Let’s face it, the Government are in a complete shambles. The Brexit debacle continues to rumble on with the mop topped bag of meat paste we call a Prime Minister trying to lie his way out of the biggest crises in British politics I can remember in my life time. I think this is one of the problems behind the lack of coverage of the Badger Cull this year. Defra have attempted to quietly slip in vast new swathes of our countryside where badgers can now legally be killed by those who are stupid enough to believe it will help solve the bTB problem in cattle or those who just have some pathological hatred for out wildlife, probably because they are unable to make some kind of profit from it.

I’m not going to go into all the science (of lack of) behind it all as I feel that has been covered plenty of times from lots of different sources already but what I will do is highlight just the sort of numbers we’re talking about here.

Take a look at the image below. It’s of the Emirates stadium, home to Arsenal Football Club.

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It holds just over 60,000 people. That’s a lot right?

The Government are allowing the NFU to kill up to 64,000 badgers. That’s 4000 more than the number of people in this picture. Just imagine that.

There have been 11 new cull zones added to those previously licensed bringing the number to 43 in total, an area bigger than Israel! (Guardian article)

Of course this makes it a very busy time for all those standing against it. Sabs and patrollers up and down the country are doing their very best to save the lives they can at a time when the hunts are also involved in their grubby little business of training their hounds to kill, better known as the cubbing season. Late nights and early mornings are the order of the day and now more than ever we need your help and support. Go to innocentbadger.com for more info and on how to get involved. You can also donate to our efforts by clicking the donate link in the header.

Of course we all hoped that with the introduction of a new head man at the helm of Natural England there would be some light at the end of the tunnel. Tony Juniper had previously came out as strongly against the cull on social media so it seemed we had, for once, someone who was prepared to stand up for wildlife and give Natural England the teeth it was so desperately lacking.

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However it now seems that an official position and a no doubt significant pay cheque is all that’s needed to subvert that opinion and become another lap dog for Defra and their masters at the NFU. Tony wrote a blog on his decision (see here) which has since been roundly criticised by both the general public and the scientific community alike but probably best done by Dominic Woodfield in his guest blog on Mark Avery’s site. (see here).

There is of course great work being done in the fields but it’s impossible to save them all.

Cages are being neutralised, a selection above from Devon, Cornwall and Staffordshire. Shooters are being sent packing and we’re using the best technology available to find and stop the killing, both in the air and on the ground but funds are limited and vast areas need to be covered so now, more than ever is the time to get involved. There’s a job for everyone so please, don’t sit there getting angry, get out there and help make a difference. When all other options have failed, direct action is all you are left with.

If you’ve been keeping up with events on social media you may have noticed Beds & Bucks Hunt Sabs caught the Kimblewick Hunt in the act of cubbing very early on Bank Holiday Monday morning near the village of Adwell in Oxfordshire. You can view the full report here. Someone very actively involved in this illegal activity was a certain Matthew Higgs. I received the following about old Higgsy via email so thought I’d publish so we all know what this guy is all about. I also know Higgsy likes to read this blog as well and while he thinks I’m not such a martyr to my cause he lacks any courage in his own conviction and like many cowards, flatly refuses to acknowledge what he does is illegal and hides behind puerile technicalities. Anyway, enough of that, here’s the article . . .

With two of their members in court in October you might think that the Kimblewick Hunt would be on best behaviour (see here). Not a bit of it. When sabs caught them last on Monday morning they were in perfect cub hunting formation. To the fore was Kimblewick Hunt Committee member Matthew Higgs, smartly attired in his Agrii gilet. (Should he really be wearing workwear at an event like this?). Matthew’s first love, though, is hare hunting.

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Higgs, out cub hunting with the Kimblewick on 26/08/19

Trinity Foot and South Herts Beagles

Higgs became huntsman of the South Herts Beagles in 1986 and master a few years later. When his hunt merged with the neighbouring Trinity Foot in 2003, Higgs assumed control of the new pack and has been main man ever since. The Trinity Foot had close links with Cambridge University so there’s usually a gullible student or two on the mastership. Higgs is a respected hound judge and, in his late fifties, an energetic youngster on the decrepit beagling scene.

