Archive for March, 2018

There’s always a recurring theme to many of the questions we get asked both in person and on social media with regards to hunting with hounds. When people finally realise that hunting still goes on largely as it did before the ban they then ask why the police don’t arrest those who are responsible. I’m going to cover what I believe are the 6 main reasons for their lack of action on this issue and hopefully this will also go some way in helping to understand the actions we, as activists take in response to that.

1 – Funding.

Police forces are facing huge challenges in funding their activities and some are desperately trying to juggle their needs and that of public opinion. Our local force is probably the most underfunded in the country and I believe also rated one of the worse in performance. The problem they have is that’s it’s a largely rural county with a couple of large urban conurbations which are, as one officers said off record, “terrorist central”. Clearly the policing of these areas will always take precedence along with the bulk of the funding and this can be construed as neglecting the wider issues in the countryside by the general public. Locally up to a couple of years ago we didn’t even have a dedicated team for rural policing but now this has been resolved and I guess it at least says something that we have a dedicated officer who acts as liaison for our group and a conduit for the transfer of information.

While not all counties will be the same I have no doubt that the majority of funding for police operations will go elsewhere and the whole hunting issue is well down the list of importance.

2 – How the police work.

One of the main points to understand is how the police work and this will explain their actions, or of course the lack of.

Think of the police force as a large company. The product they sell is convictions. The more convictions they achieve the better it will look on their books and the more funding they will receive from Government. Unsolved crimes will go against them. Ultimately the police want to spend the money allocated to them in the most cost effective way possible and achieve the most convictions. If they perceive an illegal activity not worthy of spending time and money on with an investigation due to the poor conviction rate then they simply won’t bother. You’ll often hear the police and CPS in particular say; “it’s not in the public interest”.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that they think the public aren’t interested in them prosecuting but the cost of that investigation will outweigh the chance of a successful outcome. This will affect many minor crimes and not just those in relation to the Hunting Act.

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Waste of police resources?

3 – Resource Allocation.

This also relates to point 1 however it’s worth noting as a separate point. We’ve spoken to officers attending hunts who’ve said; “We can’t stay here long there’s a football match we have to police”. Sporting events like football matches obviously take a lot of policing and clubs pay for some of this (inside the stadiums) so it makes sense to take resources from one area to fill another with a greater need and also one which is likely to put something at least back into the financial pot. Although I use the football match analogy there are likely to be many other instances where priority over hunting will take place. In the grand scheme of things hunting is well down the pecking order in the level of priority.

4 – The Legislation.

I think it’s fairly well accepted by everyone on both sides that the Hunting Act isn’t fit for purpose. It has many glaring loop holes, some so big you could drive a horse box through them. Obviously this is no cause for any repeal like the so-called Countryside Alliance and their chief fibber dim Tim Bonner continually bang on about as some very straight forward changes could make the act a very successful and workable piece of legislation. I’ll cover this in more detail in another blog post to come.

Because the Hunting Act is convoluted and written with the law breakers in mind it becomes very difficult for the police to take it seriously and therefore not waste their time and effort in trying to police it. Once again this relates to all the other points of funding, allocating resources and how the police work. Only last Saturday while on operations against the Puckeridge Hunt in Hertfordshire (Tim Bonner’s home hunt) I spoke to the Sergeant in charge of policing on that day and his words were quite revealing.

“We know what the hunt get up to, they don’t fool us any more than they do you but there’s virtually no chance of prosecuting them. We even have to use much older legislation (the Game Act 1831) against the hare coursers we have that come to the county as it’s a better way of prosecuting them than using the Hunting Act”.

This statement speaks volumes.

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A hunter gets narky at plod for not arresting those nasty antis.

5 – Lack of knowledge within the police force, particularly officers attending hunts.

There simply isn’t enough officers which understand the act and are able to make rational decisions from what they witness when attending hunts. Decent wildlife crime officers are in very short supply. We’ve actually worked with some pretty decent officers, some are dedicated and really want to prosecute those who abuse our wildlife but on the whole officers attending hunts have virtually no idea of what they are doing. This is why when they attend they will say they are only there to maintain public order, its what they know and how to deal with.

