Posts Tagged ‘Beagling’

Simon Hart MP is (in my opinion) a particularly odious character and was the Chairman of the Countryside Alliance prior to his appointment as Minister of Implementation within Boris’s self serving (and hopefully temporary) Government. This clearly left the CA with a position to fill and we now know who that will be.

Nick Herbert MP is a former Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (May 2010 -Sept 2012) and was also the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He’s currently the MP for Arundel and South Downs in West Sussex. As you would expect from a Tory he’s Cambridge educated where he read law and land economy but more importantly we was the director of public affairs for the British Field Sports Society (the forerunner of the the Countryside Alliance), a post he held for 6 years.

Nick_Herbert_-_minister_for_policing_and_criminal_justice

So are are we to make of this appointment?

Obviously his past demonstrates he is deeply entrenched within the hunting and shooting set and his time as director of public affairs at the BFSS would suggest he should know what he’s doing with regards to PR however the current CEO of the CA, Tim Bonner is a complete loon who constantly scores own goals with his irrelevant and nonsensical ramblings on social media. One wonders if Nick will be able to put a leash on him?

A little bit of digging would show Nick to be the previous Master and Huntsman of the Newmarket Beagles and also the Trinity Foot Beagles, a pack I have been involved in preventing hunting several times. For those that don’t know beagling is the hunting of Brown Hares with beagles. The hunt staff still dress up in stupid costumes but they hunt on foot. A hare will always be able to outrun a beagle (even though hunting beagles are very fast) however they don’t have the stamina of the hounds and as they are reluctant to leave their territory will also tend to run in large circles. In the end they will run out of puff and be pulled apart by the hounds. Beagle packs can kill many hares in an afternoons hunting (more info here).

How anyone can take any pleasure in watching this majestic animal being tormented and killed in such a manner is beyond most normal peoples comprehension but Nick himself describes this as some sort of addiction.

So it should come as no surprise then that Nick loves a bit of animal abuse and during David Cameron‘s time as Prime Minister he held the post of Minister for Police and Criminal Justice, which made him responsible for the policing of the Hunting Act. No doubt one of the many reasons why there was so little action from the police when a staunch hunting advocate was dictating Government policy on the situation.

In a statement about his appointment to the CA Nick states:

“The Countryside Alliance is one of the UK’s biggest campaigning groups, and its mission to stand up for the countryside and the rural way of life has never been more important.  I am passionate about these issues, and I’m honoured to be taking up this role at such a critical time for the countryside.  Having been involved in creating the movement some years ago it feels like I’m coming home.”

It’s pretty standard stuff but he’s right about the time being critical, not just for the countryside but for hunting itself. Beagling especially is a dying blood sport, those taking part are all facing their dotage and packs are going to the wall (see here). In a time where the biodiversity of our country is at an all time low and the pressures on our wildlife are increasing all the time it’s pretty sad that an organisation like the CA even exists, and while they may claim to represent the countryside as a whole we should never lose sight of the fact that their primary objective has always and will always, be the promotion of hunting and the repeal of the Hunting Act.

 

So last week I summed up what I thought were the most relevant points in the hunting act (see here). What I’ll do here is explain how the hunts are circumnavigating this legislation and what any monitor or sab would need to do to gain a conviction.

We’ve already established that the wording of the act limits the number of hounds to 2 for the act of stalking and flushing out. However as most people are already aware this part of the act was largely made irrelevant by the creation of “trail hunting”. There have been thousands of words written about this in the past (most notably the IFAW report Trail of Liesfull report can be found here) and don’t want to cover old ground again however it is the most common excuse that hunts use because, it seems, it is the most difficult to gain a prosecution against.

The fine people at Hounds Off produced a great list of requirements for gaining a prosecution against hunters using this alibi. It can be found here. What I will add to that is the expansion of point 4 on the list – Proving intent. This cannot be stressed enough. If the hunt staff are aware they are hunting live quarry (you need to prove this) then the addition of them using either horn or voice calls to hunt the hounds on should be enough to secure a conviction provided all the other criteria are met. Learn what these calls are and memorise them. In the fields we have however noted that some hunt staff are remaining quiet if sabs or monitor are present and filming their activities. NOT calling the hounds off the line of the hunted animal may not be enough to prove intent.

Essentially in the video evidence you’ll need: Quarry running – Hounds chasing quarry – Huntsman aware of live quarry and showing intent.

If you intend to monitor you need to learn to recognise the set of circumstance which could lead to a conviction as quick as you can. And herein lies the problem. Hunts have themselves learnt to avoid those situations, either that or they simply don’t care because they know the police (for one reason or another) won’t investigate and prosecute. I covered this in a previous blog which can be found here.

