Posts Tagged ‘League Against Cruel Sports’

If you’re a follower of my regular ramblings you’ll be wondering why it’s been so quiet over the last few weeks. I’ve been on my holidays watching Eagles, Otters and Pine Marten on the West coast of Scotland and after the shambles that is Brexit and English politics in general I put some serious consideration in staying north of the border and ordering a kilt. But I’m back and what a busy news time it’s been so I’ll get right on it.

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First up was the investigation and subsequent arrest of members from the South Herefordshire Hunt for their unimaginable cruelty to the fox cubs they threw to their hounds. We’ve always known hunts breed foxes but this is the proof of the brutal levels to which they’ll stoop. This was a fine job by the Hunt Investigation Team in difficult circumstances and hopefully these savages will face the full force of the law although I suspect any sentence, once proven guilty won’t be enough. The pro hunt side have been very quiet on the issue with some mutterings from the Countryside Alliance using words like “isolated incident” but then we all know the reality and with any luck the hunt will now cease to exist and vanish under it’s own cloud of disgrace.

Then hot on the heel of this revelation was the release of footage gained from another independent investigation centred around the Pytchley Hunt. Many hours of undercover work and hidden cameras proved once again that hunts were far from providing some sort of wildlife management service. Again fox cubs were removed from the vixen (who was most likely killed) and kept in a secluded location, fed and watered, although caged for some time. Once the hunting season came about these same foxes were to provide the sick enjoyment hunters demand. Terriermen can be seen sending dogs down and flushing the foxes so they can be hunted.

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Full video can be seen here.

These incidents completely explode all the myths hunters and their supporters constantly spout regarding their legality and justification. Further to this you may wish to contact the BBC and ask why they are featuring hunts on their Sunday evening prime time TV show Countryfile. You can sign the petition and find out more here. To be honest the BBC should have named the show National Farmers Union Weekly and it covers little of what really occurs in our countryside and the promotion of the illegal activities carried out by hunts is not what I pay my TV license for.

And finally if you needed any more proof of the mentality of these people here’s a lovely post from the Ban Hunt Saboteurs facebook page regarding the announcement that Bill Oddie is the new President of LACS.

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Making fun of mental illness is neither big nor clever but then I’ve come to expect such vitriol from these vile people. I’ve met Bill several times and he’s a champion for our wildlife and certainly not afraid to tell it like it is. Our wildlife is under threat now more than ever, be it raptor persecution by shooting estates, the continued needless slaughter of our badgers and the organised crime that is hunting with hounds. It’s time to get involved.

UPDATE: It would seem the Pytchley Hunt have withdrawn from Countryfile Live. Well done to all those who contacted the BBC. There will be more revelations regarding the Pytchley revealed in due course.

For the second installment of guest contributions to my blog I’m pleased to welcome Joe Hashman, the man behind the hugely successful ‘Hounds Off’. Here Joe will explain everything you need to know about Hounds Off, from concept to fruition.

In Spring 2010 a Tory landslide seemed imminent and, naturally, fears about the future of the Hunting Act occupied much of my mind. The challenge was (and remains) to find a way to stop hunting which can be effective regardless of what the law says. What became Hounds Off was an idea. Or rather, a collection of ideas.

I’m pretty convinced that the hunting community knows full well that having land to tally-ho over is essential. “Country” (as they call it) is central to everything they do and having access to it is jealously guarded. Despite hunting with hounds truly being a minority pastime, the unspeakable minority operates a well oiled machine which facilitates their animal abuses of choice even though technically they’re outlawed.

Back to the idea.

“Hounds Off Our Wildlife”. The HSA used to have a black and white poster with those words on complete with images of deer, fox, hare and otter. It was a straight-forward and simple poster but it struck a chord the first time I saw it.

“Hounds Off Our Wildlife”. That’s HOWL, the radical, informative, inspirational, ground-breaking, often entertaining voice of the Hunt Saboteurs Association.

Hounds Off Our Wildlife. Hounds Off. This is what we want. Short, sharp, to the point. Does what it says on the tin, kind of thing. Did the HSA object? I asked the Committee. No they said. Carry on.

After quite a lot of meetings with colleagues and close friends it was decided that a website would be the best vehicle for delivering the Hounds Off message. The plan remains to create as many no hunting nature reserves as possible, including all sorts of land; from whole estates and farms to smallholdings and back yards. We wanted universal access to the information needed to do this effectively, autonomously and with no-strings. The Internet provides an ideal platform and so www.houndsoff.co.uk was born.

