Posts Tagged ‘Hunting with Dogs Act 2004’

You’ll hear the same phrase from the police over and over again when questioned over the hunting issue; “We aim to remain impartial with regards to the hunting and recognise the right to demonstrate peacefully”, or pretty much words to that effect.

Now the problem with that is it’s based purely on the assumption that both sides are acting in a lawful manner. You have to hand it to the so-called Countryside Alliance, they’ve done a fine job in convincing the powers that be that trail hunting is a legal and legitimate pass time. Having said that if the anti-hunt side had the same money and influence within the establishment I’ve no doubt the situation would be a little less one sided.

Now I’m fairly certain that the truth of the matter has been well and truly demonstrated by the huge number of well documented hunting kills. Cheshire has seen a large number recently and it has got to the point where the Police and Crime Commissioner has publicly come out to counter statements by Cheshire’s Acting Chief Constable (see here) regarding what appears on social media and has indeed gone further in holding a public meeting to put more scrutiny on hunting within the county (see here).

Only last Saturday (16/02/19) our group was present when the Oakley Hunt killed a young vixen in front of sabs who were doing their very best to save her. It was tough on the new sabs but they acted in a very professional manner in the face of some hugely unpleasant provocation and are a credit to our group. Huntsman Jack Harris (better known as Calamity Jack due his tendency to lose the hounds) knew exactly what was going on. He knew they were on a fox and yet sat there denying all knowledge of any wrong doing. He even had the temerity to deny his hounds had killed anything. A short time later he rang the police and claimed an accident had happened just to cover his own arse.

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The young vixen killed by the Oakley Hunt in the arms of a young sab

And this is where the problem lies.

As it stand the hunts can go out and kill with impunity because all they have to do is – exactly NOTHING, and then claim it was an accident. The level of burden of proof to get a conviction within the Hunting Act is set way too high. There needs to be undeniable evidence of intent by the hunt staff to kill the fox. That means encouraging the hounds with voice or horn while knowing they are hunting live quarry.

So this brings me rounds to my point with regards to impartiality.

This isn’t about a matter of opinion or even a difference in ethical points of view. This is about what is legal and what isn’t. The police are perfectly within their rights to arrest someone who they may find acting suspiciously in the middle of the night with certain tools about their person, the term is “going equipped”. It’s about time that the police understood that going into a field with 12 couple or more (that’s 24 to normal people) trained fox killers and putting them into areas which are likely to contain foxes is only going to have one outcome and you don’t have to be Hercule Poiro to figure that out. Going equipped to kill foxes (or hares for the Beaglers).

If any hunt can’t provide concrete evidence of a trail being laid (and that’s not just some moron buggering around in the nearest field with a mucky rag for 10 minutes) with a map to go with it then they should be forced back to kennels. Any deviation from the map supplied should also be constituted as unlawful along with going into or near likely fox holding areas.

Of course this is all fantasy land, hardly any hunts even bother to pay even minor lip service to the law and they have no intention on changing, they are hunting in a most brazen manner. The Oakley certainly do, we’ve been sabbing them for the last 6 years and I’ve yet to see them lay any sort of trail. If they weren’t such a crappy hunt they’d kill a lot more foxes.

It’s time the police dropped the whole impartiality line. They must know the hunts are breaking the law so quoting that only makes them look at best, incompetent or at worst, horribly biased.

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Additional: The kill at the Oakley was registered as a crime by Bedfordshire Police who by-and-large acted in a professional manner, the body was taken as evidence and scenes of crimes officers noted it had died from multiple dog bites. We don’t expect any further action for the reasons I’ve describe above but the file on the Oakley is certainly building and their time will come.

So it would appear that once again a hunt has been caught red handed holding a fox in an artificial earth and then dragging it from the hole and throwing it in front of the hounds to be chased and killed for the enjoyment of their riders and followers. This time it was the Kimblewick, a hunt which recently killed 97 of it’s hounds due to being infected with bTB. A disease that has unnecessarily caused the deaths of ten’s of thousands of badgers due to the Governments pointless culling policy. The hunt is the plaything of Lord Gardiner of Kimble, a long time Tory who’s been secretary for various ministers and ex chief spin doctor for the so-called Countryside Alliance and now member of the House of Lords.