A couple of weeks ago I was once again speaking to an officer attending a hunt. I showed him evidence of several foxes being flushed by the hunt on my video camera. He made a call to someone obviously more senior for some advice and the response was that as no foxes had been killed then no crime had taken place! This is clearly nonsense and I explained to the officer present that all you need to do is prove the intent to hunt a live mammal, no kill has to take place. The glaringly obvious evidence to back up the intent of the hunt was the presence of masked terrier men (those fence menders the CA like to talk about) with spades and terriers in boxes. There is of course no legitimate reason for these to be on a genuine trail hunt. But then again there’s no such thing as a legitimate trail hunt.

Too many officers will arrive at a hunt and make a snap decision based on their perception (and prejudice) of the people who are there. Who will they believe, a bunch of posh people dressed smartly on horseback or a bunch of sabs who are probably covered in mud and sweating from running around the countryside all day?

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Only interested in protecting the Atherstone Hunt

6 – Corruption.

Good old corruption. The old boys (or girls) club looking after their own. Make no mistake there are a large number of officers and judiciary who hunt. We expose these when we can to make it as difficult for them to influence things as possible (stay tuned for later blog posts as I’ve got an absolute peach of one coming up soon) but irrespective of their claims of impartiality corruption does take place.

The bias shown by some forces and officers can only lead us to draw the simple conclusion that officers on the coal face are either bias themselves or have been instructed to act in a certain manner when dealing with hunts and those who stand against them. I’ve seen officers look the other way while a fox has been chased between police cars with the hounds in pursuit. We’ve seen helicopters deployed to monitor sabs that would have cost the tax payer thousands of pounds. West Mids Hunt Sabs gained audio recordings of officers advising the Atherstone Hunt on which laws to use against sabs and monitors. The CA have ex senior officers manipulating police policy where they can. I’ve written on the subject before and will of course continue to do so. Where there is power there will be corruption and I believe it to exist at all levels within the police force.

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PC Sharon Roscoe & Inspector Lou Cordiner at the Belvoir Hunt Ball

We’ve worked with many that are genuine and honest, lots will even privately tell you that they support what we do and wish us the best, but the fact remains no matter how much progress we make (and that’s been considerable) with regard to police relations there remains an issue which needs to be resolved.

Last week on the One Show there was a piece about hunting and those that monitor the hunts in their own time. The Cheshire Monitors took part in the filming of this and you can see what they thought about what was aired on their facebook page plus you can also watch the piece itself if you haven’t already.

The major talking point however came from Countryside Alliance spokesperson Polly Portwin. When questioned on the presence of masked up men on quad bikes following the hunt she claimed they were there to mend fences, they carried tools for that job in the boxes on their quads and they were in fact masked up to protect themselves from dust. It’s a shame the program makers didn’t challenge this and in fact stop one of the terrier men present and ask to have a look in their box.

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Polly “Pinocchio” Portwin

Even by the CA’s standard this is laughable. Do they really expect the viewer to believe this unmitigated tripe? Even a casual observer with no real knowledge of the issue could see through these contemptuous claims and the evidence to the contrary is, to say the least, overwhelming.

The Hunt Saboteurs Association were quick to reply with 2 separate posts from their press officer, Lee Moon:

The Countryside Alliance claimed on The One Show tonight that Hunt terrier men use the metal boxes on their quads to carry tools to mend fences. These photos prove their lie. They carry terriers on their quads to corner foxes below ground that are then dug out and shot or thrown to the hounds.

The presence of terrier men on hunts proves the lie of trail hunting.

And also:

“The Countryside Alliance claimed on The One Show that Hunt terrier men wear masks to protect themselves from dust. These photos prove their lie. Terrier men and Hunt supporters wear masks to intimidate, threaten and assault anyone who tries to disrupt their bloodsport.

The presence of terrier men on hunts proves the lie of trail hunting”.

