A place for the fox
• While the presence of animals at the birth of Jesus may be a myth, I hope this Christmas tradition will continue.
My favourite crib is the one at the Dominican Church in Limerick. This has an additional guest: a fox effigy, recalling a legend concerning the holy family. One of the three wise men is supposed to have given Jesus a fox cub as a gift.
By the time Herod had ordered the killing of the child, the cub had grown to maturity. The fox, according to the story, threw Herod's hounds off the scent, enabling the holy family to escape.
It's just a legend, of course, but I have to say I prefer it to the grim reality of how the fox is treated in present-day Ireland. Though a treasured part of our wildlife heritage, it has no legal protection.
Ladies and gentlemen of leisure hunt the wily creature with packs of hounds. Then, after the pack has cornered and eviscerated it, the hunters hack its brush (tail) off and smear their faces with its blood.
I suggest that our Government take a cue from the friars at that Limerick church and give the long-suffering fox a break. As the song says: "All God's creatures have a place in the choir."
Callan, Co Kilkenny