Posts Tagged ‘Hounds Off’

The main hunting season may be over in my part of the world but elsewhere animals continue to be pursued by hounds for hours and then when finally exhausted, killed.

Stag and Hind hunting in the south west of England has made the news recently with the footage and evidence being released by my good friends over at Hounds Off which clearly illustrates that it is very much business as usual for the wildlife abusers who are killing with impunity.

For a better understanding of how this type of hunting is being allowed to continue you have to understand how they operate and how they are circumnavigating the law.

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Pre-ban image of a stag being shot after a long chase.

Prior to the ban, stags and hinds would have been selected from wild animals in the herd and singled out, then chased by a the pack of hounds over many miles until exhausted where the hounds would have been held at bay. At this point the huntsman would have approached and shot the animal. Sometimes these animals would have been captured before the hunt and then released into the hunting country, often a reserve animal would have been held in a horse box locally should the first escape, thus giving these psychopaths the maximum chance of a kill.

With the Hunting Act coming in to play in 2005 the hunts had to figure out a way to circumnavigate the legislation so they could continue to hunt, much like fox hunts did with the creation of “trail hunting”. There are several exemptions within the hunting act which will allow stalking and flushing out under certain conditions but all of these restrict the number of hounds to 2. This was clearly an issue for the deer hunters so they invented “relay hunting” where several pairs of hounds were used in relays to chase the quarry animal to exhaustion before being killed.

However the Quantock Stag Hounds fell foul of the law in 2007 when they were successfully prosecuted for breaching the Hunting Act while attempting to use this exemption and again in 2010 while claiming to “Rescue a Wild Animal (part 8 para 2).

From the point of view of the hunts there was clearly more work to be done in their efforts to avoid prosecution and for this they looked further afield for inspiration.

Commercial Whaling has been banned since 1986 and yet we’re still seeing these wonderful sentient creatures murdered in some numbers by countries who claim to be using the scientific exemption within the moratorium which allows the killing of whales for vaguely defined scientific purposes. Here was something the UK hunts could use as within the Hunting Act there existed a similar exemption, part 8, para 2;

Research and Observation

“The first condition is that the hunting is undertaken for the purpose of or in connection with the observation or study of the wild mammal”.

What has to be questioned here is what could possible be gained in terms of scientific knowledge by chasing a stag or hind for many miles before finally killing the animal and carving it up to be handed out as trophies? I’d argue with some certainty that we already know pretty much all we’re likely to about these native mammals and there can be no scientific justification for the hunts. However the CPS seem reluctant to take on these cases and the they have recently dropped several against the Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds.

What is abundantly clear is that hunting continues much as it did before the ban with the only change being the use of  2 hounds in relays. The Research and Observation exemption really needs to be challenged in the courts but for that to happen we need to be able to get it into the courts in the first place and for the CPS to grow some balls. It shouldn’t be too hard to disprove these nonsensical claims. Of course the best and final way to stop this hunting is a strengthening of the Hunting Act but that will probably also require a change in Government. Removal of these daft exemptions might not stop the hunting completely but it will certainly give the police and CPS a clear direction in prosecuting these criminals.

 

The National Trust are panicking.

The (so called*) Countryside Alliance are panicking.

The hunts that use NT land are panicking – all 60 of them.

The reason behind their fears is the vote to ban hunting from all NT land which will take place at their AGM on the 21st October. The subject has been covered previously here with a guest blog from National Dis-Trust (see here) but there has been several important developments since.

NT position

In an effort to perhaps sooth the concerns of many of their voting members the NT published a set of rules for hunts to abide by in the coming season. These included:

Banning the use of animal-based scents as a trail for hounds or beagles to follow. This will reduce the risk of foxes or other wild animals being accidentally chased. 

Prohibit the presence of terriermen, who have no practical purpose on a trail ‘hunt’, and the use of their vehicles.

More active management of hunts and how they operate including: mandatory reporting requirements after each meet; the provision of specified maps/areas; and requiring at the time of application details of all proposed hunt days.

Probing the track record of each applicant and establishing a consistent charging regime across Trust land.

Greater transparency for our members and the public.  We will post on our website the agreed days and locations, in advance, for our members and supporters to view.  This will include a primary point of contact for each hunt.

