Posts Tagged ‘Defra’

This week I have a guest blog for you and it’s written by National Dis-Trust.  They are a group of voluntary campaigners from across the country calling on The National Trust to save their reputation & kick off the criminal hunts from NT land. They are working alongside other grassroots groups and volunteers for this sole objective.

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Convicted wildlife killers the Meynell Hunt still use NT land

Earlier this year in March, staff from The League Against Cruel Sports met with The National Trust to talk about concerns relating to illegal hunts on their land, concerns
which are shared by an increasing amount of people. The League’s statement on this meeting shows that The Trust make little effort to enforce or monitor the conditions that
the hunts agree to; instead, the hunts simply state they are adhering to the licenses, regardless of the truth. Subsequent internal discussions within The Trust, it seems, have
resulted in little change and apparently no further correspondence with The League. Subsequent to this meeting, The Trust claimed it would do more for declining wildlife – strange, then, that they rejected The League’s offer of assistance in monitoring hunts on their land, given that brown hares (a priority of conservation) sometimes find
themselves amongst the unfortunate legion of victims. We can’t imagine why they would
refuse such an offer.

If you flick around The Trust’s website for long enough, you may find their (seemingly
deliberately hidden) policy that demonstrates their unwavering faith in so-called ‘trail
hunting’ whilst conveniently omitting all information regarding their licensing of fox
hunting in Northern Ireland, where this bloodsport sadly remains legal, hence the
existence of the campaign group ‘Ban Fox & Stag Hunting Northern Ireland’. Given the
overwhelming opposition to these ‘sports’, is this not something The Trust should tell the
public before taking their subscriptions?

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There are two huge problems with their ‘trail hunt’ policy; the first is the Trail Of Lies
report published by The International Fund For Animal Welfare (IFAW) in 2015. This
report drew on hundreds of field reports from hunts across the country and surprisingly,
99% of them failed to lay ‘trails’. The Trust’s Director-General, Dame Helen Ghosh, is
well aware of this evidence; it has been presented to her and she has read it (watch this
video of a lecture she gave as proof, from 59:30 to 63:00), though seemingly to no avail.
The second is that it is not actually legal to use fox urine to lay ‘trails’ for a myriad of
reasons, and that the supplier of fox urine that some hunts tell The Trust they use doesn’t
actually exist (shocker!). A recent Freedom of Information request to DEFRA’s Animal &
Plant Health Agency (APHA) has revealed that there have been only one license granted
for importing fox substance from 2014 onwards, and it wasn’t related to hunting. As with
the ‘Trail Of Lies’ report, The Trust are well aware of these facts.

Fox hunting, and the fate of The Hunting Act 2004 which remains the only real legal
protection for the brown hare, were huge issues in the election earlier this year. Some
Conservative MP’s who lost their seats said fox hunting was a crucial factor in the result.
The blind arrogance of those who think fox hunting has a future even led Countryside
Alliance CEO, Tim Bonner, to claim that the Conservative landslide would result in a
majority of 103 seats. The irony in this is that earlier in the year, Dame Helen Ghosh was giving talks under the title of ‘What Are The Challenges Facing The National Trust In The 21st Century?’

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So perhaps it is time The Trust heeded the message of the recent election. You need only briefly skim their Facebook page to see how little weight their defense of ‘trail hunting’ is carrying with the general public, and no wonder; fox hunting and their counterpart packs for hares or mink and otters rightly sicken the overwhelming majority of us, and few people believe in the lies of the hunt lobby anymore. On mink hunting, The Chair and Founder of The UK Wild Otter Trust, Dave Webb, recently offered an unexpected (but welcome) interjection by stating that not only did he believe that mink hunts were continuing to hunt illegally (regardless of your opinion of mink, it is illegal to pursue them with packs of hounds) but that they also implied that they considered them to be pursuing otters, which are thankfully increasing in number. He said if proof was brought to his organisation, he would begin to take legal proceedings. The National Trust, on the other hand, appear to have no objection to offering ‘trail hunt’ licenses to mink-packs.

So what can people do about this? Well, a members resolution has now been submitted to put a stop to these ‘trail hunt’ licenses on The Trust’s land. It will be put to a vote on 21st October this year, at their AGM. Anybody who has been a member for 70 days before this date is entitled to a vote, according to their regulations. We urge anybody capable of doing so to offer their votes to this end, and help us shut down ‘trail hunting’ on Trust land.

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.

So, I’m sitting here at my desk at work, it’s Thursday the 22nd and the office is half empty. Anyone with any sense and holiday remaining has either buggered off to do the last of their Christmas shopping or even better stayed in and avoided the crowds. I’ve just finished my last job, the deadline has been met so I’m not going to start anything new. This of course give me time to reflect on the year and of course plan for Boxing Day, the biggest day in the hunting calendar.

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Looking back it would seem not a lot has changed, the Government are still ignoring the science of killing thousands of badgers for no reason at all other than the NFU want it and Defra are fudging the figures in order to claim success. Their success of course has nothing to do with the reduction of TB but just the numbers of badgers killed. They even had to massage the kill numbers down only a couple of weeks before the end of the culls as they knew they wouldn’t hit their own minimum targets. They’ve also stated that farmers will be able to continue killing and create badger free zones around beef and dairy farms. This wildlife eradication program could cause the local extinctions of the species which have been there for thousands of years and will have zero effect on TB rates, but then we all know this has nothing to do with TB. The small numbers who went out there and challenged this did an amazing job in keeping the numbers killed down as low as Defra claimed although to be honest with you I wouldn’t believe anything they published.

