Posts Tagged ‘Fox Hunt’

During a quiet moment the other day I decided to have a snoop on-line and see what our local hunt (the Oakley Hounds) had been up to. There’s been big changes there recently, the huntsman (Bill Bishop) left to go to the West Norfolk Foxhounds, the Whipper-in (Aiden Beaney) disappeared into thin air (or maybe up his own arse) and there was a new batch of Masters. Guy Napier with whom I spoke with last season (see here) is no longer a master, so alongside the constant gruesome twosome of Lydia Thompson and Caroline Evans we have new masters, Nikki Lightfoot and Steve Harris.

We have our suspicions as to why there have been these musical chairs within the organisation and no doubt more will come to light in due course however we’re fairly certain that all is not particularly well at the Oakley, so we’re obviously quite happy about that. However that’s not the point of this blog entry.

steve harris 2

Pre-hunt tipple.

I decided to check out the new masters and my first port of call was this Steve Harris character as he was the only male in the group. A quick search led me to his Facebook profile. Now Facebook is a resource which just keeps on giving, no doubt the authorities use it in much the same manner as all sorts of interesting information can be gleaned from someone’s profile. He’s a face we recognise as a regular on hunt days so no real surprises there and his photo’s show the standard hunting pictures, action shots proclaiming their horsemanship and prowess in the saddle, you know the standard thing these types all like to show. But hello, whats all this then?

Yup, here is a picture of Steve in all his . . . police riding regalia.

steve harris hunting

Lets have a bit more of a dig I thought. Another search reveals he was part of the Bedfordshire Police Equine team back in 2012 where he is described as a ‘Detention Officer’. They did quite well in the competition they entered apparently, although one comment below the story suggested the police would do better spending their money on catching criminals as opposed to jollies  on horses, anyway I digress.

beds police equine team.jpg

Back to Facebook and another interesting update on his timeline. Here we have a serving (at the time) police officer, quite openly admitting to cubbing* and wearing the prefferred cub hunting dress of a ‘ratcatcher’ jacket (see below). I’ve covered similar incidents before (see here) but to be so blatant just goes to  show the level of arrogance of these people. Steve seems to think that him being the law means he’s above it, except of course he isn’t. Next to the picture of him in his police uniform he comments; ” . . . lots of hunting, just like the good old days”.  Would that be the old days when it was legal to kill foxes with hounds for fun then? The ban had been in place for over 7 years when he wrote that so once again he’s admitting to committing a crime or at the very least being an accessory.

steve harris cubbing.jpg

I have a meeting in a couple of weeks with our local law enforcement people and it’ll be something I shall raise in the conversation. Perhaps Steve’s influence may have been a factor in the type of biased response the hunts would get when they called the police? So far the meetings I’ve had have been quite cordial and beneficial to all parties and I hope headway is being made with regards to the improvement in policing of hunting but as I’ve said before I would be very interested to know how many serving officers are members of the Countryside Alliance or hunters themselves. There could be a clear conflict of interest if these officers were responding to claims of illegal hunting. I believe Steve Harris in no longer a serving officer, he’s now listed as a director of FAS Paper Bedding but the fact still remains he was a police officer openly taking part in an illegal activity and bragging about it and that is simply not acceptable.

Additional: It has been pointed out that Detention Officers are support staff and not regular police officers, which further begs the question, why is he appearing to be in public wearing a police uniform?

*Cubbing or Autumn hunting is where the hunts train their new hounds to kill by holding up (surrounding) coverts and blocking the escape of young foxes and then sending in the hounds to kill them so they get the taste for fox and learn what they are supposed to do. Hounds which show no desire to kill or make the wrong noises are destroyed.

I’m very much of the opinion that when powerful lobbying group turn their guns in your direction you have in fact been effective and they perceive you as a threat. This was very much the case with regards to the RSPCA and the concerted smear campaign against them and their then Chief Executive, Gavin Grant, by the Countryside Alliance.

Successful prosecutions against illegal hunts, most notably the Heythrop (which David Cameron rode with) were huge victories against the aminal abusers and those that support them. The Gavin Grant, took the RSPCA in a direction which encompassed more than just rescuing badly treated pets and took on all forms of animal cruelty. They came out against the pointless badger cull and actively went after the hunts who were openly flouting the Hunting with Dogs Act which was passed in 2004. Obviously this didn’t go down too well with those on the opposing side of the argument and he finally left through ill health. There are suggestions that this was brought on by the constant attacks and threats of legal action by the CA and the NFU, groups which hold significant funds and the power in which to prosecute their personal agenda.