We are exploring how we can work more closely with the Police’s independent National Wildlife Crime Unit, which is the proper authority for handling alleged breaches in wildlife legislation.

These changes would seem to be the answer many people were looking for however dig a little deeper and it would seem that this is nothing more than smoke and mirrors and an attempt to scupper the vote to completely ban all hunting.

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Even TV presenter Ben Fogle is putting pressure on the NT.

The problem is many of these restriction were already in place. The hunts would simply ignore them and with no NT staff to police the laws laid down then they would become nothing more than a paper tiger. The League Against Cruel Sports even offered their support in the policing of these rules but were turned down. You have to ask yourself why would the NT do that? The simple fact is trail hunting was invented after the implementation of the hunting ban as a method to circumnavigate the new law. Hunts have been cynically exploiting this and killing foxes, hares and stags in much the same way as they did before. The rules put forward by the NT pretty much amount to drag hunting which is a completely different thing and has no bearing on real hunting at all, it is “clean boot”, they follow a scent or drag laid by a fit person like a fell runner or similar and largely use bloodhounds. No animals are hunted and there are no “accidental” killings.

Of course the CA immediately threw their teddies right out of the pram with Tim Bonner being his usual self and shooting his mouth off to anyone who’d listen with his usual mixture of lies, playing the victim card and claims of  intimidation from “animal rights extremists”.  All of this is of course, completely laughable and only serves to show once again how detached from reality with their own sense of self entitlement they really are. It sometimes makes me wonder if they realise what a tiny (but well funded and vociferous) minority they really are?

Of course this escalated into the mainstream press with reports coming in from generally pro-hunting papers like the Telegraph to the more moderate like the Independent and the Guardian. Much of what the CA complained about seemed to be centered on the fact that hunt meets would be publicised, something every hunt in the UK will only do to it’s members. The reason for this is of course to remain secretive so they can go about their dirty business without interference from sabs, monitors or indeed the police (where they aren’t in the pockets of the hunts). Of course if they were abiding by the law there would be no need for all the secrecy but this fact seems to have escaped them. Monitors & sabs pay no interest in drag hunts. These hunts also openly publish their meets as they have no concerns about being caught killing animals.

The NT then took the further step of writing to all their members to advise them on how to vote.email 1

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The campaign group Nation Dis-Trust responded to this email.

“To explain how ‘trail hunting’ works to members who have witnessed foxes being eviscerated by hounds is insulting. It also ignores the fact that ‘trail hunting’ is fictional (http://g.ifaw.org/2kD1orC) except as a false alibi for wildlife crime, despite Dame Helen Ghosh having read the report which proves this (http://bit.ly/2u8XKua).

The Trust don’t monitor the activities they licence; this is an outright lie. They have both said that they don’t have the resources to monitor as well as stating in a leaked internal memo to staff that the onus is on the hunts for adhering to the licence and the law (http://bit.ly/2eLfI01).

If the Trust now think terriermen are a redundant element of ‘trail hunting’, what do they think terriermen have been doing on their land for the last 12 years?

In a separate note, the Trust have also said that the vote at the AGM isn’t binding, implying that the Trust are preparing to ignore the wishes of their own membership. Putting aside how disrespectful this would be to their members as well as the wildlife that will soon be terrorised & slaughtered by hunts on their land, it also forgets that whilst a vote may not be binding, the law is. It is an offence to knowingly host illegal hunting with hounds (http://bit.ly/2wp0Ai4)”.

Of course should hunts be banned from using NT land it could spell the end for many of them. Having land to actually hunt animals on is a primary concern for all hunts. While there are still plenty of land owners who will accept them the tide is slowly turning and some hunts are feeling the squeeze. With no land, they can no longer hunt, if they can’t hunt they won’t make any money, with no money they, like any other business will cease to exist. There are several hunts which rely on NT land for the majority of their meets.

Of course should the NT ban hunting then it would also set a precedent for other large land owning organisations to do the same. The Forestry Commission and the MoD could follow suit along with utilities companies. This vote could potentially have a huge impact on how hunting is viewed in England today. The vast majority want to see and end to this barbarity and winning this battle would be a huge step towards that goal.

