Posts Tagged ‘Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles’

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

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