Posts Tagged ‘Kimblewick Hunt’

If you’ve been keeping up with events on social media you may have noticed Beds & Bucks Hunt Sabs caught the Kimblewick Hunt in the act of cubbing very early on Bank Holiday Monday morning near the village of Adwell in Oxfordshire. You can view the full report here. Someone very actively involved in this illegal activity was a certain Matthew Higgs. I received the following about old Higgsy via email so thought I’d publish so we all know what this guy is all about. I also know Higgsy likes to read this blog as well and while he thinks I’m not such a martyr to my cause he lacks any courage in his own conviction and like many cowards, flatly refuses to acknowledge what he does is illegal and hides behind puerile technicalities. Anyway, enough of that, here’s the article . . .

With two of their members in court in October you might think that the Kimblewick Hunt would be on best behaviour (see here). Not a bit of it. When sabs caught them last on Monday morning they were in perfect cub hunting formation. To the fore was Kimblewick Hunt Committee member Matthew Higgs, smartly attired in his Agrii gilet. (Should he really be wearing workwear at an event like this?). Matthew’s first love, though, is hare hunting.

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Higgs, out cub hunting with the Kimblewick on 26/08/19

Trinity Foot and South Herts Beagles

Higgs became huntsman of the South Herts Beagles in 1986 and master a few years later. When his hunt merged with the neighbouring Trinity Foot in 2003, Higgs assumed control of the new pack and has been main man ever since. The Trinity Foot had close links with Cambridge University so there’s usually a gullible student or two on the mastership. Higgs is a respected hound judge and, in his late fifties, an energetic youngster on the decrepit beagling scene.

The Pack 

The TFSH Beagles meet at 12:30 on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Their pre-season hunting begins mid-September (hence Higgy’s availability on Monday) and usually includes a trip to Northumberland. On their home turf they have several meets around Ivinghoe Beacon and at farms in Ramsey, Silscoe, Cottenham and elsewhere.

Higgs and the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles 

In 2017 Higgs became Chairman of the AMHB – a tiny, extremist group of a couple of hundred people who obsessively campaign for the right to set dogs on hares. The AMHB also try – very unsuccessfully – to encourage children into beagling through their “Young Hare Hunters Days” which have previously been disrupted by hunt sabs. The big question is whether Matthew will replace current Director Lizzie Pinney, who is retiring to spend more time with her hunt cushions.

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Higgs struggles with his phone again – TFSHB 09/02/19

Friends in High Places 

As with all hunting groups, the AMHB board is small but influential. Their list of Vice Presidents includes such luminaries as Tory MP Nicholas Soames, CA President Baroness Mallilieu and Tory peer Lord Annaly (stop sniggering at the back).

Higgs and Hunt Sabs 

As the de facto leader of beagling in the UK, it would be bad form for Higgs to just pack up when sabs attend. Instead, he tends to flash his spray of American jackrabbit scent and embark on a ludicrous and poorly-rehearsed display of “trail hunting”. This involves his wife, Kate, dragging a scented sock around while the hounds chase hares elsewhere.

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After being caught by sabs Kate pretends to lay a trail 09/02/19

Limited Intelligence 

At the Kimblewick on Monday, Higgs was boasting about how much he knows about one of the sabs. This is typical behaviour. Higgs is the AMHB representative on the Council of Hunting Associations who support Tim Bonner’s embarrassing campaign to “expose” hunt sabs. Because of this role, he is one of the few beaglers who attempts to gather intelligence and keeps a folder of sab mugshots in his hound vehicle. He tries to engage sabs in conversation to find out where they are from and is obsessive about getting photos of sabs who don’t mask up.

Managing Decline

Sitting at the top of the AMHB and on the committee of the Kimblewick, Matthew is perfectly positioned to observe the decline of hunting. Several beagle packs fold every season because no one supports them, and the Kimblewick (an unhappy merging of several fox hunts) faces a high-profile trial in the same week as their Opening Meet.

Oh, Matthew, where did it all go wrong ?

