Posts Tagged ‘Countryside Alliance’

Since the publication of the hunting webinars and all the current repercussions now being felt by the hunting world it might be easy to sit back and assume the war is over and all that remains is to mop up the last remaining vestiges of resistance. However, the reality is that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

While it is undeniably true that hunting with hounds has been fundamentally damaged this is no time to rest on our laurels. The so-called Countryside Alliance are finally starting to find their voice in their defence of hunting but their attempts at damage limitation appear to be pretty poor due to the fact they are wholly based on the assertion that trail hunting is a legal activity. If carried out as it should then their claims could be considered credible however the webinars prove this is not the case and it doesn’t matter how much noise they make about it this is never going to change.

 

What was more laughable was the production of a video which was designed to show how trail hunting worked. With shots from both hand held and drone cameras along with titles to offer an explanation it did nothing more than prove what utter nonsense it all was. The production was cheesy to say the least and was so contrived it could have been a parody. The other problem was the hunt they chose to focus on, none other than the criminally convicted Kimblewick! It may have been better for the CA to choose a hunt that hadn’t been convicted of dragging a fox from its earth and throwing it on front of the hounds and also shooting most of their pack a few years ago as they all had bTB. It was obviously not shot at an actual hunt either as there were no field riders (except for a single female escorting a child – have to get a child in there) or their own soft underbelly, the terrier men. It was also amusing that they shot this piece at the same location that we sabbed them blatantly cubbing only last September. Of course I couldn’t help but bash out a quick a more realistic version . . .

Some other news was last night’s vote by Peterborough City Council to ban all hunting on their land. The motion brought by Councillor Ansar Ali said:

“Most registered hunts claim to now be ‘trail’ hunting, an activity invented after the ban which allows hunts to claim that any chase of a wild mammal is an accident rather than intentional. This Council resolves that it will not permit trail hunting, exempt hunting, hound exercise and hunt meets on its land.”

He told ITV News: “There should be no place for [hunting] in the 21st century. There is growing resentment from the general public for this outdated and cruel sport.”

While the amount of land that this will effect is only minimal it sends a clear message of public opinion and obviously that got up Bonner’s snout. He winged about setting a “dangerous precedent” and continued with their time honored claims of “cheap political stunts” and “class war”.

Hunt Sabs spokesperson Lee Moon summed up the vote:

“The trail hunting smokescreen has well and truly been blown away and the British public are finally seeing the truth about “trail” hunting.  The hunting community have been engaged in a nationwide conspiracy to commit illegal acts for the past 15 years and people are sick of it.  We expect many more Councils to follow suit as more and more landowners protect themselves from being dragged into criminal acts.”

Out in the fields the hunts will be making their own decisions. Many, in keeping with their inflated sense of entitlement and arrogance will continue to hunt live quarry regardless while others seem confused and unwilling to risk being caught out. This will no doubt be a reflection on their relationship with the local law enforcement authorities and the levels of corruption therein. Needless to say all senior officers won’t be able to plead ignorance of the criminality going on in the countryside as copies of the webinar have been sent out to every force in the country by the HSA.

While the criminal investigation takes place into the webinar we need to maintain the pressure and keep our opponents on the back foot. Keep lobbying local land owners and supporting your local sab groups. Covid-19 has seen the cancellation of most of the usual festive hunt meets which is a small bonus to the situation and likely to cause a significant loss of revenue, however hunts will still be meeting, largely in secret and desperate to avoid the presence of sabs, monitors and the general public so if you encounter a hunt or see suspicious activity you believe to be hunt related remember to call the HSA Tip Off Hotline (07443148426) as soon as you can with the details. It could save lives.

As you’re all aware through the lack of updates over the past year I decided to take a bit of a break from writing but I couldn’t let this story pass by and not comment, in fact I had a different angle lined up but held it back after some advice from someone in the know and I’m glad I did.

It’s been well over a week now since the Hunt Saboteurs Association published the webinars held by the Hunting Office that show senior members of the hunting world that included Lord Mancroft – Conservative Peer, Chair of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) and former Chair of the Countryside Alliance and ex-senior police officers Phil Davies (more about him here) and Paul Jelley. Also present were Richard Tyacke – Chairman of the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles (AMHB), Hunting Office Executive Director and former Master and Huntsman of the Wynnstay Hunt as well as Mark Hankinson – MFHA Director, Hunting Office Executive Director  and former Master of the Wilton Hunt.

