A fox had a revolt of conscience and swore off chickens. He climbed onto a stump and preached:
“Fellow foxes, examine your hearts! To fatten our bellies, we do violence to helpless, innocent creatures and incur the wrath of the farmers. Oughtn’t we rather to live at peace with all? My friends, I implore you, love the chickens! Escape the snares of unrighteousness! Set yourselves free!”
The foxes were divided. Many hated the fox, for they knew he was right but did not wish to change. But some believed in him.
The believers began to fast. As time wore on, the band grew skinnier and skinnier, and some began to doubt. The fox heard their whispers and seethed. From his stump he railed:
“Eating chickens is detestable — as is anyone who does it! Death to all chicken eaters!”
One night, hollow with hunger, the fox crept into a hen house, snatched a chicken, and devoured her. “Oh, what have I done?” he cried. In his distress he thought of confessing. Later, though, when he had calmed down, he decided against it. “My followers would lose heart,” he said. “What’s more, I shall never, ever repeat this folly again.”
A few nights later the fox ate a second chicken. “What I condemn, I do,” he said. Again the fox thought of confessing. But lately he had acquired quite a reputation for clean living; so he decided against it.
Yet a third time, in broad daylight, the fox caught a hen. This time, the fox’s luck ran out; one of his opponents spotted him. He told the others, and everyone came running, and what did they see but the old hypocrite, his mouth full of bloody feathers?
“Have I done wrong?” said the fox. “Do great leaders not need their nourishment?”
The foxes snarled. A voice called out: “Hang him!”
They constructed a gallows. Hearing the pounding and sawing, the farmer came, and wondered.
“You have saved me the trouble of killing him myself,” he said. “But why perform this service for me? Why hang one of your own, who has stolen nothing from you, and who was only acting in accordance with his vulpine nature?”
“Ah, sir, there?s the rub,” a fox replied. “We hang him not for acting like a fox. We hang him for pretending he was better than a fox.”