Whilst I was waiting in our local sandwich shop for BigHead's latest insane bread-bounded crime against culinary science to be prepared, I caught sight of today's headline news regarding the two small children allegedly mauled by a fox in Hackney.
My immediate thought (well, immediate after thinking that that's a pretty shitty thing to happen to a family, of course) was that it surely wouldn't be long before someone started loudly screaming that a) this was proof the fox hunting ban is a stupid idea, and b) that we needed to start tracking down urban foxes and beating them to death with whatever we can find at hand (which, ironically, might be a small child).
Sure, enough, I get back to the office, and we're off to the races.
For the record, I have no particular love for foxes, of either the urban or the countryside variety. I do not clutch my pearls in horror each time a farmer fixes his sights on a fleeing vulpine and blows its brains out. And contra Mr Crowden (who is either a tosspot or tremendously badly served by this article), the degree of cuteness or beauty exhibited by an animal has very little bearing on how much I care whether it gets the shitty end of an organised cull.
But can we possibly just stop for a minute and think about this? The number of fox attacks on small children in the last forty years is apparently exactly zero. It would actually make far more sense based on the most plausible perpetrator of this attack to demand a cull of dogs, which rather begs the question: just who is it resisting the idea of mass animal slaughterings based on cuteness?
The larger point that urban fox populations are getting out of hand is one I can't claim any knowledge of. Maybe a cull was a good idea independently of what may or may not have taken place last night. If it is, however, and there are reasons to think it might be, I wonder whether it can really be animal rights groups that are the stumbling block, as oppose to cost and fears of replacing one problem with another (would there be an increase in the rat population, for instance, and is that something we'd really prefer to an abundance of foxes?)
This all feeds in to one of my general bugbears: people's refusal to accept that from time to time shit happens. Every now and again leaving the window open in your child's room is going to end spectacularly badly, whether it be a fox, a dog, or a kidnapper who gains entrance, or indeed the kid climbs out. This is the same instinct that has led to more and more absurdly draconian security measures being put into airports, despite the fact that we're long past the point where they're liable to have anything but the most pathetically marginal effects on people's safety (it's also what gives racist pricks in America the opportunity to demand brown people go through extra checks after checking in) . I got into a debate just last week with people convinced that the shootings in Cumbria were proof that something has to be done about murderous gun rampages, even though every suggestion they made ran the distinct risk of increasing the number of gun deaths this country suffers each year.
Some times, things are just as safe as they can realistically be, and all that's left is bad luck. One incident at most in forty years certainly sounds like it qualifies.