 

Lord Mancroft – Or is it the eagle from the muppets?

It seemed that there was significant resistance by the mainstream media to cover the story but with the US elections, Brexit and Covid-19 still the main stories that was hardly surprising however it would be easy to suggest that the story was being suppressed as multiple copies of the video were removed from social media with bogus copyright claims. However the level of public interest on social media proved that this was never going to go away, much to the chagrin of everyone involved in hunting.

ITV News Story

Finally it was ITV that came forward and released the story with the added bonus that the police and CPS were actually looking into the situation to see if any crimes and been committed. From my perspective it’s fairly evident from the video and despite what the Hunting Office and the Countryside Alliance might try and claim that those present are conspiring to incite mass criminality, encouraging the many hunt  masters viewing the webinar that if they want to carry on hunting much as they did pre 2005 then all they have to do is follow a few simple rules and they’re good to go. In fact they go even further by offering financial support for any hunt caught hunting and facing prosecution, but only if they’ve followed their advice and created the “smokescreen” they go to such great length to describe and promote.

If you haven’t seen it already the full video’s can be viewed here: Video 1 and Video 2.

Full transcript can be download here and here.

It also seems pretty good timing that a TV crew from ITV were present and actually witnessed and filmed a fox being hunted by the Beaufort Hunt just before lockdown.

 

 

The Hunters response

What is also obvious is the lack of any real comment for the hunting community. The normally extremely vocal Tim Bonner of the CA took his time before uttering any sort of a word on the matter although it wasn’t a direct response to the webinar story and was more as a response to the amount of country that hunts will lose due to the withdrawing of the licenses by major land owners (more on that in a bit) and how they’ll still all be out on Boxing Day, however the official CA media accounts have also been strangely quiet, offering little more than the similar mumblings of the Hunting Office’s claims that the words of those speaking at the webinar had been taken out of context. There was a rather pathetic response from This is Hunting UK which got totally rinsed in the comments after which they posted some waffle about unity and some nice pictures of hounds, hardly a solid forward defensive stroke. Needless to say I’d like to be a fly on the wall at the Hunting Office right now. Head of Hunting at the CA, Polly Portwin is well known for spinning lies but even her abilities for growing a long nose would appear to significantly overmatched by the truth.

 

Hunting licenses suspended

There was significant pressure applies to all the major land owners by members of the public and anti hunt campaigners alike. The first to come out with a statement saying they would be suspending hunt licenses was Forestry England and like a house of cards it was only a matter of time before others followed. There had been a concerted effort to get the National Trust to ban hunting on it’s land, regardless of the unregulated conditions they had set previously they had always stubbornly refused to be drawn into any discussion and continually just replied with a standard response. This time however it would appear that they would be forced to take action and a couple of hours later they too withdrew all licenses on their land. United Utilities, the largest corporate land owner in the country were a little late to the party but they got there in the end and that’s the main thing. As I write more organisations who license hunts are currently reviewing the situation and are likely to follow suit.

Forestry England chief executive Mike Seddon: “We are clear when we give people licences or permission for activities in the nation’s forests that they must behave legally and responsibly or risk losing the right to carry on. Once we had confirmation from the police that they were investigating activities involving the Hunting Office, we suspended all licences granted to organisations that delegate work to them.”

United Utilities statement

 

So what happens next?

The police investigation will be headed by Deputy Chief Constable Paul Netherton, National Police Chief Council lead for fox hunting and part of Devon and Cornwall police. He was also author of the Operational Advice on Responding to Hunting Incidents document for the National Police Chiefs Council (this can be found online with a simple search for those with an interest). If I’m brutally honest I’d be really surprised if any prosecutions arose from the investigation however in the wider context hunting has been seriously damaged and those officers on the front line of policing who didn’t hold an opinion one way or another will be finding it very hard to believe anything that comes from the hunting community now knowing they’ve been treated as mugs for the last 15 years and those officers that have  supported hunting and known about the conspiracy all along won’t be feeling too confident in being able to support their mates in the hunts. I’ve been in touch with my local police force and needless to say they were very interested and the footage was disseminated to the rural crime team.

So could this be the end for them?

