Posts Tagged ‘Fitzwilliam Hunt’

I’ve written before about what kind of evidence you need in order to get a chance of a prosecution under the current Hunting Act legislation, and we all know the level of burden of proof is set way to high but I’m not going to cover old ground again, instead I’m going to focus on the actual use of the recording equipment itself and how to maximise it’s effectiveness.

At any hunt meet there will always be a proliferation of body cams, phones and hand held cameras, both still and video, and used by both sides, but what is the most suitable for the sab or monitor in their quest for justice?

Choice of Kit?

Body Cams: We use these for the purpose of self defence and are of a GoPro type mounted on chest harnesses. As a recording device they are generally only really any good for close in subject matter, great if you’re getting some grief from your local hunt goons but no good if you’re filming the hunt itself.

Mobile Phones: Most mobile devices now have some pretty amazing cameras but once again these aren’t really suitable for catching fast moving action which could be some distance away. They are difficult to hold and easily stolen or obstructed, not something which is ideal in the field. Most people rely on their phones for everyday life so they really need to be protected at all costs.

DSLR: The DSLR will undoubtedly produce the best quality footage and stills with the highest frame rates and quality settings along with shooting in RAW for stills. You have the option of a vast selection of lenses for both near and far work however they are generally quite expensive (a decent 500mm lens is likely to cost in excess of £1000 minimum) and very bulky to carry around. The risk of damage will usually mean this is not an option for most people monitoring or sabbing hunts.

Handycams: These are the most likely option and can be purchased relatively cheaply when compared to the performance available. They fit the hand nicely, are compact and offer zoom capability which is unparalleled, this is a huge positive as hunts can be filmed from some distance without them knowing. For around £250 you can buy some excellent equipment. Personally I’d go for the Panasonic HC-W580. It claims a 90x zoom but the reality is 50x optical and the rest digital. I’d always ignore any digital zoom figures, all you’re really doing there is increasing the size of the image and a drop in quality will result but, 50x zoom is plenty in most situations.

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A good bit of kit for the price.

What & When to film?

Much of this can only come through experience and understanding of what’s happening during a hunt. As you start out learn to focus on the huntsman and hounds and try and consider where a fox is likely to break. Keep as much of the action in shot as you can, don’t focus in too early and if the hounds go into cry get the camera up and running as soon as possible, it’s highly likely that it might be a false alarm or you don’t get anything in shot however missing something important because the camera wasn’t rolling is a schoolboy error. Spend lots of time filming and you’ll soon begin to understand what and indeed when to film.

Positioning.

Where you locate yourself will once again come with experience. Most sabs with a few seasons under their belts will know this, it’s all part of sabbing. We’ll always be looking to position ourselves in the ideal location to get between the hunted animal and the path of the hounds. If you’re in a group make sure everyone knows their job, the sprayers, the raters and horn blowers. As the camera person you should be positioned slightly further back so you can catch all the action as it happens but the starting off position will be very similar to the rest of your team.

Using the Equipment.

It’s happened to me several times before, I’ve given someone a camera prior to a hunt and told them to get some footage when they can. What I got back was a jumbled up mess of shots which included a lot of sky and ground, the insides of their pockets, some banter in the back of the sab van and a whole bunch of footage where the camera is being shaken all over the place as it’s filming as they are running along.

Most handycams are very easy to use with a small flip out screen, a zoom trigger with a start and stop (filming) button. Make sure you know where they all are and that you remember to start and stop filming properly. Some cameras will continue to film even if you flip the screen to closed. This is a route to filling up memory cards and flattening batteries very quickly and there’s nothing more annoying that missing that shot for these reasons. You can of course carry spare memory cards which is advisable along with batteries but in the course of a day I’ve yet to fill one up or drain a battery.

There are a few simple steps to getting good footage.

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A couple of frames from the footage which convicted the Fitzwilliam Huntsman George Adams

 

1 – Stand still. Shaky footage can be useless. Modern cams have some great stabilisation but they can do only so much. Running around while trying to film effectively is nigh on impossible and footage gained likely to make the viewer sick!

2 – Frame the subject matter first. Do this with a wide shot. Resist the temptation to zoom right in straight away. If you are any distance away you’ll lose the subject matter and spend ages zooming in and out trying to reacquire it. Only a very tiny movement of your hand end will be a huge movement of image.

