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Compassion - Not Cunning - Is the Greatest Gift We Can Gain From Foxes

26/06/2014 16:24 BST | Updated 25/08/2014 10:59 BST

A day spent with the ambulance of The Fox Project, a rescue scheme based in Tunbridge Wells and extending into the southern suburbs of London, unsurprisingly taught me a lot about the biology and life of foxes.

I saw cubs that are just about ready to be released back into the wild settle into a new home (it seems nothing is so nice as burrowing into a fresh pile of hay to seek a sense of safety before you start exploring) and adults soldiering on with horrible injuries. I fell for Daisy, who with a badly broken leg, and suffering from a severe tick infestation, settled into her rescue cage with sensible equanimity.

But what really impressed me over the day were the people. The rescuers - many of whom have dedicated their lives and homes to the cause (taking on bottle-fed orphans means three-hour feeds through the night for up to six weeks) - are dedicated, compassionate and determined to do the best they can for their vulnerable charges.

Even more impressive, because it was more surprising, was the public. Some had adopted 'fox families' as part of their own, feeding them regularly and ringing for advice on their welfare with passionate concern. But many more were demonstrating compassion for animals they'd come across merely by chance and knew nothing about.

In the first group was a woman who rang practically in tears, concerned about 'her' fox which had injured its back and had flies gathering around it. In the second group were people who had simply found an injured fox in their garden, or seen it by the side of the road. They'd seen its suffering, and wanted to stop it; to restore that animal to health and the wild. Workers told me that they often get people who said they hated foxes, but didn't want to see them suffering.

It was a reminder that compassion is a powerful aspect of human nature, a great force that we are currently not identifying, celebrating and developing adequately.

We've got a government that's entirely focused on talking about competition, winning and celebrating people at the top of the heap (particularly financially).

That's not surprising, really, when its whole approach is that the economy is king, and the poor, the disabled and the disadvantaged must pay for the fraud, errors and greed of the bankers. There's no alternative but to run society for the benefit of the 1% of the wealthiest.

Yet it's cooperation, compassion, care and the fair sharing of resources that can deliver a world in which everyone can thrive, not just the few.

That's been essential to human existence throughout the history of our species. There's evidence going back to the Neanderthals of caring for the disabled and injured.

Yet we're now living in a society in which the welfare safety net is being hacked away. Households, the majority with at least one disabled member, have to go without food or heating to pay for the pernicious, inescapable bedroom tax. As outlined by Ed Miliband, the Labour Party is now threatening to take away the basic survival benefit of jobseekers' allowance from young people.

Foxes are cute, fox cubs particularly cute, it's understandable that they get a lot of attention and attract compassion.

But that compassion should be encouraged for all of our natural world, and all of our human world. The potential is there in all of us, but at the moment our political rhetoric and policies are all discouraging, repressing that.

We're denying the reality that for all but the 1% of the richest, we're all only one road crash, one medical incident and one employer redundancy away from the need to rely on society's compassion.

No wonder there's such deep dissatisfaction with politics.