the pursued. Nowadays it is the
humanitarians who, in the intellectual discussion of sport, derive keen
enjoyment from the “pleasures of the chase,” and having “broken up” the
Royal Buckhounds after a ten years’ run, are hunting the sportsman from
cover to cover, from argument to argument.

The sportsman, in fact, is now himself standing “at bay”; and it may
be worth while to consider what value, if any, attaches to the excuses
commonly put forward by him in justification of his favourite pastime.
On what moral grounds are we asked to approve, in this twentieth
century, such seemingly barbarous practices as the hunting to death
of stags, foxes, and hares; the worrying of otters and rabbits; or
the shooting of vast numbers of game birds in the battue? The hunted
fox, as we know, has many wily resources for throwing his pursuers off
the scent. What are the corresponding shifts and wiles of the hunted


The first, perhaps, that demands notice is the frequent appeal to
“Nature,” and even (when the hunter happens to be a man of marked
piety) to the savage instincts which “the Creator,” it is assumed, has
implanted. “Were not otter hounds created to hunt and kill otters?”
asked a devout correspondent of the _Newcastle Daily Journal_.
“Therefore,” he continued, “let me ask these persons (the opponents of
sport) what right they have to place their own peculiar faddism against
the wisdom of the Creator?” In like manner a distinguished hunter of
big game, Mr. H. W. Seton-Karr, has defended himself as follows in the
_Daily Chronicle_:

    “If a person experiences pleasure in the chase, such as in
    fox-hunting or deer-stalking, or even in lion-hunting, the
    rights and wrongs of that natural instinct are a personal
    matter between that man and his God. That, in common with all
    carnivorous creatures, we do possess God-planted instincts of
    the chase is a fact. Why did Almighty God create lions to prey
    nightly on harmless animals? And should we not, even at the
    expense of a donkey as a bait, be justified in reducing their
    number, sacrificing one for the good of many?”

The answer to all this pious verbiage is, of course, very simple. In
view of the fact that the sportsman of the present day professes to
be _civilised_, and is at any rate nominally a member of a civilised
State, it is quite irrelevant to plead that the propensity to hunt
is natural to the _savage_ man. We are continually striving in other
departments of life to get rid of ferocious instincts, an inheritance
from a savage past, which may or may not be “God-planted,” but are
certainly very much out of place in a society which regards itself
as humane. Why, then, should it be assumed that an exception is to
be made in favour of the hunting instinct? The charge against modern
blood-sports is that they are an anachronism, a survival of a barbarous
habit into a civilised age; nor can it possibly be any justification
of them to show that Nature herself is cruel, for as we do not make
savage Nature our exemplar in other respects, there is no reason why we
should do so in this. And as for the statement that a man’s treatment
of the lower animals is a “personal” affair “between that man and his
God,” it can only provoke a smile. For man is a social being, and not
even the sportsman, belated barbarian though he may be, can be allowed
the privilege of thus evading the responsibility which he owes to his
fellow-citizens in a matter affecting the common conscience of the race.

But the wild animals, it is argued, put themselves outside the pale
of consideration because they prey on one another. One searches in
vain for justice and mercy among the lower animals--such is the
strange reason advanced as an excuse for showing no justice or mercy
to _them_.[25] But, in the first place, it is not a fact that these
qualities are non-existent in the lower races, where co-operation is as
much a law of life as competition; and, secondly, if it were a fact,
it would have no bearing whatever on the morality of sport. For why
should we base human ethics on animal conduct? Still more, why should
we imitate the predatory animals rather than the sociable? And finally,
why, because some animals kill for food, should _we_ kill for pleasure?
The cruelty of Nature can afford no possible justification for the
cruelty of Man, for, as Leigh Hunt wrote in that trenchant couplet
which may be commended to the notice of the sportsman--

    “That there is pain and evil is no rule
    That I should make it greater, like a fool.”

Next we come to the kindred sophism drawn from “the necessity of
taking life.” To kill, we are reminded, is unavoidable; for wild
animals must be “kept down,” or the balance of Nature would be
deranged. That, of course, is undeniable; but, unfortunately for the
sportsman’s argument, it is a fact that the breed of foxes, rabbits,
pheasants, and other victims of sport, is artificially kept up, not
down, in order that there may be plenty of hunting and shooting for
the idle classes to amuse themselves with. So far from securing the
effective destruction of noxious animals, sport indirectly prevents
it; more than that, it causes the killing to be done not only
ineffectively, but in the most demoralising way, by making a pastime
out of what, if done at all, should be done as a disagreeable duty.
But here we must in justice mention a new and ingenious excuse for
blood-sports which (to add to its zest) was put forward by a clergyman.
It is necessary to take life, he argued, and what is necessary is a
duty, and it is right, as far as possible, to make a pleasure of one’s
duties, and therefore--but the conclusion is plain! Presumably the
reverend gentleman, had he lived a century back, would have found the
same pious justification for the practice of making up pleasure parties
to see felons hanged.


Speaking generally, we may class the remaining arguments under two
heads: those which aim at showing that sport is of benefit to mankind,
or at least not a symptom of cruelty in the sportsman; and those which
actually discover it to be a blessing to the animals themselves.[26] In
the former and more prosaic category must be placed the queer assertion
that sport “adds to the food-supply” of the nation. We have all read
how, after some aristocratic “shoot,” a number of pheasants or other
palatable game were presented to the local hospital. Sport, it is seen,
goes hand in hand with the charitable and the philanthropic--truly a
touching picture! But the fact remains that the cost of the animals
thus reared primarily for sport, and secondarily for the table, is
far in excess of their market value as food, and this at once knocks
the bottom out of the sportsman’s patriotic contention. Every stag
that is stalked, every pheasant that is mown down in the battue, and
every hare or rabbit that is knocked over in covert-shooting, has cost
the country much more to produce than it is worth when butchered; and
the game-preserver, far from being helpful to the community in this
respect, is a positive encumbrance to it, as wasting labour in the
production of what is not a food, but a luxury. Game is reared not for
the benefit of the many, but at the cost of the many, to gratify the
idle and cruel instincts of the few.

Not less illusory is the plea so frequently made in sporting journals
as a justification of sport, that hunting and shooting “give
employment” to a large number of people. “Do these hyper-humane
faddists,” asks the _Irish Field_, “ever consider how, by doing away
with many of what they are pleased to call spurious sports, they would
be taking the actual bread-and-butter out of the mouths of thousands
of men and their families? Hunting, shooting, and other sports give
employment to such a vast number of people, directly and indirectly,
that it would be nothing short of a national calamity if they were
discontinued for any cause.” What is really proved by such apologists
is that blood-sports are a terrible drain on the resources of the
nation, and that millions are annually diverted from productive labour
to be employed on the silliest form of luxury--the killing of animals
for the mere amusement of rich people. It is the old fallacy of
supposing that _all_ expenditure of money, without regard to the nature
of the commodities produced, is beneficial to the community at large.

Then there is the much-vaunted “manliness” of sport, so important a
quality, we are told, in an imperial and military nation. Yet what
could be more flagrantly and miserably _un_manly than for a crowd of
men to sally forth, in perfect security themselves, armed or mounted,
with every advantage of power and skill on their side, to do to death
with dogs or guns some poor skulking, terrified little habitant of
woodside or hedgerow? This is what Sir Henry Seton-Karr has to say on
this point:

    “Only those who have experienced it can realise the strength
    of the hunter’s lust to kill the hunted, though they may find
    it difficult to explain. It is certain that no race of men
    possess this desire more strongly than the Anglo-Saxons.…
    Let us take it that in our case this passion is an inherited
    instinct--which civilisation cannot eradicate--of a virile and
    dominant race, and that it forms a healthy natural antidote to
    the enervating refinements of modern life.”[27]

The obvious answer to this claim is that civilisation _is_ eradicating
the destructive instincts of sport--with extreme slowness, no doubt,
as in the case of all barbarous inherited tendencies, but surely and
certainly nevertheless; and the fact that blood-sports are already
condemned by many thoughtful people is a clear indication of what
verdict the future will pass on the profession of killing for “fun.”
That good physical exercise is provided by field sports none will
deny, but it is just as undeniable that such exercise can be as well
or better provided in other ways--by the equally healthy and far more
manly sports of the gymnasium and the playing-field, which, be it
noted, are capable of being utilised by a much larger number of people
than the privileged pastimes of the crack huntsman and “shot.” There
is no reason why the mass of the population should not, under a juster
social system, have leisure to derive benefit from cricket, football,
boating, hockey, and the other rational sports; but it is very evident
that only a very few can ever find recreation in those blood-sports
which are absurdly called “national.” The rational and humane sports
may be for the many; the “national” and cruel sports must be for the
few: that is not the least of the striking differences that distinguish

To contend that blood-sports have no injurious influence on the minds
of those who practise them seems about as reasonable as to assert that
effect does not follow cause. Yet it is frequently urged, in defence
of sport, that the pleasure is found not in the “kill,” but in the
chase. That may be true in a sense. What humanitarians hold is not
that sportsmen derive pleasure from the _mere_ infliction of pain,
but that they seek excitement without sufficient regard to the pain
inflicted, and that this is apt, in some cases, to breed a positive
love of killing, a real “blood-lust.” Take, for example, the following
remark quoted from the _Eton College Chronicle_: “At the time we are
writing, the Beagles have killed but twice, though by the time the
_Chronicle_ appears they may have increased this number by one.” Here
it will be seen that what the boys’ journal dwells on is precisely the
killing--surely a significant side-light on the influence of the sport.
There is no escaping this question, whether at Eton or elsewhere: Why,
if the painful pursuit of a sentient animal be not an essential part
of the amusement, is the drag-hunt refused as a substitute? And if the
drag be disdained as not sufficiently exciting, how can the inference
be avoided that the zest of the pastime is enhanced by the peril of the


But it is when he is demonstrating that sport comes as a boon and a
blessing to the non-human races which are the victims of it that the
sportsman is most entertaining. “They like it,” he asserts, when any
pity is expressed for the hunted fox.