I doubt it’ll be the end anytime soon but this has been one of the best weeks I can remember and certainly brightened up a very dowdy 2020. If hunting is to continue they are going to have to pull some very big rabbits out of some very small hats and I simply don’t see any easy way out. This horrible minority pastime dressed up as a sport has been fundamentally damaged and it’s likely heads will roll but it doesn’t matter who’s running the show, I don’t believe there will be any significant recovery.

Finally

Huge credit must go to those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get this in the public domain and into the mainstream media. Once it finally broke there was an avalanche of stories and coverage on TV, online and the printed press. You know things are serious when even the Torygraph starts putting the boot in.

The Hunt Saboteurs Association have run an excellent campaign and in line with that are also running a funding page (click here) so they can increase the already mounting pressure and not let up. Money is something the hunting side have a lot of, it would be nice to be able to balance those books a little bit.

The increasingly pointless so-called Countryside Alliance are still banging on about trail hunting even after their disastrous video which I took apart in my last blog post. This time they’ve produced a Q&A page on their website which is no doubt designed to encourage people to go hunting. In light of the recent prosecution of the Kimblewick pair and their sentencing on the 26th of last month (see here) they are clearly on a massive damage limitation exercise but as most people are probably aware of the reality by now they are effectively only preaching to their own converted.

Now of course what they’ve written is complete hogwash so I thought I’d counter it with something a little more truthful using their own questions, so here goes.

Q: What is trail-hunting and when does it take place?

Trail hunting is a myth, nothing more than a convenient alibi created by the hunting community when the hunting of live quarry with hounds was banned in 2005. It takes place all over the countryside where foxes and hares live. (see full report by IFAW here)

Q: When did trail-hunting become a regular activity?

In 2005 after the ban.

Q: Who goes trail-hunting?

Bumpkins, blood junkies and those stupid enough to believe in the propaganda spouted by the CA claiming its legality.

Q: What is the difference between trail-hunting and drag hunting?

Trail hunting is a myth, drag hunting is an actual thing. There is either a drag soaked in a substance like aniseed or it is “clean boot”, a runner is used and the hounds (normally bloodhounds for clean boot) set off after them at a predetermined time. Live quarry are not hunted.

Q: How does the trail get laid and what scent is used?

A trail rarely ever gets laid at all and if it does its usually only to put on a bit of a show and provide the hunt with some sort of legal protection. Someone on a horse will probably wave a bit of string about with a muddy old rag on the end. Most of the time this isn’t even on the floor. Sometimes it’ll be on the back of a quad, quite often behind the actual hounds (see below).

trail-quad

Typical trail layer in action

Q: Who decides where to lay the trail?

Santa Clause, the Easter bunny or the Tooth Fairy.

Q: How do the hounds know where to look for the trail?

They don’t. The huntsman will cast them into areas likely to contain their intended live quarry and certainly nowhere that a trail could have possibly been laid.

Q: Do hounds sometimes pick up the scent of a live fox and, if so, what happens?

Yes very often, mainly because that’s what they want to happen. The hounds will hunt the fox and be encouraged or “hunted on” by the huntsman. If sabs are present they will try and save the fox.

Q: Why do people go trail-hunting?

They are either too stupid to understand the reality of the situation or indeed fully understand and just like killing sentient mammals for fun. They suffer from something called Cognitive Dissonance or they just lack the empathy required to not feel bad about what the do.

Q: How does anybody know when the hounds have found a trail?

Usually when they go “in cry”. They will have found the scent of the trail (fox) and will now be actively hunting it. They will make a chilling baying sound.

Q: Does the trail follow a specified route?

Foxes will run in directions which gives them the best chance of outpacing the hounds and escaping. They will often go to ground if they can. However the hunts terrier men would have probably filled in any likely escape holes like badger setts. This is also illegal. If a fox does find a hole in which to hide in the terrier men will be called by the huntsman to either dig it out or flush it in front of the hounds for more hunting. Why are there terrier men on trail hunts? Why indeed.

Q: Does the trail-layer want to make it easy for the hounds to find and follow the trail?

If that means going through impenetrable brambles, thick coverts, over roads and railways then certainly not because that’s where the hounds tend to end up running. You’d think the trail layer would be a bit more careful.

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A typical trail

Q: What happens if the hounds lose the scent?

The fox survives and escapes.

Q: What scent is used for the trail?