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Can you see a pattern emerging? This time with the Old Berkeley Beagles 02/01/19

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.

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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.

It turned out to be quite an eventful week, after writing my initial blog post there was movement on that particular case and the 2 terrier men from the Kimblewick Hunt were charge with causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal. Once this was confirmed I pulled my post as there was no need to rock the apple cart with regards to Thames Valley Police any further.

What was slightly annoying was how the case was reported in the press. The BBC‘s short article was pretty typical with only the most basic of facts reported but it, like most of the others singularly failed to mention that the accused were taking part in an organised hunt and were in fact employees of the Kimblewick.

We can probably imagine the damage limitation exercise currently being undertaken by the that particular hunt as we speak and no doubt the 2 accused will be dropped faster than a hot potato. As usual the so-called Countryside Alliance’s head moron, Timbo Bonner has once again been deathly silent on the matter. One wonders if there’ll be more “bad apples” claims if they get convicted. The whole cider barrel is starting to look significantly acidic. All the fruit in the CA’s sphere would appear to be rotten, but we knew that anyway.

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Moving on from that I finally received the written ruling from the Fitzwilliam case. It was very interesting reading it’s contents as I had missed that day in court due to illness. This will of course provide the basis for any future cases against hunts that pretend to use the Falconry Exemption within the hunting act.

The ruling itself is 15 pages long so I’ll spare you all the details but the most salient points within the ruling were well worth the wait. It defines what is to be considered “flushing” and the differences between that and hunting and how they can, in certain circumstances overlap. It also defines what is “cover”. This was a much argued point in the court case and now both of these have been defined there can be no further disagreements in a court of law. Essentially cover can be pretty much any vegetation and flushing is not pursuing. If the hounds are chasing the animal they are hunting it.

There were also some other interesting points to note:

“Now, we heard some evidence about the history of the Fitzwilliam Hunt and the court understands that the huntsman in this case would want to use the existing pre 2004 infrastructure where possible. However, the Act was designed to change behaviours. Protecting and maintaining the infrastructure for posterity, no matter how laudable, cannot be a legitimate reason to use behaviours which do in fact break the law or do intermittently break the law.”

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George Adams – Guilty

Tradition isn’t a defence for illegal hunting.

Judge Cooper continues:

“We note that the dogs were not called off the chase of the fox at any relevant point, with none of the three controlling riders, including George Adams, even closely present, nor was there any communication between the three of them, nor were any of the three capable of intervening at the moment when the fox met its end . . .”

In normal hunting cases the main point to prove is intent, however in this case the intent would appear to be given and lack of hound control is an offence in itself.

“Now, as the death of the fox demonstrates, we find that as a fact the hounds were not under meaningful control. We note our observation that since 2004 they had not been trained in fact to desist the chase, nor trained to desist from touching the prey if they caught up with it. From the point at which the fox broke away from the copse, to the time the dogs killed the fox, Mr Adams exerted no effective control of the dogs involved in the chase, nor direct others to do so”.

John Mease’s claims that the sabs present on the day were the reason he failed to release the bird were rejected out of hand, leaving the judge to draw his conclusion.

“Now, from the moment the fox – the hounds left the copse in visual pursuit of the fox, they acted in accordance with their breed instinct, as we have been told. They were unchecked and that instinct was to hunt and ultimately kill the fox.

We acknowledge that there might conceivably have been an opportunity earlier to deploy the bird as the fox broke diagonally across the field, but it was the very presence of the dogs, uncontrolled and chasing the fox up the riverbank and across the field that would in practice have prevented John Mease deploying the bird of prey. To the extent that John Mease blames the presence of saboteurs for not doing so, we reject that evidence as a complete account of his failure to slip the bird and, in conclusion, the presence of a bird of prey, close by and ready to join the hunt if the fox did go into open ground, makes no difference to the essential nature of what occurred during those particular five minutes and, in particular, the moment when dogs ran across open ground behind George Adams in pursuit of a visible fox in the open, unchecked by him. So we conclude that this was not exempt hunting, it was hunting by dogs”.

mease

The presence of a BoP does not constitute exempt huning

The final comments will have a profound effect on this particular exemption and I’ll confirm my original assertion that this will indeed be the end of mounted hunts using the falconry exemption.

