In my parents kitchen table there are two drawers. One of these is rarely opened. It contains the placemats we traditionally used on Christmas day.

As a child I loved these placemats. They had various paintings of animals and people on them- just my kind of thing! However I did notice that for Christmas guests they had a very mixed reception. Some guests even refused their placemat and didn’t want their plate to sit on it at all. How rude!

The placemats had paintings of fox hunting on them.

I have never been foxhunting. I think my mum went foxhunting once. My family love old, unusual and beautiful things. Also my dad loves to shock people.

Christmas was a very difficult time for my dad growing up, because his mother was often suicidal. He could be a little withdrawn at Christmas because of this past trauma, but would happily discuss placemats, with any shocked guests. His therapy, I guess!

Anyway, I remember debating at school about animal cruelty. I would be the girl who said ‘Hang on, isn’t foxhunting *VERY* traditional?’. It was an unpopular opinion. Truth is, I would lose myself in the paintings on the Christmas placemats. Every Christmas I would look forward to which scene I would get. When I was given my Christmas food, I was a little bit disappointed that my nice placemat scene was covered up. I couldn’t understand the upset guests who rejected their placemat’s scene. If you aren’t having it, I will!

I love animals, and I knew the sport was cruel on the fox. But I also knew that nature is cruel and animals tear each other apart as a matter of course. Mostly I was swayed by the beauty I saw in foxhunting. I loved the uniforms, and the whole dramatic look of it. It seemed like a way of being closer to nature, rather than an aggressive move towards it. I think a lot of foxhunters feel like that, and they are not otherwise cruel to animals. Foxhunting is an exception they make.

In recent years, my family has stopped using the placemats. However we also have a plate with foxhunting on it. Oddly it often gets stuck at the top of the pile of plates. This suggests that people prefer not to eat off of it, but no one will admit it.

Recently I have been learning about clean boot hunting. This is foxhunting where the hounds follow the scent of a human runner. No foxes are harmed. I still see foxhunting as beautiful and traditional as well as cruel. Clean boot hunting seems to be the perfect solution.

The idea of a clean boot hunt, is attractive for debaters, but it’s another thing to get hunters out there doing it. People need to be shown that it is a viable proposition in the modern world. I have a lot of respect for the people who are really making it happen. People take time to adjust to change. The clean boot hunters are met with opposition from both sides, but hopefully this will decrease as people get used to it, and understand it is different and that’s okay.

Here are the placemats –