3 – Predict the direction of travel. If you see a fox running from the hunt get it in a wide shot and slowly zoom in. If it’s going in and out of obstructions or cover try and predict where you think it will break cover and give you a clear shot. This will give you the opportunity to focus on a specific area and when the subject runs through the shot you can pick it up and follow it more easily. This is exactly the process I used in the video which convicted the Fitzwilliam Huntsman George Adams. I knew where the fox would run, focused on a piece of ground directly ahead of it then tracked it as it came through shot (see images above).

4 – Keep a steady hand. Use both hands if you have to. Keep the camera close to your body and use your bent elbows to brace against your chest while using your other hand to steady the camera. Shooting over long distances can be very difficult, use the environment to help if you can, lean on a wall or gate post, they can all improve matters. Keep everything as smooth as you can.

5 – Keep calm. It’s very easy to get over excited when things start to happen in the field. Keep a cool head and focus on what you need to achieve. If you’re panicking or rushing about you’ll miss that important shot and the footage will be all over the place. Let those around you do their jobs and you concentrate on the filming.

The film we submitted which is the basis for the Thurlow case is a prime example of this. There were 2 of us with cameras at the location and although I started to film I knew there was someone else with a better, wider view of what was taking place. That left me to move forward and concentrate on other matters. Obviously I can say too much but needless to say the footage achieved on that day was enough to put the hunt before the courts and hopefully enough to secure a conviction.

6 – Stay Secure. This is really important. If you’ve got some crucial footage the other side will be desperate to get this from you. As soon as you can move away from the area and swap out the memory cards. Even if they manage to get the camera from you later in the day the footage you gained earlier will be safe and secure.

On a final note you do not have to submit your footage to the police on the day. If they ask for it DO NOT GIVE IT TO THEM. You are under no legal obligation to do so and this type of evidence has a habit of going missing. Take the details of the officers on the scene and then go home and make a copy which you can keep secure. You can then either send the police a copy via web download (although they sometimes have trouble with this) or literally put a disk or memory stick in their hands and get proof they have it.

So hopefully you’ll have enough of the basics to go out there and get some good footage. Hunts hate cameras, lets make sure they stay in the spotlight.

 

So here we are and another start of a new year.

For a change my own festive period was relatively quiet compared to previous years and for that at least I’m thankful. While this was not necessarily the case country wide discussions in our sab wagon certainly seemed to conclude that many hunts in our area at least were keen to avoid any unnecessary and negative press by being caught killing wildlife. Many of the hunts which traditionally take place on Boxing Day and New Years Day were met with demonstrations and this is of course great news. While demo’s won’t save lives in the fields they are important in showing the real feeling among the general public and they have, overwhelmingly, had enough. Hunters and their supporters live in a bubble of their own propaganda and self justification, having middle England turn out on a cold and miserable day waving placards and shouting at them goes some way in bursting that bubble. It also shows the supporters of hunting for what they really are as they resort to abuse and violence in response – they know no other way.

While Timmy and his cronies at the so-called Countryside Alliance were on overtime and once again claiming record turn outs in support of these hunt meets it was abundantly clear, more so than ever, that hunting really is on the decline.

Not so long ago hunts would have had large turnouts in both riders and foot support for these events. They would have hunted on regardless of monitor or sab activity but now that’s simply not the case. Some hunts just chose to parade, the Cambridge with Enfield Chace haven’t hunted for the last few years at their Eltisley Boxing Day meet after they were embarrassingly sent home by the police after killing fox in 2016. The road & green used to be chock-a-block with cars and 4×4’s and getting a drink in the pub would be impossible. As far as I’m aware the pub is no longer hosting the meet and they just now meet on the village green. Just look at this aerial shot we took, the turnout is, to be frank, utterly pathetic.

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Pathetic for a Boxing Day meet.

One has to wonder why they even bothered. Surely its embarrassing to see such a crappy turnout and pointless to get all dressed up with nowhere to go.

The Fitzwilliam faced concerted opposition on New Year’s Day meet at Wansford. Around 50 people turned out to voice their disapproval and there was also some humour thrown in for good measure.

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We agree.

Fitzwilliam Master Philip Baker seemed a bit riled by the anti-hunt sentiment in the crowd and this photo speaks volumes.

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Philip Baker looking a bit concerned, or constipated, could be either.

Another amusing part of that day for us was watching the hunt trotting up the road with a police escort to where all their horse boxes were parked, turning in and all the support parking their vehicles further on at the side of the road, getting out with their binoculars expecting to see the hunt carry on out that back of the farm and start hunting. What they actually saw was some empty Cambridgeshire fields with a few sad looking cows and nothing more. The Hunt had clearly neglected to tell their support that they’d got out of bed for nothing as they put their horses away and buggered off with their tales between their legs.