Although the recent conviction we achieved against the Fitzwilliam related to the Falconry Exemption in the Act many of the situational points were similar. The fox killed by the Thurlow last Boxing Day is a different matter and they are claiming to have been following a trail although have already set out their defence by claiming the fox was turned into the hounds by the sabs present. Although this is an ongoing case and as I such I can’t elaborate on the exact details (we’re currently waiting on a decision from the CPS) their claims are quite common and were similarly made by the Fitzwilliam. Needless to say this is complete nonsense (as it was in the previous case) and we hope the truth will come out in court. We have compelling video evidence from 2 separate sources and believe we have fulfilled all the relevant criteria for a successful outcome.

Beagling

Of course the hunting act doesn’t just relate to fox hunting. There are other forms of hunting which may also include Stag/Hind hunting and Mink/Otter hunting but Beagling (hunting the Brown Hare with a pack of Beagles) is the most likely to be encountered, certainly in my locality which is one of the last strongholds of this fast disappearing majestic animal.

packing up for the day

Packing up for the day.

Beagling runs in a very similar way to fox hunting except the hunters are on foot (but still wearing daft outfits). The hounds will be put into a field to search for hares. This will initially be done via scent but once the quarry is flushed the beagles will act more like sight hounds. The usual hangers on will be present to watch and some may be stationed around the edges of the open field to be hunted. Their purpose is to turn the hare back into the field and to prolong the chase. A hare will easily outrun a beagle however it doesn’t have the stamina and they tend to run in large circles. Eventually they will be caught and killed.  A pack of beagles can kill a lot of hares in an afternoons hunting.

Due to their less obvious nature and smaller following field beagle packs can be hard to find, they are very secretive for obvious reasons. The handy point from a monitoring and sabbing point of view is that once found they are effectively scuppered! Merely entering their hunting field with a running camera should be enough encouragement for the hunter to gather their hounds and head back to the meet but once again the criteria for any attempted conviction remains the same.

Falconry Exemption

I’ve written a lot about this recently so won’t cover it all again but needless to say this part of the act is now being seriously called into question as an alibi for hunters since the prosecution of the Fitzwilliam. whether those hunts that still using a bird of prey continue to do so remains to be seen. Next season could be interesting . . .

Gamekeepers Exemption

This is a tricky one and the greyest of grey areas. The simple fact is there is no place for terrier men in a trail hunt and yet all hunts still employ at least 1 terrier man with the usual tools of his trade. The Countryside Alliance might like to claim they are fence menders and call them “Countrymen” but I don’t think anyone really believes that nonsense as terriers aren’t terribly good at mending fences.

I know some sources will disagree but I have always believed that in certain circumstances terrier work would be in breach of the hunting act. I’ve had long discussions with various police forces and their wildlife crime officers over the presence and indeed use of terrier men during a trail hunt. My personal experience of these particularly awful humans would also suggest that once an animal has gone to ground sabs/monitors arriving on the scene will see the terrier men making themselves scarce pretty quickly. The fact they will almost always be masked in some way suggests their need to hide their identity and thus reducing the chance of prosecution.

OHTM

Oakley terrier men.

The gamekeepers exemption was never intended to be used in conjunction with a mounted hunt. If a hunt was to chase and mark their quarry to ground and then call in the terrier men to dig out or bolt the animal they are in effect admitting to hunting in breach of the act. Obviously proving this might be nigh on impossible but it will certainly call into question their activities. My local force actually advised me prior to a hunt meet that if we witnessed dogs being used below ground we should call them immediately. A WCO from a different force suggested he would stop the use of terriers if used in conjunction with a hunt however could not stop them if they came back for the hunted animal later on when the hunt has ceased.

Hunted foxes will know their surroundings and look for the quickest route to safety within their territory. This will often be a badger sett – provided the terrier man hasn’t already blocked the entrances of course. This is a traditional job of the terrier man and still regularly takes place. Again evidence of this should be gathered and passed on the the authorities as interference with a sett is an offence under the Protection of Badgers Act. Should a fox go down a badger sett then the protection of the fox becomes a little easier. The sett would need to be proven to be active. This can be done by photographing the entrances. Are they clear of detritus which suggests regular use? Can badger prints be seen in earth? Are there large and fresh spoil heaps or bedding outside the entrances? Further evidence of activity can be gained by the used of a trail cam showing actual footage of the badgers using the sett.

There have been several instances where terrier men have been caught red handed digging into badgers setts in an attempt to get to a fox. They have even left their terriers in the sett in their haste to escape!

23916605_1472273606202708_1602461237778589833_o

Finally if in doubt call the police. They may be reluctant to attend but call them (on 101) and report it anyway. The more people who start calling the police the better. Don’t get fobbed off, get a crime reference number and chase it up after the event if you don’t get a satisfactory response. Cite your safety concerns if hounds are running around the roads, complain of followers driving dangerously, being aggressive or blocking the highway. Ultimately hunts rarely want the police to attend, it can be a pain in the arse for them to explain themselves and it could save a life.

 

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…

1.jpg

“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.

2.jpg

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.”

3

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?

4

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.

5

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