Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
However, while scientific and anecdotal representations of the fox as a pest have
been challenged, another means of translation has proved more durable. On the eve
of the parliamentary debate in November 1997, the Countryside Alliance placed an
advertisement in the national press reproducing a letter sent to MPs by the
Alliance's director. The letter contained the statement that 'the fox is a recognised
pest'. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received a number of complaints
contesting the veracity of this statement. In its adjudication, the ASA rejected the
complaints, ruling:
The advertisers said [that] the fox was recognised as a pest by farmers and
gamekeepers, [that] landowners are required by the Agriculture Act 1947 to
control foxes, and [that] the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has
the power to serve notice on landowners who do not do so. They submitted
section 98 of the Agriculture Act 1947, which was headed 'Prevention of
damage by pests' and stated that it applied to foxes. The Authority accepted
the claims.
(ASA 1998)
In other words, the fox is legally represented as a pest in the form of the Agriculture
Act 1947, and this legal definition enables the fox to be represented as such in other
arenas without further evidence needing to be produced.
Take 3—cuddly cub: the fox as victim
The two pro-hunting representations of the fox discussed above are counter-poised
by a third, anti-hunting representation of the fox as the victim of the hunt's cruelty.
This representation involves two stages of construction, as illustrated by a leaflet
produced by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS). The front panel, with the
heading 'Before the hunt…', shows a photograph of a healthy young cub looking
directly at the camera. In its size, pose and inquisitive facial expression, the cub mimics
the features of a domestic cat or dog. Below the picture, a caption reads: 'Bright-
eyed and inquisitive, this young fox is at home in the British countryside where it
has every right to live in peace.' The leaflet unfolds to reveal a second panel, entitled
'…and after', with a smaller photograph of a disembowelled, dead, fox, and longer
caption which describes the image as 'the almost inevitable end to a fox-hunt'.
It is the contrast between the two representations that constructs the fox's status
as a victim. The first not only plays on popular sentimentality towards animals, but
also positions the fox as a natural part of the countryside, where it has a right to live
free from interference from humans, who, it is implied, are not naturally part of
that countryside. Hunting hence becomes a violation of nature, as is conveyed
through the second representation, which emphasises the cruelty and the
unnaturalness of the hunt. Though this representation is mobilised most forcibly
through photography, it can also assume a textual form, especially in arenas where
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