We had this all confirmed by the police as we chatted with them while they left. While some forces and officers are clearly pro hunt and biased this particular officer we know from the past and was the same one which sent the Cambridge and Enfield Chace home a few years earlier.

Some demo’s got a little bit tasty as drunken hunt support tried to take control of the proceedings and the police had to intervene. A member of East Kent Sabs sustained a nasty injury as he was attacked by hunt hooligans at a meet of East Kent with West Street Hunt and the Atherstone Hunt supporters were predictably aggressive.

What these morons fail to comprehend is that this type of behaviour only strengthens our claims that the hunts are nothing more than organised crime organisations followed by low life thugs and hooligans. The chocolate box image they try and portray has now long gone, the Great British public see them for what they really are and are now finding their voices an making their feelings known.

Finally I’d like to say hi to this chap, Matthew Higgs:

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He was following of the Old Berkeley Beagles who’ve been sabbed a couple of times recently but better known for his connection to the Trinity Foot Beagles and also an avid reader of my blog. Thanks for increasing my viewing figures Matthew but if you really must quote me please get your facts right first, it just makes you look a bit daft.

Happy New Year.

First off apologies for the lack of updates, this time of year is stupidly busy as the hunting season reaches it’s zenith over the holiday period. Most people who take an interest in our activities will have no doubt heard the story of the Fitzwilliam hound tragically killed on the A14 recently (full story here) and I’m not going to go over it all again but instead perhaps offer what could be an explanation as to why it happened in the first place.

Now after the incident the pro hunt side were very quick in going into damage limitation mode and discredit the images and video supplied by those that were there. These ranged from the daft to the downright ridiculous. The most common claim was that the hound in the picture was in fact a Labrador and even one said it was a giant Corgi, seriously, I kid you not. There were also claims the fox (which was clear to see by all but the most myopic) was a pheasant and as expected that it was the fault of sabs for calling the hounds on to the road.

At this point I feel the need to dispel any of the pro hunt myths that this is something any sab would consider. The harming of any animal is so contrary to the very basis of our ideology that it is utterly laughable. We know that both hounds and horses are also victims of the hunting business and not just the wildlife that is hunted and killed.

Moving on tt’s pretty clear in the video that if it wasn’t for the actions of the sabs present then the incident could have been a significantly worse and it was only down to their actions that not more hounds and indeed people that were killed on a very fast bit of dual carriageway.

So lets put a bit of context to how the Fitzwilliam were hunting on that day.

As is usual they were claiming to follow a trail but also had resident budgie trainer John Mease skulking about with his Eagle although some distance from the hounds. This dual lie is of course complete nonsense and not legal in any sense but just to add a little extra to the pot lets have a look at the land on which they were hunting.

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OS map of the location

The A14 is the large green road showing diagonally across the map above. The wind was very blustery and blowing from the north. Now you could quite easily suggest that even being that close to the A14 with a loose pack of hounds to be highly questionable at best, and at worst, just completely reckless. Lets take a look closer from Google.

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Close up of the incident area

There’s a small covert called George’s Thorns in the bottom right corner of the photo (the one shown in full). Let’s take a guess who owns that . . .

The Milton Estate, or in simpler terms, the Fitzwilliam Hunt.

The other day I was sent a couple of photos and a short explanation of what they were showing by an anonymous supporter. They pointed out that in that covert is a badger sett. A badger sett which had very recently been interfered with which is of course illegal in itself. It looked like it had been dug out and refilled. We all know the role of terrier men within the hunt. Their sole purpose has nothing to do with mending fences but to dig out or bolt foxes when they seek sanctuary underground.

Here are the pictures.

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This area has clearly been created by human activity. You can see spade marks in the earth and the area has been cleared of growth and the usual detritus one would assume on the edge of a wood. It’s then obviously been back filled after whatever activity had been completed.

Now consider that a fox was seen and filmed fleeing the hounds from the direction of the covert in question. Had the Fitzwilliam hunted a fox to ground and then dug it out prior to the hound being killed on the road? They were certainly unaware of the presence of sabs at that location as they were on a footpath a short distance away but hidden from view by a hedge and reports from the day suggest hounds had been speaking prior to the incident. If they believed they were away from prying eyes they may have been empowered enough to commit these acts of criminality.

