Posts Tagged ‘Hunting Office’

As you’re all aware through the lack of updates over the past year I decided to take a bit of a break from writing but I couldn’t let this story pass by and not comment, in fact I had a different angle lined up but held it back after some advice from someone in the know and I’m glad I did.

It’s been well over a week now since the Hunt Saboteurs Association published the webinars held by the Hunting Office that show senior members of the hunting world that included Lord Mancroft – Conservative Peer, Chair of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) and former Chair of the Countryside Alliance and ex-senior police officers Phil Davies (more about him here) and Paul Jelley. Also present were Richard Tyacke – Chairman of the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles (AMHB), Hunting Office Executive Director and former Master and Huntsman of the Wynnstay Hunt as well as Mark Hankinson – MFHA Director, Hunting Office Executive Director  and former Master of the Wilton Hunt.

 

Lord Mancroft – Or is it the eagle from the muppets?

It seemed that there was significant resistance by the mainstream media to cover the story but with the US elections, Brexit and Covid-19 still the main stories that was hardly surprising however it would be easy to suggest that the story was being suppressed as multiple copies of the video were removed from social media with bogus copyright claims. However the level of public interest on social media proved that this was never going to go away, much to the chagrin of everyone involved in hunting.

ITV News Story

Finally it was ITV that came forward and released the story with the added bonus that the police and CPS were actually looking into the situation to see if any crimes and been committed. From my perspective it’s fairly evident from the video and despite what the Hunting Office and the Countryside Alliance might try and claim that those present are conspiring to incite mass criminality, encouraging the many hunt  masters viewing the webinar that if they want to carry on hunting much as they did pre 2005 then all they have to do is follow a few simple rules and they’re good to go. In fact they go even further by offering financial support for any hunt caught hunting and facing prosecution, but only if they’ve followed their advice and created the “smokescreen” they go to such great length to describe and promote.

If you haven’t seen it already the full video’s can be viewed here: Video 1 and Video 2.

Full transcript can be download here and here.

It also seems pretty good timing that a TV crew from ITV were present and actually witnessed and filmed a fox being hunted by the Beaufort Hunt just before lockdown.

 

 

The Hunters response

What is also obvious is the lack of any real comment for the hunting community. The normally extremely vocal Tim Bonner of the CA took his time before uttering any sort of a word on the matter although it wasn’t a direct response to the webinar story and was more as a response to the amount of country that hunts will lose due to the withdrawing of the licenses by major land owners (more on that in a bit) and how they’ll still all be out on Boxing Day, however the official CA media accounts have also been strangely quiet, offering little more than the similar mumblings of the Hunting Office’s claims that the words of those speaking at the webinar had been taken out of context. There was a rather pathetic response from This is Hunting UK which got totally rinsed in the comments after which they posted some waffle about unity and some nice pictures of hounds, hardly a solid forward defensive stroke. Needless to say I’d like to be a fly on the wall at the Hunting Office right now. Head of Hunting at the CA, Polly Portwin is well known for spinning lies but even her abilities for growing a long nose would appear to significantly overmatched by the truth.

 

Hunting licenses suspended

There was significant pressure applies to all the major land owners by members of the public and anti hunt campaigners alike. The first to come out with a statement saying they would be suspending hunt licenses was Forestry England and like a house of cards it was only a matter of time before others followed. There had been a concerted effort to get the National Trust to ban hunting on it’s land, regardless of the unregulated conditions they had set previously they had always stubbornly refused to be drawn into any discussion and continually just replied with a standard response. This time however it would appear that they would be forced to take action and a couple of hours later they too withdrew all licenses on their land. United Utilities, the largest corporate land owner in the country were a little late to the party but they got there in the end and that’s the main thing. As I write more organisations who license hunts are currently reviewing the situation and are likely to follow suit.

Forestry England chief executive Mike Seddon: “We are clear when we give people licences or permission for activities in the nation’s forests that they must behave legally and responsibly or risk losing the right to carry on. Once we had confirmation from the police that they were investigating activities involving the Hunting Office, we suspended all licences granted to organisations that delegate work to them.”

United Utilities statement

 

So what happens next?

The police investigation will be headed by Deputy Chief Constable Paul Netherton, National Police Chief Council lead for fox hunting and part of Devon and Cornwall police. He was also author of the Operational Advice on Responding to Hunting Incidents document for the National Police Chiefs Council (this can be found online with a simple search for those with an interest). If I’m brutally honest I’d be really surprised if any prosecutions arose from the investigation however in the wider context hunting has been seriously damaged and those officers on the front line of policing who didn’t hold an opinion one way or another will be finding it very hard to believe anything that comes from the hunting community now knowing they’ve been treated as mugs for the last 15 years and those officers that have  supported hunting and known about the conspiracy all along won’t be feeling too confident in being able to support their mates in the hunts. I’ve been in touch with my local police force and needless to say they were very interested and the footage was disseminated to the rural crime team.

So could this be the end for them?