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The concept of creating hunt-free zones is not new. The League Against Cruel Sports started buying sanctuary land in the West Country in the 1950’s, principally to disrupt stag hunting. The counter-concept of preserving hunting rights had earlier seen the formation of companies who sole purpose was to support bloodsports. In reality, Royalty has been dictating over hunting preserves for centuries. Today a whole structure exists to exert the power and control of that influential, criminal minority who like to hunt. Not everybody knows about this ‘system’ but it’s real. Anyone who has crossed their line knows about it, that’s for sure; the bullying, the ostracising, the undermining, the dismissing, the evicting. Rural peer pressure can be intense.

So where does Hounds Off come in? Well, Hounds Off empowers people. For anyone affected by hunt trespass (or the threat of it), we really do provide the information and tools needed to protect property, livestock and pets. Alongside bringing together a community of related minds to stand united on this issue in real life and via social media, the aims and objectives of Hounds Off today genuinely are as simple as this. Looking to the future, if you believe as I do that “available country” is a major factor in deciding whether or not a Hunt can exist, then squeezing them in that area makes perfect sense.

For Sabs and other front-line campaigners, Hounds Off is another tool in your kitbag which can be used to scupper bloodsports and save lives. You’re meeting the outraged public, disgruntled locals, beleaguered landowners and farmers who have had enough. Please use www.houndsoff.co.uk as a resource where you can suggest folk go to find support and solutions to the problem of hunt trespass. The Action & Advice pages (Warn Off Your Local Hunt) are especially crucial!

Last autumn I was working in a wood which belongs to a Hounds Off landowner. One of my fellow volunteers told me he was living off-grid in a bender under a hedge on land owned by friends who were new to the area. The local Hunt had run their hounds through his encampment and the new owners could do nothing to prevent it. Turns out that, deep within the conditions of sale, rights to hunt over that land were protected. You can be sure similar arrangements are being made elsewhere. Aside from ongoing efforts to repeal the law, I’ve no doubt that anything and everything which could obstruct hunting in the future is being ‘dealt with’ or neutralised, often quietly and behind the scenes. This includes ensuring access to as much land as possible via sporting rights, deeds and covenants. Remember, without available country any hunt is knackered.

The best thing I can tell you is that, since launching in September 2010, Hounds Off has helped people across the UK and thousands of new acres of hunt-free land has been established. Where hunt-related problems persist so our support remains ongoing. The Hounds Off philosophy is simple and based on people power. Hounds Off is about being strong at our roots, resolute, standing with our friends united and, yes, these tactics are effective!

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Have a look at the accompanying diagram called “How To Make Friends & Influence People”. It’s not theory – it comes from the my experiences of how Hounds Off is working on the ground and shows how cultivating relationships between Sabs, Monitors and the public can benefit us all, including (most importantly) abused wildlife. See what you think and how you could make it relavent for your group. Most importantly, personalise it. Make Hounds Off your own and www.houndsoff.co.uk an asset which you use.

The last few weeks of the hunting season are always the most stressful. The hunted wildlife will be breeding and the females pregnant so unable to escape with ease. The hunts will be desperate to kill something, as the season drags on and with the success of sabs and monitors restricting their efforts they become more and more hostile. We’ve had requests from new sabs keen to get involved but we never take inexperience people out at this time of year and the reason for this was perfectly highlighted by the incident which tool place yesterday (12/3/16) where two hunt monitors from the League Against Cruel Sports were viciously beaten by thugs from the Belvoir hunt. Both men needed hospital treatment with one man actually sustaining a fractured neck.

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Ex-police officer Darryl Cunnington (photo From The Telegraph)

Roger Swaine and his colleague Darryl Cunnington were attacked and their cameras stolen. The men responsible were riding quads and wearing balaclavas. LACS monitors are completely law abiding, they are there to gather evidence of illegal activity through nothing more than filming the hunts. This is their job. More details regarding the assault can be found here.

Eduardo Gonçalves, Chief Executive for League Against Cruel Sports said:  “Our number one priority is the wellbeing of our injured staff and I am on my way to visit them now.