The incident took place on New Years Day, the meet was at the Thame showground and was claimed as one of the high points of the hunting calendar.

The full video can be seen below.

 

I don’t think the video needs any explanation here. The Times originally reported on this and it’s clearly going to be a story which isn’t going to go away any time soon and has even made BBC TV. Considering the Kimblewick’s recent history and their claims of being a “super hunt” (whatever that may be) this is certainly big news. Whether there will be any action with regards to prosecutions remains to be seen however even to the most myopic viewer the video is clear evidence of illegal hunting or at the very least the intent to hunt a wild mammal. The terrier men are clearly working under the instruction of the huntsman so one would assume “joint venture” could be worth considering from a legal standpoint.

This compelling evidence once again blows apart the myth that hunts are obeying the law and legally following a trail. What shouldn’t be understated is the frequency in which this takes place. Hunts up and down the country will have artificial earths in their territory and will maintain these in an effort to have foxes to hunt on any given hunt day. This is certainly nothing new or out of the ordinary. Fairly recently the South Herefordshire, the Middleton, the Pytchley, and the Belvoir have all been implicated in keeping foxes purely for the purpose of hunting.

What happened to the fox on New Years Day remains unknown.

The so-called CA and Dim Tim Bonner are certainly going to have a hard time talking their way out of this one especially as their Head of Hunting (Polly Portwin) pretty much lives next door to the Kimblewick kennels and rides with them although they’ll no doubt do their best. If the Masters of Foxhounds Association have any credibility whatsoever they will suspend the Kimblewick immediately and then expel them after their own investigation but let’s face it, what are the real chances of that?

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You’re absolutely right Peter, let’s see some action for the authorities

The simple fact is that the hunting lobby like to promote this chocolate box image of hunting, the spectacle and the pomp and also that they somehow provide a service to farmers by controlling fox numbers, not that its even necessary. The truth is however vastly different and this is being shown time and again. Even in the face of such overwhelming evidence some hunt supporters are offering their own explanation which is, as you’d expect completely laughable.

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Jo is clearly a master of fantasy fiction

Fox hunting (and all hunting with hounds) is nothing more than organised crime, an organised crime who’s product is cruelty to wildlife, enjoyed by a psychopathic minority who are prepared to pay for the privilege and will employ the lowest of the low to do their dirty work, be that digging out foxes or conducting violent operations against those who oppose them. The fact it is so deeply entrenched within the establishment means we are fighting a constant battle against those who wield both power and influence.

It’s time that changed.

ADDITIONAL

Below is an exert from a post on Facebook by Team Fox (Save Me Trust) run by Brian May. Let’s hope they are as good as their word if the authorities don’t hold the perpetrators to account.

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It’s always disappointing when I hear of cases being dropped by the police or CPS due to lack of evidence or their belief that they don’t think they will get a conviction regardless of the evidence. While some cases are clearly less than certain bearing in mind the limitations of the legislation and the need to prove intent, others would appear to be in the public interest to proceed with. The case submitted by the excellent Cheshire Monitors would appear to be a prime example of this (see here). This is blatant cubbing and a prime example of why the law needs to be strengthened. Every rider in the video is guilty of helping to commit a crime and yet the current legislation doesn’t allow for that.

However it’s not all bad news and this brings me to the point of this blog entry.

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Fox killed by the Thurlow on Boxing Day

You may remember I wrote about the kill the Thurlow Hunt made on Boxing Day last year (see here). We submitted video evidence of the whole incident and provided statements to Suffolk Police who acted in a professional manner with the investigation. Now the justice system in the UK can’t ever be described as either quick or efficient and as the months drew on I was beginning to wonder when we would get a decision from the CPS as to how this would progress.

However I’m happy to report that the Huntsman and Whipper In will have to appear in court to answer the charges in relation to the Hunting Act and also for Assault.

This is of course great news.