So in comes the new CE of the RSPCA, Jeremy Cooper, a man with a history in supermarket management.

And one of the first statements he makes to the Daily Telegraph, a publication known for its sympathies towards the Tories and hunting, is this:

“We care as equally about badgers as we do about dairy cows. Calls for naming and shaming of farmers who shoot badgers is not helpful. We don’t have an issue with the need to manage badgers. It is the method. Foxes need to be managed as well. It is about humanely managing the animals. We recognise that dairy cows suffered problems and badgers need to be managed.”

Now correct me if I’m wrong but that sounds like something written directly by the CA’s own PR machine. It is quite frankly a disgrace and shows not only a lack of balls but also a complete lack of understanding of basic ecology. The CA and NFU must be mutually masturbating each other right now (sorry for that image), Tim Bonner et al all positively gleaming from ear to ear , they have their man in place and their vendetta against the RSPCA has finally bore fruit.

JC

Jeremy Cooper – The CA’s new boy.

It is of course a complete disaster for anyone with any compassion for our wildlife. Every scientist in the land with knowledge of the issue has come out and stated on the record that culling badgers is not the way to go in dealing with the bTB issue and statistic in the cull zones show once more an increase in bTB even after 3 years of culling (perhaps Jeremy Cooper knows better) and foxes certainly do not need controlling as once again science proves they are a self regulating predator whose numbers are dictated by the availability of food and territory. If foxes needed controlling why do the hunts breed them?

He goes on to say:

“My style of advocacy is encouragement and dialogue. The [previous] leadership was too adversarial. If you want to shout and use rhetoric that’s fine but it isn’t helpful to anybody. It is not going to make friends and influence people. People won’t like you for it.”

In other words he’s not going to ruffle any feathers and cosey up to the CA and NFU. Perhaps they made a big donation to get their man in place, heavens knows they’ll need it as no doubt this will not go down well with the masses of people to send them their hard earned cash to protect our wildlife. If the comments from the story in the Independent are anything to go by they’ll need every penny they can get.

He added:

“The charity would be focussing on the prevention of cruelty, rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming in the future”. 

Prevention of cruelty. Surely one of the biggest injustices going on in our countryside every week throughout the hunting season is the cruelty meted out by those controlling hounds and riding a horse?

I believe a person holding these views should have no place in the RSPCA let alone be CE. If you feel the same the please sign the petition to have him removed here.

 

It was pleasing to note that the Wildlife Crime Officer  and rider with the Belvoir Hunt (Sharon Roscoe) I reported on previously has stood down from her position. It would be nice to report that Leicestershire police had come to realise that her position was a clear conflict of interest and had removed her, however that isn’t the case. They maintained their support for her but public pressure on social media aimed directly at the officer seems to have had the desired effect. I cannot condone abuse and threats through any channel however public opinion on this matter was never going to let this abuse of power go unchallenged and while some of the methods are questionable the outcome is certainly the correct one.

My sources made me aware of this development during a meeting of the Leicestershire Police Ethics Committee and was confirmed by this tweet from the BBC’s Simon Hare:tweet

The claims that Roscoe hadn’t been a member of the hunt for some time are clearly questionable and my information is that members of her family are still heavily connected to the hunt.

Something which came to light while investigating this was, more worryingly the presence of another officer much further up the police food chain. A photograph from the Belvoir Hunt ball showed Roscoe with another officer, namely Lou Cordiner. Lou Cordiner is (or was) acting Chief Inspector and Area Commander for Leicestershire Eastern Counties. The image below is from a PDF published by Leicstershire Police which shows the rank of Cordiner.

LC_proof

Here is the image of Sharon Roscoe (left) with Lou Cordiner (right) at the Belvoir Hunt ball in June 2013.

roscoe_cordiner

OK that was two years ago I can hear you say but lets dig a little deeper and see what Cordiner has been up to more recently. Only at the beginning of the current hunting season it would appear Cordiner was present at an early morning cub hunting meet.

LC_cubbing

While not actually in the picture she is mentioned by name by the person who posted the picture on their social media account. Now as you may know cubbing (or Autumn Hunting as the hunts like to call it) is where the hunts train their new hounds by killing fox cubs. There is no loop hole to be used in the Hunting Act for this. It’s about as illegal as you can get. No trails are followed, no birds of prey, no exemptions. Riders surround a covert and stop young foxes from leaving it. The hounds are then sent in to kill them. The poster of the update mentions the morning and you can clearly see by the photo that it is early by the mist in the background. You can also see the traditional ‘ratcatcher’ jackets worn by hunt riders when cubbing.

