Posts Tagged ‘Fox’

So another hunting season is over.

It’s always good to look back and evaluate what’s gone on and see how you can learn to make ourselves more effective in future operations. We’ve tried a new direction this year and it’s certainly been an interesting experience but whether it turns out to be a success or not still remains to be seen.

Traditionally there has been a lot of suspicion and distrust between activist groups and the police and not without good reason. However we’ve made a concerted effort to break down these barriers and this pretty much started after my conversation with the Chief Inspector after I published this story (see here). It still seems a little odd to me that 6 months down the line we’ve had no contact with the officer that was the subject of that story in her position of Wildlife Crime Officer. Whether she still holds that position or not I don’t know but I can only assume she does. From then on we did however have a reasonable flow of information coming from the police. We were assigned a liaison officer with whom I met and discussed the way forward and we have continued to keep a regular dialogue. For their part the police seemed to be improving and took illegal hunting more seriously as well as the threat to our safety from the moronic half wits who act as the hunts personal security force. With our help the police were able to identify that the hunt was clearly hunting illegally and while not able to prosecute they didn’t impede us while we operated.

The problems arose with consistency of officers and the nature of the way our operations work.

As a group we have our own intelligence network and rely on informants within the hunting community passing on meet information or simply local people who have had enough of hunt riding roughshod over them. I’m fairly sure the police will understand this and we would inform our liaison as soon as we knew we would be operating in the county. This would often be the day of the hunt however apparently this doesn’t give the police time to act in any meaningful manner. This proved to be the case on the 4th of March when we were assaulted and had cameras stolen in a private woodland behind the Oakley Hunt kennels. The perpetrators claims we were trespassing and had the right to remove us from the land when the truth of the matter was the complete opposite. One particularly obnoxious couple even took their toddler to the confrontation, something any normal parent would clearly wish to avoid. We’ve been in regular contact with the owners of the wood and needless to say they are not happy with what occurred and have made repeated complaints against the hunt and to the police.

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Police vehicle parked in the Oakley Hunt kennels

The fact the hunt denied all knowledge of the people involved speaks volumes about the obvious lies they are prepared to tell to cover their own arses. The vehicles owned by the people responsible were parked in the hunt kennels! The response of the police on the day was appalling to say the least. The officers were utterly uninterested in hearing our complaints and sided instantly with those who had committed the crime even though they didn’t know the full story. We will be having a meeting next month with the Inspector in charge of that part of policing for the county and shall make our feelings known. Slightly concerning was the lack of information being passed between the officers themselves. I spoke to our liaison some time after the incident expecting her to be aware of it and yet it was all news to her. Surely if an incident took place involving us the first person to be informed would be our liaison officer? Clearly there is work to be done here and as it stands we’ve withdrawn all contact until our meeting but for the time being we’ll continue down this path for as long as it takes to get these one sided attitudes changed.

Of course not all forces as the same. We’ve had a fair amount of contact with Cambridgeshire rural units and they’ve done pretty well by bringing the Fitzwilliam Hunt to court (26th/27th April), and at the very least being impartial and investigating illegal hunting when required. Leicestershire have been awful in the past but now have a number of officers trained in matters relating to hunting (Well done to Northants Hunt Sabs who had a big hand in this) but Northants Police still have a way to go although having said that it was nice to know that some of the main protagonists among the thugs have recently been arrested by the Northants force, some for the second time and after searches of their houses alleged stolen property seized. We have submitted plenty of video evidence against them so fingers crossed that justice will be served. I do know that forces further afield still turn a complete blind eye to illegal hunting and still actively persecute the sabs and monitors in the fields attempting to stop these crimes, perhaps this is due to the story I published here or senior officers are hunters themselves?

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One of the many we saved, this time from the Fitzwilliam.

From a sabbing point of view the season has been a bit up and down although we can comfortably say we’ve made a big difference. Like everything in life we have good and bad days but even on the bad days we’ve saved lives and that’s what really counts. Our attentions have reduced the Oakley to a pathetic shambles, more often that not with only a handful of riders and a huntsman who can’t control the hounds. We’ll be surprised if huntsman Calamity Jack still has a job next year. What’s also been clear is their lack of hunt country. Land owners have clearly been pulling out from giving them permission to hunt on their land, there can be no other reason for the hunt to be so restricted and using the same areas several times a season and now that there are hunt hounds implicated in the spread of bTB things are only going to get worse for them.

We’ve had some good PR in the press both local and national and this of course has lead to more public support and people inquiring about getting involved. We’ll be running a training day over the summer for these potential new sabs, we’ll be fund raising and doing some outreach with a stall in a local Lush this May and a vegan fair later in the summer.

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One of our own escorting the shambolic Oakley.

