As you may have noticed things have been a little quiet around here and that’s because I took my annual pilgrimage north of the border to watch some wildlife on the western isles. However a lot has happened while I’ve been away so it’s time for a bit of a catch up.

Obviously the election result must have been a shock to those at the Countryside Alliance who thought they would get enough pro-hunt tory MP’s in place to push a repeal of the hunting ban through. No doubt old Bonner was crying into his cornflakes on the 9th when he realised that all the leafleting and lobbying by hunt lackeys was going to count for nothing. As I pointed out previously, Cruella De May’s support for a repeal was in fact political suicide and despite claims by some pro-hunt tory MP’s to the contrary this indeed was the case and the fact they can’t come to terms with this show’s their complete lack of understanding of the British voting public. This arrogance and indeed that of May was another major stumbling block for them. While Labour and Corbyn in particular were making all the right noises and actually talking to the people the tories were relying on a noisy, privileged blood sport minority to do their bidding. It was also hugely refreshing to see so many younger voters registering and getting involved. Make no mistake this played a significant role in the results and it bodes well for the future.

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CA predictions – hilariously wrong

Of course there will be more to come from this election result. The repeal free vote will be omitted from the Queens speech today (along with several other poor manifesto decisions), while the coalition of chaos argue among themselves and do dirty little deals in an effort to stay in power. This was effectively the last chance for the pro-hunt lobby to get their way. The repeal is dead, long live the ban. Now is the time to move on and get it strengthened and properly enforced.

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Micheal Gove or Harry Enfield?

Micheal Gove is also now the new Minister for Defra and the 4th minister in that position since I started writing this blog. Looking back I’m not sure who was the worst although Paterson took some beating for comic sound bites & quotes. Gove claims that policies including the badger cull will be looked and decided on from a scientific stand point. The problem there lies with the out of context and cherry picked science supplied and the power of those with influence over that department. The badger cull will no doubt continue with the further roll outs and more innocent animals will die for no reason whatsoever other than it’s something the NFU want. Gove has a history of voting against environmental protection issues and I don’t expect his tenure to improve the current situation.

A bit closer to home I’m still waiting for a date when the Fitzwilliam case will finally be heard. If the other side were delaying in the hope for a repeal then that threat has now passed and I’ve been told to keep the whole of August free so hopefully we can get these murderers into court and a guilty verdict secured.

We’ve also had some success against the Mink/Otter hunts locally. These people really are the lowest of the low, putting a pack of hounds through a delicate environment like a water course is nothing more than environmental vandalism and it’s clear to anyone with half a brain that Otters will be the main quarry as the Mink have been largely displaced now by the returning Otter. I was also pleased to see the UK Wild Otter Trust come out with a statement regarding this.

The full statement:

MINK HUNTING

“As a leading charity dealing with the European otter, we are concerned that mink hunting can & does cause issues for otters. The hunting act of 2004 bans the hunting of mammals with dogs whether they are native or not including mink. The control of any predator if required should be done in the most humane way – hunting with dogs is not. Unfortunately, this type of hunting still continues and therefore poses an ongoing risk to the otter.

UKWOT would question the methods used during illegal mink hunting as the dogs would not be able to distinguish between an otter or a mink. There are several points that require intervention by the law because it will cause disturbance to otters at the holt, place of rest or shelter and of course will disrupt its territory. There is also a very huge risk that the “mink hounds” will “accidentally” take an otter but of course that would be covered up. Do we believe that these packs actually hunt mink? No, we don’t but having proof is paramount to any such investigation and subsequent prosecution. The UK Wild Otter Trust would not hesitate to take legal proceedings should this ever be proven against any such hunting packs and we will never endorse this barbaric act”.

Hunting is still firmly in the public eye and while this is certainly not the beginning of the end I would suggest that it could be the end of the beginning. There’s still plenty of work to do, but it will get done, make no mistake.

Bank holidays are normally spent either recovering from the excess of a weekend (in my case I was still a little fragile from a big Saturday) or getting stuff done at home which had otherwise managed to avoid your attentions. Except this last bank holiday Monday thousands took to the streets of London to remind old Cruella De May that hunting with hounds had no place in modern society.

