Posts Tagged ‘Badger Cull’

Something a little different for this blog post.

Becoming involved in the protection of wildlife through direct action can be a big step. I remember my first sab quite clearly and well, the rest as they say is history but I thought it may be interesting to get a newbies perspective after their first year on the front line against the hunters. So here it is, over to Titch . . .

I write this guest piece for MoreThanJustBadgers to mark a personal anniversary. Last Saturday was a year to the day since I first sabbed a fox hunt with my local group.
Before then, I was sat comfortably in my bubble of naivety. I had voted in the general election of 2001 guided by the prospect of a Hunting Act, having seen it pass into law I had thought that was that. Not until the Hunt Saboteurs Association managed to get into my twitter feed at the end of 2016, did I realise any differently.

Within a fortnight I was joining up with associates in the cause of animal welfare, learning the ways and language of the hunt, as well as the real reason for keeping your distance from heavily set, self-appointed, amateur ‘stewards’ (I’d have written something far less polite – Ed).

Over this past year I have been privileged to have campaigned and taken part in direct action against fox hunts, mink hunts, wild bird shoots and badger culling. I’ve witnessed untold numbers of animals escape with their freedom under the watch of sabs, and I have also sadly seen the deaths of some unfortunate creatures too. I’ve worked with people from the length and breadth of the UK, as well as activists from Europe too.

I learned that being vegan alone was not enough. Simply not taking part, allows horrors to be committed against animals week in week out. Compassionate and thoughtful people are needed to take a stand, to prevent what acts of cruelty they can, and to shine a light on what they can’t.

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The sun sets on another successful sab.

During the year I have been punched, kicked, threatened with weapons, driven at by quads and various 4×4’s, informed that I am going to be arrested, beaten up or even killed. I’ve seen friends beaten, bloodied, whipped and even arrested. I’ve spent time in muddy fields and wading streams, as well as in police interview rooms giving statements. Hunt sabbing has been exhilarating, as well as at times dangerous, but ultimately always rewarding and worthwhile.

The one constant throughout my first year of activism has been the unwavering attitudes of hunters. Every week they assemble, 11am sharp wearing the same dated outfits and following the same tired routines. They profess to be continuing their tradition, but in reality this is a rut. An endless cycle of pretence and theatrics constructed to deny the advance of time and sensibility. The same tired clichés are heard, “we’re hunting within the law, you antis spray hounds with acid and pull children off horses”, and so on. After attending a shade under 40 hunts in my first year, I have not once witnessed a trail being laid.

Policing has been variable at best. With some notable exceptions, most police officers have been content to turn their back on any reports of illegality by organised hunts, in favour of preserving public order. Of course, from a police officer’s point of view, thirty smartly dressed people riding horses in a field is perfectly good ‘public order’. Hunt sabs turning up and making a scene immediately brings that precious public order into question and on go the blue lights.

Will I still be sabbing this time next year? Almost certainly so. In five years? It’s certainly a possibility given the speed of change this country. Any further that that only time, and the House of Commons and future governments, will tell . . .

I haven’t written very much lately, but then if you’re a regular of this blog you’ll already know that. Thing is I just haven’t had the time. Although the main hunting season has yet to start this is probably the busiest time of year for anyone involved in wildlife protection. We’re well into the the badger cull now and sabs all over the country are travelling many miles to protect our stripey nighttime wildlife from those who wish to do them harm. Cubbing season for the hunts is also in full swing so those sabs remaining at home are getting up early in the morning to find and stop these hunts. Some are doing both and it’s draining, physically, emotionally and financially.

I’d have hoped to bring you more news of the Fitzwilliam case as well by now but there are more delays. I’m beginning to wonder if this will ever get to court. It’s incredibly important that the case is heard as it’s the first time the Bird of Prey Exemption in the Hunting Act has been challenged in court. Winning this case will be pivotal in future prosecutions and could render the exemption useless to those who claim to hunt with it. The latest news I have is that we’re again waiting for a date when a non-biased judge can be found to hear the case and that our expert witness is also available. By the time this gets to court it will be likely that the offence occurred 2 years past. The Fitzwilliam are still using the BoP exemption and are still killing foxes. John Mease, their bird man (and co-defendant) is still riding around with an Eagle on his arm doing absolutely nothing in terms of making the hunting exempt.