I think the biggest thing we have learnt is more about ourselves. No matter what abuse we face, be it physical or verbal we only come back stronger, no matter how difficult it may be to work with the authorities it only makes us more determined. The general public are overwhelmingly on our side and that’s a powerful weapon to wield in conjunction with an unshakeable spirit to stand up and do the right thing. The Countryside Alliance may bang on every year about record crowds at hunts but the facts are somewhat different. There can be only one final outcome, it’s just a matter of time.

I’ve heard some far fetched excuses in my time but this one has to take the biscuit. It came from Mark Bycroft, huntsman for the Old Surrey, Burstow and West Kent Hill hunt. Mark has convictions for assaulting anyone who gets in the way of his blood lust and is a serial fox killer, not exactly the sort of person you’d describe as a reliable witness. His outrageous claims were in response to the horrific video published by North Downs and Guildford Sabs of a fox the hunt had killed south of Chiddingstone last Saturday (3/12). Sabs were unfortunately only moments too late to save the animal but according to Bycroft it was all their fault.

He said; “I understand they found a dead fox in the wood but I wasn’t there at the time so I don’t know what has happened. They use hunting horns and play recordings and try to disrupt the hounds. If an incident has happened they are to blame.”

So lets look at the facts:

A hunt is in the area, the only hunt and Bycroft is the huntsman.

Hounds have killed a fox as they are trained to do.

The hounds belong to the hunt which is in the area.

Sabs are on the scene moments later and witness the kill and record footage.

Hunt staff/terrier men are aware the hounds are hunting a wild mammal.

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If Bycroft wasn’t there what the hell was he doing? It’s his job to be in control of the hounds. Blaming sabs for the incident is of course complete and utter nonsense. Their only desire is to save the hunted animal and they did their very best however they’re hardly likely to act in a way which would scupper their primary aims. Now this means that Bycroft is either completely incompetent at his job (which is possible) or he’s purposefully casting the hounds into areas looking for foxes and leaving them to get on with it on purpose so he has the excuse of not knowing anything about what is transpiring.

Except of course he knew all along the hounds were on a fox. Terrier men were observed hollering to indicate they’d seen a fox, the hounds were in full cry (making a loud baying noise) and hunt staff were nearby with full knowledge and made no attempt to call off the hounds.

Rightly this has made the national media and the evidence has been passed on to the police however despite the obvious illegality I doubt there will be any convictions resulting. Lee Moon, spokesperson for the HSA summed up;

“Mark Bycroft has previous convictions for assaulting hunt saboteurs. His hunt have also been filmed illegally chasing and killing foxes but have never been prosecuted for this due to the inadequacies of the police and the Hunting Act. We hope this time it will be different but won’t hold our breath. Whether they get prosecuted or not this video footage speaks for itself. The Old Surrey, Burstow and West Kent are a bunch of rural law breakers who think they are above the laws of the land. Well done to the sabs present who, although they weren’t able to save this particular fox have again highlighted the reality of hunting since the ban.”

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This wasn’t the only incident last weekend.

You may remember I reported on several incidents previously regarding the Belvoir Hunt (see here, here and here) and it seems they still regard themselves as untouchable. Three foxes were killed by the hunt in the same day from their meet at The Wolds Farm near Holwell. Also present on the day was the PPC for Leicestershire Lord Willy Bach along with officers from the Leicestershire force. Sabs from Northants Hunt Sabs witnessed a fox being chased and brutally killed in a farmyard near Scalford Hall. Huntsman John Holliday was present and made no attempt to stop or call off the hounds but dismounted his horse and assaulted a female sab as they tried to save the animal. It unfortunately died in the arms of the sabs at the scene.

On reporting this incident to the police they confirmed the Belvoir had already killed 2 further foxes, this time in the grounds of a nearby nursing home which was witnessed by staff and patients alike and reported by a horrified member of the public. The police also had the bodies of the murdered foxes as evidence. Lee Moon from the HSA again;

“2016 has shown the world exactly what the Belvoir hunt are like. They were implicated in keeping captive foxes, then viciously assaulting those who had exposed them. Now as the year draws to a close they brazenly hunt and kill three foxes in the presence of Leicestershire Police. Members of Leicestershire Police, including former wildlife crime officer Sharon Roscoe, are known to ride with the Belvoir and we hope this doesn’t influence any investigation. It is perhaps fortunate that the Leicestershire PCC was also present on the day to insist that this latest law breaking by the Belvoir is not brushed under the carpet.”

These incidents just show the utter contempt hunts have for the law and their arrogance by still claiming what they are doing is legal. No-one with any sense believes their lies any more and the blatant manner in which they pursue their grisly agenda time and again is a true reflection of their desire to kill and remain immune from justice. There has been a review in Scotland recently on their hunting laws and I remain hopeful that progress will be made there. The same process should be followed in England and Wales however the big difference here is we have a pro-hunt Government and an Environment Secretary who wants to repeal the act. Until these hurdles are removed it will be left to those in the field putting themselves on the line to stand up for our wildlife – The Hunt Saboteurs. Find your local group and bung them a few bob.

