Fox Day in the UK Date in the current year: May 3, 2024

Fox Day in the UK Fox Day is observed in the United Kingdom on May 3 every year. It was launched by the League Against Cruel Sports to celebrate the iconic red fox and prevent the killing of foxes for fun.

Fox hunting is a traditional sport in which hunters follow a pack of hounds aiming to pick up the scent of the fox, and then chase and kill the animal. The history of fox hunting in the United Kingdom dates back to the 16th century. By that time, wolves had become extinct or at least extremely rare in England, leaving the red fox the apex predator whose population wasn’t controlled by larger predators. The earliest recorded mention of foxhunt with hounds is dated 1534, when farmers from Norfolk began chasing foxes down with their dogs as a form of pest control to curb their attacks on farm animals.

Dog packs specifically trained to hunt foxes began to emerge in the 17th century. The oldest fox hunt in England, the Bilsdale Hunt in Yorkshire, was established by George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham in 1668. Over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, fox hunting transformed into a sport in its own right due to the decline in the deer population and, as a result, the sport of deer hunting.

With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, hunting countries were split by roads and railway lines, which provided rural access to the masses and made fox hunting accessible to more people. It continued to grow in popularity throughout the 19th century.

The first European country to ban hunting with hounds was Germany in 1934. Despite many other European countries following suit in the subsequent years, fox hunting remained popular in the United Kingdom well into the 20th century. It even resulted in a shortage of foxes in England, leading to a demand for them being imported from France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

In the 1990s, a growing anti-hunting campaign in the United Kingdom led to the government establishing a committee to examine the facts in the ongoing debate about hunting with hounds. Set up in December 1999, it was named the Burns Inquiry after its chair, Lord Burns. The inquiry failed to conclude whether hunting should continue or be banned, but it did note in its report that hunting with hounds “seriously compromises” the welfare of foxes and other quarry species.

Eventually fox hunting with hounds was banned in Scotland in by the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 and in England and Wales by the Hunting Act 2004. However, as of 2024, it is still legal in Northern Ireland because the Hunting Act 2004 does not apply there.

Even though fox hunting with dogs has been banned in most of the UK, the Ministry of Defense still licenses the so-called trail hunting on its land, which claims to be a non-lethal sport, but there is evidence that trail hunting is used as a cover for illegal fox hunting. Animal welfare organizations across the UK, including the League Against Cruel Sports, have been campaigning to expose trail hunting and fight illegal fox hunting.

In 2022, the League of Cruel Sports established Fox Day. Its mail goal is to raise awareness of the cruelty of fox hunting and consolidate efforts to fight illegal hunting. You can get involved with the observance by signing a petition to end fox hunting once and for all, donating to the League Against Cruel Sports or another organization that fights fox hunting, and spreading the word on social media.

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Fox Day in the UK, observances in the UK, environmental observances, illegal fox hunting, League Against Cruel Sports