So, we’re only a few weeks into the main hunting season and it’s all kicking off already. We’re getting the usual hunt violence, illegal killing and inconsistent policing, which will be my focus on this blog.

If you’re a follower you’ll already know we’ve been trying to break down the historical differences between the police and those in wildlife protection and, by-and-large we’ve had some success. Bedfordshire police are acting on violence shown by the hired hunt thugs and starting to understand the reality of hunting within the county. While they may not be able to arrest the hunters themselves due to the poorly written legislation they aren’t interfering with our operations to oppose them.

However the same cannot be said for other forces across the country. A couple of weeks ago we sabbed the Puckeridge Hunt, Tim Bonner’s (CEO so called Countryside Alliance) home hunt (full report here) and the police on the day showed a combination of naivety and ignorance. They were naive in that they should never have accepted a ride on the back of a hunt terrier man’s quad bike because it looks very bad for them and puts into question their impartiality (especially when terrier men have no legitimate role in a trail hunt) and ignorant of the laws that were in question on the day. Claiming they have powers to take your details is of course complete nonsense (and we told them so) and asking us to leave private land is also a civil matter, it’s nothing to do with the police.

I explained the situation to them regarding the difference between criminal (illegal hunting) and civil (trespass) and we were exercising our right as citizens to prevent the criminal offence from taking place by trespassing. I don’t believe Hertfordshire Police were acting in bias of the hunt, the officers that attended were just not equipped with the right knowledge to make a reasonable call and unfortunately made bad snap decisions based on preconceived historical prejudice. I’ll be discussing the matter further with Herts rural WCO in due course.

23415161_1459703860793016_8502535736300108528_o

Herts Police being lied to (probably).

If you read though the report from other sab groups around the country some areas have what can only be described as truly biased forces. There’s forces are openly acting as a private security service and facilitating illegal hunting by their very actions. Norfolk Police would appear to be one of those forces. Our colleagues at Norfolk & Suffolk Hunt Sabs are fighting a constant battle not only against the hunters but also the local police force. Last weekend Norfolk Police arrested a sab at a meet of the Dunston Harriers for Aggravated Trespass.

The offence is as follows: A person commits the offence of aggravated trespass if he trespasses on land [in the open air] and, in relation to any lawful activity which persons are engaging in or are about to engage in on that or adjoining land [in the open air], does there anything which is intended by him to have the effect—

(a) of intimidating those persons or any of them so as to deter them or any of them from engaging in that activity,

(b) of obstructing that activity, or

(c) of disrupting that activity.

23659206_10156064211414835_7276616487458262337_n.jpg

Norfolk Police riding on hunt terrier man’s quad bike.

Considering the sabs had earlier made calls to the police of illegal hunting which were completely ignored (they had already illegally killed a Hare and the hounds were covered in that animals blood) their claims could easily be justified and therefore the above offence cannot be considered by the police officers. In spite of this an arrest was made, the sab removed in handcuffs and spent several hours locked up in a cell.

Norfolk Police have also released the following statement:

Police were called to farmland in Roudham at about 12.20pm yesterday, Saturday 18 November, following reports of a confrontation involving two groups.

Officers attended and while at the scene, were advised of allegations that a hare had been killed. Both parties were spoken to and a search was carried out. No evidence was found. Anyone with evidence is asked to contact police on 101.

We are aware of images on social media of our officers on a quad bike. While recognising the concerns, the officers had been searching in fields and got into difficulty due to the muddy terrain. At this point, they were assisted by the landowner using a quad bike which at no point travelled on a public road or highway. 

This statement just stinks quite frankly. Regardless of whether the officers were on a public road or not it still shows a level of collusion with the hunt in question. It would also be a question as to whether the police would be insured to be riding around on such a vehicle in that manner. Also what evidence did they think they were going to find of a hare which had been pulled apart by a pack of hounds? The Dunston Harriers could have made up any old tale and it seems the police would have believed them. Remember in the case of AT the burden falls on the prosecution to prove that the activity being interfered with was legal, and in this case a claim had already been made to the contrary which was insufficiently investigated. (See similar case explained here)

Please contact Norfolk Police to complain.

Facebook: Norfolk Constabulary

Twitter

Email the chief constable Simon Bailey.