Our wildlife is under constant pressure. Pressure from development and the demand for new land due to human expansion, the pressure of modern farming where if it doesn’t make money it’s considered a nuisance and the pressure of those who treat the environment as a plaything, to do with as they wish regardless of the long term consequences. This malevolent force is the same which releases millions of non-native birds into our ecosystems every year, with little chance of survival, purely for the benefit of a very small demographic with the sufficient funds and a love for killing, so they can be blasted from the sky purely for the enjoyment of killing a living thing. These people of course would never do their own dirty work, that is of course down to that most strange and disturbed individual better known as the Gamekeeper. Their sole purpose in life is to protect their valuable crop of Pheasants (or Grouse depending on where you are in the country) from anything which they perceive may do them harm or just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Raptors suffer hugely at the hands of Gamekeepers, illegally persecuted with little chance of retribution although the RSPB and similar organisations are doing their best to bring these people to justice and with some success although seem to fail to take on the shooting industry directly. However what isn’t seen is the tragically legal persecution of our other species which goes on out of sight of the public. A grotesque yet common practice of trapping and snaring anything which just happens to inhabit the same piece of woodland where the pheasant pens are located.

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A detailed report with video and photos came into my possession which has to be put into the public domain. A small section of woodland was discovered which contained no less than 7 Larsen traps and various other cages (some containing live Magpies, designed to catch Corvids), over 10 Fen traps all set and some baited with eggs (these are designed to kill Weasels, Stoats and Rats) and most disgustingly 8 free running snares secured with breeze blocks or other heavy items. Snares are massively cruel and indiscriminate. Anything can become trapped in them and will then go on to suffer a slow and agonizing death or if they’re lucky something slightly less offensive in the form of the Gamekeepers shotgun or blunt instrument to the head. Deer, Foxes and Badgers can all fall prey to snares and family pets are just as likely should they wander in these areas. All of the devices described surrounded a Pheasant pen which in turn was surrounded by lots of shooting towers. Even though the pens were empty of Pheasants, the traps were still in operation.

The images are somewhat disturbing. The stench of death I’m told, will stay with those who were there for a long time to come. If you think this is an acceptable way to treat our wildlife then stop reading now, go back to reading your Daily Mail and prepare to vote UKIP or Tory in May. For everyone else with a decent level of compassion to our fellow beings I suggest you get involved and start to make a difference. Soon our wonderful and diverse countryside and the wildlife that lives in it will be diminished beyond a sustainable level, to be replaced with a sterile environment, overrun with a hapless non-native species and only good for those who like to kill things for fun. This is happening all over the country, what we’ve witnessed here is just a microcosm of the organised and systematic destruction of our native species. This is the true impact of the shooting industry and it’s time to make a change.

Sign the petition to ban snares here.

As you can probably imagine I spend a lot of time outside watching our native wildlife as well as perfecting my field craft skills for photographic and video protects. I’m a member of various wildlife groups both local and national and part of what I do is to survey and monitor the wildlife in my area for both scientific and security purposes, something which I enjoy immensely as it brings me into contact with lots of species most people will only catch a fleeting glimpse of every now and then. Only a few nights ago I was sat quietly watching two beautiful fox cubs playing only a few feet from me in the fading light. They had emerged from the earth after the parents had both departed some time earlier for a nights hunting and played joyfully, completely at ease with my presence. If you’re quiet, suitably dressed and make no sudden moves the wildlife will come to accept you and go about their normal business, however two recent incidents lead me to question actually how safe this seemingly simply and harmless activity could be.

The first happened as I monitored a local badger sett. This sett is in arable farmland, situated on the edge of a small copse and is highly active. I first surveyed this area over the Christmas break last year and noticed that that farmer had place a large temporary fence right through the copse extending a good 30 feet or so into the empty fields on either side. This was the type of fencing you’d see at perhaps a festival to stop interlopers, large solid metal units held at the base with concrete blocks and lashed together at the top. I wondered what the purpose of such a structure was in a seemingly pointless location. Jumping on a few months I had visited the site on a couple of occasions and witnessed hare, fox, deer as well as the resident badgers. My viewing was aided by a rickety platform built into a tree directly opposite the sett on the other side of the small field. I had my suspicions as to what this was used for but failed to link it’s purpose with that of the fence. Now although my purpose for being there was completely harmless and legit in terms of monitoring a protected species I was there without the knowledge of the landowner. I will always work this way as any potential crimes against species like the badger will be covered up once access from the landowner is requested however on this evening I was spotted and the landowner drove over for a chat.

