A Story of Love and Loathing in Modern Britain.
Isn’t this a lovely cover? There’s a charming line drawing for each chapter, too. A very nicely produced book. This is not nature writing as we might think of it (probably a blessing from my POV), more of a journalistic investigation into these beautiful and fascinating creatures.
Tod, Reynard, Charlie. The names given to the fox reveal a relationship between man and fox which is like no other. For me, the most interesting sections of the book are those dealing with the mythology of foxes, going back before the ancient Greeks, and the history of the changing relationship between man and fox. In recent times (by which I mean over hundreds of years) the change has been the result of the loss of all other large predators except the badger. This puts the fox in a unique position. Pretty well omnivorous and always opportunistic, foxes have now moved into our towns and cities, delighting some and alarming others. I was particularly interested to read that both physiologically and in their hunting methods, foxes have more in common with cats than with dogs.
The hardest chapter to read was ‘Friends and Foes’, which deals with the hunting issue. This is a subject on which it is impossible to be neutral and which I shall keep quiet about. Lucy Jones is very fair, interviewing people from both sides of the debate (or war, as it is for some of them) but it’s pretty clear where her sympathies lie. It’s really extraordinary how much opinion is divided on foxes, hence the ‘love and loathing’ of the title. Some opine that ‘we’ dislike them because we can’t control what is wild. Our beautiful landscape has evolved through being managed. Should this apply to wildlife as well? Where I live, people were pleased by the increasing numbers of otters in the river. ‘Isn’t it lovely to see the otters?’ they said. Then it was noticed that all the moorhens had disappeared. This was not a coincidence. When rats began running boldly around the river bank near the supermarket (I saw one myself not a foot away from me), action was taken immediately. But otters are prettier. Our relationship with wild animals is complicated.
This is a thoroughly researched book and a thought provoking one. I was sent a copy by Elliott and Thompson.