"I have always been against blood sports like fox hunting, yet cannot deny that many farmers and country folk genuinely perceive the fox as being nothing less than vermin that should be stamped out at every opportunity.
The impact of foxes on agriculture is a controversial issue. In general, farmers perceive any predator as a pest because of losses suffered by their livestock. However, over the past two years, several studies on the economic role of foxes to agriculture have highlighted some interesting findings which justify more the existence of foxes in country life as opposed to their demise.
Each year, rabbits cause an estimated £120 million of damage to agriculture in Britain. Foxes are estimated to cause £12 million of damage, but this needs to be put in perspective because rabbits are the main prey of foxes in rural areas. By eating rabbits, it is estimated that foxes provide an indirect economic benefit to farmers of at least £7 million annually. Because fox benefits offset their costs, foxes are probably economically neutral to farmers. Research on lamb, poultry and piglets shows that losses to foxes are, in general, low and that a number of simple husbandry methods could effectively reduce predation considerably.
When I first started writing books for children in 1990, I was determined to write upon themes that many children would find meaningful to their everyday lives and feelings which they found difficult to deal with. Such feelings vary from child to child and include emotions and experiences such as bullying, discrimination, loss and bereavement etc.
I recalled as a child, my own greatest failing was a proneness to steal. Many times I tried to stop and many times I failed to grow honest hands. Like the proverbial addict who has grown accustomed to their sinful practice, I needed many attempts to stop stealing before I finally managed to stop altogether. Then, when I did stop, I didn't get the credit I craved and felt bitterly cheated that not everyone gave me the benefit of the doubt and believed I had reformed.
I have always held the view that everyone deserves 'a second chance' and based upon my own inadequate record of early reform, I also knew that many creatures needed second chances many times before they could take advantage of the offer. Providing others with 'second chances' was also the prime reason for me choosing to work as a Probation Officer during the larger part of my life.
One of my earliest books which was to establish my credentials as a writer was about a fox whose favourite food was feathered chicken and whose daily pastime was chasing lambs round and around until they dropped down dead. The book was called, 'Sleezy the Fox' and was so successful that the late Princess Diana phoned me up and asked to have a copy sent to her so that she may read the four stories to her two sons at bedtime, the then 9 and 7 year old Princes William and Harry. I must acknowledge harbouring a secret smugness in later years, knowing that one of my children's books became bedtime reading by the next King of England as he listened to the story from his sweet mother's mouth.
In the stories, Sleezy; this thieving and murderous fox became the bane of every farmer's life for miles around, yet try as they may to catch the clever fox and whatever trap they lay, none proved smart enough to catch Sleezy; until a kindly farmer who believed in giving all creatures 'second chances' arrived in the village and eventually caught the fox. This kind farmer had agreed to catch the fox, providing he could decide the fox's fate once caught.
All four 'Sleezy the Fox' stories are available for purchase in e-book format from www.smashwords.com or in hard copy from www.lulu.com or www. amazon.com with all profits from their sale going to charity, along with the £200.000 given to charity from the sales of my books since 1990. For any child who is unable to read or would like to hear a recorded abridged version of the four stories recorded by professional readers/actors, they can be freely accessed from my website by following the link below :
These four fox stories are suitable for the 7-11 year old reader. I would also designate them recommended reading for anyone who is inclined to believe in the sayings, 'Once a thief, always a thief' or 'A leopard cannot change its spots.' I would also highly recommend these Sleezy the Fox stories to those so called countryside conservatives who believe in the practice of chasing foxes with a pack of hounds across our beautiful rural land, and upon the dogs cornering their prey, inciting their hounds to rip open the fox's throat and to tear the trapped creature asunder like a rag doll; all in the reported interest of countryside preservation and vermin control.
Everyone deserves 'a second chance.' With a few exceptions such as evil dictators and the cruellest of despots like Hitler and his ilk, along with twisted violators of innocent children, I genuinely believe that the overwhelming majority of us are bigger than our worst action and are open to reform." William Forde: January 14th, 2016.