PCC Lorne Green: opccn@norfolk.pnn.police.uk

Another force which appears to be openly biased is Sussex Police. At the opening meet of the Crawley a& Horsham Hunt a saboteur was assaulted by huntsmen using their horses as weapons, a common tactic for hunts. Bearing my this particular hunt have been convicted in the past of illegal hunting its not a massive leap of faith to assume they would continue to do so. In this case the sab was arrested for assault on the hunters and – you’ll like this, criminal damage to the hunters pocket. Take a look at the video.

It’s very clear that the huntsman on the horse was acting aggressively to the sab and the sab was only trying to defend himself. In such instances serious injury and potentially worse can occur if the sab was knocked to the ground and trampled by the horse, he, and those with him had every right to take whatever action was required to keep themselves safe. It speaks volumes that when sabs or monitors make calls to the police very little is done, if anything at all and yet even when the hunters are the perpetrators of the crime the police will act swiftly in coming to their defence. Time for some more complaints.

Facebook: Sussex Police

Twitter

Cheif Constable Giles York Email.

PCC Katey Bourne: pcc@sussex-pcc.gov.uk

This level of inconsistent policing simply cannot be allowed to continue. We all know the Hunting Act needs strengthening but in the mean time we need to have a national policing initiative which will allow an even handed approach to all concerned along with better understanding of the laws in place. Forces showing an obvious bias should come under increased scrutiny and those responsible removed from their positions. Bias from various forces in nothing new and no doubt it will continue but with the overwhelming support of the British public we can get things changed so start emailing, commenting and tweeting, if its something the police don’t like it’s bad PR.

A guest blog this week, written by Tom Fitton.

“I like Mark Avery…he doesn’t sit on the fence, and he doesn’t pull his punches…If only significant others were of the same ilk – but they’re not. In these risk-averse, politically correct and cowardly times they are responsible for putting the ‘con’ in conservation”. – Chris Packham 2014

Let us set the scene: “With the shooting season over, we hunted three days in the first week of February, and from our meeting at Throwley on the 3rd to Plumford on the 24th we accounted for one hare each on nine consecutive days, the best of which were Throwley, Betteshanger (more dreadful weather) and Barfrestone, where we had a superb hunt from Barfrestone almost to Knowlton and back, then towards Elvington and back before accounting for her in Fredville Park. This fine sport must in part be attributed to the hard work of Stuart Sillars, our huntsman, whose many hours of hard work with the hounds throughout the year has certainly paid off this season” (2004).

hare

The Brown Hare – Hunted by the Blean Beagles

Michael Bax was elected as a trustee at Kent Wildlife Trust in 2013 and subsequently, to the prestigious position of Chairman at the same organisation the following year. The account quoted above is taken from the Blean Beagles end-of-season report, 2003-2004 and published in Horse and Hound magazine. There is no debate that Michael Bax was still ‘Joint Master’ of the Blean Beagles in 2003, a position he held since 1991, having served as ‘Huntsman’, prior to this from 1971. If we take Kent Wildlife Trust’s word, rather than the official documentation that is Baily’s Hunt Directory, ‘the hunting fraternity’s bible’, as Dave Wetton puts it (Wetton, 2017), Bax left the Blean Beagles in 2005, whereas Baily’s state he only left in 2016; eleven years after the Hunting Act, which prohibits the hunting of hares with hounds, came into force.

Bax1

Stuart Sillars, mentioned at the end of the article, continues to serve as not only Huntsman for the group, but also Joint Master and ‘Hare Conservationist’. He also happens to be a colleague of Mr. Bax’s at the business run by Bax, BTF Partnership.

Whether or not, Bax left the Blean Beagles in 2005 or 2016, he continues to support bloodsports despite leading a conservation charity he allows a driven-pheasant shoot to take place on his land (Young, 2017). Pheasants are a non-native species to the UK. They were introduced by gamekeepers in the 17th century for so-called ‘sport’. Native wildlife often suffers on land in which a driven-pheasant shoot takes place due to the style of land management used by gamekeepers.