The Pack 

The TFSH Beagles meet at 12:30 on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Their pre-season hunting begins mid-September (hence Higgy’s availability on Monday) and usually includes a trip to Northumberland. On their home turf they have several meets around Ivinghoe Beacon and at farms in Ramsey, Silscoe, Cottenham and elsewhere.

Higgs and the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles 

In 2017 Higgs became Chairman of the AMHB – a tiny, extremist group of a couple of hundred people who obsessively campaign for the right to set dogs on hares. The AMHB also try – very unsuccessfully – to encourage children into beagling through their “Young Hare Hunters Days” which have previously been disrupted by hunt sabs. The big question is whether Matthew will replace current Director Lizzie Pinney, who is retiring to spend more time with her hunt cushions.

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Higgs struggles with his phone again – TFSHB 09/02/19

Friends in High Places 

As with all hunting groups, the AMHB board is small but influential. Their list of Vice Presidents includes such luminaries as Tory MP Nicholas Soames, CA President Baroness Mallilieu and Tory peer Lord Annaly (stop sniggering at the back).

Higgs and Hunt Sabs 

As the de facto leader of beagling in the UK, it would be bad form for Higgs to just pack up when sabs attend. Instead, he tends to flash his spray of American jackrabbit scent and embark on a ludicrous and poorly-rehearsed display of “trail hunting”. This involves his wife, Kate, dragging a scented sock around while the hounds chase hares elsewhere.

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After being caught by sabs Kate pretends to lay a trail 09/02/19

Limited Intelligence 

At the Kimblewick on Monday, Higgs was boasting about how much he knows about one of the sabs. This is typical behaviour. Higgs is the AMHB representative on the Council of Hunting Associations who support Tim Bonner’s embarrassing campaign to “expose” hunt sabs. Because of this role, he is one of the few beaglers who attempts to gather intelligence and keeps a folder of sab mugshots in his hound vehicle. He tries to engage sabs in conversation to find out where they are from and is obsessive about getting photos of sabs who don’t mask up.

Managing Decline

Sitting at the top of the AMHB and on the committee of the Kimblewick, Matthew is perfectly positioned to observe the decline of hunting. Several beagle packs fold every season because no one supports them, and the Kimblewick (an unhappy merging of several fox hunts) faces a high-profile trial in the same week as their Opening Meet.

Oh, Matthew, where did it all go wrong ?

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Can you see a pattern emerging? This time with the Old Berkeley Beagles 02/01/19

There would appear to be something not quite right in the world of hunting. OK, that’s pretty obvious as you have to be morally corrupt to even consider hunting as acceptable but here I’m talking about the major players in the make up of hunting organisations.

Lord Mancroft is the Chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association and the Council of Hunting Associations. He was until recently a board member of the so-called Countryside Alliance, having been a member at the CA’s creation in 1997 and deputy Chairman of the British Field Sports Society (forerunner of the CA) since 1992.  In his own words:

“I have been intimately involved in the political battle for hunting for more than 30 years”.

Obviously a charming chap.

The point of interest here is that he has been removed from the board of the CA and this news was released in a short article in the Nag & Mutt (Horse & Hound) last June. The term “removed” is an interesting one. Clearly his departure from the board wasn’t exactly amicable and there seems to be very little in terms of an explanation for his departure from the CA. The normally vocal CEO Dim Tim Bonner has been conspicuously quiet on the matter, making only a minimal statement on what they’re doing to increase the PR of hunting and who they currently have in place to do that, with Mancroft not even getting a mentioned.

Mancroft himself offers a bit more as to why he was booted out saying:

“I have been asking questions about the CA’s apparent unwillingness or failure to defend hunting politically or engage in any proactive PR”.

So I think it’s pretty clear that there’s been some in significant disagreements within the CA’s top brass and Mancroft, clearly not very happy about the current state of affairs had openly voiced his opinions which lead to the divorce. Obviously from my point of view this is all good stuff. You can’t beat a nice bit of in fighting among the ranks of your enemy and its certainly not the first time Bonner has come in for criticism, only now it seems that the criticism is coming from further up the food chain.

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Lord Mancroft

And that’s not all.