Nothing normally although in the last CA video they appeared to be using Lucozade. As a side note it’s actually illegal to spread a biological waste product over the countryside.

Q: Is trail-hunting legal and humane?

Well, if they actually followed a trail it would be legal. Humane? Ask the hounds and horses.

Q: Who wants to stop trail-hunting taking place?

If it actually took place no-one would be bothered but since it’s just a convenient smoke screen then any compassionate wildlife lovers with a “can do” attitude.

Q: Do the hunt followers still dress the same to go trail-hunting as they did when they went traditional hunting?

Pretty much yes. There is the classic bumpkin uniform. Barbour coat, checked shirt, tie, flat cap, ruddy complexion and a heart attack in waiting.

Q: How can I get involved in trail-hunting?

You can’t. The hunts are so secretive now you have to be recommended by someone within the hunt and as they are shunned by normal people in society the only new members are those they breed themselves and brain wash into thinking this outdated behaviour is acceptable.

trail

The Kimblewick’s trail layer.

The so-called Countryside Alliance love to harp on about sabs putting edited video’s up on social media and calling them fake news. So not to be out done they’ve put up their own little video on the CA’s Facebook page about ‘Trail Hunting‘, yes I know what you’re thinking but for the benefit of what follows let’s just assume it’s actually a thing. Full video can be seen below [Edit or it would if the CA hadn’t removed it after I took it apart]

When you put up any video there needs to be some sort of point of reference if it’s to be considered even remotely credible. Dates and the location of the footage are simple to show and prove with some sort of overall context on the filming. I’m going to break things down and show what an utterly ham fisted attempt at pro trail hunting propaganda this really is.

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1 – This statement is vague at best. Quarry based scent. What is that exactly and how did they obtain it? The picture shows someone pouring what would appear to be Lucozade on the end of a whip. Note the green grass. This could have been (and probably was) filmed on a different day at a different location to the hunt they later refer to in the video. As any kind of proof it’s utterly worthless. We don’t see the rider or the person applying the sugary drink. There’s also no time frame or location.

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2 – The Dedicated Trail Layer. Just have a look at the environment. We have a well maintained hedge plus 2 fields which have been harvested and are bare. Not looking much like where the Lucozade was poured on the whip but more of that later. They could have of course traveled some distance but without any knowledge of the substance and how long it lasts again, it’s meaningless. I think we can safely assume this field is nowhere near the one in the next few frames.

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3 – Hounds are looking for the trail. Surely a better term would be search, if a trail was there they would have their noses to the ground, hounds can’t see a trail, they hunt by smell. Also notice how the environment has suddenly changed to a fairly steep sided valley with a line of thick scrub at the bottom. Just the sort of place you’d find, oh, say a fox? Clearly this wasn’t shot at the same time or location as the so called trail laying video.

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4 – This frame is only a few on from the previous and yet it claims that sabs have seen a fox which the hounds haven’t. Considering the hounds would traditionally hunt by scent they wouldn’t in fact be looking for a fox anyway. They’d pick up the scent first and only once within visual range would they start to course the animal.

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5 – Now we’re really getting into the realms of fantasy land. The single purpose of being a sab is to save the lives of the hunted animal. Doing what they are claiming goes against the very essence of what we as sabs are there to do. This is something the CA and the hunting community simply can’t get a grasp of. If ever there was a statement of fake news then this is it. It’s an utter fabrication with no basis in truth and they have no evidence to back up their claims.

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6 – It just gets better and better . . . here’s a great shot of a sab cracking his whip. They do this to stop the hounds. If we simply wanted to catch them hunting on camera we’d do nothing at all and let them get on with it (which is what monitors do) and yet the video shows a sab demonstrating some basic skills in stopping hounds.

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7 – Hahahaha . . . sorry I can’t help myself. We get filmed ALL THE TIME. It’s never stopped us from what we do and this is the best they can come up with? The reason the horn stopped blowing was because in this instance the fox had got away, I’m just teasing you now but all will become clear.

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8 – This is probably the most accurate statement on the whole video. I’ve already explained the purpose of the whips and shouting at hounds is called ‘rating’, something the hunt staff will also do if they wish to stop the hounds. In this image the hounds have been called away from the line they were on as you can see them with the sabs. Also in this section you’ll see 2 quads (1 out of shot to the right in this still). One of them is the hunt terrier man. What would be his purpose in a legitimate trail hunt? As far as I’m aware terriers are unable to mend fences.