I shall be heading out shortly for the long drive to Wiltshire for another night shift searching for badger shooters. I’ll be doing the same for the next two nights and no doubt fitting in some anti cubbing operations as well. We’ve had people staying down there full time. My work commitments mean I have to juggle my efforts and do what I can when I can but this doesn’t leave an awful lot of time for anything else although we did manage to organise a training session for new sabs recently which proved a huge success. The Godfather of sabbing Mike Huskisson came along and did a fantastic talk and we did a talk on what is expected of new sabs and what they are likely to face in the fields both from the other side and the police. It was heartwarming to see so many new people wanting to get involved and if this is a reflection on things to come then the hunts are going to be facing a very tough time indeed.

When I started this blog I had no real idea of what I wanted to do our where I wanted to take it but everything soon fell into place and turned into something I hadn’t really expected. However I’m now considering the future of this blog and the next step. I could carry on as before but time isn’t allowing me to put the effort in it deserves. This may change of course but as it stands I’m tempted to call it day at the end of this year when my hosting contract will need renewing and I can focus on the running of our sab group now that it is expanding.

Let me know your thoughts.

AA

hand-print

That’s the maximum number of badgers that can be killed in this horrific extension of the Governments extermination policy.

Just think about that for a moment.

That’s more than the average attendance of Spurs home matches last season. Imaging the old White Hart Lane with the stands full of dead badgers. There will be vast swathes of the south west and Cheshire where badgers will be wiped out. Setts that have existed for hundreds of years will fall silent. This iconic species relegated to the pages of history, never to return.

I started this blog back in 2014 on the back of the original culls to highlight the injustice taking place in our countryside. Now, almost 4 years and 4 Defra secretaries down the line we’re still fighting the same fight.

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The original cull zones (the so-called trials) have been extended until who knows when and with a total of 19 zones you begin to get an idea of the scale of this extermination. There has been no improvement in bTB results (an insignificant reduction in Somerset, an increase in Gloucestershire and a huge increase in Dorset) and yet the Government are wildly blundering ahead with a failing and hugely expensive policy. An expensive policy that you, the tax payer are footing the bill for.

With this being the case you have to ask yourself why this is taking place. I’ve made my point of view patently clear on several occasions and anyone fighting against this grotesque and cruel policy will no doubt have a similar opinion by what they’ve seen first hand. The Government know it’s not going to work but the NFU want it and they will get whatever they want. Badgers (they believe) are a pain in the arse for their members. Being a protected species they can’t be killed legally (although many are illegally killed throughout the year) so this cull is a way to circumnavigate this law.

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If they were really concerned with disease control do you think this trap would be left in this state?

There’s no independent monitoring, any moronic bumpkin with a shotgun and a hatred for the wildlife on their land can sign up for the cull in the relevant areas. We’ve already seen time and again that biosecurity rules are being openly flouted. This is about killing as many as possible in the 6 weeks allotted time and bugger the rules. Farms in these zones are often a disgrace, slurry is spread on the fields, animal are kept in disgusting conditions and shooting estates have no livestock anyway, just game birds to protect.

To witness these events first hand is soul destroying. No amount of lobbying, petitions and words are going to change the fact that badgers are being killed now. Sab groups across the country are working their socks off, juggling work and private lives around saving as many lives as possible, taking the action needed night and day in all weathers, whatever the personal and financial cost. The Wounded Badger Patrollers are out there walking the footpaths at night to dissuade shooters. Local people are getting involved where they can but we need more. There can never be enough. Perhaps if you’re reading this you may consider getting in touch with your local sab group and lending a hand. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, but boots on the ground are more important now that ever before.

The cruelty is making the front page in mainstream nation news (Mirror, Sun) and no doubt more will be published soon. In years to come when your children or perhaps grandchildren look back on these dark times for British wildlife and our countryside is a barren monoculture devoid of all wild things will you sit there and regret you did nothing to stop this travesty or will you explain to them you were part of a small but dedicated band of people who stood up to the immorality of the situation and took on the souless men with guns and a Government driven by greed and defeated them with compassion and the will to do the right thing?

“The only thing necessary for the truimph of evil is that good men (and women) do nothing”.

Get out there. Help f*ck some sh*t up.

Hunt Saboteurs

Stop the Cull

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.