“Now, the pursuit of a fox by uncontrolled dogs over open ground is behaviour which in itself constitutes the offence. The presence of the bird provides no defence at all”.

Finally we all had a bloody good laugh at the pro-hunting and killing brigade over the weekend with the complete and utter failure of their Countryside Rally in London. Organisers were claiming they were going to get 100,000 people attending and had spent over £17K on organising the event.

That’s a lot of money to spend for the 50 people who actually turned up (and that’s an optimistic number).

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Look at the crowds, oh wait . . .

It was a hot day after all and FieldsportsChannel.tv tried to put a brave face on it and claimed 150 people attended. Even if that was the case it’s still a desperately poor turnout when they were expecting 100,000.

Always nice to end on a high point.

I’ve been kinda lazy recently in the writing department but if you’re a regular reader you’d have guessed that already. I’ve been kinda busy at work and I’d also had a week away on holiday north of the border which was nice as for once the weather up there was a lot better than down south, plus I got climb a mountain which isn’t something you get to do very often.

While I was away the case of the South Herefordshire Hunt fox cub killers finally reached it’s conclusion. Here was a case that had been dragging on as long as my own one against the Fitzwilliam but for very different reasons. The Hunt Investigation Team had secured some very damning evidence against the accused and it did finally get to court although it has now come to light that the reasons behind the delays were insidious to say the least.

There was a concerted effort by some individuals within West Mercia Police to make sure those responsible for the heinous crimes against those fox cubs would never see the inside of a court room. Follow this link for a personal account by Jane Barradale-Smith who is the wife of the officer who received the bodies of the dead foxes.

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The highly questionable warrant issued to search premises

The case was very widely reported in the national press and TV with the main focus not just on the convictions but the totally laughable sentences handed out with probably the best article in the Independent. It’s a sad indictment of our legal system that the people responsible avoided a custodial sentence and were in fact not even banned from keeping animals in the future. This is no deterrent at all and another reason in a long list that we need a complete overhaul of sentencing options for hunting and animal cruelty offences along with judges who are prepared to give the maximum sentences where appropriate.

The so-called Countryside Alliance had kept very tight lipped over the whole affair but once the guilty verdicts was announced they were forced into making a statement and it was predictable to say the least.

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This is of course a load of unmitigated clap trap. Dim Bonner knows full well this isn’t a case of “Bad Apples”, as far as he’s concerned (and no doubt many other hunts around the country) the stupidity he’s referring to is simply that they got caught. This kind of thing is nothing new. Hunts have always historically provided foxes to be hunted and have no doubt been involved in similar activities to the SHH since hunting with hounds began. Lets not forget the Belvoir Hunt had a fox kept in an outbuilding ready to be hunted, a member to the Fitzwilliam was convicted of keeping a fox in a barrel  and last NYD the Kimblewick were filmed dragging a fox from a false earth and throwing it in front of the hounds (which we’ve heard nothing from Thames Valley Police about since).

Speaking of bad apples, below is the statement from a the This is Hunting UK  facebook page.

Statement

Pfft, “untypical” my arse. It’s all very well and good claiming they have nothing to hide but kennel open days are nothing more than promotional stunts designed to encourage more people to come hunting and they certainly won’t get to see what really goes on behind the scenes. If they really want to be open about what they do just publish the meets along with trail maps so we can all go along and watch them follow these mythical trails. Maybe we can ride with a terrier man and ask him what the terriers are for if the hunt is genuinely following a trail and do they really get that much dust up their noses while mending fences that they need to keep their faces covered. And we haven’t even mentioned “Autumn Hunting” (cubbing) yet.

Nothing whatsoever to hide?

What an absolute load of bollox.

SHH images courtesy of HIT.