    “Happy the hounds, loud-baying on his track!
      Happy the huntsmen with their murderous call!
    But the spent fox, dead-beat before the pack--
      His are the sweetest, strangest joys of all!”

This love on the part of certain animals for being hunted to death
is surely one of the most curious facts in natural history, and makes
it seem almost an injustice to horses, cows, pigs, and other domestic
creatures, that they are denied a privilege which is so freely accorded
to their wilder brethren. Why should deer, for instance, be specially
favoured in this respect? The stag, as a noble lord once remarked, is a
most pampered animal. “When he was going to be hunted he was carried to
the meet in a comfortable cart. When set down, the first thing he did
was to crop the grass. When the hounds got too near, they were stopped.
By-and-by he lay down, and was wheeled back to his comfortable home. It
was a life that many would like to live.” It appears, therefore, that
it is a loss, a deprivation, not to be hunted over a country full of
barbed wire and broken bottles by a pack of stag-hounds. Life is mean
and poor without it; for, to humans and non-humans alike, sport, as the
same nobleman expressed it, is “the gift of God.”

But the sportsman can be very “slim” when hard pressed in controversy
by his implacable pursuers, and among his many devices for confusing
the issue, the most subtle, perhaps, is the metaphysical argument which
pleads that it is better for the animals to be bred and killed in sport
than not to be bred at all, and that it is to the “preservation” which
sport affords that certain species owe their escape from extinction.
Mr. R. A. Sanders, late Master of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds,
has thus written of the stag (_Nineteenth Century_, August, 1908):

    “He has lived a life of luxury for years, and has a bad
    half-hour at the end. From his point of view surely the
    pleasure predominates over the pain. For if it were not for the
    hunting, he would not exist at all.”

When a Bill was introduced in Parliament in 1883 for the prohibition
of the cruel sport of pigeon-shooting, it was opposed by Sir Herbert
Maxwell on the ground that a pigeon would rather accept life, “under
the condition of his life being a short and happy one, violently
terminated,” than not be brought into existence; and the same sportsman
has since stated, as a “salient paradox,” that one who takes delight in
pursuing and slaying wild animals may claim to rank among their best
friends. It escaped his notice, as it escapes the notice of all who
seek refuge in this amusing piece of sophistry, that it is beyond our
power to ascertain the feelings or the preferences of a pigeon, or of
any other being, _before_ he is in existence; what we have to deal with
is the sentience of animals that _already_ exist.

And as for the contention that animals are “preserved” by sport, it
is sufficient to point out that it rests on a mental confusion between
the individual animal and the species. It would be little comfort to
the individual fox who is torn to pieces by the hounds to know, if he
could know, that his species is preserved by his tormentors, and that
the same process of death-dealing will thus be perpetuated. When it is
asserted that but for fox-hunting the fox would have been exterminated
in England like the wolf, the answer of course is that of the two
methods extermination is far the more merciful. Can it be pretended
that it would have been kinder to wolves to keep a number of them alive
in order that sportsmen might for ever pursue and break them up?

And, really, if it is so kind to animals to preserve them that they may
be worried with hounds, we ought to feel some compunction at having
allowed the humane old sport of bear-baiting to be abolished; for,
according to the same “salient paradox,” the bear-baiter was Bruin’s
best friend. It is sad to think that there used to be bears in many an
English village where now they are never seen!

It is for the fox, perhaps, that the sportsman’s solicitude is most
touching and most characteristic. “If we stay fox-hunting,” it has been
said, “foxes will die far more brutal deaths in cruel vermin traps,
until there are none left to die.” How tender, how considerate, is this
disinterested regard for the welfare of the hunted animal![29] The
merciful sportsman steps in to save a noxious species from extinction,
and in return for such “preservation” demands that the grateful fox
shall be hunted and worried and dismembered for the amusement of his
gentle benefactor. But are not our fox-hunting friends just a trifle
too clever in making, at one and the same time, two quite incompatible
and contradictory claims for their beloved profession--first, that
it saves the fox from extermination; and, secondly, that it rids the
country-side of a very mischievous animal? “For six good months,” says
the _Sportsman_, “he is allowed to frolic at his ease, with all his
poultry-bills paid for him.” The argument here is that there can be
no cruelty in fox-hunting, because the fox is preserved; but, in that
case, what about the following defence of fox-hunting by the editor
of the “Badminton Library”? “The sentimentalist,” he says, “does not
consider those other tragedies for which the fox is responsible--the
rabbits, leverets, poultry, and game birds that he devours daily. The
death of a fox is indeed the salvation of much life.”

So the farmer is to be grateful to the fox-hunter because the fox
is killed, and the fox himself is to be grateful to the same person
because he is _not_ killed! It is obvious that the sporting folk
cannot have it both ways; they cannot take credit for the destruction
of a pest and also for preventing that pest being exterminated by the
injured farmer. Let them choose one of the alternative arguments and
keep to it.

    “Hark ye, then, whose profession or pastime is killing!
      To dispel your benignant illusions I’m loth;
    But be one or the other, my double-faced brother--
      Be saviour or slayer--you cannot be both!”

The more one considers it, one cannot but smile at the sportsman’s
“love” for the animals whom he so persecutes and worries. Tom Tulliver,
we remember, was described by George Eliot as “fond of animals--fond,
that is, of throwing stones at them”; and so it is with this affection
of the sportsman’s. “What name should we bestow,” says an old writer,
“on a superior being who, without provocation or advantage, should
continue from day to day, void of all pity or remorse, to torment
mankind for diversion, and at the same time endeavour with the utmost
care to preserve their lives and to propagate their species in order
to increase the number of victims devoted to his malevolence, and be
delighted in proportion to the miseries which he occasioned? I say,
what name detestable enough could we find for such a being? Yet if we
impartially consider the case, we must acknowledge that, with regard to
the inferior animals, just such a being is the sportsman.”[30]


Such, then, are the arguments which are advanced in all seriousness,
and without a suspicion or twinkle of humour, to prove that
blood-sports are a benefit to mankind and to the lower races alike. But
before concluding I must mention one other piece of reasoning which
is as amusing as any specimen of sportsman’s logic--the “trust the
specialist” fallacy, which asserts that none but sportsmen can fairly
pass judgment on sport. For example, when a memorial was presented to
a former Prime Minister against the Royal Buckhounds, a certain paper
gravely remarked that “what proportion of the protesting gentlemen had
ever been on horseback, it was not easy to determine.” The assumption,
it will be seen, is that when any cruel practice is arraigned before
public opinion, we are not merely to trust the specialist on technical
matters that rightly lie within his ken, but we are to let him decide
the wider _ethical_ issues, on which, being no more than human, he is
certain to have the strongest professional prejudice. It is an argument
worthy of the Sublime Porte itself.

In like manner Lord Ribblesdale, when defending stag-hunting in
his book on “The Queen’s Hounds,” expressed the sportsman’s case
as follows: “Most people will agree that conclusions founded on
practice must always have a slight pull when placed in the scales with
conclusions based upon theory, hearsay, or conjecture--even granting
the fullest credit for sincerity and _bona fides_ to the opponents of

Now, it is, of course, absurd to represent the ethical objections to
sport as “based upon theory, hearsay, or conjecture,” for the methods
of sportsmen are well known and beyond dispute, and many of those who
most strongly condemn such practices have been sportsmen themselves and
are thoroughly conversant with the facts. But what I wish to point out
is that Lord Ribblesdale’s description of the sportsman’s defence of
sport as “a conclusion founded on practice” might be just as logically
applied to the criminal’s defence of crime. To invoke the judgment of
an expert on the morality of a practice in which he is professionally
interested is an error similar to that of setting the cat to watch the

On the whole, it is not surprising that the sportsman who can devise
no cleverer modes of escape from his humanitarian pursuers than the
sophisms above mentioned is already being brought to bay, and stands
in imminent danger of being, controversially, “broken up.” Indeed,
considering the nature of the arguments adduced in its favour, one is
inclined to think that sport must be not only cruel to the victims of
the chase, but ruinous to the mental capacity of the gentlemen who
indulge in it. It can hardly be doubted that the ludicrous aspect of
modern sport will more and more present itself to those who possess
the sense of humour; and we may even hope that the poverty-stricken
caricaturists of our comic papers will some day relinquish their
threadbare jokes over the blunders of the hunting-field and the
shooting-box, to discover that the subject of sport is rich in another
kind of comedy--the essential silliness of the habit itself, and the
crass absurdity of the arguments put forward by its apologists.


