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Dr Richard D Ryder


April 2000


  1. D W Macdonald, C Carbone, G Mace and F Mathews (Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford) have reported that, over the longer term, foxes can make considerable savings for arable farmers by taking rabbits.
  2. Macdonald et al state:

    "The following estimates are for the 6th year case under good rabbit survivorship conditions and the 10th year case under average rabbit conditions respectively. Assuming rabbits are distributed only on cereals, the long term impact of fox predation is estimated to save £52.45 or £53.84/hectare for wheat and £27.97 or £28.71/hectare of barley. At the other extreme, assuming that rabbits are evenly distributed throughout the entire landscape, the predicted long term value of fox predation is £10.45 or £10.73 per hectare of wheat and £5.57 or £5.72 per hectare of barley."

    (D W Macdonald et al: The Impact of Foxes, and Fox Control, on Rabbit Populations in Lowland British Farmland. Based upon a paper read to the Mammal Society Conference, 19 November 1999 by P Johnson)

  3. Official figures for land use indicate that in the UK 2035.6 thousand hectares are wheat and 1359 thousand hectares are barley.

(MAFF: The Digest of Agricultural Census Statistics, UK Stationery Office, 1997)

2035,600 x 53.84 = 109,596,700 }
} wheat
2,035,600 x 10.73 = 21,841,988 }


1,359,000 x 5.72 = 7,773,480 }

} barley

1,359,000 x 28.71 = 39,016,890 }


  1. If it is legitimate to make the sort of calculations that I have made, and I am advised on good authority that it is, then the annual savings to wheat and barley farmers in the UK caused by long term predation on rabbits by foxes, probably lie in the range:
  2. £29,615,468 to £148,613,590

  3. If the fox is not a pest but an asset for arable farmers, then the whole pest control case for foxhunting on arable land collapses and so also does the argument that only foxhunting, but not draghunting, is acceptable to farmers.
  4. Foxes also take other pest species such as field voles and invertebrates. Calculations for these additional savings are not available. Clearly, however, they would further strengthen the case that the fox is a considerable asset to the arable farmer.
  5. Rabbits are major consumers of grass and so livestock farmers will also benefit considerably in this respect from the predation of rabbits by foxes.


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Date uploaded to website 24 May 2000