Mooney show criticised for fox misinformation
20 May 2009
ICABS has called on RTE's Mooney show to clarify that the fox is not a threat to sheep farmers after show presenter, Eanna ní Lamhna, claimed that foxes are a "natural enemy". Show guest, Minister John Gormley, has also been criticised for suggesting that farmers should shoot foxes.
On Friday's show (15 May 2009) , Eanna ní Lamhna stated: "You have the sheep farmers making a living and they have lambs and as far as they are concerned the lambs are their wealth. Their natural enemies, would have been foxes...certainly, I suppose, the foxes in a way are actually killing weakly lambs in particular. So how do you get rid of the foxes?"
This suggestion that foxes are a threat to sheep farming is in conflict with information from wildlife experts such as Professor James Fairley who has written that "a great deal many allegations of lamb killing are based on insufficient or even non-existent evidence." ICABS is in no doubt that the comments made on the Mooney show will result in more foxes being blasted to death.
Responding, Minister John Gormley (who was on the show to discuss eagles) said that farmers "already have permission to go out and shoot foxes, rooks and magpies - that's a way of dealing with it."
He went on to defend eagles from the dangers of misinformation but did not do the same for foxes, despite the fact that his department's National Parks and Wildlife Service division has confirmed that "no matter what some people think, foxes rarely kill and eat lambs."
Minister Gormley said: "Let's be clear that once you mention lambs and eagles or whatever, people make that connection. When I released white-tailed eagles, I was told that there was no evidence that they were taking lambs. It reinforces that stereotype that these eagles are swooping down and taking lambs. We need to be careful because, of course, the farmer will take what he regards as precautionary measures but these measures can be very, very destructive."
In an email to Minister Gormley, ICABS expressed our disappointment that he helped to perpetuate the myth that foxes are a threat to farmers and that they should be shot. "The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has been trying to debunk this myth for years and help free the fox from mass persecution based on ignorance and misunderstanding of the species," we stated.
We brought to the Minister's attention, and also to the attention of the Mooney show, the quotes below which confirm that foxes are neither a significant threat to sheep nor need to be controlled.
"A great deal many allegations of lamb killing are based on insufficient or even non-existent evidence. When interviewing farmers, I found that in some cases, a dead, unwounded animal or the mere disappearance of a lamb were attributed to the work of the fox." Professor James Fairley (Zoology, UCG) in "An Irish Beast Book"
"I've worked at fox dens in all areas covering every aspect of prey possibilities. I've observed what adult foxes have brought in, I've analysed countless numbers of scats or droppings, and also the stomach contents of many animals. Game birds were insignificant, and so too were poultry, and the only two lambs I've ever found at dens were already dead before they were carried in. They were in fact carrion mutton." Zoologist, Dr AD Scott, BSc PhD MBOU
"No matter what people think, foxes seldom kill and eat young lambs." National Parks & Wildlife Service
"Starvation/exposure is the main cause of perinatal lamb deaths (accounting for 57% of losses in the first week of life). The important factors include sick ewes, exhausted ewes, lack of milk, mastitis, desertion, weak lambs after a difficult birth, under and overweight lambs and exposure to cold, wet and windy weather." Teagasc
"There is no evidence that foxes need to be controlled...no method of fox control has had an impact on the fox population." Professor Stephen Harris, Bristol University
"The pro-hunting argument that fox hunting is an essential form of pest control has been completely shattered. This new research proves what we have said all along - that fox hunting is essentially carried out for recreational purposes. It is cruel and unnecessary." John Rolls, RSPCA
It is unfortunate that the Mooney show is spreading misinformation about one of Ireland's favourite wild mammals, the fox, and reinforcing the misconceptions some people hold about these fascinating animals. Please join us in urging show presenter Derek Mooney to clarify on the show that foxes are not an enemy of farmers.
Slideshow: The truth about foxes