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Photo from ITV.com

I met up with some of the rest of our group to represent Beds & Bucks Hunt Sabs and with our flag proudly blowing the breeze we joined many other sab groups, hunt monitors, members of the public and a smattering of celebs to march through London to make our voices heard. It was a noisy but good natured affair arranged by Keep the Ban, with lots of horns, whistles, chants and the occasional gizmo being played as we marched from Cavendish Square through central London to Downing Street. Those not involved cheered and clapped as we walked by to show their support while many stopped to take photos on their phones.

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Grim

It was the polar opposite to when the Countryside Alliance had a street war with the police when the ban came into effect. No dead animals were left on the streets and there was no violence, just a peaceful demonstration. And this sums up the differences between the two sides perfectly. One is all about compassion for our fellow creatures and the other violence. Violence against those unable to defend themselves and violence against anyone who opposes them.

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Hunt scum fight with the police.

Understandably there was lots of media attention, here are a few reports.

The Metro

Evening Standard

The Mirror

The Independent 

ITV

You’ll notice no BBC. You’d think this would be a news worthy story and yet zilch, nada, nothing. They were even covering another event only a short distance away so could easily have done both. However the BBC are now so firmly under the control of the Government that they are clearly refusing to cover anything which will portray Cruella in a bad light. Perhaps you’d like to complain about their, quite frankly, scandalous coverage of the election as a whole. You can do so here.

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Protester as far as you could see.

Another amusing nugget of info came from the clowns on the other side. I won’t grace them with a link however they claimed (through the use of a photo which clearly didn’t portray the reality of the situation) that the police outweighed the protesters by 2 – 1 and was a complete flop. All I can say is that London would have been devoid of police and probably a few of the home counties as well if that was the case. It’s actually laughable that these goons believe the crap they come out with. Any fool on the day could see it was a huge success with the march being out of sight both front and back from my place somewhere in the middle. Actual figures quoted range from 2000 to as many 5000. It’s probably somewhere in the middle.

Of course the boys in blue never miss an opportunity for a bit of intelligence gathering but you have to expect that sort of thing at any anti-government event.

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Sergeant Watson and his camera.

All in all a good day for those exercising their right to demonstrate against a manifesto pledge by a party which is clearly run by the few, for the few. The potential repeal of the Hunting Act is only one of numerous reasons any normal person could list as being a reason not to vote Tory on June the 8th. Do the decent thing, when it’s your time to make that mark vote for change and a compassionate Government who will benefit the many.

So old Cruella Deville (Teresa May) has finally nailed her colours to the repeal mast. It was hardly surprising to be honest when you consider how deeply the Tory party has been penetrated by the Countryside Alliance and with old saggy chops Leadsom in charge of the environment being openly pro hunt you would expect nothing less. Of course Dim Bonner and all his murdering chums at the CA have been crowing ever since, one would almost think that the law had been repealed already but there’s a long way to go yet.

First off you have to consider if this was a particularly shrewd move politically in the first place. When you consider all the challenges the country is currently facing in the grand scheme of things the hunting act is relatively small fry. Having said that it is something which is likely to stir emotions from both sides and become a hot topic of conversation. The main stream media were all over this and of course it was trending on social sites as well, something the Tories have no control over (unlike the BBC and press). There has also been coverage on several local and national radio shows where listeners were phoning in with their opinions (more on that later) along with experts (and some not so expert)  in the studio but some facts are simply not up for debate.

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What future for this little one? I took this photo only a few nights ago.

