Posts Tagged ‘Brown Hare’

As with most laws the majority of people that once something is made illegal then that’s it, it’s done with. Unfortunately with laws like the Hunting Act that’s far from the case and also explains why so many hunts are continuing to circumnavigate the law by cynically using the loopholes which are written into the legislation in its current form. What I’ll try to do here is outline the main points so its possible to get a better understanding of how things stand. In this part I’ll highlight what I feel are the most relevant points of the act and this will follow in part 2 with the problems in enforcing it and the requirements needed to gain a conviction.

The full act can be found here.


The main statement of the act reads as follows

A person commits an offence if he hunts a wild mammal with a dog, unless his hunting is exempt”.

The important part here is the mention of exempt hunting. This is covered by Schedule 1 of the act. The act then covers various situations where the hunting will be considered exempt however the most important part here is that all of these exemptions are covered by Part 5.

“The third condition is that the stalking or flushing out does not involve the use of more than two dogs”.

This was the part which was supposed to put an end to the hunting of foxes, hares and stags (amongst other species) with full packs of hounds. However when the act came into force the CA and hunts got together and invented “trail hunting”. I think most people are now fully aware that trail hunting is nothing more than a cover for real hunting, that is, hunting live quarry, however as the law stands there is no written part of the legislation banning this.

The next import point to note is Part 6 – “Use of dogs below ground to protect birds for shooting” – This is commonly known as the “Gamekeepers Exemption”. This is covered further in Section 2

This part of the act is to enable gamekeepers to be able to kill foxes and protect their precious game birds. They can put a terrier down a hole where foxes thought to be present with the purpose of flushing them so they can be shot by a competent person. Only one dog can be used and these are supposed to be “soft” terriers, that is a terrier which will not engage with the fox and fight it underground. This has to comply with a code of practice but as well all know this is often roundly ignored with both terriers and foxes suffering injuries consistent with fighting underground.


The person conducting this operation must have written permission from the land owner if not the owner themselves and this must be made available to any constable who requests it. It has to be proven that the activity is for the protection of livestock, most notably bird which are being raised to be shot (Game birds).


This is where the act has an inconsistency. There is no limit on the number of hounds which can be used to flush the mammal for the bird of prey to then hunt. The same restrictions apply with regards to permissions however as you well know this particular exemption has been used by several hunts in order for them to continue hunting as normal. However the recent conviction of the now retired Fitzwilliam Huntsman George Adams (see full story here) has put the use of this exemption by the hunts seriously into question.

Exempt Species

Not all mammals are covered by the act. Those species which are considered vermin have no protection under the act and this include both rats and rabbits. Provided once again that all permissions are satisfied these species can hunted regardless of the number of hounds or the methods used.

There are some quite bizarre exemptions which include Recapture of a Wild Mammal, Rescue of a Wild Mammal and Retrieval of Hares (which have been shot) but these, by and large have no real bearing with regards to the hunting we see in our countryside through the hunting season.

Research  and Observation

This is another odd one as I’m not sure what there is to learn about a mammal from a scientific point of view by hunting them. I’m told the stag hound hunts in the west country use this exemption although it clearly states in the act that the number of hounds is limited to 2.

Section 4 Hunting Assistance

Quite an interesting one this and something, as far as I’m aware that has yet to be enforced. “A person commits an offence if he knowingly permits land which belongs to him to be entered or used in the course of the commission of an offence under section 1″.

This would appear to be a little like vicarious liability. It is possible for the land owner to be prosecuted if they were knowingly allowing an illegal activity to take place on their land. When out in the fields we’ll often be approached by angry people claiming to be land owners and telling us to leave. When you quote them chapter and verse of this part of the act its amazing how quickly they will shut up and make themselves scarce. We’ll always ask for their names and proof of ownership if they continue to press the point. It is without doubt that a large number of land owners who permit their land to be used by hunts know exactly what’s going on and are probably fairly active themselves in the hunting community however it would seem that proving this is nigh on impossible as the police and CPS never seem to go after these people. Perhaps if a successful prosecution could be gained more land owners would have second thought about allowing the criminal hunters to use their land.


Section 5 – Hare Coursing

We will often hear of how rural police officers spend a lot of their time tackling hare coursing (and rightly so), particularly in the east of the country (the last stronghold of the Brown Hare) and the public will often ask the question why these forces don’t put the same resources into tackling organised hunting with hounds. The hunting act has a section all of its own for hare coursing and this of course makes it a lot easier for the police and CPS to gain successful prosecutions. The people that undertake coursing are often trespassing and damaging property so this is another justification for a more robust police response which will also include seizure of vehicles and dogs.

So these are what I believe to be the most important points to note. Obviously there is a level of interpretation however from personal experience I don’t believe I’m far off the mark. In the next blog I’ll look at the reality of the act in the fields and what is required to to bring these criminals to justice.

We’re into that time of year again when the hunts once more ride out to do their cruel deeds. My Facebook feed was full of reports from the various sab groups throughout the country as they took on the hunts in their various areas on what was opening day for many. I was pleased to see that there were no kills, this was probably due to a combination of poor scenting conditions (the day was very mild and bright) and the proactive actions of sabs. My group joined up with our good friends at Berkshire Hunts Sabs and we irritated the hell out of the Old Berkshire Beagles (full report here).

Hound exercise. Yeah, OK.

Hound exercise. Yeah, OK.

