Posts Tagged ‘Trail Hunting’

The increasingly pointless so-called Countryside Alliance are still banging on about trail hunting even after their disastrous video which I took apart in my last blog post. This time they’ve produced a Q&A page on their website which is no doubt designed to encourage people to go hunting. In light of the recent prosecution of the Kimblewick pair and their sentencing on the 26th of last month (see here) they are clearly on a massive damage limitation exercise but as most people are probably aware of the reality by now they are effectively only preaching to their own converted.

Now of course what they’ve written is complete hogwash so I thought I’d counter it with something a little more truthful using their own questions, so here goes.

Q: What is trail-hunting and when does it take place?

Trail hunting is a myth, nothing more than a convenient alibi created by the hunting community when the hunting of live quarry with hounds was banned in 2005. It takes place all over the countryside where foxes and hares live. (see full report by IFAW here)

Q: When did trail-hunting become a regular activity?

In 2005 after the ban.

Q: Who goes trail-hunting?

Bumpkins, blood junkies and those stupid enough to believe in the propaganda spouted by the CA claiming its legality.

Q: What is the difference between trail-hunting and drag hunting?

Trail hunting is a myth, drag hunting is an actual thing. There is either a drag soaked in a substance like aniseed or it is “clean boot”, a runner is used and the hounds (normally bloodhounds for clean boot) set off after them at a predetermined time. Live quarry are not hunted.

Q: How does the trail get laid and what scent is used?

A trail rarely ever gets laid at all and if it does its usually only to put on a bit of a show and provide the hunt with some sort of legal protection. Someone on a horse will probably wave a bit of string about with a muddy old rag on the end. Most of the time this isn’t even on the floor. Sometimes it’ll be on the back of a quad, quite often behind the actual hounds (see below).

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Typical trail layer in action

Q: Who decides where to lay the trail?

Santa Clause, the Easter bunny or the Tooth Fairy.

Q: How do the hounds know where to look for the trail?

They don’t. The huntsman will cast them into areas likely to contain their intended live quarry and certainly nowhere that a trail could have possibly been laid.

Q: Do hounds sometimes pick up the scent of a live fox and, if so, what happens?

Yes very often, mainly because that’s what they want to happen. The hounds will hunt the fox and be encouraged or “hunted on” by the huntsman. If sabs are present they will try and save the fox.

Q: Why do people go trail-hunting?

They are either too stupid to understand the reality of the situation or indeed fully understand and just like killing sentient mammals for fun. They suffer from something called Cognitive Dissonance or they just lack the empathy required to not feel bad about what the do.

Q: How does anybody know when the hounds have found a trail?

Usually when they go “in cry”. They will have found the scent of the trail (fox) and will now be actively hunting it. They will make a chilling baying sound.

Q: Does the trail follow a specified route?

Foxes will run in directions which gives them the best chance of outpacing the hounds and escaping. They will often go to ground if they can. However the hunts terrier men would have probably filled in any likely escape holes like badger setts. This is also illegal. If a fox does find a hole in which to hide in the terrier men will be called by the huntsman to either dig it out or flush it in front of the hounds for more hunting. Why are there terrier men on trail hunts? Why indeed.

Q: Does the trail-layer want to make it easy for the hounds to find and follow the trail?

If that means going through impenetrable brambles, thick coverts, over roads and railways then certainly not because that’s where the hounds tend to end up running. You’d think the trail layer would be a bit more careful.

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A typical trail

Q: What happens if the hounds lose the scent?

The fox survives and escapes.

Q: What scent is used for the trail?

Nothing normally although in the last CA video they appeared to be using Lucozade. As a side note it’s actually illegal to spread a biological waste product over the countryside.

Q: Is trail-hunting legal and humane?

Well, if they actually followed a trail it would be legal. Humane? Ask the hounds and horses.

Q: Who wants to stop trail-hunting taking place?

If it actually took place no-one would be bothered but since it’s just a convenient smoke screen then any compassionate wildlife lovers with a “can do” attitude.

Q: Do the hunt followers still dress the same to go trail-hunting as they did when they went traditional hunting?

Pretty much yes. There is the classic bumpkin uniform. Barbour coat, checked shirt, tie, flat cap, ruddy complexion and a heart attack in waiting.

Q: How can I get involved in trail-hunting?

You can’t. The hunts are so secretive now you have to be recommended by someone within the hunt and as they are shunned by normal people in society the only new members are those they breed themselves and brain wash into thinking this outdated behaviour is acceptable.