The most recent polls show that 84% of people, and remember these will include Tory voters as well, don’t want to see a return of fox hunting but the repeal will cover all hunting with hounds (a fact often ignored in the media) and will also allow hunting by Harrier packs (Foxes & Hares), Beagles & Bassetts (Hares) and Stag Hounds (deer). All these grotesque minority pass times will be legal if the law is repealed. By focusing on the fox hunting side the pro hunt lobby think they have a justification they can sell to the public by demonizing the fox as a cold hearted killer that needs controlling (nothing is further from the truth but I’m not going into that now). They’ve been trying to do that for years and by and large the general public have seen through their lies so it begs the question will some of these Tory voters that stand against hunting turn their back on a party which is so open to promote cruelty? If they lack the compassion in these instances then it’s not a huge leap of faith to think the same will apply to people and particularly those parts of society which need the help the most. Just look at their record with the NHS and the removal of benefits from the disabled.

So what about the opening salvos fired from the warring parties. I had a call asking to go on the radio last week to speak for the anti-hunt side however as it turned out it didn’t happen but the pro argument in this occasion and several occasions since all followed an all too familiar pattern. It was if these pro hunt members of the public were almost reading from a prepared hymn sheet. Funny that.

There are too many foxes. Foxes are killing my chickens & lambs. Foxes are killing hedgehogs (weren’t the badgers getting blamed for that?), foxes carry disease etc etc.

What amazed me was that none of these claims could be backed up with any proof or evidence whatsoever. The fox population in the countryside has actually been in significant decline for some years (43% between 1995-2015) most likely due to excessive killing by gamekeepers. One small holder claimed to have lost over 50 lambs and they were coming into the sheds and taking them and had seen them.

Had seen them.

And yet did nothing to stop it? It would seem like some sort of door which could be locked would be in order. I know foxes are clever but I’ve never known one open a locked door. The funny part was this person only noticed they were missing 50 odd lambs after they had returned from market (probably cause their sales were down). Surely if Mr Fox had been taking them so regularly there would be evidence? Apparently they knew of a “fox cub sett” on their land but had left it there because that’s nothing to do with them. I just shows the level of ignorance here. A cub sett? Oh my days. If you don’t even know the correct names for things I doubt you’ll understand the basics in fox ecology let alone looking after your livestock and keeping them safe. The research done on losses of livestock regarding lambs has proven that less than 1% can be attributed to predation and by far the biggest losses are due to poor husbandry.

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Cruella Deville – “Killing animals is fun”.

One dim witted pro hunt caller claimed he’d watched foxes brutally killing his chickens as well as lots of hedgehogs. Witnessed it first hand.

Yet again did nothing.

Luckily in this case we were represented by Penny Little, a hugely knowledgeable and passionate person who completely took this other callers nonsensical argument apart and called them out as complete liars.

I’ve no doubt these argument will go on for some time to come but if the Tories do get in with a big majority (I sincerely hope they don’t) what chance do they actually have of pushing through a repeal?

Well the CA may have significant sway on Governement policy but the anit-hunt side is also supported within the Tory party as well. Blue Fox have senior MP’s and front bench ministers in their organisation including Tracey Crouch (Minister for Sport), Caroline Dinenage (Equalities Minister), Sir Roger Gale, Sir David Amess and Dominic Rab the former Justice Minister. Whether they can hold enough influence to convince other Tory MP’s to vote against any repeal remains to be seen but it has to be said that any new seats won at the election could just as likely contain anti-hunt MP’s as pro. Some Tory MP’s are already coming out as anti-hunt which had previously voted against a ban after discussions with their constituents.

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Just a thought . . .

The Tories have made previous commitments to repeal the ban and it hasn’t happened yet. May’s popularity is likely to be affected by her support of something that the vast majority of the British public simply want to see an end of and with Labour now gaining some points in the opinion polls perhaps it might be something which may come back to bite her on the arse. From my point of view I’ll be voting Labour although living in a Tory stronghold as I do I don’t hold out much hope. I sincerely hope anyone reading this will consider their vote very carefully and stop these murdering bastards from getting the majority they desire. The British people will get the chance to make that happen, albeit via a deeply flawed voting system. If a repeal of the hunting Act really is political poison then May has quaffed a glass full.