[24] Some of these fallacies have been incidentally referred to in
preceding chapters, but it is convenient, at the expense of a little
overlapping, that they should here be treated together.

[25] _Blackwood’s Magazine_, August, 1899.

[26] Both these lines of argument were followed by Dr. Lang, Archbishop
of York, when on a recent occasion (November 16, 1913) he pronounced
what may be called the Foxology at the dedication of a stained window
to the memory of an aged blood-sportsman who was killed in the
hunting-field. That a Christian minister should have been “launched
into eternity,” as the phrase is, while engaged in hunting a fox,
might have been expected to cause a sense of very deep pain, and even
of shame, to his co-religionists. What actually happened was that an
Archbishop was found willing to eulogise, in a consecrated place of
worship, not only the reverend gentleman whose life was thus thrown
away, but the sport of fox-hunting itself!

[27] “My Sporting Holidays,” by Sir H. Seton-Karr, 1904.

[28] But let us not forget the delightful remark of the Archbishop of
York, that “even the labourer, when he felt the stir of the Meet, got
just one of those fresh events, excitements, and interests that he
needed in what otherwise was often a very monotonous life.”

[29] This humane aspect of sport may be aptly illustrated by a passage
in De Quincey’s essay on “Murder considered as one of the Fine Arts”:

“The subject chosen ought to be in good health, for it is absolutely
barbarous to murder a sick person, who is usually quite unable to bear
it. And here, in this benign attention to the comfort of sick people,
you will observe the usual effect of a fine art to soften and refine
the feelings. From our art, as from all the other liberal arts, when
thoroughly mastered, the result is to humanise the heart.”

[30] Soame Jenyns, 1782.




    II. “BLOODING”                        155




    VI. COURSING                          170

   VII. THE GENTLE CRAFT                  174





It is often said, in attempted justification of “sport,” that it is
the best training for war. This is true only in the sense that as far
as concerns the creation and the perpetuation of a certain aggressive
spirit, war and sport are certainly kindred pastimes with a good deal
in common. They both date from a prehistoric period when man

                      “Butted his rough brother-brute
    For lust or lusty blood or provender,”

and both, having been prolonged into an age which ought to have left
them far behind with other antiquated barbarisms, are now defended by
the same moral and economic fallacies, as being, in the first place,
part of the great “struggle for existence,” “survival of the fittest,”
and so forth, and, secondly, as “good for trade.” Good for trade they
both are, in the sense that they help the few to snatch a temporary
profit at the expense of the many; and as for the survival of the
fittest, if you are determined to wrest that theory from its true
meaning, it may be made to cover both war and sport at a stretch. As
Robert Buchanan said:

    “Under the fostering wing of Imperialism, brute force is
    developing more and more into a political science. There is no
    excess of rapacity, no extreme of selfishness, no indifference
    to the rights of the weak and helpless, which Christian
    materialism is not ready to justify. The Englishman, both as
    soldier and colonist, is a typical sportsmen; he seizes his
    prey wherever he finds it with the hunter’s privilege. He is
    lost in amazement when men speak of the rights of inferior
    races, just as the sportsman at home is lost in amazement when
    we talk of the rights of the lower orders. Here, as yonder, he
    is kindly, blatant, good-humoured, aggressive, selfish, and
    fundamentally _savage_.”

We may take it for granted that, in the long run, as we treat our
fellow-beings, “the animals,” so shall we treat our fellow-men. In
spite of all the barriers and divisions that prejudice and superstition
have so industriously heaped up between the human and the non-human,
the fact remains that the lower animals hold their lives by the same
tenure as men do, and that there is no essential difference between the
killing of one race and of the other. The tiger that lurks in all of us
will not easily be tamed, so long as the deliberate murder of harmless
creatures for “sport” is a recognised amusement in every “civilised”
country. Once open your eyes to the kinship that links all sentient
life, and you will see very clearly the relation that subsists between
the sportsman and the soldier.

We recall an incident related some years ago at a Humanitarian League
meeting, where the craze for “big-game” shooting was being discussed.
Everyone knows how the possessors of such “trophies” as the heads and
horns of “big game” love to decorate their houses with these treasured
mementoes of the chase. It had been the fortune--good or bad--of the
narrator of the story to visit a house which was not only beautified
in this way, but also contained a _human_ head that had been sent home
by a member of a certain African expedition and “preserved” by the
skill of the taxidermist. When the owner of the head--the _second_
owner--invited the humanitarian visitor to see the trophy, it was
with some trepidation that he acquiesced. But when, after passing up
a staircase between walls literally plastered with portions of the
carcases of elephant, rhinoceros, antelope, etc., he came to a landing
where, under a glass case, stood the head of a pleasant-looking young
negro, he felt no special repugnance at the sight. It was simply a
part--and, as it seemed, not especially dreadful or loathsome part--of
the surrounding dead-house; and he understood how mankind itself is
nothing more or less than “big game” to our soldier-sportsmen, when
they find themselves in some conveniently remote region where the
restrictions of morality are unknown. The absolute difference between
human and non-human is a fiction which will not bear the test either of
fearless thought in the study or of rough experience in the wilds.

The temper which makes war still possible in the twentieth century
is that which is kept alive and fostered in so-called times of peace
by the practice, among other practices (for we do not, of course,
assert that sport is the _only_ accessory to war), of doing to death
thousands upon thousands of helpless animals for purposes of mere
recreation. Peace advocates who declaim against the infamies of war,
without taking note of the kindred infamies of sport, have, to say
the least of it, not looked very deeply into the subject of their
propaganda;[31] and precisely the same holds good of those “lovers of
animals” who are horrified at the idea of running a fox to death, but
are ready to accept the flimsiest of flimsy sophisms as an excuse for
going to war. Sport is, in truth, a form of war, and war is a form of
sport; and those who defend such institutions as the Eton Beagles, on
the ground that the schoolboys who indulge in them are thereby trained
to be the future stalwarts of Imperialism, are fully justified in
their contention--provided only that they look the facts of war and of
Imperialism in the face. The Etonians who, in the eighteenth century,
used to beat rams to death with clubs, and who now break up hares as
a half-holiday pastime, have always furnished a large contingent of
officers to the British Army. Need we wonder that wars flourish without
regard to morality or justice?

But when we turn to the assertion that the practice of sport is,
actually, the best _training_ for war, we find it to be contradicted
by facts. On this point we cannot do better than quote from a letter
addressed to the _Humanitarian_ by Mr. R. B. Cunninghame-Graham:

    “The rise of Japan and the fighting qualities of the Japanese
    have shaken sportsmen from their ‘sport-the-image-of-war’
    position. It is well known that not only are the majority of
    Japanese vegetarians, but that such a thing as a sportsman is
    unknown amongst them. Yet, without wishing to disparage the
    prowess of European soldiers, how many ‘sportsmen’ would wager
    much money on the chances of a thousand picked Europeans if
    opposed to a thousand Japanese soldiers in an open plain with
    no weapons but swords?

    “The Boer War, and the miserable figure cut by our officers in
    comparison with the Boer officers in both shooting and riding,
    disposed conclusively of the ‘sport-the-preparation-for-war’
    argument, so dear to sportsmen. In fact, ‘sport’ as understood
    in England cannot prepare men for war, even if they ride to
    hounds three days a week, shoot the other three, and read the
    _Pink Un_ on Sunday. English sport and war are different in
    their essence, and one has no analogy to the other.

    “In the one case men rise from a comfortable bed, bathe, and
    breakfast, and even if they are exposed to weather during the
    day, return at night to a well-cooked dinner and comfortable
    bed. The horses they ride are valuable, highly-trained animals,
    who are expected to put out their full strength for at most
    two or three hours, and are perhaps not required again for two
    or three days, or even expected to be required. The shooting
    is done under the same conditions, and though requiring skill
    (as does the riding in fox-hunting), is not of a nature to be
    useful in war.

    “In neither case does the ‘diversion’ conduce to the
    self-denying or abstemious habits so essential in war. Of
    course, I do not mean that sportsmen are of necessity of
    intemperate habits, but in war the conditions are different
    from those of sport. In the latter case the soldier rises,
    perhaps from a night of rain round a camp-fire, gets, without
    breakfast, on his half-starving horse, and jogs along all day
    at a footspace, to sleep, supposing there is no fighting and he
    has not been killed, once more by a camp-fire, perhaps again in
    rain, or in a driving wind.

    “Every condition under which the sportsman plays is different
    from those under which the soldier works. As in the Roman times
    regiments of gladiators proved the most useless at the front,
    so I believe a regiment all composed of sportsmen would make a
    miserable show before a thousand quite unsporting Japanese.”

To the same effect is the opinion of Sir H. H. Johnston, as expressed
in an article in the _Nineteenth Century_ of September, 1913.