If they did indeed dig out the fox it would only go further in suggesting they were desperate for a kill, underestimated (or simply didn’t care about) the wind direction which blew the scent of the fox over the A14 and are thus even more implicit in the death of one of their own hounds, if that’s possible!

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I’ve added some annotations and graphics to the Google image to explain. Let’s go over the facts.

1 – The Fitzwilliam Hunt own George’s Thorn covert.

2 – Coverts are traditionally kept for hunting purposes.

3 – There is a badger sett in George’s Thorn covert which has been dug out very recently.

4 – A fox was observed and filmed running from the direction of the covert with the hounds in pursuit on the day in question.

5 – The riding field were in an ideal position to view all the action and obviously placed there by the field master.

6 – The wind was blowing from the North.

7 – The fox escaped in the drainage ditch next to the A14.

8 – John Mease was a significant distance away.

9 – A hound was killed on the A14, possibly following the scent of the fox as it blew over the dual carriageway.

10 – The Huntsman (Simon Hunter) was nowhere to be seen and left it to Whipper In Shaun Parish to deal with the mess.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Finally I hope all my readers have a great holiday break. Why not walk off some of that Christmas dinner and visit your local hunt, there are several demo’s taking place so pop along and show these wildlife abusers what the Great British public really think about their sordid little minority pastime. There’s a list of demos on the HSA Facebook page.

 

I guess now that the ink is dry on deal, or mores the point the PDF documents have been signed, I can enlighten the very many of you who have expressed an interest in the Fitzwilliam Injunction saga. If you’re not fully up to date then you can catch up here and here. OK, so assuming you know what’s been occurring I’ll fill you in on the rest of the details.

At the end of last week our legal representative was contacted by the Fitzwilliam’s legal team with an offer. That offer amounted to dropping those named from the injunction, with no claims made to costs provided we signed an agreement not to trespass on the claimants land. The claimants would still be pursuing an injunction against persons unknown.

Now this may seem to be not a particularly good deal but in this instance you need to consider the wider context.

Firstly, it was pretty clear that the Fitzwilliam were very keen to avoid a full trial against those named on the injunction. The legitimacy of their evidence and in particular their hunting methods had been seriously called into question by Mr Justice Freedman, along with the behaviour of their so called hunt stewards. Had the Fitzwilliam felt they were in a strong position they would have pushed on regardless.

Secondly, their claims for harassment, trespass against goods and the utterly laughable claims of assault were denied by the judge. Mr Freedman also noted that assaults did appear to have been carried out by the hunt staff and this could be followed up by the victims should they wish, causing another potential embarrassment for the hunt.

Thirdly, there would be no claims for costs. It was estimated that the hunt had spent in excess of £120,000 in bringing this injunction. That’s enough to make even the most financially wealthy hunt think seriously about taking out similar action and this is what we wanted to achieve. Most hunts rely on local land owners to allow them to hunt, the Fitzwilliam are one of the few who own a significant amount of land on which to hunt however they still leave this land for a large amount of their hunt season. With this in mind you have to ask yourself, did they get value for money?

Not really.

All they ended up with was a list of people who couldn’t trespass but could still use public rights of way and open access land within their estate. That’s not really a huge achievement given the level of investment. Their actual hunt country is in the region of 384,000 acres, they only actually own just over 4% of that. Now while they are pushing ahead with the persons unknown part of the injunction it is still a civil action and not something the police can get involved with. Sure, if you break the injunction the claimants can serve you and a judge could send you to prison for contempt of court however for that to happen the claimants have to know who you are. If previous junctions with regards to persons unknown are anything to go by, they would appear to be almost impossible to enforce.

The single biggest factor in favour of the hunt was the level of financial clout they could bring to bear for this undertaking. As normal working people we had no hope of raising the funds necessary to take this to full trial and with the outcome in question there was a real danger of losing what assets we have, had the case not gone our way. Simply put, there was no way I, or any of the others were going to lose their houses over this. All of the named defendants were of course hugely grateful to all the people who donated, some who shall remain nameless pledging some significant sums but having the funds to fight this was only half the story and no reduction in the final risk of having costs awarded against us.

Now the Fitzwilliam and their supporters may think differently, but the simple fact is we came out of this saga a whole lot better than they did.

Finally the costs of achieving this have exceeded what our original Crowd Justice funding covered and has left some of us significantly out of pocket. Please consider helping by donating here: Financial Costs