I think most people will be aware by now that the Kimblewick Hunt had to destroy a large number of their hounds due to being infected with bTB. The original story broken by our friends over at Hounds Off can be read here. There is, justifiably a significant amount of concern from all sides regarding this news. Defra have always maintained that the risk of contracting bTB for pets and dogs in particular is very low but when you consider that hunting hounds are far from pets and live in conditions few would let their own companion animals live in you’ll start to get closer to the point.

Hounds are kept in a pack, they eat, sleep and live in close proximity. Most importantly they are fed on “fallen Stock”. These are animals which have died on surrounding farms for various and probably untested reasons, that the hunt will collect as a service to the farmers, which are in turn given to the hounds as food. In this instance it doesn’t take a genius to work out where the infection has come from. Another important point is the hunting country of the Kimblewick. Although based at their kennels just outside Aylesbury they cover parts of the counties of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Hertforshire. An area which in total is roughly the size of Cornwall. Now consider that some of these counties are considered as part of the edge zones in the fight against bTB and the potential for the hounds to be spreading the disease over a vast area including those considered free from TB. I took the current TB outbreak map from the Defra website and overlaid the Kimblewick hunt country (see below).

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Kimblewick Hunt Country and TB Outbreaks.

Obviously the risk off spreading the disease by hounds regardless of the what Defra claim is going to be high. The M.Bovis bacterium can survive for a significant time in the excrement left behind by the hounds, and they do leave a lot of it all over the place during a days hunting and is obviously never cleaned up by the hunt staff. So what is being done? Well obviously the kennels were put under quarantine and the poor affected hounds were shot. However that didn’t stop them from hunting. Visiting packs were used and hunted on the Kimblewick’s ground. Further revelations came to light when once again Hounds Off were sent a note which they in turn passed on to me. See below.

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There are only two listed vets in Berkhamstead I can find. St Johns and Clarke & Marshall. One would have to assume that is it one of these vets that are involved (feel free to contact them and find out which one). With all due respect to the practices shown you would have expected an organisation which specialised in bTB to be more appropriate. The equine vet in question, Bob Baskerville was originally a partner in the Baskerville Horgan & Partners practice which is now part of Hampden Vets. Although he is not currently listed as one of their equine staff,  a quick Google search picks out several links between Baskerville and the Kimblewick so it’s safe to assume he is indeed a member of the hunt.

Lord Garnider of Kimble is as described in the note, he was also chief spin doctor for the Countryside Alliance and is still an executive director. Clearly the hunting fraternity were so deeply concerned about the implications of a hunt having bTB infected hounds they brought out their big guns in collaboration with the CA in order to suppress the information for as long as they could (thank heavens for loose lipped hunt followers) and then be seen to be dealing with it properly once it became public knowledge. Of course the real problem with this is a complete lack of impartiality. Any and all information which could have a negative effect on hunting in relation to bTB will be witheld once again. Hunting simply cannot afford to have this sort of negative publicity and potentially lose much of the ground they hunt over as concerned land owners withdraw their permission to hunt on their land. Many land owners have already banned the Kimblewick from using their land and rightly so.

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How many hounds around the country are spreading bTB?

Perhaps it’s now time for all hunts to have their hounds tested, especially those in the high risk areas and all hunting suspended until each and every pack is given a clean bill of health. Considering it is now the hunting closed season you would expect this to be the perfect time.  The only previous data relating to TB in hounds came from a FOI request by Keep the Ban and published by TB Free England and he summed up the response thus:

In the last 7 years, only 50 hunt hounds have been tested for Bovine TB, 5 of those were positive of infection (10%). 45 samples from hounds were taken over the same period, of which 7 were potentially infected (16%).

The sample sizes are too small to determine the statistical significance, but it does call Defra’s line that “M.bovis infection in dogs is extremely rare” into question… If they haven’t looked, how do they know it’s rare? And when they did look and found more than 10% to be infected, doesn’t this suggest it might be more of a problem than they thought?”

It’s fairly clear to me that this rabbit hole goes a lot deeper than those at Defra will admit, but while they’re so thoroughly within the sphere of influence of the CA then we will probably never know the full extent of the problem and hunts will continue to spread the disease over our countryside and badgers will continue to get the blame and die in their thousands.