    “One is told that fox-hunting is a splendid school for riders,
    the making of our cavalry, etc. Rubbish! Very few of our great
    cavalry officers have been fox-hunters, or willing fox-hunters,
    and practically none of the troopers. A large proportion of our
    mounted soldiers are recruited from townsmen who never learned
    to ride until they entered the riding-school. The Boers were
    admittedly the cunningest, most enduring riders recent warfare
    has known, but they, like their cousins of the Wild West, would
    probably show themselves duffers in the hunting-field; at any
    rate, they never practised in this school of steeplechasing.
    The last thing I desire to do is to undervalue riding as an
    exercise, an accomplishment, a necessary art in warfare, a
    school for teaching suppleness, coolness, and courage. But the
    fox is not a necessary ingredient in the curriculum.”

We conclude, then, that Sport, considered as a school for War, is
doubly to be condemned, inasmuch as, while it breeds the aggressive
and cruel spirit of militarism, it does _not_ furnish that practical
military training which is essential to successful warfare. Sport may
make a man a savage; it does not make him a soldier.


[31] Here, for example, is a suggestive heading of an article in a
London paper (October 27, 1913) in reference to a meeting of the German
Emperor and the Emperor Francis Joseph for the purpose of promoting
AUSTRIAN ARCHDUKE.” A strange way of inaugurating peace!




Of all practices connected with “sport” none are more loathsome than
those known as “blooding,” whether it be the “blooding” of children,
which consists in a sort of gruesome parody of the rite of baptism, or
the “blooding” of hounds--viz., the turning out of some decrepit animal
to be pulled down by the pack, by way of stimulating their blood-lust.
Here are a few examples:

On January 4, 1910, the _Daily Mirror_ published an account of the
“blooding” of the Marquis of Worcester, the ten-year-old son of the
Duke of Beaufort. In a front-page illustration the child was shown with
blood-bedaubed cheeks, holding up a dead hare for the hounds, while a
number of ladies and gentlemen were smiling approval in the rear.

Here, again, is an extract from the _Cheltenham Examiner_ of March 25,
1909, in reference to the “eviction” and butchery of a fox which had
taken refuge in a drain.

    “Captain Elwes’s two children being present at the death of
    a fox on their father’s preserves, the old hunting custom
    of ‘blooding’ was duly performed by Charlie Beacham, who,
    after dipping the brush of the fox in his own [_sic_] blood,
    sprinkled the foreheads of both children, hoping they would be
    aspirants to the ‘sport of kings.’”

Presumably the blood in which the brush was dipped was that of the fox,
not of Mr. Charles Beacham. But what a ceremony in a civilised age! One
would have thought that twentieth-century sportsmen, even if they would
not spare the fox, might spare their own children!

The following paragraph also appeared in a London paper in 1909:

    “A pretty little girl on a chestnut cob, with masses of fair
    curls falling over her navy-blue habit, was the chief centre
    of attraction at a meet of the West Norfolk Fox-Hounds at
    Necton. The pretty little girl was Princess Mary of Wales, and
    the day will be a memorable one in her life. She motored back
    to Sandringham carrying her first brush.… Princess Mary was
    ‘blooded’ by the huntsmen, and was presented with the brush,
    which was hung on her saddle.”

In connection with deer-stalking, the practice of “blooding” has been
described as “a hunting tradition which goes back to the Middle Ages,
and recalls the days when the gentle craft of venery was the most
cherished accomplishment of our monarchs.”


In the prosecution of Mr. Alexander Ormrod, joint Master of the
Ribblesdale Buckhounds, by the R.S.P.C.A. on November 11, 1912, for
cruelty to a doe, there was evidence that the unfortunate deer, turned
out in private to “blood” a new pack of hounds, was lame and wholly out
of condition; and, as _Truth_ remarked, “the mere fact that the animal,
although given a good start, only managed to get two or three hundred
yards away before being pulled down, ‘screaming like a child,’ was
quite sufficient to show that she was incapable of escape.” Take the

    “Mr. Marmaduke Wright, of Bolton Hall, a member of the Hunt,
    said he saw Oddie (a hunt servant) the day before the hunt took
    place. Oddie said they were going to let a lame deer out of the
    pen to blood the young hounds, and witness said he would not go
    out, as he did not care about hunting tame calves, much less a
    lame one.”

The statement of John James Macauley, an eye-witness, was that the deer
“scarcely put her hind-leg on the ground.”

    “She was followed by the hounds for a distance of about two
    hundred yards.… When the doe could see she was overtaken, she
    stopped, and he heard the poor little thing screaming like a

Lord Ribblesdale, called to speak as to the practice of blooding
hounds, condemned the method adopted by his colleague.

    “If blooding had been the object, his opinion was that there
    should have been a sudden, sharp, and decisive transaction
    [_sic_], which would have made the hounds, whenever they saw a
    deer, go at it. If they intended to blood hounds, the method
    pursued by Mr. Ormrod was most foolish. It was not an uncommon
    thing to blood hounds, and with regard to the question of
    cruelty, if they argued from elemental principles, all sport
    was cruel. He had hunted carted deer, and there had been no

Asked whether, if a lame, emaciated, and weakened deer were released
from a pen, it would be an unreasonable thing to hunt it, Lord
Ribblesdale replied--

    “With the ‘if,’ yes. This was a weak deer; therefore I should
    have blooded hounds with it.”

The magistrates decided that “there was not enough evidence to
convict,” but the prosecution did great service in showing what
horrible practices are still carried on under the name of “sport.”



Whatever differences of opinion may exist as to the morality of
“blood-sports” in general, there is one recurring feature of such
sports which, whether regarded from the humanitarian’s or from the
sportsman’s point of view, is almost equally repulsive. We refer
to the hunting, in some cases accidental, in others deliberate, of
gravid animals. That such hunting--of the hare, of the otter, of the
hind--takes place, there is no question whatever, as is proved by the
following facts.

It is quite a common practice to continue the hunting of hares with
beagles until the middle, or even to the end of March, by which time
many of the doe hares are heavy with young. Owing to the remonstrances
addressed to the headmaster of Eton by the Humanitarian League, the
Eton hunting season has now been curtailed, but it is still prolonged
beyond the date which has been suggested by the better class of
sportsmen. The experience recorded in the _County Gentleman_ (1906) by
the writer of the following letter, Mr. John A. Doyle, of Pendarren,
Crickhowell, seems conclusive:

    “The question you raise is one in which I feel a good deal
    of interest. I have not only been for some years master of a
    pack of harriers (foot), but I am also an Old Etonian, and
    have always felt much interested in the doings of the school
    beagles, and sympathy with them. Indeed, before I got your
    letter I had thought of writing to the headmaster, with whom
    I am--perhaps I should say was, a long time back--slightly

    “My own practice has always been to have one meet the first
    week in March, and then end the season. I was once or twice
    tempted to go on later, and once killed a doe in kindle.
    Since then I have kept to my rule. She gave us a sharp run of
    twenty minutes or half an hour. This, I think, disposes of the
    theory that a pregnant hare has no scent. Possibly she has
    less than she would have normally. But _per contra_ she must
    be handicapped by her condition. Then there is the risk of a
    chop. And it cannot be good for an animal big with young to be
    bustled and frightened.

    “There is yet a worse danger. In some forward seasons there
    may be leverets by the second week in March. The dam might be
    killed, and the leverets left to die. I would almost sooner
    never hunt again than run such a risk. Of course, one might
    hunt through March for several seasons and none of these things
    happen; but there must be a risk, and I do not myself think
    that one is justified in running it.”

What is true of the Eton beagles is true of every hare-hunt throughout
the country. The sport ought to be brought to a close on the last day
of February, as, indeed, used to be the custom. “Coursing still goes on
among a few,” wrote the author of the “Sporting Almanack” for March,
1843, “but in our opinion the fair sportsman will _hold hard_ as soon
as March sets in.”[32] Much, then, of the hare-hunting of the present
time is _not_ fair.

Still worse is the case of otter-hunting, which is carried on from
springtime till autumn, with the result that females heavy with young
must occasionally be worried, though sportsmen plead that this is never
intentional. An instance that has often been quoted is recorded in the
Hon. Grantley F. Berkeley’s “Life and Recollections,” where the story
is told of a female otter disturbed by the hounds “in the act of making
a couch for her young.”

    “At her we went for seven hours, with constant views, and
    during that time, on a stump overhanging the river, she
    miscarried and gave birth to two cubs, born only a few days
    before their time. A hound found them, and when I took one in
    my hand it was scarcely cold. She beat us for want of light,
    and well she deserved to escape.”

Similar instances are recorded from time to time, as by a correspondent
of the _Morning Leader_, who told how in Devonshire, in 1891, a female
otter, after being worried for nearly four hours, had given birth to
two dead whelps.