To see original posts click here and here.

These posts were accompanied by a selection of photographs (some of which you will have already seen on this blog) utterly disproving the nonsense the CA were spouting.

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Oakley Terrie Man Neil Young.

CA CEO Tim Bonner is also well known for spouting a similar amount of utter drivel and is obsessed with the issue of anti-hunt personnel hiding their identities (for legitimate reasons) and I’ve covered this many times in the past. His recent behaviour on Twitter also leaves a lot to be desired, particularly his comments regarding mental health and Chris Packham.

The CA is a truly insidious organisation. An organisation which will openly lie in an effort to try and claim their members aren’t breaking the law and will use any and all measures to discredit those who stand against them. They may have plenty of money and people with influence in their pocket but an overwhelming number of the general public stand against them and, given time, they will be shown up for what they really are. The rubbish spouted on the One Show is just another example that this failing organisation are becoming more and more desperate and will soon need the Fire Brigade to put out all those underwear fires.

 

We have an anonymous guest blog entry this week originally published by my old friends at Berkshire Hunt Sabs on their Facebook page which highlights the issue of the promotion of illegal blood sports within the higher cost echelons of the education system. This issue clearly needed some more exposure and answers some of the questions as to why certain sectors of society and blood sports go hand in hand. There’s also link for you to get involved at the end of the piece so please take a little time to voice your concerns.

AMPLE EVIDENCE OF ILLEGAL HUNTING AT AMPLEFORTH COLLEGE.

As Hunt Saboteurs we are prepared to go to great lengths to stop the cruel and illegal practice of hunting with hounds. Occasionally, though, we don’t even have to venture into the fields to expose what the hunters do. North Yorkshire’s Ampleforth Beagles made our job a lot easier when they published their Spring 2017 newsletter on the official website of the Ampleforth Society…

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“MORAL CONFUSION” AT AMPLEFORTH COLLEGE.

The £34,392 a year Ampleforth College is one of Britain’s most traditional public schools, offering the benefit of an education overseen by Benedictine monks. In his welcome message on the school website, the Headmaster, Father Wulstan Peterburs, states that, “The moral principles that the boys and girls develop here act as spiritual bearings to guide them through adult life in an increasingly secular world filled with moral confusion.” However, Father Peterburs’ extravagant claims of morality are seriously undermined by his school’s active involvement in the cruel and illegal “sport” of beagling.

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THE AMPLEFORTH BEAGLES.

The Ampleforth College Beagles were formed in 1915. While the pack have now dropped the “College” from their name this is a cosmetic change only. The school maintains a “Captain of Beagling” and their official Ampleforth Society website states that “Beagling is still very much part of school life today”. Students are actively encouraged to join the hunts and, according to an article on the pack in Horse and Hound (30th March 2017), there is an ambition to “strengthen ties with the school, allowing students greater access to the hounds and the wonderful hunting that they produce.”

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THE AMHB.

In their Spring 2017 newsletter the Ampleforth Beagles boast of their membership of the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles. This organisation hit the headlines in 2013 when the Hunt Saboteurs Association revealed that they intended to hold a “Young Hare Hunters Day” at Eton College (another public school with its own pack of beagles). The event was eventually cancelled but questions were asked about why the AMHB was offering training in the hunting of hares – an activity that is illegal – to vulnerable young people. Four years on, the Ampleforth Beagles inform us that the AMHB are still offering events that are “especially designed for young hare hunters”. Why does the college deem this material acceptable on its website?

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ILLEGAL HARE HUNT BY THE AMPLEFORTH BEAGLES AT COTE HILL, FARNDALE, FEBRUARY 2017.

Elsewhere in the Spring 2017 newsletter the huntsman, Toby Pedley (an ex-whip of the Claro Beagles) gives a detailed description of a February meet from Cote Hill, Farndale that can only be an illegal hare hunt.

