When Foxes Attack
by Brett Mills — University of East Anglia
October 05, 2010 – 00:02
As the video summary by Newsy shows, international news coverage followed the mauling of two nine-month old twins by a fox in the UK in June 2010. The fox is assumed to have entered the suburban home in East London via an open patio door, and, by the time it left, the twins had arm injuries with one child also injured on the face.
But why is this a news story (especially when far more people are killed and injured in the home by domestic animals than by wild ones), and what does it tell us about the complex ways in which animals such as foxes are understood by humans?
Running through the report is an assumption about space. That is, that the home is a private space, where we should be able to feel secure. That a fox can wander in and injure members of our family in such a protected area is deemed to be threatening, and undermines the urban/nature distinction which defines contemporary city living.
But the urban fox confuses such a distinction anyway, by its very existence. Do we think of the urban fox in the same way as a fox living in the countryside? How can humans come to terms with the other species that they co-exist with, even if urban living often proposes the myth that wild creatures are not in our domain?
And these news reports keep returning to the same word; ‘attack’. This term suggests some kind of deliberate motivation on the part of the fox, and implies an intention of harm. Did the fox ‘attack’ the twins, or merely injure them as it went about its activities? Fox experts are in disagreement over this, but the majority seem to see this as an extremely rare event, and most reject the idea that this was a motivated ‘attack’. So why is it that animal-human interactions, in which humans come off the worse, always seem to be categorised as ‘attacks’?