You have to ask yourself why a senior officer is involved with such an activity? The next question is what if this is just the time of the iceberg? How many law enforcement officials be they police officers or judges are actually involved with an organised criminal activity. You then start to realise why the policing of hunts is so one sided.

I’ve had a lot of contact with the police from various forces. Some are unquestionably honest and decent people just doing the best they can however in my experience the police overwhelmingly come down on the side of the hunts when in the field and an incident from only last weekend once again proved this.

The photo below was taken by Northants Hunt Sabs. It shows inspector Ian Caffel who is based at Weston Favell police station, Northampton. He encouraged hunt supporters to block the roads to prevent sabs from following the Woodland Pytchley hunt. He also witnessed an assault on a sab yet did nothing.

cop

When challenged he said’ ” I am not bothered about assaults. But I am bothered about aggravated trespass “. When asked if he was going to do anything about the illegal hunting he said “No but I will be making arrests for aggravated trespass “.

Clearly an officer should remain impartial and not decide which laws are going to be enforced and which ones ignored. This is typical of the disgraceful behaviour currently exhibited by some of our police.

A friend of mine who’s been involved with the negotiations with the police but never been in the fields always maintained that the reason sabs were always getting the raw end of the deal was because the hunts were the ones who always called the police. They were making the complaints so the police focused on the sabs because of this. A couple of weeks ago I tested this theory  although I didn’t really have to as I knew what the outcome would be. A member of our group called the police to report illegal hunting. It was blatant and we had plenty of video evidence to support our complaint.

Two hours later a single unit with two officers arrived, they refused to leave their vehicle and paid no interest in the hunt. They made attempts to gain our details and then tailed us when we left. We took them on a nice mystery tour of Bedfordshire before they got bored and buggered off. Compare that to a couple of weeks previous when the hunt called the police and they arrived with thirteen units and a helicopter.

I’m fairly certain that if all officers had to declare any connection with hunting or shooting or perhaps membership of the Countryside Alliance we’d see a significant number that participate and these officers whether intentionally or otherwise are influencing those around them and their behaviour to towards hunt monitors and sabs. Whether this is organised and pre-planned would be impossible to prove however there is no doubt there appears to be an institutionalised prejudice towards sabs and monitors.

I’d suggest the rabbit hole goes a very long way down indeed and you don’t need to be in Wonderland to realise the cause of this.

 

After the lows of the Christmas break it was good to get back to winning ways by messing up the Bicester hunt with Whaddon Chase last weekend, eight of us did a fine job against a big and nasty hunt (including stopping a dig out) although I shall never get used to the sound of hounds in full cry. It sends a shiver down my spine every time, knowing that, at any moment an animal could be about to lose it’s life in the most grisly of fashions.

I’ve had some very interesting conversations with those concerned with law enforcement as well as investigators from LACS and a Barrister who’s prosecuted those breaking the Hunting Act in the past. My neighbours must be wondering what the hell is going on, the last two weekend have seen the boys in blue in my front room taking statements and discussing hunting on several occasions. The New Years Day incident certainly gained a lot of media attention including national newspapers as well as coverage on local BBC and ITV. This has put pressure on the police to investigate properly and I’m hopeful that we can gain a conviction. Obviously I can’t say too much for legal reasons but the feedback has been positive so far.

Eagle

This bird wasn’t very happy at all.

The officer from Boxing Day (PC Pete Mills) has also taken a statement and while this is unlikely to proceed any further it certainly highlighted failings within the system as to how hunts are policed. We had an open and frank discussion and he’s going to suggest several options to his senior officers, most notably regarding the presence of terrier men which obviously begs the question, why do trail hunts need them? Of course well all know the real answer but it seems the message is getting across to the boys in blue.

Another interesting point to note regarding one of the loopholes used by hunts is the Bird of Prey exemption. Lots of hunts went out and purchased birds when the ban came in to force which they could them claim to be using to hunt the fox once it had been flushed by the hounds. There are several major issues with this, lets take a look.

Type of bird used, is it fit for purpose?