“We are all shocked by the violence of the Belvoir Hunt followers and this barbaric thuggery must not go unpunished. Our courageous investigators play a critical role in peacefully monitoring and enforcing the anti-hunting law that some people consider themselves to be above.

“Clearly some hunt followers are not satisfied with violence against our wildlife. They now satisfy their bloodlust by attacking people.”

This is the same hunt which I reported on some weeks ago which had a fox captive in a farm outbuilding which was more than likely to be released in front of the hunt which was meeting a short distance away (see here). Perhaps this beating was some sort of revenge against LACS for ruining their fun as the investigator for that incident was none other than Darryl Cunnington. Regardless of the motives it is obvious that any person or organisation willing to resort to this level of violence has no place in modern society. It perfectly highlights the mentality of these people. Not satisfied with abusing wildlife they take the short leap to abusing people.

As film is emerging of the emergency services attending to Darryl then so do the comments on social media. Once again the hunting fraternity are showing what they are really made of with some seriously unnecessary not to mention ignorant comments. A few below:

Mark Halford: Typical EMT sensationalism. According to Leicestershire police he was released after treatment for minor injuries. He most likely slipped on a cow pat while trespassing.

Chris Bird: got what he deserved then didn’t he.

Helen Pacey Was Kerr: Sab attack on fellow Sab haha…. Looks like belvoir wood!

 

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Sharon Roscoe – Member of the Belvoir Hunt and WCO.

Leicestershire police now have to step up to the mark. They have been under some scrutiny recently with regard to their policing of hunts and this includes the revelation that their Wildlife Crime Officer, Sharon Roscoe is actually a member of the Belvoir Hunt. How that isn’t a conflict of interest is quite frankly beyond me. This officer is openly supporting an illegal act, and yet also responsible for policing it. Something very amiss here and how Leicestershire police can justify keeping her in the post remains a mystery.

At the time of writing two men had been arrested and released on bail pending further enquiries.

Just to round things off it would seem that a follower of the Belvoir also ran over a member of the public’s dog. Madeleine Bedward sent an open letter regarding the incident to the hunt which can be viewed here. Of course the hunt remains tight lipped and the Countryside Alliance are conspicuous by their silence although no doubt they’ll come up with some highly spun nonsense in due course.

My best wishes go to Roger , Darryl and Madeleine. I also hope some good will come of this although I’m not going to put any money on it.

Sign the petition to remove Sharon Roscoe from her post here.

After the lows of the Christmas break it was good to get back to winning ways by messing up the Bicester hunt with Whaddon Chase last weekend, eight of us did a fine job against a big and nasty hunt (including stopping a dig out) although I shall never get used to the sound of hounds in full cry. It sends a shiver down my spine every time, knowing that, at any moment an animal could be about to lose it’s life in the most grisly of fashions.

I’ve had some very interesting conversations with those concerned with law enforcement as well as investigators from LACS and a Barrister who’s prosecuted those breaking the Hunting Act in the past. My neighbours must be wondering what the hell is going on, the last two weekend have seen the boys in blue in my front room taking statements and discussing hunting on several occasions. The New Years Day incident certainly gained a lot of media attention including national newspapers as well as coverage on local BBC and ITV. This has put pressure on the police to investigate properly and I’m hopeful that we can gain a conviction. Obviously I can’t say too much for legal reasons but the feedback has been positive so far.

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This bird wasn’t very happy at all.

The officer from Boxing Day (PC Pete Mills) has also taken a statement and while this is unlikely to proceed any further it certainly highlighted failings within the system as to how hunts are policed. We had an open and frank discussion and he’s going to suggest several options to his senior officers, most notably regarding the presence of terrier men which obviously begs the question, why do trail hunts need them? Of course well all know the real answer but it seems the message is getting across to the boys in blue.

Another interesting point to note regarding one of the loopholes used by hunts is the Bird of Prey exemption. Lots of hunts went out and purchased birds when the ban came in to force which they could them claim to be using to hunt the fox once it had been flushed by the hounds. There are several major issues with this, lets take a look.

Type of bird used, is it fit for purpose?