But of all such malpractices the chasing of in-calf hinds is the most
deliberate and the worst. If it be true, as we are informed, that
tenant-farmers in the Devon and Somerset district complain bitterly of
the damage done by deer, what possible reason can be given against the
_shooting_ (when necessary) of the hinds, in place of the disgusting
and barbarous custom of hunting them? A few years ago the Rev. J.
Stratton, after personally investigating the matter, described some of
the inevitable results of hind-hunting till the end of March, instead
of stopping the “sport,” as ought to be done, at the beginning of
March at the latest, and gave specific cases in which, when the dead
hinds were “broken up” to feed the hounds, calves as large as hares
were seen to be taken from the bodies. Since that time there is reason
to believe that, owing in part to the Humanitarian League’s protests,
there is a growing local feeling against this especially cruel feature
of the sport, and it is hoped that those landowners and residents who
have humane scruples in the matter will use their influence to bring
about the discontinuance of this disgraceful practice. The whole system
of hunting these West Country deer is cruel enough--involving, as it
does, the death of many of them by leaping from the cliffs on to the
rocks, or being drowned in the sea, or being hung up on wire-fences
and mangled by the hounds. But the hunting of the hinds, at a time
when even savages might compassionate them, is one of the very worst
abominations for which even “sport” is responsible.


[32] Quoted in _Fry’s Magazine_, June, 1911, in an admirable article
entitled “Shabby Blood-Sports Worth Ending.”



The fact is too often overlooked that a ready substitute for the savage
chase of animals may be found in the drag-hunt, a form of sport which
preserves all that is valuable in the way of exercise, while getting
rid of one thing only--the cruelty to the tortured stag or fox or hare.
As has been pointed out in the _Sheffield Daily Telegraph_, a paper
favourable to sport:

    “There is little doubt that in time the drag-hunt will become
    the popular hunting pastime. For years it has been supported by
    the officers of the Guards, and, besides having the merit of
    disarming criticism on the part of the Humanitarian League, it
    can be enjoyed by thousands of sightseers, as it defines the
    tract of country over which the drag leads the hounds.”

The attempts of some sporting writers to belittle the value of
the drag have been very infelicitous. If they personally prefer a
blood-sport to a bloodless pastime, let them say so--it is a matter on
which we will take their word--but when they assert that a drag-hunt
is not suitable for pedestrians, or for schoolboys, they only convict
themselves of knowing as little about the practical as about the moral
side of the controversy. The following statement was made by the late
Lady Florence Dixie, who spoke with unquestionable authority:--

    “Drags can be fast run or slow run, according to the way they
    are laid. My husband owned a pack of harriers and a pack of
    beagles, and I was able to get him often to hunt them on
    drags, and have often ridden with the harriers and run with
    the beagles. When a very fast, non-hunting run was wanted with
    the harriers, the drag was laid straight and continuously, and
    hounds ran fast, and riding was like a steeplechase, without a
    pause, except when any of us came a cropper! When a hunting run
    was required, we laid a catchy drag, twisting here and there,
    lifting the scent, and copying as near as possible the wily
    ways of Reynard. With the beagles we imitated the hare, who
    is a ringing, not straight-running animal, lifting the scent,
    doubling back, and so on, and, in fact, we brought thus two
    competitors into the sport--_i.e._, the drag-layer _versus_ the
    huntsman, and pitted their wiles and their cunning against each
    other. I may be accepted as an authority, as few have perhaps
    ridden in harder-fought hunting runs of all kinds than I--fox,
    stag, harrier, guanaco, ostrich, and suchlike--and I have had
    considerable experience with beagles as well, on foot.”[33]

In face of this testimony, and of the fact recorded by Brinsley
Richards, in his “Seven Years at Eton,” that a drag was successfully
used at Eton half a century ago, it is absurd to pretend that it
could not be used there again; but if further proof be needed, it is,
fortunately, available in the following letter from Mr. A. G. Grenfell,
Headmaster of Mostyn House School, Parkgate, Cheshire. It will be seen
that the idea, very commonly held, that the drag-hunt is suitable only
for those following on horseback, and that it would too severely tax
the energies of boys running on foot, is absolutely erroneous.

                                              “_December 16, 1903._

    “On the subject of Beagle Drag-Hunting at Schools, I think you
    will be pleased to know that we have owned and run a pack of
    beagles at this school for the last ten years on the lines that
    you suggest, and with the greatest success. The drag affords
    any amount of healthy and interesting exercise without cruelty.
    Ours is just an ordinary preparatory school, with ten masters
    and ninety boys. Our hounds are twenty-three or twenty-four in
    number. The sport of following them is very popular with all
    of us, and it would be hard to devise an easier or better form
    of school variant to the everlasting football. Not only does
    drag-hunting keep boys from tiring of the regulation game, but
    it is to the wind and endurance these runs give us that we owe
    the fact that we seldom, if ever, lose a match against boys of
    our own size and weight. The beauty of the drag-hunt is that
    you can pick your course, you can choose your jumps, you can
    regulate your checks and keep your field all together, and you
    can insure the maximum of sport and exercise.”

Here, too, is the testimony of another headmaster of a preparatory
school, Mr. F. H. Gresson, of The Grange, Crowborough.

                                                 “_March 23, 1909._

    “I can fully endorse all that Mr. Grenfell says with regard to
    the pleasure and amusement to be derived from a drag-hunt. I
    have kept a small pack of beagles and hunted a drag with them
    for the last five years with very successful results. In my
    opinion, it is a very suitable form of amusement for boys of
    the preparatory school age, as you can regulate the distance
    and the checks, and there is no fear of their getting overdone.

    “As one who is very keen upon both fox-hunting and
    hare-hunting, I cannot pretend to say that a drag compares
    in any way with either. At the same time, however, I get a
    great amount of enjoyment out of it myself, in addition to the
    exercise, and I do not find it at all a dull sport.”

We do not, of course, _compare_ the drag-hunt with the stag-hunt,
the hare-hunt, or any other blood-sport, in the sense of saying that
it yields equal excitement; it lacks, no doubt, the thrill of the
life-and-death struggle that is going on in front of the hounds. But
for those who are aware that such excitement is cruel and morbid,
the drag-hunt may be made to provide an excellent _substitute_ for
blood-sport, with plenty of skill as well as plenty of exercise; and
sportsmen who refuse such substitute merely give proof that their
addiction to a barbarous practice is very strong.


[33] In like manner, Mr. W. H. Crofton, president of the Beagle Club,
has admitted in _The Times_ that the drag-hunt, “run with skill by one
who understands the art,” can be made to yield “excellent exercise” for




Pigeon-shooting is one of those practices which generous minds must
regard with aversion. There is not a single element in it which
cultivates any good quality in mankind.

The late Lord Randolph Churchill, in the House of Commons, 1883,
alluding to Monte Carlo doings, gave an effective description of a
pigeon-shooting scene:

    “He had had the opportunity, he said, of watching the sight
    at Monte Carlo, though he had never had the satisfaction of
    killing a pigeon himself. The pigeon-shooting at Monte Carlo
    was conducted on the same principles as that at Hurlingham, and
    under similar rules. He saw the birds taken out of the basket,
    and before being put into the trap a man cut their tails with
    a large pair of scissors. That probably was not very cruel,
    because he only cut the quill, though at times he seemed to cut
    very close. But worse followed. After cutting the tail, he saw
    the man take the bird in one hand, and with the other tear a
    great bunch of feathers from the breast and stomach of every
    pigeon. On asking the man what he did that for, he replied
    that it was to stimulate the birds, in order that, maddened by
    excitement and pain, they might take a more eccentric leap in
    the air, and increase the chance of the pigeon gamblers.

    “He saw another very curious thing, too. One of the pigeons was
    struck and fell to the ground; but when the dog went to pick
    it up, the wretched bird fluttered again in the air, and for
    an appreciable time it remained so fluttering, just a little
    higher than the dog could jump. While the bird’s fate was thus
    trembling in the balance, the betting was fast and furious, and
    when at last the pigeon tumbled into the dog’s jaws, he would
    never forget the shout of triumph and yell of execration that
    rose from the ring-men and gentlemen.”

Now, what honest-minded man can approve of such a performance as this?
Yet the so-called sport is in much favour still, from aristocratic
gatherings down to those promoted by low public-houses.

It is surely of the nature of anything claiming to be legitimate sport,
that the quarry should be in its natural, wild condition, and should
have a chance of saving its life from its would-be destroyer. What
chance of this kind has a dazed pigeon, fluttering from a box in the
presence of guns ready to fire the moment it appears? The whole thing
is cowardly and contemptible, and should be suppressed by law. This
fate it would have met in 1883 had the House of Lords done its duty as
well as the House of Commons; for a Bill which aimed at its abolition
was rejected in the former House after it had passed in the latter.

More lately, however, there has occurred an event which proves that
the views we hold respecting pigeon-shooting are beginning to find
acceptance with the public. As everybody is aware, the Hurlingham Club
used to lend its patronage to this sport, but recently a change in its
policy took place. A meeting of members was held, and the question was
put to the vote, whether the shooting of pigeons from traps should be
any longer permitted in the grounds. A two-thirds majority decided that
it should be abolished. The minority endeavoured to get this settlement
reversed by law, but they were unsuccessful.