I’ve seen various types of birds being used including Eagle Owls and Steppe Eagles but realistically there is only one that’s available that would be capable of hunting a fox, and even then this is questionable. The Golden Eagle is native to the UK and has a huge international range and is an impressive creature. Northern European birds tend to be larger than their southern cousins and the females can be up to 30% larger than the males. This would make them the only option however they’re also much more desirable as a hunting bird so therefore command a much higher price. The weight of a male bird averages about 8lb but females can go up to 15lb (11-12lb average) with the largest recorded female weighing in at a hefty 17lb. Every eagle I’ve seen at a hunt has been a male, and some in quite a poor state.

In the wild their natural prey would be rabbits, hares, game and sea birds. They’d also scavenge on the carcasses of deer and have been seen attacking them in the hope the fall and injure themselves as they have no hope of killing such a large animal outright. Highland farmers blame them for predating on lambs and while I have seen them with lambs the numbers taken are fairly small. A fox however is a completely different ball game. While a large bird does have the capability it would chose a prey species that wasn’t capable of fighting back. In the wild the risk of injury would be too great.

bird on quad 2

Do you think it’s legal to drive on public roads with a BoP on your arm?

Has there even been a recorded case of a BoP catching a fox after it has been flushed?

Simple answer – No.

Not once, ever. Certainly not that I’m aware of. Now you’d think with all those hunts using birds there’d be at least one occasion but it just hasn’t happened. We can only deduce from this that they are in fact merely for show and they’re hunting as they did before the ban.

So what do the Hawk Board say about this?

For an organisation with strong links to the Countryside Alliance you’d think they’d be on side however the reality is quite different. Back in 2005 the then chairman, Jim Chick gave this quote:

“This is bringing the sport into disrepute.

Many of the hunts are using people to handle the birds who have just been on a short course. You are not competent to handle a large bird of prey after a short course.

Secondly, a fox is not a recognised quarry for a bird of prey. It is a large animal and cannot be easily subdued so there is a big ethical issue over whether they should be used.

An eagle is possessive and once it has caught a fox it will not let go. If the hounds are then brought in they could attack the eagle and a hound could be blinded or killed.”

In 2008 the Hawkboard spokesman Nick Kester said this:

“The Hawk Board is vehemently opposed to the use of birds of prey for fox hunting. We disapprove entirely. Birds of prey and hunting with hounds are not compatible.”

I’m sure their feelings haven’t changed over the years especially when the organisation is also deeply concerned with the welfare of birds which spend long hours in a box on a quad bike or being driven round the countryside at speed on the arm of their handler.

bird on quad

Is this any way to treat a majestic eagle?

Is it practical to use a BoP in conjunction with hounds?

Obviously the Hawk Board don’t think so but let’s look beyond the ethics and discuss the actual hunting.

To use the BoP exemption effectively the bird has to be unhooded and in a position to hunt. This would mean in front of the hounds in an area where the quarry is most likely to break cover. The very fluid and dynamic nature of fox hunting means this is almost impossible. Throw in a whole gaggle of riders with no experience of a BoP and you’ll start to get the picture.

There’s also the issue with the environment. Eagles need a lot of space to hunt effectively. Their preferred method in the wild is to stoop on their prey from height, gaining the speed and necessary power to surprise and overwhelm their prey. A clever prey animal will also use this against them, turning at the last minute to throw off the angle of attack. Many attacks will in fact be unsuccessful.

Flying from the falconers arm will mean the bird will have to generate it’s own speed without gravity to assist them. Any fox making for wooded areas will find safety as no eagle would follow them in as they simple wouldn’t have the space to maneuver and risk potential injury.

Just imagine for a moment that a fox is flushed and the bird is release and it catches the fox. Can you imagine the absolute carnage when the hounds caught up with the eagle and the fox, which would no doubt be putting up quite a struggle? I’ve yet to see a huntsman that can call off hounds once they’re in full cry and close behind a fox. It really doesn’t bear thinking about.

Should the BoP exemption be removed from the Hunting Act?

Yes, no question.

It’s pointless. The whole purpose of the exemption has been used for nefarious means and those who practice falconry within the spirit of it’s original aims think the same. The use of BoP in conjunction with hunting with hounds should never be allowed, it’s a disaster waiting to happen but ultimately a disaster that will never happen due to the fact that no hunt will actually use a BoP in the manner that it was intended, they’re there just for show and nothing more. I have a feeling a case will come to light that will render this exemption obsolete when it comes to a point of law. This will effectively mean every BoP purchased by hunts will then become redundant along with the people who handle them.

Lets hope the birds don’t end up the same way most hounds do after they’re past their hunting best.