I’ve seen various types of birds being used including Eagle Owls and Steppe Eagles but realistically there is only one that’s available that would be capable of hunting a fox, and even then this is questionable. The Golden Eagle is native to the UK and has a huge international range and is an impressive creature. Northern European birds tend to be larger than their southern cousins and the females can be up to 30% larger than the males. This would make them the only option however they’re also much more desirable as a hunting bird so therefore command a much higher price. The weight of a male bird averages about 8lb but females can go up to 15lb (11-12lb average) with the largest recorded female weighing in at a hefty 17lb. Every eagle I’ve seen at a hunt has been a male, and some in quite a poor state.

In the wild their natural prey would be rabbits, hares, game and sea birds. They’d also scavenge on the carcasses of deer and have been seen attacking them in the hope the fall and injure themselves as they have no hope of killing such a large animal outright. Highland farmers blame them for predating on lambs and while I have seen them with lambs the numbers taken are fairly small. A fox however is a completely different ball game. While a large bird does have the capability it would chose a prey species that wasn’t capable of fighting back. In the wild the risk of injury would be too great.

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Do you think it’s legal to drive on public roads with a BoP on your arm?

Has there even been a recorded case of a BoP catching a fox after it has been flushed?

Simple answer – No.

Not once, ever. Certainly not that I’m aware of. Now you’d think with all those hunts using birds there’d be at least one occasion but it just hasn’t happened. We can only deduce from this that they are in fact merely for show and they’re hunting as they did before the ban.

So what do the Hawk Board say about this?

For an organisation with strong links to the Countryside Alliance you’d think they’d be on side however the reality is quite different. Back in 2005 the then chairman, Jim Chick gave this quote:

“This is bringing the sport into disrepute.

Many of the hunts are using people to handle the birds who have just been on a short course. You are not competent to handle a large bird of prey after a short course.

Secondly, a fox is not a recognised quarry for a bird of prey. It is a large animal and cannot be easily subdued so there is a big ethical issue over whether they should be used.

An eagle is possessive and once it has caught a fox it will not let go. If the hounds are then brought in they could attack the eagle and a hound could be blinded or killed.”

In 2008 the Hawkboard spokesman Nick Kester said this:

“The Hawk Board is vehemently opposed to the use of birds of prey for fox hunting. We disapprove entirely. Birds of prey and hunting with hounds are not compatible.”

I’m sure their feelings haven’t changed over the years especially when the organisation is also deeply concerned with the welfare of birds which spend long hours in a box on a quad bike or being driven round the countryside at speed on the arm of their handler.

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Is this any way to treat a majestic eagle?

Is it practical to use a BoP in conjunction with hounds?

Obviously the Hawk Board don’t think so but let’s look beyond the ethics and discuss the actual hunting.

To use the BoP exemption effectively the bird has to be unhooded and in a position to hunt. This would mean in front of the hounds in an area where the quarry is most likely to break cover. The very fluid and dynamic nature of fox hunting means this is almost impossible. Throw in a whole gaggle of riders with no experience of a BoP and you’ll start to get the picture.

There’s also the issue with the environment. Eagles need a lot of space to hunt effectively. Their preferred method in the wild is to stoop on their prey from height, gaining the speed and necessary power to surprise and overwhelm their prey. A clever prey animal will also use this against them, turning at the last minute to throw off the angle of attack. Many attacks will in fact be unsuccessful.

Flying from the falconers arm will mean the bird will have to generate it’s own speed without gravity to assist them. Any fox making for wooded areas will find safety as no eagle would follow them in as they simple wouldn’t have the space to maneuver and risk potential injury.

Just imagine for a moment that a fox is flushed and the bird is release and it catches the fox. Can you imagine the absolute carnage when the hounds caught up with the eagle and the fox, which would no doubt be putting up quite a struggle? I’ve yet to see a huntsman that can call off hounds once they’re in full cry and close behind a fox. It really doesn’t bear thinking about.

Should the BoP exemption be removed from the Hunting Act?

Yes, no question.

It’s pointless. The whole purpose of the exemption has been used for nefarious means and those who practice falconry within the spirit of it’s original aims think the same. The use of BoP in conjunction with hunting with hounds should never be allowed, it’s a disaster waiting to happen but ultimately a disaster that will never happen due to the fact that no hunt will actually use a BoP in the manner that it was intended, they’re there just for show and nothing more. I have a feeling a case will come to light that will render this exemption obsolete when it comes to a point of law. This will effectively mean every BoP purchased by hunts will then become redundant along with the people who handle them.

Lets hope the birds don’t end up the same way most hounds do after they’re past their hunting best.