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The Kimblewick’s trail layer.

The so-called Countryside Alliance love to harp on about sabs putting edited video’s up on social media and calling them fake news. So not to be out done they’ve put up their own little video on the CA’s Facebook page about ‘Trail Hunting‘, yes I know what you’re thinking but for the benefit of what follows let’s just assume it’s actually a thing. Full video can be seen below [Edit or it would if the CA hadn’t removed it after I took it apart]

When you put up any video there needs to be some sort of point of reference if it’s to be considered even remotely credible. Dates and the location of the footage are simple to show and prove with some sort of overall context on the filming. I’m going to break things down and show what an utterly ham fisted attempt at pro trail hunting propaganda this really is.

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1 – This statement is vague at best. Quarry based scent. What is that exactly and how did they obtain it? The picture shows someone pouring what would appear to be Lucozade on the end of a whip. Note the green grass. This could have been (and probably was) filmed on a different day at a different location to the hunt they later refer to in the video. As any kind of proof it’s utterly worthless. We don’t see the rider or the person applying the sugary drink. There’s also no time frame or location.

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2 – The Dedicated Trail Layer. Just have a look at the environment. We have a well maintained hedge plus 2 fields which have been harvested and are bare. Not looking much like where the Lucozade was poured on the whip but more of that later. They could have of course traveled some distance but without any knowledge of the substance and how long it lasts again, it’s meaningless. I think we can safely assume this field is nowhere near the one in the next few frames.

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3 – Hounds are looking for the trail. Surely a better term would be search, if a trail was there they would have their noses to the ground, hounds can’t see a trail, they hunt by smell. Also notice how the environment has suddenly changed to a fairly steep sided valley with a line of thick scrub at the bottom. Just the sort of place you’d find, oh, say a fox? Clearly this wasn’t shot at the same time or location as the so called trail laying video.

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4 – This frame is only a few on from the previous and yet it claims that sabs have seen a fox which the hounds haven’t. Considering the hounds would traditionally hunt by scent they wouldn’t in fact be looking for a fox anyway. They’d pick up the scent first and only once within visual range would they start to course the animal.

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5 – Now we’re really getting into the realms of fantasy land. The single purpose of being a sab is to save the lives of the hunted animal. Doing what they are claiming goes against the very essence of what we as sabs are there to do. This is something the CA and the hunting community simply can’t get a grasp of. If ever there was a statement of fake news then this is it. It’s an utter fabrication with no basis in truth and they have no evidence to back up their claims.

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6 – It just gets better and better . . . here’s a great shot of a sab cracking his whip. They do this to stop the hounds. If we simply wanted to catch them hunting on camera we’d do nothing at all and let them get on with it (which is what monitors do) and yet the video shows a sab demonstrating some basic skills in stopping hounds.

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7 – Hahahaha . . . sorry I can’t help myself. We get filmed ALL THE TIME. It’s never stopped us from what we do and this is the best they can come up with? The reason the horn stopped blowing was because in this instance the fox had got away, I’m just teasing you now but all will become clear.

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8 – This is probably the most accurate statement on the whole video. I’ve already explained the purpose of the whips and shouting at hounds is called ‘rating’, something the hunt staff will also do if they wish to stop the hounds. In this image the hounds have been called away from the line they were on as you can see them with the sabs. Also in this section you’ll see 2 quads (1 out of shot to the right in this still). One of them is the hunt terrier man. What would be his purpose in a legitimate trail hunt? As far as I’m aware terriers are unable to mend fences.

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9 – Toxic chemicals. One has to wonder what evidence they have that the image shows someone spraying a toxic chemical. The answer is very simple, they have none. To believe this utter guff you have to be significantly challenged in the brain cell department. It’s been well documented what’s used to cover a scent line so I won’t waste any more of my time on it.

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10 – The image shown is utterly irrelevant and bears no relationship to what has gone before. It’s just a bit of what we call in the industry a B-roll, a meaningless bit of filler footage to hold interest. The problem they have is that the statement is once again easily dismissed due to the lack of any evidence. How many hounds have been treated by vets after being on a hunt where they have become ill? What is this mystery illness that affects them? Surely if this was genuine and attributed to toxic chemicals the CA themselves would have been shouting about it long before now and there would be detailed records. The only time hounds were infected with anything and had to be destroyed was when the disgraced Kimblewick pack all got bTB from eating infected meat.