Final word from National Dis-Trust:
“The NT updated rules are a smokescreen to prevent members voting for the member’s resolution. If the resolution fails, another one cannot be proposed for 3 years. Therefore there will be another 3 years of illegal hunting on NT land. Leaked internal memos (see blow) have shown that the NT intend to allow hunts to self-regulate with regard to abiding by the terms of the licence. The leaked memo’s doesn’t mention giving out times and dates of meets but instead mentions an annual list of places that will be published.

On top of all this the hunts that are likely to be affected are threatening to hunt without a license from the NT, effectively trespassing on NT land, and lets not forget thousands of hunters signed a declaration to defy the ban when the law was passed in 2005, they will do the exactly the same to the NT”. 

National Dis-Trust

 

*We think this is a good idea. Thanks to Hounds Off for publishing.

so called.

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.

kimblewick

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.

Well it’s been a crazy couple of weeks and time has been at a premium hence the lack of updates. Once again I’ve spent a fair bit of time dealing with the press although this time more local than national but it’s all good coverage and on top of that making statements to the police and handing over video evidence. It gives the neighbours something to gossip about though so it’s all good.

I’ll be off again shortly, I took the day off work today as we had a tip off that some illegal beagling was going to take place so I’m sitting here writing this before heading out and seeing if we can catch them in the act. There are hundreds of these majestic animals in the fields close to me at the moment as they gather for the breeding season however nationally they are in serious decline and some parts of the country seem to be devoid of them completely so how anyone can derive any joy from hunting and killing these animals is quite frankly beyond me. We’ve tipped off the relevant police force as well so hopefully we’ll get a good result. UPDATE: See here

If you’ve been keeping up with our exploits on Facebook you’ll no doubt have read our latest report (see here). It was obviously disappointing that the police performance on the day was so poor considering the progress they have been making in recent weeks. I have swapped emails with the Inspector now in charge and we’ll meet to discuss things further face to face shortly. I know the police, and Bedfordshire especially face huge funding issues and need to prepare for these kinds of incidents however they can’t expect us to give them notice of when we’ll be operating in their areas. Our intelligence comes from a network of informers, some even within the hunting community and also from the general public who hate hunting so much and as such this information can come in at the very last minute. As soon as we have this information we let the police know however this will often be on the morning of the hunt.

We’re told that the Oakley also have a police liaison, however the flow on information from them doesn’t seem to be forthcoming from what I understand. If the hunt are refusing to give the police details of their meets then the police can’t expect us to give them a weeks notice to plan things either. It’s best to assume that if the hunt are out, we’ll be out.

It was also highly amusing to note the lies the hunts will tell even though there is irrefutable evidence that will completely debunk all their claims (see here). I’m not sure who they think will believe their nonsense but it’s safe to say you’d have to be seriously mentally challenged to take their word for it. Hey, maybe that’s it, they are just fooling their own side? Regardless of the outcome from last weekend the Oakley have only added more paint to the canvas which portrays them for what they really are; a sad and desperate little hunt with a huntsman who has no control and Masters who rarely seem to turn up that rely on hired thugs and half wits to try and stop people like me from outing their dirty little secrets and telling the truth.

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The rumour going around that the Kimblewick hunt hounds had contracted TB has been confirmed as official. This will of course have huge ramification with regards to bio-security and another reason why hunts should’nt be allowed to operate in areas where bTB is a problem. Obviously its a tragedy for the hounds involved that were killed and they, like many other animals connected to hunting are just considered tools to be used and thrown away when no longer of value and not a sentient mammal. It’ll be a story I’ll follow closely and well done to our friends at Hounds Off for breaking the news (see here).

PROD-The-Kimblewick-Hunt-Boxing-Day-meet

I’m going to sign off this entry with a dedication to a dear friend who was taken from us far too early. At the start of the badger cull when this activist was an accident yet to happen I was contacted by a clubbing friend who lived in the area and wanted to get involved. These were her first steps into AR and something that was to change her life for ever. Over night she became a wildlife warrior and from protecting badgers she went on to join the local sab group and face up to the worse the local fox hunts could throw at her and her little red van. Her parties were the stuff of legend (if you could remember them afterwards) and was the type of person to get on a plane to come and see a friend if she thought something was wrong.  She gave everything and yet asked for nothing. She will be sorely missed by everyone and my deepest sympathies go out to her husband Alec and her children.

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Tracey – for once not covered in mud.