This time last year it was my unfortunate duty to report on a rather grim festive season (see here). This year however I’m pleased to report that things were significantly different. Both hunts I attended were the same as previous years but the difference this time round was the lack of any attempt by the hunts in question (the Cambridge with Enfield Chace and the Fitzwilliam) to actually hunt. Considering Boxing Day and the first New Years hunt are traditionally the biggest days in the hunting calendar this would appear to seem a little odd. Of course they still paraded in all their finery around the local villages and soaked  up the adulation from the hardcore sychophants and hangers on but while they may have talked a big show the reality was significantly different. Judging by information received from other hunts it would seem these weren’t isolated incidents either. So  lets ask ourselves, what was the cause of these changes of plan?

Media attention and public scrutiny.

It has been widely reported recently both on social media and the mainstream press that hunts continue to openly flout the ban. I’ve reported on this blog several times (see here and here) about hunts that have been caught pretty much red handed and yet there is often little or no police action over the incidents. However a very recent poll suggested that support for the ban was in fact at its highest level since its introduction and while these reports can no longer be swept under the carpet, regardless of police inaction the general public will still be made aware of what is really happening and react accordingly. With technology making the recording of high quality video and photographs freely available to all its no surprise that these incidents are captured and they will continue to as long as someone is there to witness it.


The Cambridge with Enfield Chace just going for a ride on Boxing Day

The growth in numbers of Sabs and Monitors.

Despite the claims to the contrary by Dim Tim Bonner and the CA the membership of the HSA has soared over the last few years. The initial main reason for this was the badger cull where those making their first step in activism came into contact with sabs and they realised it was something they could get on board with, realising that sabs were just normal people and not the urban terrorists some sections of the media made them out to be. Again social media is being well used by sab groups and monitors and the public are seeing the injustices that are taking place and they are understandably getting angry and joining up. This in turn has increased the pressure on the hunts as more sabs and monitors are available to keep an eye on what is going on and step in if necessary. Even a small number of sabs can have a huge impact on a hunting day, even more can stop one completely. Hunts have little option but to run or stick within the law when faced with lots of sabs on their hunting territory.

Has the Countryside Alliance told them to no get caught on the big days out?

Getting busted for hunting illegally is a real pain in the backside for the PR people at the CA. They love to claim there has been so few convictions under the hunting act (although this is more to do with the poor legislation and lack of police interest that actual laws broken) but when their big days come about they’ll wheel out the same sorry old stories about record crowds etc. These are of course complete hogwash. Even if the CA’s own figures of 250,000 are to be believed (they’re not) then that’s still only a tiny percentage of the population (0.003%). The last thing they need is for the chocolate box image of the traditional winter hunt being shown for what it truly is, a bunch of blood junkies on horses with their associated serfs and hangers on ripping sentient mammals to pieces for fun. Did the CA put the word out to the hunts to just put on a show and go for a ride on their big day? Of course we have no solid information on this but the fact many hunts stayed within the law must suggest there had been some sort of internal memo and while it probably didn’t tell them to not to hunt it probably suggested they take all reasonable steps to not get caught.


The Fitzwilliam on Bank Holiday Monday

Are the police finally taking action?

Not really. While some forces are taking steps to properly uphold the law others are a complete disgrace. Personally speaking and in terms of the hunting act I’ve reported on Bedfordshire Police’s efforts and Cambs seem to have much more of an understanding as well although it seems they are overloaded just chasing chasing hare coursers for which the wide open spaces of Cambs are ideal. It would also seem that Leicestershire Police who I’ve been highly critical of in the past are now starting to act properly and this may have had something to do with the PCC witnessing first hand what the hunts in the area get up to (see here), but having said that certain forces openly continue to either turn a blind eye to blatant hunting or are even facilitating it by persecuting monitors and sabs, it seems especially bad in Suffolk and Surrey.

Whatever the reasons behind the lack of hunting on these big calendar days, and I suspect it is a combination of all of the above and we should be grateful that no wildlife was abused in these instances. I’ve no doubt once the spotlight is shining elsewhere they’ll go back to their killing ways but right now I’m personally glad I don’t have the images of hounds pulling a terrified animal apart in front of me.

  1. Lynn Sawyer says:

    More to do with sabs/monitors being present in the field and on the day with a particular hunt methinks. The meets are all published and these big meets are public days with cap fees going to hunt staff. Some very serious hunting types even stay away because of the crowds and gridlock traffic. In the Cotswolds on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day for very high profile packs it was hunting as per normal with scores of badger setts blocked and blatant hunting WHEN they thought they could get away with it. The Heythrop ,who are the only hunt who have been convicted as a corporate body, mysteriously had within their favourite coverts for Boxing Day no less than 7 badger setts blocked. We suspect that there will be many more than that. They were caught hunting a fox too and got proper shitty pants when caught out. Hunts adapt and will constantly try and get away with it. If there is such a memo many are ignoring it. It will of course depend on each hunt.

  2. Jon Walker says:

    I find your newsletters to be hugely encouraging. I think your willingness to engage with the police is probably one of the best contributors to a changing attitude.
    I do notice that it is generally only a few members of the field, (the mounted ones) that are willing to talk to “council house living, unwashed, never done a decent days work in your life, can’t get up till midday, do you speak English?” trash, like myself. I’m terrified that they find out about my o-level in woodwork, that would be so humiliating..( Most of the field prefer to avoid eye contact.) I would endorse your view,- the hunt 20 miles north of Manchester was reasonably well behaved on their first New Year outing, which was very much a PR exercise.
    Thank you for speaking out.

  3. Sally says:

    Great to know that the hunts are becoming worried. Thanks for everything you do.

  4. Deborah Swift says:

    Another fabulous article. Thank you & I agree with your points, especially social media. I’m new to this as only got informed this year. I was previously a public ignoramus thinking hunting was banned end of. I’m in my late 50’s & I now fund sabs, joined HSA & have been on a rallies against hunting fox cubs / badger cull. I make a nuisance of myself where I can writing to police, media about this issue. I’m now vegan. All because I went on fb to nosey at my daughter in Australia….

  5. Cheryl Leddie says:

    Very pleased that this alarming “sport” and I say that loosely is being slowly diminished. I keep aware from NZ and have a close English friend training to be a SAB. Good luck to you all, you are very brave and kind.

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