With one prosecution already under our collective belts we’re confident that we can secure another and again highlight the criminality taking place in our countryside and make the perpetrators pay for their crimes. No doubt they will plead not guilty and I’ll get to lock horns with CA go to man Stephen Welford again but we’ve beaten him once so can do it again. As I’ve said before, with solid evidence and truth on your side it makes things a little easier.

It was also pleasing to note that the fox cub killers at the South Herefordshire Hunt will finally face the courts. Huge respect goes to the Hunt Investigation Team for their tireless work on this. The further revelations that came to light shortly after the breaking of the original story that the reason for the delays was the smear campaign against the investigating officer (see here). It is quite frankly a disgrace that this officer had to suffer this treatment while the real criminals were walking free. It also shows the levels in which the hunting community will stoop in an effort to subvert the course of justice and cover their own arses, regardless of the horrors committed in the name of their grubby little hobby. I would hope the person who made these outrageous allegations will be investigated themselves for wasting police time but that’s probably too much to hope for.

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It would seem that there will be no appeal of the Fitzwilliam case (see here). The time has now run out to submit an appeal and at the time of writing I haven’t been informed of any further proceedings. Although the CA made lots of noise about it at the time it was very much left in the hands of the huntsman, George Adams. His performance in court left a lot to be desired and came across as a very poor witness. He’s clearly decided he would rather not go through all that again and as he’s now retired would seem somewhat pointless.

Finally a hello to all the hunt types who read this blog. It’s good you read another point of view (you may learn something) and boost my figures. A special nod goes to the lovely chap who recognised me at the weekend after we packed up the Dove Valley Mink (Otter) Hounds meet he was attending. Fame wasn’t really something I sought out but it was nice anyway and made me smile. I guess I must be doing something right.

So last week I summed up what I thought were the most relevant points in the hunting act (see here). What I’ll do here is explain how the hunts are circumnavigating this legislation and what any monitor or sab would need to do to gain a conviction.

We’ve already established that the wording of the act limits the number of hounds to 2 for the act of stalking and flushing out. However as most people are already aware this part of the act was largely made irrelevant by the creation of “trail hunting”. There have been thousands of words written about this in the past (most notably the IFAW report Trail of Liesfull report can be found here) and don’t want to cover old ground again however it is the most common excuse that hunts use because, it seems, it is the most difficult to gain a prosecution against.

The fine people at Hounds Off produced a great list of requirements for gaining a prosecution against hunters using this alibi. It can be found here. What I will add to that is the expansion of point 4 on the list – Proving intent. This cannot be stressed enough. If the hunt staff are aware they are hunting live quarry (you need to prove this) then the addition of them using either horn or voice calls to hunt the hounds on should be enough to secure a conviction provided all the other criteria are met. Learn what these calls are and memorise them. In the fields we have however noted that some hunt staff are remaining quiet if sabs or monitor are present and filming their activities. NOT calling the hounds off the line of the hunted animal may not be enough to prove intent.

Essentially in the video evidence you’ll need: Quarry running – Hounds chasing quarry – Huntsman aware of live quarry and showing intent.

If you intend to monitor you need to learn to recognise the set of circumstance which could lead to a conviction as quick as you can. And herein lies the problem. Hunts have themselves learnt to avoid those situations, either that or they simply don’t care because they know the police (for one reason or another) won’t investigate and prosecute. I covered this in a previous blog which can be found here.

Although the recent conviction we achieved against the Fitzwilliam related to the Falconry Exemption in the Act many of the situational points were similar. The fox killed by the Thurlow last Boxing Day is a different matter and they are claiming to have been following a trail although have already set out their defence by claiming the fox was turned into the hounds by the sabs present. Although this is an ongoing case and as I such I can’t elaborate on the exact details (we’re currently waiting on a decision from the CPS) their claims are quite common and were similarly made by the Fitzwilliam. Needless to say this is complete nonsense (as it was in the previous case) and we hope the truth will come out in court. We have compelling video evidence from 2 separate sources and believe we have fulfilled all the relevant criteria for a successful outcome.

Beagling

Of course the hunting act doesn’t just relate to fox hunting. There are other forms of hunting which may also include Stag/Hind hunting and Mink/Otter hunting but Beagling (hunting the Brown Hare with a pack of Beagles) is the most likely to be encountered, certainly in my locality which is one of the last strongholds of this fast disappearing majestic animal.