It was instructive, as well as cheering, to observe the favour with
which the Press as a whole received the judgment delivered by Mr.
Justice Joyce on the case submitted to him.

As an example of newspaper utterances I may quote the comments of the
_Daily News_ of February 26, 1906:

    “All those who believe that 1906 is better as regards
    blood-sports than 1868 will rejoice that Hurlingham is not to
    be bound fast to the older date, and its defective morality.
    Pigeon-shooting is emphatically not now--as Mr. Justice
    Joyce said it was considered in 1868--a manly sport, fit for
    gentlemen. It may seem a hard saying to those who, having
    acquired proficiency in the practice, have lost their sense
    of moral truth. The fashion at Hurlingham has slowly changed
    in deference to surrounding opinion. Pigeon-shooting has not
    only its negative side of unmanliness, but the positive side of
    cruelty, and we are glad that the Club is not so indissolubly
    built on this base sport but that a two-thirds majority may
    decide when the time has come to abolish it.”


Supposing all shooting of birds from traps were prohibited by law,
is there any kindred diversion which might take its place? Yes; there
is the clay-pigeon shoot, which affords good practice in gunnery and
amuses its patrons by enabling them to meet and settle contests for
prizes and so forth. It ought to satisfy all who have not got into the
vicious habit of thinking that sport is poor work unless it inflicts
agony or death on animals.

The clay-pigeon, so-called, does not bear any resemblance to a living
bird. It is like a small saucer, brown in colour, and brittle.

One of the ways in which the artificial shoot is carried on is this.
A pit is formed, deep enough to allow a man to stand in it and remain
unseen. In the pit is placed machinery which a person can employ for
projecting a “pigeon” to a considerable distance, at a quick speed, and
at any angle. The pigeon may be shot up in the air, or sent skimming
along the ground, and fly to right or left. The shooter stands some
yards behind the pit, gun in hand, waiting for the appearance of the
object. And, not knowing what course the pigeon will take, he is kept
on the _qui vive_. From the sporting point of view, this is so much to
the good, as uncertainty is an element of enjoyment in the matter.

At shooting grounds such as those of Messrs. Holland and Holland, of
New Bond Street, situated at Kensal Rise, there are many diversities
attached to the recreation. Birds are thrown, in many cases, from high
structures, or go flying over trees, and move in a mode similar to that
of pheasants or driven grouse or partridges. Then, further, at this
establishment, the figures of birds with outstretched wings appear for
a few seconds on a whitened screen, and form interesting objects to
fire at. Across this screen, again, metal representations of rabbits
are made to run on an iron rod. From this it will be understood what a
deal of variety may be introduced into this form of amusement.

What humanitarians desire to see is the substitution everywhere of this
kind of shooting for that of firing at pigeons and starlings and other
living birds liberated from traps.

I ought to say that at Messrs. Holland and Holland’s establishment live
pigeons are kept for those who wish to fire at them, but I was pleased
to learn that, for every living bird killed, a hundred clay birds are
shot at.



Coursing, the practice of chasing a hare with two greyhounds,
slipped simultaneously from the leash, is one of the most ancient of
blood-sports; but the spirit of those who take part in it does not seem
to have improved with time. It may be doubted whether modern patrons
of the sport are as chivalrous as those referred to by the old writer
Arrian, whose work on Coursing dates from the second century:

    “For coursers, such at least as are true sportsmen, do not take
    out their dogs for the sake of catching a hare, but for the
    contest and sport of coursing, and are glad if the hare escape;
    if she fly to any thin brake for concealment, though they may
    see her trembling and in the utmost distress, they will call
    off their dogs.”

What is the attraction of coursing? The author of “The Encyclopædia of
Rural Sports” (1852) is forced to admit that coursing has been found

    “We may be asked,” he says, “what pleasure there can be for
    people marshalled in a line, at certain distances from each
    other, monotonously to walk or ride at a foot pace over a
    ploughed field or across a wide heath on a bleak November day,
    the eye anxiously directed hither and thither to catch the clod
    or the sidelong furrow that half conceals poor puss, or to espy
    the tuft she has parted to make her form in.”

But even so stupid a pastime as this has its charms for many people,
when to the zest of seeing a timid animal’s life at stake there is
added the more modern excitement of betting on the prowess of the dogs.

Of the cruelty of coursing, as practised in the chief contests, from
the Waterloo Cup down, there can be no question. “What more aggravated
form of torture is to be found,” says Lady Florence Dixie, “than
coursing with greyhounds--the awful terror of the hare depicting itself
in the laid-back ears, convulsive doubles, and wild starting eyes which
seem almost to burst from their sockets in the agony of tension which
that piteous struggle for life entails?”

Open coursing is bad enough, on the score of inhumanity; but when
the coursing is enclosed, or the hares are bagged ones turned out for
the occasion, the case is still worse. The use of enclosed grounds
dates from about 1876, and we learn from the volume on “Coursing” in
the Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes (1892), that “many of
the old school opposed it strongly, and with the best reason, for it
utterly lacked the elements of real sport.” At the present time it is
by a strict system of “preserving” hares rather than by keeping them
in enclosures, that a sufficient supply is maintained for the great
coursing matches. What an object-lesson in cruelty these meetings
afford may be judged from the fact that at some of them, such as the
competition for the Waterloo Cup, there is an attendance of several
thousand spectators.

Here is an “Impression of the Waterloo Meeting,” by Mr. John Gulland,
which appeared in the _Morning Leader_ in 1911:

    “Stretching away into the far country (if you use your eyes)
    may be seen two long, thin black lines, representing quite a
    little army of beaters. In a short while dozens of hares may
    be seen gaily sporting between these lines, in delightful
    ignorance of the terrible enemy which is lying in wait for
    them in front. It is the business of the beater to divert a
    good hare from his playful companions; and if you keep your
    eye well directed on the black lines, you will soon detect the
    white flutter of a handkerchief passing along the lines, and a
    brown shape leaping swiftly along the ground, nervously anxious
    to turn to one side or the other, but kept to an inexorable
    straight course by the living wall of beaters. A shout from the
    crowd, growing every moment more excited as the short drama
    is about to begin, proclaims the fact that the hare is in the
    battle-ground, and is about to meet his Waterloo. And, higher
    still, and louder than all, the raucous cry of the bookmaker,
    ‘Take 7 to 2,’ ‘Take 2 to 1,’ rises shrill in the air.

    “All this time a couple of greyhounds are held tight by a
    slipper in a box, open on two sides, in the middle of the
    field. As soon as the hare is beaten past the slipper’s box
    the greyhounds tug and strain at the leash, almost dragging
    the slipper with them. When the hare has had about fifty
    yards’ start the hounds are released, and off they dash
    together, looking at first like one. This is the most thrilling
    part of the game, and is watched in a few seconds of almost
    breathless silence. Pussy hasn’t, however, much chance against
    a greyhound, and is soon overtaken; but he still has a few arts
    at his command. For, just as the dog is about to hurl himself
    on pussy’s unoffending body, the little creature makes a deft
    turn aside, his pursuer flying harmlessly past. Then follow a
    series of turns, feints, dodges, and bounds. Puss may, indeed,
    lead his enemies a sorry dance for a little while, but it is an
    unequal contest. These greyhounds at Altcar are the best and
    fastest of their kind, and it is seldom that a hare escapes
    their teeth on Waterloo Cup day. In half a minute--at the
    outside two minutes--all is over.”

The writer states that he thinks he has never seen “so many bookmakers
and bookmakers’ clerks per head of the population” as at the Waterloo
coursing. “It was the merriest gambling I have seen for many a long
day,” for coursing lends itself particularly well to betting.”



    “It has been gravely said that a good angler must also be a
    good Christian. Without literalising the assertion, it may well
    be admitted that there is much in the contemplative character
    of his pursuit, and in the quiet scenes of beauty with which it
    brings him face to face, to soften and elevate as well as to

Thus writes Mr. H. Cholmondeley-Pennell, a distinguished authority
on angling. We fear, however, that an examination of the “gentle
craft” will scarcely justify the assertion; for the fact cannot be
gainsaid that to kill fish for mere _amusement_ is to gratify one’s
own pleasure at the cost of another being’s pain, and that, regarded
from a moral standpoint, it will not materially affect the case to
plead that the fisherman is “contemplative,” or that in the pursuit
of his pastime he is brought into touch with the softening influences
of nature. Unfortunately, as far as his sport (which is the only
point in question) is concerned, there is no sign of this softening
tendency on _him_. Contemplative he may be (in the intervals between
“rises” or “bites”), but his contemplation has apparently not taken
that introspective turn which would seem to be most needed. He may be
gentle--in _some_ relations of life; but in the matter of impaling
live-bait and hooking fishes his gentleness is of a worse than
dubious quality. One would have thought that a sense of humour would
withhold fishermen from making these ludicrous claims to virtues in
which, _qua_ fishermen, they are very signally deficient. “There are
unquestionably,” says Leigh Hunt, “many amiable men among sportsmen,
who, as the phrase is, would not hurt a fly, that is to say, on a
window; at the end of a string the case is altered.”