Bax also fundraises for the slaughter of birds across Kent, all whilst serving as the Chairman of a wildlife conservation charity. In 2014 and while Chairman of Kent Wildlife Trust, BTF Partnership sponsored an auction for the shooting of birds and also personally donated a ‘tide flight’ (the shooting of wading birds and ducks at the changing of the tide, when they are most active) (BTF Partnership, 2014). This shoot was donated to an area in Kent known as ‘Greenborough Marshes’. Greenborough Marshes is an environmentally-sensitive area of land and disturbance to this area has been well-documented by both Medway Council (Medway Council, 2015) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC, 2001). Disturbance to this area has also been reported by ornithologist, Tony Prater, during the ‘Birds of Estuaries Enquiry’, sponsored by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Wildfowl Trust. ‘Shooting [is] excessive in some areas…of the Medway…Greenborough Marshes [is] continually under threats of reclamation’ (Prater, 2010). At the same auction, Bax’s business partner at BTF Partnership, Richard Thomas, donated a pheasant shoot with the statement ‘Expected bag 50-75 pheasants and possibly an unlucky duck’. Whilst Britain still uses toxic lead shot for ammunition, as well as being terrible for the conservation of threatened species (many amber-listed and red-listed species live on the Greenborough Marshes), it is also terrible for the environment, polluting our waters and effecting further water-based creatures on top of the birds that are shot. Lead, as well as preventing the growth of both plants and animals, has a terrible effect on human health. Exposure to lead can lead to problems with the nervous system, kidney function, the immune system, the reproductive system and can also cause cardiovascular problems.

In 2016, Bax personally conducted an auction in order to raise funds for the shooting of ducks on the Isle of Sheppey, with the highest bid reaching £1,600 (2016).

mike_bax_0

Mike Bax

 

BTF Partnership also sponsor the Ashford Valley Tickham Fox Hunt (Ashford Valley Tickham Hunt, 2017). A terrierman for the Ashford Valley Tickham Hunt was caught on film disturbing a badger sett in 2013 (North West Hunt Saboteurs, 2013). Also, in 2013, one of the Joint Masters of the hunt, Brian Fraser, a neighbour of Bax’s, was jailed for the possession of a shotgun without a licence (BBC, 2013). It is likely that the Ashford Hunt killed a fox with hounds in September 2017 (East Kent Sabs, 2017). Another fox-hunting group sponsored by BTF is the Southdown and Eridge Hunt (The Pony Club, 2017). This hunt has a conviction for the stabbing of an anti-hunt protestor (KentOnline, 2015).

BTF Partnership also publish an ‘Events Calendar’ on their website, with a list of all kinds of hunting events (BTF Partnership, 2017). Whilst several hunting events are listed in this calendar, the one that stands out to me is ‘Woodcock shooting season’. The Woodcock is an amber-listed species. The Chairman of a Wildlife Trust, should be calling for, at the very least, a moratorium on the shooting of birds such as Woodcock, not advertising their shooting. For the Trust to appoint Bax to their board of Trustees, they legitimise and endorse the activities that he promotes, contrary to the conservation of wildlife.

Kent Wildlife Trust have received thousands of complaints with regards to Michael Bax, whether that be via email, social media, or telephone and that is not including the signatories to my petition (see here). 

They have also received complaints from conservationists such as Chris Packham who said:

“Come on Kent Wildlife Trust join us in the 21st century and employ people who truly wish to preserve wildlife, rather than those who ever found joy in killing it”.

 (Packham, 2017). As well as Packham, politicians, animal welfare organisations such as PETA, members and conservationists, including the Hare Preservation Trust and Anneka Svenska, have all called for Bax’s removal. Unfortunately, for Kentish wildlife and those who wish for wildlife to thrive, these calls have been disregarded by CEO John Bennett and his board of trustees. One of the two Vice-Chairs of the Trust is Charles Tassell, who also happens to be Michael Bax’s business partner at Rural PLCWhen articles appear in papers criticising Michael Bax, another Trustee, Martin Garwood, writes in to attack those who democratically and peacefully oppose Michael Bax’s Chairmanship. I suppose, as the Board of Trustees elected Bax in the first place, this should come as no surprise. For any healthy organisation to be successful, opposing views are imperative. This is not the case with Kent Wildlife Trust, in which they are shut down. The trustees are showing their unsuitability to be holding positions of trust, which is exactly what their job title implies. Unfortunately the twenty or so nineteenth-century minds that head the Trust are tackling twenty-first century problems. The twenty have overruled the 160,000. Hunting has never been more unpopular, as shown by the results of a 2016 poll taken by IPSOS MORI (2016), yet Kent Wildlife Trust hold a ‘neutral’ view on the subject. Neutrality is not acceptable when it comes to the Trust fulfilling its mission statement and neutrality over hunting will not benefit wildlife only the continued slaughter of it. However, the Trust’s appointment of a lifelong bloodsport enthusiast to Chair their board of trustees and their subsequent stubborn defence of him, puts their neutrality into extreme doubt. As a side note you may not be surprised to learn that Kent Wildlife Trust took the side of the hunter over the red-listed and protected hen harrier, during the 2016 debate over the future of driven-grouse shooting, fuelled by ornithologist, Dr. Mark Avery’s petition to have the environmentally destructive bloodsport banned. In simpler terms, the Trust sided with a bloodsport enjoyed by c. 15,000 people, over science-based conservation (in contrast to their mission statement).

