Posts Tagged ‘League Against Cruel Sports’

Part of our success in securing a prosecution of the Thurlow Hunt pair was in fact the judges ruling that despite their claims of trail laying the reason for their presence in Trundley Wood was in fact the likelihood that they would find a fox there. In this blog post I’m going to elaborate on why this was not just likely to happen but in fact certain to happen.

Much of the work for this post had been done for me by a colleague and fellow witness in the case. It was her video footage along with my own which formed the backbone of the case. The information which I’m now going to publish was submitted as evidence however due to the lack of proof linking it to the huntsman, Chris Amatt, it was never discussed in the court proceedings. However now that it’s all over we can release this and highlight what continues to take place all over the country and not just in Thurlow Country.

“In countries where earths are scarce it is sometimes found necessary to make artificial earths, to provide somewhere for local foxes to have their cubs : in other words, for breeding purposes. Another advantage of artificial earths is that in grass countries where the coverts tend to be small and scattered it is useful to have snug earths judiciously placed at regular intervals, thus persuading foxes to take a good line. An additional advantage is that if an artificial earth is left open, it will only take a few minutes to bolt a fox. Also if it is a blank day, one knows where to go with some certainty of finding a fox . . . In this book I only wish to touch on the subject, and to tell you what my grandfather had to say. He felt that artificial earths should be primarily intended as breeding establishments, and so among the chief points to be borne in mind should be the aspect, position, soil, drainage and materials used for their construction”. – Exert from Fox Hunting, The Duke of Beaufort, published by David & Charles, 1980

For those that don’t know artificial earths are structures built and maintained by hunts to provide shelter and breeding places for foxes. Their sole purpose is to ensure a good supply of foxes ready for the hunting season. They are most often constructed of pipes buried underground, leading to a central bedding chamber. The chambers can be elaborately built with brick or drystone walls.

There are 2 artificial earths in Trundley Wood.

artificial earths

1

The picture above shows the entrance to artificial earth 1. This is a pretty standard arrangement and there is another entrance of the other side of the mound in the picture. Between these 2 entrances is the central bedding chamber. You can just see the edge of this in the picture below.

chambre 1.jpg

This artificial earth would appear to be perfectly serviceable. The picture below shows the pipe to be dry and clear of any obstructions.

pipe 1

Below is the entrance to artificial earth 2.

2

Once again the entrance is clear of obstructions and would appear to be serviceable for use.

tunnel 2

Interestingly the League Against Cruel Sports published the location of this earth in an investigation they carried out in 2011. You can clearly see the earth here and the area it covers. The photograph was clearly taken only a short time after it’s construction and a clear indication the Thurlow Hunt were still undertaking activities to encourage foxes several years after the ban had been in place.

lacs pic

They noted in their report: “The earth is in a wood owned by the Thurlow Estate, one of whose directors is a joint Master of the Thurlow Foxhounds. Trundley Wood is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest by English Nature because of its ancient, semi-natural woodland.”

Let’s face it, most, if not all hunt staff are likely to know where to find foxes, especially if those locations are static and built by the estate themselves. All they have to do is rock up at any of these locations during a hunt and theirs a pretty good chance the hounds will pick up on a fox to hunt. If you’re the Kimblewick you’ll have the terrier men make sure there’s a fox a home the night before and hold it there over night to be released in front of the hounds the next day.

These aren’t isolated incidents. There are artificial earths all over our countryside and they are still very much in use by both foxes and the hunts who maintain them. In the Thurlow case it was highly likely the hounds picked up on the scent of the poor animal and it was attempting to seek refuge in one of these earths when it was caught and killed. No doubt had it reached one of the earths and we had not been on the scene, the terrier men for the hunt would have been called in the flush the animal so it could be hunted again.

Make no mistake, the so called Countryside Alliance can continue to claim that hunts are obeying the law but the simple fact of the matter is we all know different and the very presence of artificial earths on hunt owned lands only strengthens this argument. The Thurlow Hunt are prodigious artificial earth builders. In their relatively small hunt country there are 31 known artificial earths. They must have a lot of foxes to hunt. While the evidence submitted here was’t actually used in the case itself it is a clear indication that the hunt knew very well they would find a fox in Trundley Wood, in fact they were relying on it.

 

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.

fogle

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

email 2.png

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.

