Reviewed by Hayley Anderton
Where I live – middle of a city, no garden, bins inside, and nobody feeding them, foxes are a delight to see. They seem generally indifferent to human observers but there’s still an undercurrent of wariness about them. They’re also part of a mysterious parallel cityscape that mostly exists just out of view with just the occasional clue that there’s more going on on our streets then we always know.
Lucy Jones covers something of this, examining the fox in folklore and through literature, looking at the facts behind its reputation as an indiscriminate killer, and our contradictory relationship with it – it seems we love to see them rather more than we love having them crap in our gardens, and that when the latter happens the first call is often to the exterminator. There is also a reasonably balanced look at hunting and the culture around it (although there’s no doubt that Lucy is pro fox and none to keen on hunting). The only weak part of the book for me is her examination of hunt saboteurs where the bias swings the other way.
It’s an extremely sympathetic portrayal, which is fair enough when that’s where your sympathies are. But whilst Jones is prepared to believe that hunts are sometimes breaking the law and deliberately chasing foxes, there is little examination of the harder to justify aspects of sabbing. In the end that’s a small quibble though. Hunting is a contentious issue that too often brings out the worst in those on both sides of the argument, and if my impression is that both sides are as bad (or as good) as each other in the field, I’m not the one who’s done the research.
The final chapter is the one to really consider. It’s the urban foxes again, and how their reputation is once more under threat. The idea of the fox as dangerous predator, a beast that will steal into your home and attack your child, is on the rise. We feed them, or dispose of food in such a careless way that it amounts to the same thing, have made the countryside increasingly inhospitable to wildlife, and then object to it becoming to comfortable in our own backyards. Why do we behave like this?
A generally well balanced, well researched, extremely informative book that’s also a pleasure to read. I sometimes struggle to get through even the most well written non fiction (unless I can read it in a single sitting) but this one’s a page turner as well as being a timely examination of one of our more iconic animals that raises important questions about how we react and interact with the undomesticated bits of the world around us. If you missed it in hardback definitely read it now!
Hayley blogs at Desperate Reader.
Lucy Jones, Foxes Unearthed (Elliot and Thompson, 2017). 978-1783963041, 320pp., paperback.
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