The stories told by anglers of the alleged “insensibility” of fish--how
a hooked salmon that has just broken away will sometimes return to the
bait--do not prove very much; for that fish are less intelligent and
less sensitive than warm-blooded animals is no excuse for torturing
them to the extent of their feeling. And it is evident, on the showing
of the fishermen themselves, that the process of “playing” a large fish
is a very cruel one, since it means gradually and mercilessly wearing
down the strength of the victim during a desperate struggle prolonged
sometimes for hours. Reading, for example, such a passage as the
following, taken from Dr. Hamilton’s book on “Fly-Fishing,” one marvels
at the mood which can find enjoyment in so barbarous a sport:

    “I know of no greater excitement when, after casting the fly,
    a sudden swirl of the water tells you that a salmon has risen,
    and the tightening of your line that he is hooked. Then the
    mighty rush of a fresh-run fish; the rapid whirl (sweet music!)
    of the reel, as the line is carried out; the tremendous leaps
    and tugs and efforts as the fish tries to free himself. Good
    fisherman as you may be, the chances are against you. You at
    one end of the line doing all you can, and putting all your
    experience to the test, to keep and bring to bank the prize you
    covet. The fish at the other end, with all his knowledge of the
    rocks and bad places at the bottom of the river, doing all he
    can to circumvent you.… And then, after a slight pause, with
    skilful management the strain is put on. An anxious moment; he
    gives, but oh! how slowly, how reluctantly. The question is,
    who is to conquer. You feel your power as you wind up; you see
    his silver side; you know there will be yet one or two terrific
    struggles for life as he gets a glimpse of you and the gaff;
    then comes the final rush, the line paying out inch by inch. It
    is over! Another roll or two, and he is on the bank--and then
    the soothing pipe while you study his fine proportions.”

Under some conditions the sport consists in practically _drowning_ the
fish in its own element. “The most killing place,” says Dr. Hamilton,
“when the hook is well fast, is in the lower jaw. The strain of the
line prevents in a great measure the free current of water through the
gills, and the fish becomes suffocated.”

To what extravagance the angling mania can run may be seen from
certain forms of sea-fishing. The tarpon, an inhabitant of the Gulf of
Mexico, is a great fish of the herring kind, weighing from 50 to 180
pounds, and measuring from 5 to 7 feet in length. It is not used as
food by any but the negroes and “lower classes,” and its chief value,
we are told, is for “sporting” purposes. In _The Queen_ of December 7,
1895, an account was given of “an angling feat” performed by a lady
who caught a monster of this kind. “The lady’s grip,” we were told,
“was firm,” and defeated the endeavours of the fish “to shake the cruel
hook from its throat.” In this, and in all angling records, it will be
observed that the cruelty is purely wanton--the killing being done not
because it is necessary or useful, but because the sportsman _enjoys_

Again, one of the most nauseous features of the “gentle craft” is the
use of “live bait”--that is, of worms, maggots, flies, grasshoppers,
frogs, and small fish. Here is one of the directions given by Mr.

    “In using the lob-worm-tail only, the worm must be broken about
    the middle, longer or shorter according to circumstances, and
    the hook inserted at the point of the breakage, the worm being
    then run up the hook until the shank is somewhat more than
    covered and only the end of the tail remains at liberty.”

It is pointed out by Mr. Alexander Mackie in “The Art of Worm Fishing,”
that a “particularly beautiful” blue-nosed lob will account for as many
as four trout, if cut in two parts and used successively, and that no
worm of this class should be thrown away when only “slightly shattered.”

The impaling of a worm or maggot is disgusting enough; but when live
fish are used as bait the cruelty is still worse. It will be observed
that it is the angler’s object to _prolong_ the misery of the living
bait to the utmost extent. Thus Mr. Cholmondeley-Pennell, with
reference to pike fishing:

    “With regard to live-baits, a good deal must of course depend
    upon the state of the water. Should it be very bright and
    clear, a gudgeon, which is also a very tough fish, will
    generally be found the best, and in extreme cases even a
    minnow used with a small float and a single gimp hook passed
    through its upper lip or back.… Probably the best live-bait
    of all for thick or clouded water is a medium-sized dace, as
    its scales are peculiarly brilliant, and the fish itself by no
    means easily killed. In case of waters in which the pike are
    over-fed, I should recommend my readers to try them with live
    gold-fish.… If gold-fish are not forthcoming, small carp form a
    very killing and _long-lived_ bait. The bait should not be left
    too long in one place, but be kept gently moving. It should
    also be held as little as possible out of water, on to which,
    when cast, its fall should be as light as possible, to avoid
    injury and premature decease.”

A very cruel way of taking freshwater fish is by night-lines. The
victims are often left for hours with large hooks in their mouths;
and when at last taken from the water are exhausted or dead. This
perhaps is a poacher’s method rather than a sportsman’s; but it is to
be observed that as a rule the despised poaching methods--such as the
netting, wiring, or “tickling” of fish--are far less barbarous than
those which are honoured as “sportsmanlike.”

It is clear, then, that the title of “the gentle craft” is an absurd
misnomer when applied to angling, and that, if humaneness had been
reckoned among the virtues, we should not have seen the canonisation of
Izaak Walton, the patron saint of fishermen. For as Byron says of him:

    “The quaint old cruel coxcomb in his gullet
    Should have a hook, and a small trout to pull it.”

“It would have taught him humanity at least,” adds the poet in a
footnote. “They may talk about the beauties of nature, but the angler
merely thinks of his dish of fish; he has no leisure to take his eyes
from off the streams, and a single ‘bite’ is worth to him more than all
the scenery around. The whale, the shark, and the tunny fishery have
somewhat of noble and perilous in them; even net-fishing, trawling,
etc., are more humane and useful. But angling!”



It is a grave charge that is brought against us humanitarians, of
“spoiling other people’s pleasure.” We are reproachfully bidden to look
at “sport,” for instance, and to ponder all the manifold enjoyment
which it provides for its votaries--the pleasure of the riders, the
pleasure of the horses, the pleasure of the hounds, the pleasure
(some assert) even of the fox himself--or, if not exactly pleasure,
at least a praiseworthy acquiescence in the rôle assigned him as the
purveyor of amusement for others; for has he not, like Faust, purchased
the happiness of a lifetime at the cost of this brief hour of pain?
And all this sum of pleasure the humanitarian would deliberately
destroy! No wonder that speculation is rife among sportsmen as to any
intelligible reason for such malice. Are humanitarians insane? Or is it
a dog-in-the-manger instinct that prompts them to wreck a pleasure in
which they themselves--poor joyless creatures that they are--can have
no part?

We shall be expected, perhaps, in answer to these accusations, to plead
some austere and weighty reasons, such as the danger of an excess of
pleasure, the need of self-sacrifice, the duty of altruism, and the
like. We shall do nothing of the kind. On the contrary, we shall point
out that humanitarians seek not to diminish but to _increase_ the
pleasures of which life is capable; for it is precisely because we,
too, love pleasure, and regard it, when rightly understood, as the sum
and purport of existence, that we deplore the absurd travesty of it
which at present passes muster among the thoughtless. Our complaint
against the sportsman and his like is not that they enjoy themselves,
but that they prevent other persons from doing so, through their very
rudimentary and barbarous notions of what enjoyment means.

Consider, for instance, the exquisite pleasure, surely one of the
greatest joys in life, of seeing perfect confidence and fearlessness
in the beings around one--the intrepidity which is the special charm
of children, when well-treated, and which is characteristic of animals
also, in the rare cases when they have nothing to fear from man.
We know with what child-like trust and guilelessness the primitive
inhabitants of the West Indies greeted their Spanish discoverers, and
how the wild animals in newly-found lands have often shown the same
unguarded friendliness to man, until they knew better--or worse. The
pleasure of the humanitarian consists in preserving and cherishing
to the uttermost this friendly relationship; the pleasure of the
sportsman consists in rending and shattering it, in making a hell out
of a heaven, and is sowing distrust and terror where there might be
confidence and love. _Chacun à son goût._ It is useless to dispute
about tastes. But that the sportsman should proceed to denounce the
humanitarian as being “a spoiler of pleasure” is a stroke of unintended
humour from a very humourless source.

The part which the sportsman plays in the animal world--that world
which might be a source of much genuine pleasure to us--may be easily
pictured if we look at one of the London parks where the bird-life is
protected. There we see a truce reigning between human and non-human,
with a vast amount of obvious human enjoyment as the result. Imagine
what would happen if a man were to run with a gun or some other weapon
among the unsuspecting animals, and pride himself on the dexterity
with which he reduced them from beautiful living creatures to limp
and ugly carcases. He would be arrested as a lunatic, you say, by the
park-keepers. True; yet that is exactly the way in which the sportsman
is continually running amuck in this larger park of ours, the world,
where unfortunately there are as yet no park-keepers to restrain him.

Nor is it only the sportsman, but everyone addicted to cruel practices
of any sort, who makes the world a poorer and less happy place to live
in. Centuries of persecution have, in fact, left so little _real_
happiness in life that men have been fain to content themselves with
these wretched beggarly amusements, which, from bull- and bear-baiting
to stag-hunting, have disgraced our national “sports” from time
immemorial, yet have always been defended on the ludicrous ground that
their abolition would diminish the “pleasures” of the people.