Below is a screen shot from the jobs section in H&H.

job advert

These are some of the top jobs in hunting.

The Hunting Office is described as:

“The administrative hub for the Council of Hunting Associations.  The Hunting Office exists to help and advise Masters and its member Hunts.  It represents and supports packs of hounds from fourteen hunting associations in England, Scotland and Wales, providing advice on all matters regarding hunting activities, hunt management and hound health & welfare”.

In case you don’t know the MFHA is:

“The Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) is the Governing Body for registered packs of Foxhounds and represents 171 packs that hunt within the law in England and Wales and a further 8 in Scotland”.

The purpose of the AMHB is:

 “. . . to oversee the promotion and proper management of the Harrier and Beagle hunts”.

If all of these key personnel positions are vacant then it would seem that the vessel which oversees all things hunting could well be rudderless. There’s something distinctly whiffy going on in the halls of hunting and it doesn’t look good for them.

In the real world the compassionate side of the hunting argument have been hugely successful in utilising all the social media platforms available and getting the message out there. While sabs and monitors continue to upload damming videos and images of hunts breaking the law those involved in the criminality have been retreating further into their own fishbowl.

The successful prosecutions of the Thurlow & Fitzwilliam, the Meynell & South Staffs hunt awaiting trail, the conviction of the South Herefordshire hunt fox cub killers, the Kimblewick hunt staff awaiting trial, the Belvoir hunt paying out almost £50K in damages to LACS employees . . . all this is starting to add up and the powers that be in the hunting world are, to be quite frank, crapping themselves. Is it rats leaving a sinking ship or perhaps have we had a night of the long knives?

Hunting is also under pressure for other reasons, continued urbanisation and changes in land ownership mean there’s less areas to hunt. Some land owners no longer want the hunt on their land and the potential for conflict and negative press that comes with them. Shooting interests have increased and while I obviously have no love for this either the last thing shoots want is a bunch of rampant hounds and riders charging through their area and scattering the game birds all over the place before they can be shot (this happened last season while we were sabbing the Oakley, all very amusing for us). Another problem they have is that the old guard of experienced huntsmen are retiring and there simply isn’t the new blood coming through to take up these jobs. Let’s face it, apart from those actually involved in hunting everyone is going to hate you, the pay is probably pretty bad and there’s a fair chance you’ll end up in court.

Not exactly an appealing job description.

We have a guest blog this week, an opinion piece written by someone only known as Scorpiovulpes, a monitor with a vast experience of hunting in England and the often pathetic response of the police and CPS in dealing with this illegal minority pastime. It’s a good read so grab a cuppa and settle in.

I have monitored hunts for twenty five years, and I can honestly say my shock and disgust have not abated one bit during all that time. It seems that the world of hunting is a strange alternative universe existing here among us. All the rules are reversed, all the standard codes are turned on their head.  Accepted norms of behaviour are ignored, and punishment is meted out to the innocent, not the guilty.

The most innocent of the victims of this sinister world are the hunted animals.  There are laws in place in England,  Wales and Scotland which purport to ban hunting and thus protect the hunted animal.  Do they?  Of course they don’t!

These weak laws were drawn up by people who did not understand the true nature of the hunter.  They failed to listen to the people who had the measure of hunters – i.e. the monitors and the sabs.  They totally underestimated the ruthlessness of the hunters, and failed to grasp how determinedly they would continue their cruel pastime no matter what the law said.  They failed to understand that hunters fundamentally believe they are above the law and they can do as they please, that they believe nobody – nobody – can tell them what they may and may not do.

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Openly flouting the law.

And so we have a situation, 14 years after the ban was instituted in England and Wales, where hunting continues unabated, covered by the smokescreen of “trail” hunting.  I will state without hesitation my opinion that trail hunting does not exist, and never has.

It is an illusion – well, basically, it’s a con.

So the monitors still have to go out to hunts and do the best they can to film what is really happening, collecting evidence which, in very rare cases, will actually get to court, but more realistically will form part of the library of shocking evidence which will lead to the strengthening of the Hunting Act and the creation of a real ban on hunting, a true death knell for this vile and barbaric practice.  The sabs still go and risk their safety in order to protect the hunted animals and save the lives of as many as they can.