As is the norm we faced the usual hostility from all those on the other side but it’s water off a ducks back to us and it’s always a good indication of your success. Whilst trying to locate the pack we happened upon a group of support, all eager of course to watch something get killed. Their reaction to us was instant and aggressive, the land owner attempted to run me over with his pickup and then tried to assault one of our female sabs, all the time hurling a torrent of four letter abuse. This was matched but another female supporter who clearly had confused moral standings and somewhat lacking in compassion (plus a few other things as well no doubt), calling me sad for not being able to read a map. Of course I knew exactly where we were and pointed out to her that the definition of sad was gaining pleasure from watching a sentient mammal being hunted to exhaustion and killed. Their reaction was exactly what we wanted, it proved we were on the right tracks and they were desperate to stop us. And sure enough we located the hunt moments later and they were forced to move off.

Careful deary you;ll blow a blood vessel.

Careful deary you’ll blow a blood vessel.

Unlike fox hunting, beagling is very difficult to cover up. Beagles aren’t really scent followers to the extent that fox hounds are and due to the smaller areas and the way the quarry (the Brown Hare) responds it’s blatantly obvious that they’re breaking the law. To counter this they are very secretive and try to hunt on private land with very little public access however we’ve never regarded such restrictions as a big issue to circumnavigate. Trespass is a civil offence and you can gain access to private property to stop a criminal offence taking place. In this instance the hunts claims of “hound exercise” were completely laughable. Why dress up in your best hunting regalia (green jackets, white plus fours and green socks) and have a number of foot supporters watching if you’re only taking the hounds for a walk? Another point to briefly note is the general age of the followers. If this is a reflection of the activity as a whole then it should die out fairly shortly.

Look at that face, years of pent up anger have left it's mark.

Look at that face, years of pent up anger have left it’s mark.

In due course the police arrived and questioned us on our activities. For once they were even handed and when they realised we weren’t terrorists and were only armed with various vegan cakes and savouries they were happy to keep an eye on things and one officer, a dog handler (3124 from Thames Valley) seemed quite keen to find the hunt and equire as to what they were up to. Here was a guy who’d worked with dogs for all of his working life and knew exactly how the breeds behaved and saw through the lies the hunt were spreading. It was just a shame he didn’t arrive earlier as by this time the hunt had pretty much called it a day and packed up. It really does make a change to be able to be reporting on decent policing, let’s hope in the coming season I can report on it more often. For our own side we’ve been making efforts to educate the police and indeed work with them so they understand who we are and what we do. I’ve had a meeting with our local Police and Crime Commissioner and a senior inspector and will next week be meeting with a wildlife crime officer from an adjoining force.

As an organisation we’re fighting a PR war as well as the direct action in the fields and part of that is dispelling the myths perpetrated by the hunts which clearly affect the judgment of the police. Now I’m fully aware that some senior officers and judicial personnel are pro-hunt and probably even ride out so I’m not expecting miracles however we’ve made a start and hopefully that will reflect on the action the police take in regards to our operations.

So from now on it’ll be a busy old time. If you feel like standing up for our wildlife now’s the time to get involved.

Two things caught my attention over the last couple of days.

First of all I get updates on my Facebook feed from lots of different sabs groups across the country, they’re usually filled with similar incidents of abuse, threats and violence but also the good news that some people are still prepared to get out there and take direct action against those that want to kill our wildlife for fun and that that action is generally effective. However a report from the Norfolk & Suffolk group was really quite upsetting and regards a large Hare shoot that took place on the Raveningham Hall Estate.

Now the Brown Hare is a nationally declining species. Modern farming methods aren’t generally that conducive to flourishing wildlife and the poor Hare is suffering more than most. It has, as a species precious little protection from the law and that’s something which has to change unless we want to see it disappear from our fields for good. It’s a gracefull and elegant animal adapted to wide open spaces and does no damage to anyone, my wife holds a special place in her heart for them and we have a lovely painting hanging above our stairs depicting a pair of them. So seeing a line of tweed clad men in wellies blasting away recklessly at driven Hares is not something that should be acceptable for modern society. The sight and sound of a squealing Hare, kicking in it’s death throws will stay with anyone with a ounce of compassion. The sabs tried hard but ultimately many died that day. Although the animals will be eaten it’s nothing to do with killing for food, it’s the enjoyment of the act of killing which is fundamentally wrong. There is always a huge outcry over images of trophy hunters with big game from Africa, and rightly so but this is no different and has to stop before our fields become completely sterile, once they’re gone, they’re gone.

This poor Hare died in the arms of this sab after he ran in front of the guns to try and save it.

Which brings me to my second point.

Prince William and his father, good old Charlie released a video message as global ambassadors for protected species regarding the illegal ivory and Rhino horn trade. Now that’s great but unfortunately the Prince was also recently in Spain on a shooting estate with gun in hand killing Wild Boar and Deer. Hardly the right impression created there sunshine, kind of makes you look like a massive hypocrite. If you really want to create some kind of realistic credibility you really need to put down your gun. Dominic Dyer, spokesperson for Care for the Wild sums it up nicely, he says:

“We are disappointed that he chose to go hunting on the Duke of Westminister’s estate. We think it sent out the wrong messages and does raise concern about his interest in hunting on one side and wildlife protection on the other.

It’s not illegal what he’s doing. But it can seem somewhat hypocritical. And he may come into contact with people on these hunting trips who are involved in killing elephants or rhino in terms of trophy hunting – a good example of that is Spain’s King Juan Carlos, who had to step down as patron of the WWF about 18 months ago after being pictured shooting an elephant in Botswana.

Who you associate with can sometimes undermine your role.

If he wants to be a global ambassador to protect endangered species across the world, the best thing he can do is hang up the hunting rifle and only do shooting with a camera.

If you want to be a global ambassador to protect wildlife it’s not good to be going hunting. There might be a real value in him drawing a line under it and saying ‘I want to be seen as a dedicated conservationist’.”

Wills should listen to that advice.

Finally great to see a good turnout at the Stop the Badger Cull march in Shrewsbury over the weekend. I’ll see you in Birmingham on the 22nd.