Friday was a bad day for Mr. Fox.
And for Mr. Stag, Mr. Weasel, Mr. Hare, and Mr. Hedgehog as well. But especially for Mr. Fox.
The Parliament in Westminster, after a snarling, five-hour debate, declined by 187-175 to extend to wild mammals the same legal protections against cruelty that cover dogs and cats and other domestic animals.
The people in this country who hunt Mr. Fox were relieved. It was their activities the debate centered on. Had the bill advanced, and become law, it would have made hunting with hounds illegal.
You can't hunt Mr. Fox, and expect to catch him, without the help of Mr. Hound.
Thus, 25,000 hounds, who service 195 hunts throughout Britain, yelped with relief as the threat of their redundancy receded.
Today in Britain, said the disappointed Kathryn Donachie of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, "You can get a hedgehog, shoot it five times with an air rifle, play football with it, then throw it in the fire, still alive. That actually happened here. In Canterbury."
Thus Mr. Stag, Mr. Weasel and Mr. Hedgehog can expect to continue to be shot, snared, trapped, bludgeoned and impaled. Mr. Fox will be chased by people on horses and snapped at by hounds with big teeth, assisted by men in trucks who use radio equipment to track him when he goes underground and send nasty terriers into his den to encourage him to emerge. He will be seized and often shot in the head and thrown to the hounds who tear him into furry bits. Sometimes he isn't shot before he's introduced to Mr. Hound.
The campaigns conducted by both pro- and anti-hunting groups leading up to Friday's debate and vote were models of exaggeration and misrepresentation. Each side demonized the other. The antis were portrayed as tattooed louts and animal rights terrorists. The hunters were described, in Oscar Wilde's phrase, as "the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable."