Posts Tagged ‘Bird of Prey exemption’

A slight lack of updates recently but the hunt season is now in full swing and I’ve been committed to saving lives in the field to which we’ve been very successful, which leads me nicely to the point of this blog post.

I’ve produced and published many videos over social media and YouTube over the last few years and many have had several thousand views and generally been well received. They got the point across and some of the footage was both revealing and damning at the same time. However the latest one has, for the first time gone completely viral, which is a first for me and out group. While the incident recorded is nothing particularly new there was one part which really stood out and made it interesting. If you haven’t seen it already check it out below.

I, for once wasn’t actually there, the scenes were shot by 2 colleagues who were travelling in a different vehicle. I was on driver duty that day and while this footage was being shot I was attempting to get to the scene with more sabs as quickly as I could without endangering both animals and other road users.

The video also made both local and national news (Mirror) although the video was edited down which of course was to be expected but in doing so missed out some of the wider context. The big talking point was the reaction from the local people in the rural Cambridgeshire village of  Upwood. The so-called Countryside Alliance will often claim they are the voice of the countryside but, as the video clearly shows these rural people were far from happy to have their village invaded by the hunt in pursuit of a fox. They made their feelings know in no uncertain terms and of course this kind of a reaction is pure gold for the anti-hunt side and dispels all of the myths perpetuated by the CA that they speak for any of these people. They have, and always will be, a minority bloodsports lobbying group.

We’ve had lots of messages of support from the locals thanking us for our efforts and also expressing shock at the total contempt and sense of entitlement shown by the hunt on the day.

Of course this is a major embarrassment for the Fitzwilliam Hunt (remember they are due in court in April) but their response was equally laughable. As expected they went on the attack claiming they were hunting within the law and accused animal rights activist of “telling blatant lies”.

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Doesn’t look too interested in retrieving the hounds currently running amok.

Within the law – The Fitzwilliam cynically use the Bird of Prey Exemption. While no fox is caught on camera you can hear the villagers say they have seen it run through the village. For the BoP exemption to be legal once a fox is flushed the hounds have to be called off and the bird is released, in this case, a Golden Eagle. Do you really think they would release a Golden Eagle in a village? Any cats or small dogs would be at risk not only from the hounds but also from the bird itself but that was never going to happen. There’s a reason Golden Eagles live in mountains and uplands, they need a lot of space! Also a no point can you see or heat the Huntsman or Whipper In calling the hounds back. They are more interested in seeing them in cry and on the scent of live quarry. The legality claims simply hold no water.

The hunt also claimed; “The behaviour of animal rights activists shouting, screaming and telling blatant lies may well have caused some concern in the village to inflame the situation and was certainly of no help to anyone.”

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Surely if the hunts claims are to be believed there would be a huntsman in this picture calling back the hounds.

Actually what those present did was clear hounds from peoples gardens and private property while attempting to stop them hunting. This is obvious for all to see in the full video but then again we don’t expect the hunt to admit this. The villagers also acted on their own initiative before our operative arrived. They were confronting the hunt on their own terms and we absolutely support them in the stance they took. Well done villagers of Upwood!

It doesn’t end there. I’m told the Master, Philip Baker had to apologise to the villagers of Alconbury Weston only a couple of weeks ago for a similar incident, it seems they have previous on this. Will he be forced into making another similar and embarrassing apology? I’ll keep you posted but no doubt an attempt to blame sabs on the day will be included as a way of saving face.

A the time of writing the video has had over 2500 shares and 216000 views and its still going. It’s had a reach of over half a million and there have been 15500 reactions and comments. We’e also received in that time frame over a 1000 more likes to our Facebook page. These kind of number prove the hunting debate isn’t going to go away but most importantly the vast majority of those commenting have been supportive of both our actions and those of the villagers in the video. This is a clear demonstration that the days of hunting with hounds is truly numbered. We just need a Government willing to listen to the people, improve the legislation and enforce it vigorously.

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.

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hand-print

Just a short update this week as I had hoped to be making the final preparations for my time in court as a witness for the prosecution of the 2 members of the Fitzwilliam Hunt. When you consider the offence took place on the 01/01/16 you begin to understand that the legal process is not something which proceeds quickly and there is good reason for that. However the when dates and locations for the hearing get changed multiple times it can get somewhat frustrating.

The case was supposed to be heard this week (26/27th) at Chelsmford Magistrates but I was contacted by a court official only last week and informed that the case would now be heard in August at Colchester Magistrates. While this delay is annoying the reasons behind it could be deemed to be in the prosecutions favour. Due to the high profile of the case it couldn’t be heard in the county where the offence took place (Cambridgeshire) so other courts and magistrates had to be considered. I was informed the reason for the late delay was due to “court politics”. According to a legal expert who has been advising me court politics usually refers to a “magistrate that was due to hear the case that had obviously expressed some views about hunting which compromised their ability to hear the case objectively”.

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George Adams & John Mease

This being the case I guess I should be pleased with the delay although that statement could be taken in the both for and against (hunting) points of view. Further details from the court official once again highlighted that this particular case was more akin to that of a murder trial (to be honest I consider it a murder trial of the fox on that fateful day) in that it is being heavily scrutinised and is also the first time the use of the Bird of Prey Exemption has been challenged in the courts.

The investigating officer also contacted me the day after asking if we were all ready to go and I had to inform him of the further delays as he was unaware. From his point of view it made no difference as he wouldn’t have to attend the court on the day. Even though he was the investigating officer he didn’t conduct any of the interviews so wouldn’t be cross examined by the defence, as this was done by more senior colleagues from the serious crime section, another sign that things were being taken very seriously indeed.

While preparing for my day in court I did go over my statement and also reviewed the video footage. It doesn’t get any easier to watch and of course in my mind there can be only one outcome but, this is the Hunting Act and nothing is straight forward where that is concerned.

Well that was a hectic weekend.

We’ve had quite a few requests from people wanting to get directly involved with saving our wildlife and of course that’s great however as the hunting season comes to an end the hunts get more desperate to kill and tensions increase. It’s certainly no time to introduce someone new to the game where cool heads and experience are required.

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The Walk of Shame

As a group we’ve had the polar opposites in terms of operations. First we hit the North Bucks Beagles mid week after a tip off and they packed up the moment they saw us and then at the other end of the scale were the Fitzwilliam who hunted to the last. Even with 4 sab groups combined against them this hunt refused to lose face and jack it in. They hunted several foxes and came very close indeed to killing at least two. We’re fairly certain without our presence the mortality rate would have been high and when you consider this is the same hunt in court next month you begin to understand their arrogance and belief they can do what they like.

A few of interesting points from the day stick in my mind.

First one was the fox which passed close to us followed by the hound about a minute behind. The huntsman (Simon Hunter) shouted at us, “Why didn’t you stop them?” of course we held them up as best we could and indeed believe it gave fox enough time to find cover and escape however these weren’t the words of a man concerned with the welfare of the fox the hounds were ‘accidentally’ after. These were the words of someone covering their own arse. This was indeed his attempt at an alibi should we have the evidence to bring them to court again. The Fitzwilliam use the Bird of Prey Exemption and I’ve written about this before at length (see here) but also by using this exemption they are admitting to hunting a live quarry. Of course to use this loophole the bird of prey has to be in a position to hunt the flushed animal and as usual this is simply never the case. The bird and handler (John Mease – also court next month for hunting act offences and cruelty) are only ever there for show.

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One of several that we helped get away.

The whole day really was like pre ban hunting. Badger setts were blocked (and unblocked by our colleagues at North and South Cambs Sabs) foxes were hunted to ground and one escaped in a grave yard where the fence bars were narrow enough for the fox but not the hounds. Whenever you see hunt staff dismount you know there’s trouble afoot and get in there as quick as possible. The weasily little turd of a Whipper In hit me with his hunting horn as I pulled out the hounds but I’ve been hit by bigger and tougher people than him and not backed down and they didn’t get the fox which is all that matters.

Later on two riders were using their horses as weapons against a sabs and when we intervened a particularly overweight and ugly rider (we’ll call him Tubbs for a couple of reasons) completely lost his sh*t and violently reacted by whipping a sab in the head. This could have resulted in a very serious injury, it was very close to her eye but luckily she receive nothing more than a sore red lump. Typically Tubbs showed once again what cowards they really are. Once the police arrive on the scene he had vanished, clearly scared to face any repercussions.

Speaking of the police it would seem that the Northants force has some way to go to understand the Hunting Act. When officers finally arrived after multiple calls they were as expected not interested in any hunting offences. I took time to show the officers the very clear footage of the fox being pursued by the hounds and to my amazement they claimed that was not illegal. Now the officers were obviously not used to dealing with hunting related incidents however their excuse for claiming no law had been violated was the fact the fox got away and was not killed. This is of course complete nonsense, a hunt only has to show intend to be guilty and the Fitzwilliam had shown this in spades. The hunt master then declared to the officer that they were going to continue on private land and to detain the sabs present to stop them following. I once again pointed out that you can enter private land to prevent a criminal offence and as we had sufficient evidence to suspect this may take place were would go where we pleased. I also pointed out that trespass is a civil offence. The officers by this time were looking somewhat overwhelmed and stated to all present, “We’re only here for public order”. The master galloped off in huff with sabs in tow.

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Caption competition time!

The most amusing part of the day was seeing a hunt supporters expensive 4×4 in a ditch with the police looking on. It transpires the driver was so keen to get some pictures on his phone of our colleagues he completely forgot about keeping his car on the road with the predictable results. No doubt a fine and some points will be following shortly.

Finally it’s great to see at least one hunt brought to justice. 3 members  of the Grove and Rufford Hunt (Paul Larby, 58, Peter White, 57, and Jane Wright, 63) were found guilty at Mansfield Magistrates. Of course they claimed the official “it was an accident and we were on a trail” lie but this time it seems to no avail. Interestingly the video evidence of them killing the fox was shot by a bird watcher who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  District Judge Timothy Spruce said: “There is good and compelling evidence that the hunt was aware of the fox, but it appears there is no evidence that hounds were directed away.”

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The statement from the judge is quite interesting in that he saw that not calling the hounds off as intent, as opposed to catching the huntsman actively hunting the hounds on. This may have further reaching legal ramifications for future. Peter White was the terrier man and supposed trail layer for the hunt and was convicted purely for this basis proving once again if a hunt has terrier men then there is the intent to hunt a wild mammal. The 3 convicted are considering an appeal, but deep down even they will admit they are guilty with the appeal purely a face saving exercise and perhaps an attempt to get a more sympathetic judge. It’s just a shame the penalties aren’t much stiffer. Maybe some jail time if proved guilty would be more of a deterrent in the future.