I doubt it’ll be the end anytime soon but this has been one of the best weeks I can remember and certainly brightened up a very dowdy 2020. If hunting is to continue they are going to have to pull some very big rabbits out of some very small hats and I simply don’t see any easy way out. This horrible minority pastime dressed up as a sport has been fundamentally damaged and it’s likely heads will roll but it doesn’t matter who’s running the show, I don’t believe there will be any significant recovery.

Finally

Huge credit must go to those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get this in the public domain and into the mainstream media. Once it finally broke there was an avalanche of stories and coverage on TV, online and the printed press. You know things are serious when even the Torygraph starts putting the boot in.

The Hunt Saboteurs Association have run an excellent campaign and in line with that are also running a funding page (click here) so they can increase the already mounting pressure and not let up. Money is something the hunting side have a lot of, it would be nice to be able to balance those books a little bit.

There would appear to be something not quite right in the world of hunting. OK, that’s pretty obvious as you have to be morally corrupt to even consider hunting as acceptable but here I’m talking about the major players in the make up of hunting organisations.

Lord Mancroft is the Chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association and the Council of Hunting Associations. He was until recently a board member of the so-called Countryside Alliance, having been a member at the CA’s creation in 1997 and deputy Chairman of the British Field Sports Society (forerunner of the CA) since 1992.  In his own words:

“I have been intimately involved in the political battle for hunting for more than 30 years”.

Obviously a charming chap.

The point of interest here is that he has been removed from the board of the CA and this news was released in a short article in the Nag & Mutt (Horse & Hound) last June. The term “removed” is an interesting one. Clearly his departure from the board wasn’t exactly amicable and there seems to be very little in terms of an explanation for his departure from the CA. The normally vocal CEO Dim Tim Bonner has been conspicuously quiet on the matter, making only a minimal statement on what they’re doing to increase the PR of hunting and who they currently have in place to do that, with Mancroft not even getting a mentioned.

Mancroft himself offers a bit more as to why he was booted out saying:

“I have been asking questions about the CA’s apparent unwillingness or failure to defend hunting politically or engage in any proactive PR”.

So I think it’s pretty clear that there’s been some in significant disagreements within the CA’s top brass and Mancroft, clearly not very happy about the current state of affairs had openly voiced his opinions which lead to the divorce. Obviously from my point of view this is all good stuff. You can’t beat a nice bit of in fighting among the ranks of your enemy and its certainly not the first time Bonner has come in for criticism, only now it seems that the criticism is coming from further up the food chain.

Official_portrait_of_Lord_Mancroft_crop_2

Lord Mancroft

And that’s not all.

Below is a screen shot from the jobs section in H&H.

job advert

These are some of the top jobs in hunting.

The Hunting Office is described as:

“The administrative hub for the Council of Hunting Associations.  The Hunting Office exists to help and advise Masters and its member Hunts.  It represents and supports packs of hounds from fourteen hunting associations in England, Scotland and Wales, providing advice on all matters regarding hunting activities, hunt management and hound health & welfare”.

In case you don’t know the MFHA is:

“The Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) is the Governing Body for registered packs of Foxhounds and represents 171 packs that hunt within the law in England and Wales and a further 8 in Scotland”.

The purpose of the AMHB is:

 “. . . to oversee the promotion and proper management of the Harrier and Beagle hunts”.

If all of these key personnel positions are vacant then it would seem that the vessel which oversees all things hunting could well be rudderless. There’s something distinctly whiffy going on in the halls of hunting and it doesn’t look good for them.

In the real world the compassionate side of the hunting argument have been hugely successful in utilising all the social media platforms available and getting the message out there. While sabs and monitors continue to upload damming videos and images of hunts breaking the law those involved in the criminality have been retreating further into their own fishbowl.

The successful prosecutions of the Thurlow & Fitzwilliam, the Meynell & South Staffs hunt awaiting trail, the conviction of the South Herefordshire hunt fox cub killers, the Kimblewick hunt staff awaiting trial, the Belvoir hunt paying out almost £50K in damages to LACS employees . . . all this is starting to add up and the powers that be in the hunting world are, to be quite frank, crapping themselves. Is it rats leaving a sinking ship or perhaps have we had a night of the long knives?

Hunting is also under pressure for other reasons, continued urbanisation and changes in land ownership mean there’s less areas to hunt. Some land owners no longer want the hunt on their land and the potential for conflict and negative press that comes with them. Shooting interests have increased and while I obviously have no love for this either the last thing shoots want is a bunch of rampant hounds and riders charging through their area and scattering the game birds all over the place before they can be shot (this happened last season while we were sabbing the Oakley, all very amusing for us). Another problem they have is that the old guard of experienced huntsmen are retiring and there simply isn’t the new blood coming through to take up these jobs. Let’s face it, apart from those actually involved in hunting everyone is going to hate you, the pay is probably pretty bad and there’s a fair chance you’ll end up in court.

Not exactly an appealing job description.