On being questioned I told him my purpose and after a short conversation he seemed quite amiable and not overly concerned at my presence, we talked about the badgers and he asked me some details which I was happy to discuss. Clearly this was good news, he was perfectly within his rights to ask me to leave which I would have had to comply with, however he moved on happy although wanting some more rain to water his crop of sugar beet. However a short time later another vehicle arrived. This was the landowners nephew who wasn’t so pleased at my presence. Although I said I’d already spoken with his uncle he grilled me as to my purpose and got somewhat agitated. It seemed an overreaction considering my previous conversation unless of course he had something to hide. During the exchange he stated that they take part in “wildlife control”, (a phase I have come to despise) and couldn’t have me wandering around at night in camouflage when they were shooting fox and deer. He gave me his name and number and told me to call him before entering the land in the future before driving off in a huff. Now things could have been worse of course but my night of viewing had been ruined so I returned home. It was then I realised the purpose of the fence. It was to drive any animals using the copse as a byway out into the fields where they could be shot, from the rickety platform I was using to view the sett from.

One of my local foxes

One of my local foxes

I wanted to challenge the nephew on the killing of foxes but the time clearly wasn’t right. The removal of resident foxes is, as I’ve said before totally counterproductive. New foxes will fill the void in a matter of days and as an arable farm producing mostly vegetable oil I couldn’t see the justification, no matter how misguided, in attempting to reduce their numbers. Surely having a good fox population would keep the masses of rabbits in check and save them significant costs in loses from Thumper munching his way through their crops. Now neither the landowner or the nephew seemed particularly bright it has to be said but the hatred of foxes is clearly being handed down through the generations of our farming community and it’s a cycle that needs to be broken. I suspect the damage from deer to be also minimal considering the crops being grown and their shooting was for both pleasure and food. I’ll be back in due course to check on things and no, I won’t be telling them in advance. So much for the guardians of our countryside (Note: There are some very environmental farmers out there and I feel for them but they definitely seem in the minority).

The second incident happened only a few days ago. This time I was located in amongst the low scrub and vegetation on the side of a ditch which overlooked another sett and fox earth. I’d already had the pleasure of seeing both parent foxes leave the earth for the night and I hoped I would be rewarded with the sighting of more badgers and perhaps the fox cubs. I’m very much in my element in such surroundings, sat quietly observing nature as daytime fades into night, senses heightened in the stillness as the last birds sing and natures night shift take over. This serenity was rudely shattered with the loud bang of a shotgun only feet away. Needless to say I almost soiled my combats! Concerned for my safety I extricated myself quietly from the location and went in search of the perpetrator. On one side there is a shallow pond with reeds that are full of nesting waterfowl and song birds like Warblers and the other traditional shrubs like Hawthorn. I was situated on a public bridleway so had a perfect right to be there regardless of the time of day or night.

Git orf moi land!

Git orf moi land!

I don’t usually like to carry a torch on such occasions, preferring my own night vision to develop and remain as unobtrusive as possible. Due to this I had no method of warning the shooter of my presence and clearly startling someone with a loaded gun is to be avoided at all costs. I’m pretty healthy and have a strong desire to stay that way. After making my way along the scrub I risked a peek down the hedge line and sure enough there was the usual 4×4 parked tight up against the hedge. I returned to my car with a view of the area and waited. Moments later another vehicle arrived and pulled over into the field. I later found out that this was one of the good guys, a local nature lover concerned with the shooters presence so close to nesting birds. The shooter left shortly after no doubt disturbed by the concerned person and I made it my business to find where he lived should he not have permission from the landowner to be shooting in the area. I’m still waiting on the outcome of that one. He was back the next day as well when I drove past to check the area, clearly his blood lust not satisifed.

The thing that strikes me is the number of people that are tooled up and blasting away at night in our countryside with little regard for other people and the wildlife. These incidents were only a couple of weeks apart and not separated by a great deal of real estate. If we assume there’s a similar number of gun owners going out shooting regularly across the country then you’re left with the impression that Syria would be a more peaceful place for an evening stroll. Clearly that’s an overstatement but you get my drift. I have checked on the legality issue with regards to shooting near public rights of way and the shooter was probably OK in that respect however that didn’t ease my concerns with regards to shooting so close to a badger sett and the well-being of the resident fox family. There have be several documented cases of people being shot at night by hunters with some serious injuries occured and I don’t fancy being an addition to that list but while I continue to monitor my local wildlife at night then no doubt my path will cross more people with guns. I now carry a very bright torch. This will alert them to my presence and effectviely scupper any chances they have of killing anything else. A double win as far as I’m concerned.

So if you’re out at night enjoying your surroundings take extra care. Your next step could be directly into the firing line.

 

No blog update next week, I’ll be taking a well earned break north of the border to watch Eagles, Otters and Dolphins. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.