Before looking at Pedley’s account, it is important to understand what hare hunting looked like before the 2004 Hunting Act. Beagles are bred to hunt hares using stamina, not speed. They kill the hare by gradually wearing it down over an extended period of time. When a hare is found it will initially be much faster than the hounds; however, as the hunt progresses the beagles’ stamina will begin to give them an advantage as the hare tires. The hare will generally run in large circles (as it is reluctant to leave its home range) and the huntsman will get involved if hounds lose the scent or start to chase another hare. Eventually, the exhausted animal will be overwhelmed by the hounds and torn to pieces. Pre-ban beagling is therefore a dynamic, fast moving activity characterised by broadly circular chases that can last anything between 30 minutes and three hours.

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Pedley’s account has all of the characteristics of pre-ban beagling outlined above. It is, in fact, a textbook account of a traditional (i.e. illegal) hunt and ends, we believe, in the death of a hare in front of college students and the “captain of Beagling Ben Saunders.”

A TRAIL OF LIES.

We know that, in an effort to protect its reputation, the college will claim that the event Pedley describes was a “trail hunt” (where hounds supposedly follow a pre-laid trail) and that these are the “lines” he refers to throughout. In anticipation of this claim, we ask the following questions:

(1) What substance was used to lay the trail ? It is clearly a remarkable one: it produced a “red hot” scent strong enough to sustain the keen interest of twenty-seven hounds for an hour across the very challenging terrain of the North Yorks Moors. Such a substance has never been seen in use at any other fox or hare hunt. Very, very occasionally, when hunt saboteurs are in attendance, hunts will lay a drag for a few hundred metres which is either ignored by the hounds or followed very briefly and with minimal interest. This hound activity bears no similarity whatsoever to the extensive and fast-paced hunt described by Pedley.

(2) Who laid the trail and when did they do it? Pedley’s description suggests that the hunt was approximately seven miles in length across steep, demanding terrain. Given that a pack of beagles completed this distance in about an hour, any human trail-layer must have been toiling for several hours on the moors before the meet. Additionally, this busy person must have laid other trails, as Pedley records that there were “fresh lines emerging” throughout the hunt.

(3) With countless miles of moorland at their disposal, why did the trail-layer repeatedly lay the line across the Blakey road, such that whipper-in Russell Yardley had to “stay on the road stopping traffic numerous times”? At the very least this put hounds, hunt followers (including Ampleforth students) and passing motorists in danger.

(4) Why does Pedley state that he was “delighted” to see an experienced hound stick to “the original line” when there were “fresh lines emerging”? In trail hunting the idea of an “original line” is a nonsense: one laid trail is the same as any other. Conversely, in the long-illegal activity of beagling, a hound that was able to persist in hunting the original hare when fresh hares got up in its path would be highly valued by the huntsman. “Changing hares” in pre-ban beagling was something to be avoided at all costs as it significantly reduced the chances of a kill.

(5) How did Pedley know when the “hunt had concluded”? Countryside Alliance guidance on trail hunting (published 12th December 2017) very clearly states that the huntsman “does not know exactly where the trails have been laid” so how did Pedley know it had finished? And what does “finished” even mean in the context of a trail hunt?

PROVE US WRONG.

We believe we have shown that the Ampleforth Beagles have, by their own admission, committed illegal activities and that Ampleforth College is openly associating itself with this criminality.

However, the college and their hunt can immediately prove us wrong. All they have to do is take a genuinely independent observer onto the moors and demonstrate the process – from start to finish – of organising a “trail hunt” that exactly replicates pre-ban beagling, as Pedley’s hunt supposedly did. We set this challenge because we know it is impossible: there is no such thing as trail hunting; it is a crude and obvious deceit designed to disguise illegal hunting.

WHAT YOU CAN DO.

We need your help to raise these matters with Ampleforth College. Please make polite enquiries about the events at Cote Hill and the college’s active involvement with the Ampleforth Beagles. If they claim to have been trail hunting please also insist on answers to the specific questions we have asked.

01439 766000

reception@ampleforth.org.uk.

@AmpleforthSoc

@AmpleforthColl