The hunts are absolutely infuriated by the presence of sabs or monitors, whose safety is at real risk every time they go out.  It is common practice for hunts to call in so called “hunt stewards” – typically a particularly nasty species of inadequate and thuggish person who, given a baseball cap with “hunt steward” on the front, think they’re somebody and start throwing their weight around.  They behave in an unbelievably obnoxious way.  They constantly harass and impede the monitors, surrounding them, continuously trying in every possibly way to wind up the monitor they are victimising (usually a female and/or elderly person) to try and make them lose their cool.  I could write a whole book on this subject, but instead I suggest you view the film of this type of behaviour that you will find on all the monitor and sab Facebook pages, and also on You Tube.  These films speak for themselves, and make grim viewing.

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Hunt Steward hat but dead behind the eyes and delusions of adequacy.

So we have an orchestrated conspiracy to hunt illegally being conducted between the hunts and their lackeys, the whole scenario being  protected from scrutiny by obstructive, menacing and threatening behaviour .

Well, you might say, the police must be very concerned about this.  They must be shocked to see the film.  The CPS must be very willing to act on the clear filmed evidence presented to them.  This is where you need to grasp the extent of the alternative universe we are talking about,  as the very opposite is the case.  Police scrutinise the film to try to pin something on the innocent monitors (or sabs),  They downplay the seriousness of the behaviour of the stewards.  They churn out the old chestnut “six of one and half a dozen of the other” when it would be obvious to a five year old that this is categorically not the case.

Time and again the monitors and sabs are left shocked and disgusted by the lack of action by the law enforcement agencies over the whole scandal of illegal hunting and its attendant intimidation and violence.

So they turn to Facebook.  For all its faults, Facebook has provided a lifeline for campaigners, and has led to a turning point in the general public’s understanding of the sheer and utter horror of illegal hunting, the cruelty, the deviousness, the thuggery  –  the lengths gone to to protect this abomination from scrutiny.  Sometimes when the absolutely disgusting behaviour of a hunt steward is exposed on Facebook or another arena, the subject of the film uses devious means to have the film taken down.  Fortunately this only works short term as their reasons are bogus and the films are usually reinstated.  But this again shows how secretive and how absolutely without morals are the people involved in hunting.

It is not  only the stewards who behave in a revolting way.  People who no doubt consider themselves to be the cream of society will barge you with their horses, swear at you, persistently drive at very low speeds in front  of you to prevent you keeping up with the hunt, even assault you.

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Terrier men – Lowest of the low. What purpose do they have on a “trail” hunt?

So there you have the alternative universe of illegal hunting for your edification.  The hunters throw a threadbare cloak of respectability over themselves with a claim of “trail hunting”.  They lie.  They bully.  They abuse.  They bring in their hunt thugs to protect themselves from scrutiny.  The law enforcers of the land, who are paid by the taxpayer and whom we are told to respect, more often than not support them, sometimes hunt with them.  I have seen a high court judge out hunting, a meet held at a magistrate’s house, ex police officers hunting, uniformed police officers laughing and joking with obnoxious hunt heavies, while a woman monitor was held captive in her car and the police refused to help her.  I have heard a female police officer tell a hunt master she would try and get me to leave the hunt so the hunt could carry on as they wished.  The list goes on and on and on.  You may think that, if the police fail in their duty, there is a robust police complaints system.  All I can say to that is, you try it – and good luck.  Very recently a District Judge found a hunt not guilty of illegal hunting, giving one of the reasons for his decision that he did not believe a hunt master would lie and perjure himself.  This kind of thing leaves those of us at the sharp end of this situation in absolute despair.

I have given you my opinion as a seasoned and long term hunt monitor.  You are free to disbelieve me if you choose, but if so, I ask you to look at the plethora of filmed evidence that unequivocally illuminates the situation.  And ask yourself why all these people would go to such lengths to stop a non-violent individual from legally filming their activities.

We know the public are overwhelmingly against hunting. We know they are absolutely shocked when they see the evidence of what is happening in our countryside on a daily basis during the hunting season.  Between us all we can drag this alternative universe out of the dark ages and expose it to the light.  That way we will see it finally abolished.

That day cannot come soon enough.