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9 – Toxic chemicals. One has to wonder what evidence they have that the image shows someone spraying a toxic chemical. The answer is very simple, they have none. To believe this utter guff you have to be significantly challenged in the brain cell department. It’s been well documented what’s used to cover a scent line so I won’t waste any more of my time on it.

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10 – The image shown is utterly irrelevant and bears no relationship to what has gone before. It’s just a bit of what we call in the industry a B-roll, a meaningless bit of filler footage to hold interest. The problem they have is that the statement is once again easily dismissed due to the lack of any evidence. How many hounds have been treated by vets after being on a hunt where they have become ill? What is this mystery illness that affects them? Surely if this was genuine and attributed to toxic chemicals the CA themselves would have been shouting about it long before now and there would be detailed records. The only time hounds were infected with anything and had to be destroyed was when the disgraced Kimblewick pack all got bTB from eating infected meat.

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11 – Wait, hang on, we seem to have jumped back in time again to the incident we were watching earlier. Anyone with any knowledge of video production will know that the best way to get something across is to make it easy for the viewer to follow, keep the flow and tell a story with a beginning a middle and of course an end. The creators were so obsessed with a bit of random sab bashing they forgot the basics by throwing in the random footage shown in example 10. I’m also looking at a selection of hounds quite close together, they don’t look too scattered to me.

13.png

12 – The final statement. Design and layout is important in any sort of PR and that includes video. There are some basics which are easily followed and this breaks several rules. First off you should never leave a single word hanging on a line on it’s own at the end of a statement. They do this twice and it looks dreadful. Single words in a line with centred text is another. If you can’t fit something on a line just drop the size of the font or just don’t put it all in caps. Sometimes less is more, you also don’t have to write everything in caps. Finally and best of all, USE A SPELL CHECKER. Oh my oh my. There really is no excuse for this one, “aggrevated”, surely they mean aggravated?

They are correct in their assertion that trail hunting is not illegal but as I’ll show you next that’s not what actually took place. The makers also have no proof or evidence that either their claims took place. For aggravated trespass to be claimed those trespassing have to have interfered with a legal activity. Surely if this was the case the police would be investigating and let’s face it, they generally have no issues with arresting sabs on bogus claims. Did they even make any complaints to that effect – of course not.

Now the reality.

On the day in question I was actually there. It was a joint operation with Beds & Bucks Sabs and North Cambs Sabs involved. It occurred on the 28th September 2019 and the hunt was the Fernie. The area was around Saddington and Mowsly. The area where much of this takes place is in the valley where Laughton brook runs roughly north west parallel to the Mowsly to Saddington road. As you can see by the environment and the fact the riders are wearing rat catchers it was Autumn hunting, more commonly known as cubbing. Now there’s some nice context for you.

1a

The image above shows the huntsman with another rider. The hounds had recently been speaking and searching for something hidden in the scrub next to the brook. You can see them looking with interest in that direction while other hounds are actually in there still actively working. You should also note that these riders are on the other side of the scrub shown in the stills 3, 4 and 5. Surely if they were following the laid trail they would have been on the other side? Moments after this a brace of foxes were flushed just out of shot on the left of what you see here.

1b.png

I managed to film the second fox flee from our side of the brook, with the hounds in hot pursuit. What’s significant here is the complete and utter lack of any hunt staff. Surely if they were hunting a trail they would be very keen to stop the hounds if they did pick up on live quarry and yet here they were, putting hounds into an area likely to contain foxes and letting them actively hunt it. It was only the actions of sabs further to my left (out of shot) which stopped them. The sab cracking the whip in image 6 is one from my own group.

1c

This is an image of the first fox. This broke on the other side of the brook, ran up the hill right in front of a hunt rider (probably the one in their video) and escaped over the hill. The hounds didn’t pick up on the line of this one, mainly because the sabs there had taken them away from its line.

The CA will openly admit they are losing the social media battle. There are 2 main reasons for this. Firstly we have overwhelming public support. No matter how hard they try the general public will never support cruelty or believe their lies. Secondly, and this is the big one . . . they are utterly hopeless at it.

If this is the best the CA can do with all of their resources I suggest they give up now. I’m still laughing.