For those of us who oppose bloodsports and oppose the Trustee’s running of Kent Wildlife Trust, I implore you, to stand up for nature, for wildlife and for twenty-first century wildlife conservation. Do not be silent. Be loud, be proud and let your voices be heard, just as Joe Hashman, of Hounds Off did at the Trust’s 2017 AGM.

 

References:

‘Foreword’ in Avery, M. (eds), Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands, London, Bloomsbury, p.7.

(2004), ‘Blean Beagles’, Horse and Hound, p.47

Wetton, D. (2017), ‘Wildlife Trust’s ex-Huntsman boss’, Kent Messenger, 20 Apr [Online]. Available here.

BTF Partnership [Online]. Available here

Young, M. (2017) ‘Thousands call for wildlife chief to be sacked for letting bird killers shoot on his land for 10 years’, Daily Mirror, 2 Jun [Online]. Available here

Medway Council (2015) Bird Disturbance in North Kent’ [Online]. Available here .

(2016) ‘Record numbers are game for challenge’, Kentish Express Ashford & District, 21 Jul [Online]. Available here.

BTF Partnership (2014) Kent Game Bird Challenge Shoot and Sporting Auction [Online]. Available here.

Joint Nature Conservation Committee (2001), Medway Estuary and Marshes [Online]. Available here.

Prater, T. (2010) ‘Eastern England’, in Prater, T. (eds) ‘Estuary birds of Britain and Ireland’, London, Bloomsbury, p.160.

Ashford Valley Tickham Hunt (2017) Local Businesses [Online]. Available here.

North West Hunt Saboteurs (2013), Man accused of badger sett disturbance to appear in court following investigations by the League [Online]. Available here .

BBC (2013) Kent huntsman Brian Fraser jailed for gun offences [Online]. Available here

East Kent Sabs (2013) [Online]. Available here.

Pony Club (2017) Eridge Hunt Branch of the Pony Club Annual Show [Online]. Available here.  

KentOnline (2015) Saboteur ‘stabbed’ at Southdown and Eridge fox hunt near Tunbridge Wells [Online]. Available here.

BTF Partnership (2017) 2017 Events Calendar [Online]. Available here

packham

 

Well that didn’t take long.

Since the National Trust vote on trail hunting there’s been a lot of interest in what would happen next, and rightly so. I’m not going to comment on the irregularities of the vote itself (that’s for another time) but instead I’m going to look at what’s actually happening in the field.

Before the vote the NT released a set of rules by which all hunts would have to abide by. I covered those in a previous blog entry here (The Pressure Mounts). However it soon became apparent that the so-called Countryside Alliance were pressuring the NT to drop some of these rules. Of course there’s no surprise there, as we all know trail hunting is merely a cover for real hunting and the rules as advertised would effectively curtail that and with the opening meets of the main hunting season taking place over the last couple of weekends all eyes were watching to see what would take place.

4

Reports were soon emerging of hunts using NT land where no licenses had been issued.

Had these hunts been licensed to use the land or were they trespassing? They were certainly not abiding by the rules set out by the NT as there were terrier men present and also quad bikes were being driven along with the hunt, both were to be excluded in the new set of rules. Of course there was no way of knowing what kind of substance was being used as a trail or even if a trail had even been laid (highly unlikely).

1

West Somerset Vale Hunt with terrier man with quad on NT land last weekend (Quantock Hills).

2

Clearly searchinging for live quarry complete with terrier men (Quantock Hills).

The examples above are a clear and blatant violation of the new rules set out by the NT.

What is even more disturbing is now the NT seemed to have caved in to the pressure by the so-called CA by reneging on their promise to publish meet locations in advance. Their original statement is shown below.

“Greater transparency for our members and the public.  We will post on our website the agreed days and locations, in advance, for our members and supporters to view. This will include a primary point of contact for each hunt”.

Now it seems that they will no longer do this.

3

So the NT are claiming that they have been advised by the police not to publish meets and claim this has been done avoid any potential unrest.