Who, then, is the mar-joy? Surely not the humanitarian, whose desire
it is that there should be far greater and wider means of enjoyment
than at present, and who, far from discouraging the sports of the
people, would establish in every part of the land facilities for manly
and wholesome sports, such as cricket, football, rowing, swimming,
running, and all kinds of athletic and gymnastic exercises. To
humanitarians, pleasure--real pleasure--is the one precious thing; and
it is just because there is so little real pleasure in the present
conditions of life that we desire to see those conditions changed and
ameliorated. Why else should we “agitate,” sit in committees, write
letters to newspapers, and organise public meetings to expound our
principles? Certainly, not because we enjoy such occupation in itself,
for a more thankless task could scarcely be imagined; but because life
is at present so narrowed and saddened by brutalitarian stupidity that
to try to alter it, even in the smallest measure, is to us a necessary
condition of any enjoyment at all.


    Accidents involved by hunting, 66

    Adams, Maurice, on cost of sport, 45 _et seq._

    Afforestation conflicts with game preservation, 53

    Agriculture ruined by sport, 38

    Athletic exercises compared with blood-sports, 129

    Badgers as “vermin,” 88

    “Bag,” a six weeks’, 104

    Balance of Nature upset, 40

    “Battue,” horrors of the, 83

    “Battue-shooting,” 13

      Eton, 18;
      _Tom Brown_ on Rugby, 125;
      forbidden by original statutes, 117;
      not legalised until 1871, 117;
      Dr. Warre’s attitude _re_, 116;
      strength of the opposition to, 124

    Big-game hunting:
      Mr. Ernest Bell on, 101;
      monotony of, 101, 102

    “Blooding,” 155

      not manly, 56, 112, 136;
      at schools, 116

    Buchanan, Robert, quoted, 69, 150

    Buckhounds, abolition of Royal, 100, 130

    Buddha, humane teachings of, 29

    Burmese, the, and compassion, 29

    Burns, Robert, on shooting, 93

    Byron, Lord, on angling, 178

    Callousness of fox-hunting, the, 95

    Carlisle otter hounds, 30

    Carpenter, Edward, on sport and agriculture, 34 _et seq._

    Carted deer, 22

    Civilised _versus_ savage life, 132

    Clay-pigeons and live pigeons, 166

    Colquhoun, John, on the poacher, 81

    Compassion taught by Buddha, 29

    Compensation, farmers and, 37

    Cornfields damaged by mice and sparrows, 40

    Coursing, 170

    Cricket compared with hunting, 67

    Cruel sports not public benefits, 60

    Cruelties of stag-hunting, 10

    Cruelty, definition of, 2

    “Cub-hunting,” barbarities of, 9

    Cultivated area of Great Britain, 53

    Deer, carted, “accidents” to, 22

      acreage of, 84;
      effects of, 84

    De Quincey’s satire, 142

    Dixie, Lady Florence, quoted, 163

    Dogs, gamekeepers’, 76

    Drag-hunt _versus_ stag-hunt, 162

    Drag-hunting a pleasurable sport, 99, 163

    Durham, Lord, defends rabbit-coursing, 27

    Economics of hunting, 60 _et seq._

    Elephants, extermination of, 105

    “Enclosure Act,” 71

    Eton Beagles, 18;
      eminent opponents of, 124;
      hare-hunt, the, 116;
      sports, brutality of, 117 _et seq._

    Evolution and animal kinship, 33

    Expenditure on hunting, 65

    Explosive bullets, 113

    Farmers and compensation, 37

    Farmers injured by hunting, 64

    _Field, The_, on tame-deer hunting, 24

    Fishing, 174

    “Food-supply” fallacy, the, 83

    Fortescue, Hon. J., quoted, 109

    Fox, the hunted, 6, 98

    Foxes “made in Germany,” 35

    Fox-hunting, 5 _et seq._;
      excuses for, 8;
      H. B. M. Watson on, 95;
      illogical, 97, 98

    “Foxology,” Dr. Lang’s, 135

    “Game,” animals included as, 71

      brutality of, 79, 86;
      Joseph Arch on, 75;
      Justice Vaughan Williams and, 76;
      increase of, 39;
      Mr. Lloyd George on, 39

    Game Laws:
      facts about the, 69 _et seq._;
      a legal anomaly, 70;
      _raison d’être_ of, 71;
      popular dislike of, 72

    Grand Duke’s exploit, 103

    Gravid animals, hunting of, 158

    Greenwood, George, M.P., on cruelty of sport, 1 _et seq._

    Grouse-moors and farmers, 38

    Hare-hunting, 16;
      Sir Thomas More on, 16

    Hedgehogs as “vermin,” 88

    Heron, destruction of the, 41, 90

    Home Office, the, and Game Laws, 74

    Hudson, W. H., quoted, 87 _et seq._

    Hunt, Leigh, quoted, 133, 175

    Hunter, the, as a “lover of animals,” 93

      expensiveness of, 62;
      a limited recreation, 66;
      a rich man’s sport, 62

    Instincts, “God-planted,” 132

    Japanese, prowess of the, 57

    Johnston, Sir Harry:
      on big-game killing, 114;
      on gun-sportsmen, 93;
      on wild life, 85

    Justice ignored in Game Law administration, 74

    Justices of the Peace as game-preservers, 73

    Kropotkin’s, Prince, estimate on produce of soil, 53

    Land, effect of Game Laws on, 72

    Legislation affected by hunting, 67

    “Live bait,” cruelty of using, 108

    Lloyd, E. B., on destruction of wild life, 85 _et seq._

    Londonderry’s, Lord, economic argument, 51

    “Lost” animals, sufferings of, 110

    “Lust, the blood,” 113

    Lyte, Sir H. Maxwell, on Eton barbarities, 117, 126

    Martin, Howard, on benefits of sport, 49

    Meredith, George, quoted, 94

    Mice and cornfields, 40

    Modern sport not heroic, 58

    Monck, W. H. S., on economics of hunting, 60 _et seq._

    Moral defence of sport lacking, 7, 111

    Natural _versus_ _un_natural history, 94

    Nightingales, destruction of, 89

    Nyasaland licences, 114

    Otter hunt at Longtown, 30

    Otter hunting, 18, 19, 160

    Penal servitude for night poaching, 75

    Penalties for trespass, 74

    Pheasant shooting and vivisection, 1

    Pheasants, artificially reared, 13, 36, 51, 94

      not true sport, 21;
      Lord Randolph Churchill on, 166;
      prohibited at Hurlingham, 22, 167

      character of the, 80;
      the, as gamekeeper, 81;
      described, 81

    Poachers, illegal sentences on, 74

    Polo and hunting compared, 67

    Preservation of game, 15

    Professionalism spoiling sport, 59

    Rabbit-coursing, 24

    Rabbits, a nuisance to farmers, 39

      best available to largest numbers, 62;
      essentials of, 62-64

    Remorse of the hunter, 106

    Reserves for wild animals, 44

    Ribblesdale, Lord, and stag-hunting, 145, 157

    Roosevelt, T., quoted, 107

    Rousseau, J. J., on compassion, 31, 32

    Salt, Henry S., on _Sportsmen’s fallacies_, 130 _et seq._

    Sargent, Henry R., defends sport, 45

    Schopenhauer and the basis of morality, 31, 32

    Select Committee of 1846, 80

    Sentimentalism _versus_ humanitarianism, 96

    Seton-Karr, H. W., 131

    Seton-Karr’s, Sir H., fallacy, 137

    Shooting, 11 _et seq._

    Small holdings _versus_ sporting interests, 42

    Sparrows and cornfields, 40

    Spoiling other people’s pleasure, 179

      importance of ethical issues, 1;
      as a fetish, 4;
      cost of, 45-59;
      confusion in the use of the term, 56

      morally unjustifiable if cruel, 2;
      two kinds of, 3;
      spurious, 20 _et seq._, 58;
      and agriculture, Edward Carpenter on, 34 _et seq._

    “Sportsman,” a popular appellation, 3

    Sportsmen’s claims criticised, 139 _et seq._;
      logic, 8;
      fallacies, 130

    Stag-hunting, cruelties of, 10

    Steel traps, barbarity of, 82

    Torture unnecessary, 96

    Unmanliness of pheasant-shooting, 57

    Unregistered gamekeepers, 80

    Unsportsmanlike devices, 104

    “Vermin” exterminated by game-preservers, 88

    Vivisection and field sports compared, 1

    Wallace, A. R., on gamekeepers, 76

    War, sport as training for, 149

    Warre, Dr., his defence of the Eton hare-hunt, 116, 123

    Watson, H. B. Marriott, on fox-hunting, 95 _et seq._

    Weasels as “vermin,” 88

    Wild life, destruction of, 85 _et seq._

    Women and hunting, 11, 19

    Woodpecker destroyed by gamekeeper, 89

    Wounded victims of sport, 14

    Young, need of humane teaching for the, 18



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