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Discourses on foxhunting in the public sphere: a Q methodological study

British Politics Aims and scope


The foxhunting debate conjures up dichotomies on party politics, the rural/urban divide, class, animal welfare, animal rights and the right to hunt them. In the lead-up to the 2004 hunting ban, animals themselves became peripheral in the political debate on hunting. This paper presents a contemporary analysis of shared viewpoints on hunting that highlights the centrality of animals to debates over foxhunting. I use Q methodology to identify four discourses on hunting in public debates. Liberal progressives are against hunting on the basis that it is cruel, unnecessary and outdated. Critical-radicals oppose hunting from a structural perspective, encompassing critiques of power and class. Countryside managers support hunting as a form of wildlife management and emphasise the differences across animals. Sporting libertarians support hunting as a legitimate sport. These findings demonstrate the complexity of the hunting debate in the public sphere that is simplified and exaggerated in mainstream media and Westminster.

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  1. The terms ‘man-made’ and similar are used here because they reflect the language used by advocates of this position, exemplified by the Countryside Alliance: ‘The British countryside has been created by man over centuries to meet human needs. In this man-made environment, wildlife has to be managed. Mankind cannot abdicate its responsibility for the ongoing management of the countryside it has created’ (Countryside Alliance 2012).


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This research was funded by the Centre for Animals and Social Justice and the Department of Politics at the University of Sheffield.

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Correspondence to Lucy J. Parry.

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J. Parry, L. Discourses on foxhunting in the public sphere: a Q methodological study. Br Polit 14, 290–310 (2019).

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