Unrest from who?

Clearly if the NT wish to remain open and transparent there has to be the ability to independently monitor any hunt which uses NT land. The NT have already stated they don’t have the resources to do it themselves so therefore the only option is for other groups to do so. Whether these be monitors from LACS, independent or members from local sab groups makes no difference, the only time there is any conflict and violence it comes from the hunting side, both those actively taking part and their supporters. One has to wonder whether the NT did actually consult with the police or they are just using this as a handy excuse. And if they did it would suggest a level of collusion within the police force that they consulted.

Either way the NT are being shown up once again for what they really are, a big land owner who facilitates an illegal activity for the benefit of an influential minority. If the NT don’t take immediate action against the hunts in question we can only assume that all the fine words and statements were in fact complete lies and only there to help swing the vote on trail hunting.

One commentator on social media summed things up perfectly:

“As hunts are not monitored and specific routes wont be published how the hell are you (the NT) or anybody else going to be able to make sure our wildlife is protected from those who wish to slaughter it for the fun of it by calling it an incident? With an independent investigation imminent your charitable status is teetering on the edge of that hole you’re digging”.

I concur.

Keep up the pressure. Contact the NT and let them know your views. Twitter, Facebook, Phone: 03448001895 Email: enquiries@nationaltrust.org.uk

UPDATE: It seems the NT did promise to publish routes etc in the AGM material (thanks to Lou for the image (see below).

promies

Old Timmy and his cronies at the so called Countryside Alliance may think they have the bragging rights over the recent National Trust vote on trail hunting because they think they won. The truth is, they lost.

It’s emerging that many members didn’t receive their voting forms and the whole legality of the voting system is being called into question but even if you ignore these anomalies the simple fact is without the discretionary votes of the pro-hunt NT board the outcome would have been very different indeed. The margin was close, 299 votes from a total of over 60,000. The NT may think they have dealt with the situation for now but it’s certainly not going away and have probably made a rod for their own back.

22550133_1476401342441797_2362717318191614140_o

They will now have to show they are serious about the new rules regarding trail hunting, no animal based scents, no terrier men and publishing dates and locations of all hunt meets on NT land. Of course now the hunts and CA are asking for those conditions to be changed but, if they truly believe they are going to be legally trail hunting what would they have to hide? We all know the real reasons and make no bones about it, the NT will be held to account over the licensing and conditions. They will be scrutinised very closely indeed and as it stands no hunt has made any application for licenses to hunt on NT land. We’ll see what happens next.

Moving on from that an interesting situation arose yesterday after a sab colleague of mine reminded me of the poster from the Oakley Hunt summer show.

poster.jpg

We decided to do a little digging on the main sponsor – Green Energy UK (plc). This lead to some interesting findings which we thought the public should be aware of and in turn published the statement this statement on the Beds & Bucks Hunt Sabs Facebook page (see here). We also published links on Twitter for maximum exposure. Needless to say your average consumer doesn’t like being lied to regarding claims of being ethical but also supporting fox hunting. Lots of bad reviews were left on the company’s Facebook page and tweets were rolling in thick and fast. Finally Green Energy issued a statement and the B&B responded accordingly (see here). At this time Green Energy were actively removing the all the bad reviews in an attempt to save face. Their statement was clearly 2 fingers up to the consumers, they weren’t going to budge on their position and their support of the Oakley no matter how they tried to spin it however they severely underestimated the indignation of the people and aligning themselves with a blood sports lobbying group (the so called CA) was a huge mistake.

This only fanned the flames and people power took hold. They were flooded with more complaints and bad reviews until they were finally backed into a corner and once again had to issue another statement to which B&B responded once more (see here). We’re in no doubt that the ethos of the people in charge (including the husband of Oakley Hunt master Lady Lydia Thompson, Sir Peter Thompson) will not have changed and they are no doubt still pro hunt, however we have shown that the general public won’t stand for lies and that hunting is pretty much universally hated by everyone except the wildlife killers themselves.

57404

Doug Stewart – Green Energy UK CEO

It will also show other companies that supporting blood sports is bad for business and they risk losing customers. Just like Theresa May found out in the general election, blood sports are political and financial poison. Those that support them are finding themselves increasingly isolated. There’s more than one way to skin the proverbial cat. We’ll sab them in the fields and we’ll hit these organisations financially as well. We’ll pursue every possible avenue and make life as difficult as possible until the inevitable outcome is reached.