Hunts are still hunting illegally.

The change I’ve seen personally and from updates around the country is now they seem to feel even more immune from prosecution and pay only minor lip service to covering their own arses in the form of laying trails (or appearing to). The Government will probably try and sneak through a free vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act in the new year just to fulfil their manifesto pledge however even the most staunch supporter of hunting will recognise there’s very little chance of success. Maybe this is why the hunts are getting more blatant? One can hope that with the failure of a repeal the legislation can be changed, Scotland has just gone through a review and with public pressure perhaps something similar can happen here? Of course while we have loathsome Leadsome as Environment Secretary there would seem to be little chance of that but we can live in hope.

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Speaking of public pressure it’s been heartening to seem what the general public can achieve when they put their minds to it and shown the right course of action. PCC’s and police forces are coming under increased scrutiny regarding the policing of hunts and we are starting to see some positive results. Hunting officers have been outed and their actions called into question (see here and here). The problem however still remains a large one but steps are being made in the right direction and with the use of social media the pressure will always be on the police to be seen to be upholding the laws of the land regardless of the crime.

Speaking of crimes the Fitzwillaim hunt should have been in court by now. The original date for the proceedings was supposed to be the 5th December however further pre-trial hearings were required and now I shall have to wait until April for my day in court. The offence took place almost a year ago now and the time it’s taken is somewhat frustrating however it’s still a major achievement just getting these animal abusers to court regardless of the outcome. I have no doubt they are guilty but as you probably know proving intent can be very difficult indeed. I’ll be sure to update you when the time comes.

As usual I’ll be out on Boxing Day and chucking some sab sized spanners in one of our local hunts attempts at killing foxes. Behind all that pomp and ceremony there is a truly insidious side, something the Countryside Alliance will attempt to hide with a concerted PR campaign. You’ll no doubt see plenty of articles in the media claiming hunting is alive and well with thousands turning out to support the Boxing Day tradition. The simple fact is most of those turning out on Boxing Day won’t see a hunt on any other day. The turn outs we see every week throughout the season are without doubt dropping. Hunts like the Atherston (thanks to great work from West Mids Hunt Sabs) are literally on their knees. the Puckeridge (Tim Boneheads hunt) would appear to have only £767 in the bank and I have no doubt many others are suffering similarly. If you fancy walking off some of the Christmas dinner why not pop along to your local hunt and voice your displeasure. The details can be found here.

Well that’s about it from me. Have a good break and thanks for tagging along.

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I’m back home once again after another few days in the North Cotswolds cull zone. We have a team there 7 days a week, some are resident and some, like myself come and go, fitting in work and family commitments where they can, but there will always be cover both night and day. Most of us are experienced cull fighters and we’ve developed a really good system which allows us to maximize our efforts and concentrate on the areas which need us the most while monitoring the areas which would appear to be under less threat.

We’ve also had several new people join in and while it can seem a daunting task as first they are coming on leaps and bounds and will hopefully turn into fine sabs. It’s a steep learning curve but all you need is a strong desire to do what’s rights and the rest will usually follow.

Without going into operational details I will say that we are without doubt having a huge effect and it must annoy the hell out of the other side. What is clearly obvious is how new technology is being embraced and used to maximum effect. The videos emerging showing the trappers and shooters caught in their dirty act, the use of drones, radios, night vision and thermal imagers – never before have activist had access to this sort of technology and they are making it count and the other side are playing catch up. Of course all the tech in the world can’t make up for good old fashioned leg work, field craft and experience. Sometimes nothing more than a hunch will provide dividends and lives are saved.

We also accept that there will be casualties.

We can’t be everywhere all the time, if we had thousands of people we could protect every sett in the zone but that isn’t the case and with Defra (or the NFU as they seem to dictate Government policy) abandoning the 6 week maximum duration for culling they will no doubt hit their ‘plucked from thin air’ targets. This kind of thing only goes to prove that disease control and cost are in no way relevant to this situation.

Speaking of cost there could be some good money to made out there collecting all the scrap metal in the form of flattened cages. Reports on social media from the various zones in the South West would suggest that cages are being found and destroyed in large numbers. Badgers are being found and released regularly, it’s a heart warming thing to witness. Back to the cost side of things Defra once again display their complete ineptitude by claiming they don’t know how much it costs to prepare & loan out the cage traps. Mr TBFree sent a FOI request and got the predictable whitewash as an answer in return. Read more about it here including the complete response from Defra.

If you want to be part of this please get in touch and I’ll point you in the right direction. There are jobs for everyone from cooks to stealth operatives and everything in between. More boots on the ground mean more lives saved and a big F*CK YOU to the wildlife abusers. We’re fighting a war for our countryside. Lets make sure there’ll be wild animals out there for the generations to come and not some barren wasteland, managed only for an elite few who get their perverted kicks by killing and abusing animals.