On Monday (1/8) the trustees of the League Against Cruel Sports voted unanimously to keep their investigation team and in doing so overruled the intentions of the current senior management team. This is of course fabulous news not only for those who had their jobs on the line but also for our wildlife which needs all the help it can get from those who wish to do it harm in the most heinous manner.

I have no doubt that the public outcry and huge number of complaints the trustees received would have played a significant part in their decision making and everyone who took the time to contact them should be proud of the role they played. Public opinion should never be underestimated and as a charity which relies on the generosity of said public the risk of losing a large part of their revenue stream was simply too great. I had many people contact me and declare that should the investigations team be removed then they would be sending their donations elsewhere.

So what next?

Current CEO Eduardo Goncalves is still on long term sick leave however can still be seen regularly on twitter. Current acting head Philipa King (who I wrote about here) is being labelled as CEO in the most recent press releases however she would seem to be in a somewhat difficult situation having been completely undermined by the trustees and clearly has no idea what it really takes to run LACS or indeed even a real stomach for the fight. Whatever the outcome I hope that the recent restrictions placed on the investigations team will be removed and they can be completely let of the leash so they can effectively get on with the job of bringing more of these repeat offending criminal hunts to justice.

 

League_Against_Cruel_Sports_logo.svg_

Today, Thursday 21st July MP’s will debate a ban on the manufacture, possession and use of snares in the UK. The motion was tabled by Labour MP for Lewisham West and Penge, Jim Dowd. The text of the motion is as follows:

“That this House notes the indiscriminate and cruel nature of snares, the failure of previous attempts at voluntary and self-regulation amongst operators, and the continued suffering caused to thousands of animals every year by these traps; and calls on the Government to implement a full ban on the manufacture, sale, possession and use of snares at the earliest opportunity.”

Now regular readers of this blog will know of my personal hatred of these devices along with all the other cruel and indiscriminate devices of death in the arsenal of the gamekeepers employed by shooting estates across our green and sometimes not-so-pleasant land. The text of the motion is spot on. There is no self-regulation amongst the users and, by-and-large that’s because they are often well out of the way of prying eyes and there is little chance of discovery. And let’s face it, gamekeepers don’t do the job they do because they have concerns for animal welfare.

According to figures from Defra’s own studies 1.7 million animals fall victim to snares in the UK every year. 1.7 million, that’s a pretty bloody big number by anyone’s reckoning. Imagine all that wildlife that wouldn’t have to suffer . . . and it’s not only wildlife that suffers, domestic pets are often caught and, if not discovered will also end up on a stink pit or thrown away somewhere discrete so they aren’t discovered by their owners.

There are 2 types of snare, the self locking which is illegal to use (but still turn up) and the free running which is intended to only hold the victim until the keeper comes along and smashes it’s head in with a blunt instrument. The animals caught suffer huge distress, continually pulling against the device and causing themselves horrendous injuries, some animals will even attempt to gnaw their own limbs off in an effort to escape. They are so cruel even badger hater and previous Secretary for the Environment Owen Paterson MP (remember him?) said this: “I am completely convinced that trapping and snaring are hideously cruel”.

I almost had to have a lay down after reading that.

Animals at Risk Snaring Infographic

Graphic courtesy of LACS

Now no doubt there will be lots of shouting in their defence from the shooting industry along with bogus claims that they provide a service to the environment and in fact have a positive impact on biodiversity but we all know that is complete codswallop. Shooting estates, be they Pheasant, Partridge or Grouse are black holes for our wildlife, in particular mammalian predators and birds of prey. All these species are persecuted relentlessly and banning snares will be one small step in the battle to save more of our native species. Some species like the Hen Harrier are now virtually extinct from England, this is solely due to the persecution they face at the hands of the shooting industry, an industry which takes everything and yet puts back nothing. Here’s reminder from my own story, Woodland of Death.

 

I watched the debate, Jim Dowd put forward a compelling argument despite the best attempts from some parties who’s ignorance was beyond a joke. The new Parliamentary Under of Secretary of State for DEFRA, Dr Thérèse Coffey, responded by saying a new code of conduct will be published. Really? What’s the point in that? The old code of conduct was never adhered to and I doubt this one will be. So if you’re out and about in our countryside and you see one of these devices . . . well, you know what to do.

Petition to ban snares.

Petition to ban Driven Grouse Shooting.

Jim Dowd

Jim Dowd during the debate.