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Packing up for the day.

Beagling runs in a very similar way to fox hunting except the hunters are on foot (but still wearing daft outfits). The hounds will be put into a field to search for hares. This will initially be done via scent but once the quarry is flushed the beagles will act more like sight hounds. The usual hangers on will be present to watch and some may be stationed around the edges of the open field to be hunted. Their purpose is to turn the hare back into the field and to prolong the chase. A hare will easily outrun a beagle however it doesn’t have the stamina and they tend to run in large circles. Eventually they will be caught and killed.  A pack of beagles can kill a lot of hares in an afternoons hunting.

Due to their less obvious nature and smaller following field beagle packs can be hard to find, they are very secretive for obvious reasons. The handy point from a monitoring and sabbing point of view is that once found they are effectively scuppered! Merely entering their hunting field with a running camera should be enough encouragement for the hunter to gather their hounds and head back to the meet but once again the criteria for any attempted conviction remains the same.

Falconry Exemption

I’ve written a lot about this recently so won’t cover it all again but needless to say this part of the act is now being seriously called into question as an alibi for hunters since the prosecution of the Fitzwilliam. whether those hunts that still using a bird of prey continue to do so remains to be seen. Next season could be interesting . . .

Gamekeepers Exemption

This is a tricky one and the greyest of grey areas. The simple fact is there is no place for terrier men in a trail hunt and yet all hunts still employ at least 1 terrier man with the usual tools of his trade. The Countryside Alliance might like to claim they are fence menders and call them “Countrymen” but I don’t think anyone really believes that nonsense as terriers aren’t terribly good at mending fences.

I know some sources will disagree but I have always believed that in certain circumstances terrier work would be in breach of the hunting act. I’ve had long discussions with various police forces and their wildlife crime officers over the presence and indeed use of terrier men during a trail hunt. My personal experience of these particularly awful humans would also suggest that once an animal has gone to ground sabs/monitors arriving on the scene will see the terrier men making themselves scarce pretty quickly. The fact they will almost always be masked in some way suggests their need to hide their identity and thus reducing the chance of prosecution.

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Oakley terrier men.

The gamekeepers exemption was never intended to be used in conjunction with a mounted hunt. If a hunt was to chase and mark their quarry to ground and then call in the terrier men to dig out or bolt the animal they are in effect admitting to hunting in breach of the act. Obviously proving this might be nigh on impossible but it will certainly call into question their activities. My local force actually advised me prior to a hunt meet that if we witnessed dogs being used below ground we should call them immediately. A WCO from a different force suggested he would stop the use of terriers if used in conjunction with a hunt however could not stop them if they came back for the hunted animal later on when the hunt has ceased.

Hunted foxes will know their surroundings and look for the quickest route to safety within their territory. This will often be a badger sett – provided the terrier man hasn’t already blocked the entrances of course. This is a traditional job of the terrier man and still regularly takes place. Again evidence of this should be gathered and passed on the the authorities as interference with a sett is an offence under the Protection of Badgers Act. Should a fox go down a badger sett then the protection of the fox becomes a little easier. The sett would need to be proven to be active. This can be done by photographing the entrances. Are they clear of detritus which suggests regular use? Can badger prints be seen in earth? Are there large and fresh spoil heaps or bedding outside the entrances? Further evidence of activity can be gained by the used of a trail cam showing actual footage of the badgers using the sett.

There have been several instances where terrier men have been caught red handed digging into badgers setts in an attempt to get to a fox. They have even left their terriers in the sett in their haste to escape!

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Finally if in doubt call the police. They may be reluctant to attend but call them (on 101) and report it anyway. The more people who start calling the police the better. Don’t get fobbed off, get a crime reference number and chase it up after the event if you don’t get a satisfactory response. Cite your safety concerns if hounds are running around the roads, complain of followers driving dangerously, being aggressive or blocking the highway. Ultimately hunts rarely want the police to attend, it can be a pain in the arse for them to explain themselves and it could save a life.