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11 – Wait, hang on, we seem to have jumped back in time again to the incident we were watching earlier. Anyone with any knowledge of video production will know that the best way to get something across is to make it easy for the viewer to follow, keep the flow and tell a story with a beginning a middle and of course an end. The creators were so obsessed with a bit of random sab bashing they forgot the basics by throwing in the random footage shown in example 10. I’m also looking at a selection of hounds quite close together, they don’t look too scattered to me.

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12 – The final statement. Design and layout is important in any sort of PR and that includes video. There are some basics which are easily followed and this breaks several rules. First off you should never leave a single word hanging on a line on it’s own at the end of a statement. They do this twice and it looks dreadful. Single words in a line with centred text is another. If you can’t fit something on a line just drop the size of the font or just don’t put it all in caps. Sometimes less is more, you also don’t have to write everything in caps. Finally and best of all, USE A SPELL CHECKER. Oh my oh my. There really is no excuse for this one, “aggrevated”, surely they mean aggravated?

They are correct in their assertion that trail hunting is not illegal but as I’ll show you next that’s not what actually took place. The makers also have no proof or evidence that either their claims took place. For aggravated trespass to be claimed those trespassing have to have interfered with a legal activity. Surely if this was the case the police would be investigating and let’s face it, they generally have no issues with arresting sabs on bogus claims. Did they even make any complaints to that effect – of course not.

Now the reality.

On the day in question I was actually there. It was a joint operation with Beds & Bucks Sabs and North Cambs Sabs involved. It occurred on the 28th September 2019 and the hunt was the Fernie. The area was around Saddington and Mowsly. The area where much of this takes place is in the valley where Laughton brook runs roughly north west parallel to the Mowsly to Saddington road. As you can see by the environment and the fact the riders are wearing rat catchers it was Autumn hunting, more commonly known as cubbing. Now there’s some nice context for you.

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The image above shows the huntsman with another rider. The hounds had recently been speaking and searching for something hidden in the scrub next to the brook. You can see them looking with interest in that direction while other hounds are actually in there still actively working. You should also note that these riders are on the other side of the scrub shown in the stills 3, 4 and 5. Surely if they were following the laid trail they would have been on the other side? Moments after this a brace of foxes were flushed just out of shot on the left of what you see here.

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I managed to film the second fox flee from our side of the brook, with the hounds in hot pursuit. What’s significant here is the complete and utter lack of any hunt staff. Surely if they were hunting a trail they would be very keen to stop the hounds if they did pick up on live quarry and yet here they were, putting hounds into an area likely to contain foxes and letting them actively hunt it. It was only the actions of sabs further to my left (out of shot) which stopped them. The sab cracking the whip in image 6 is one from my own group.

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This is an image of the first fox. This broke on the other side of the brook, ran up the hill right in front of a hunt rider (probably the one in their video) and escaped over the hill. The hounds didn’t pick up on the line of this one, mainly because the sabs there had taken them away from its line.

The CA will openly admit they are losing the social media battle. There are 2 main reasons for this. Firstly we have overwhelming public support. No matter how hard they try the general public will never support cruelty or believe their lies. Secondly, and this is the big one . . . they are utterly hopeless at it.

If this is the best the CA can do with all of their resources I suggest they give up now. I’m still laughing.

So after the revelations of the Kimblewick throwing a fox in front of the hounds story I covered last week and our little visit to them over the weekend it was interesting to note the amount of public feeling arising from this issue.

Our Facebook page receives lots of messages from the general public and those regarding the Kimblewick are probably more common than most. This hunt, like most, certainly seem to believe they are above not only the law but are happy to bully and harass the public and make it known they will do whatever they want regardless of public feeling. It was quite interesting to note that they are certainly not getting everything their own way and local people are starting to speak up against them.

We always advise people to call the police on 101 and report illegal hunting if they believe it to be taking place and we received several reports of the hunt out again yesterday (14/01/19 – don’t these people have proper jobs?) and they were in fact reporting this to the police.

Thames Valley Police (Aylesbury Vale) then felt it necessary to publish a post on their own social media page with some information. It’s quite long but worth reading so here’s a screen shot for you:

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What I’m going to do is break down the statement and highlight what they’ve got right and indeed wrong.

The first paragraph is all pretty standard stuff and I doubt there will be any real questions asked. What I will say is I’ve dealt with TVP several times in the past and they haven’t exactly left me feeling confident in their understanding of the law or indeed their willingness to uphold it in terms of wildlife legislation. While probably not the same officer a Wildlife Crime Officer from TVP did think it was legal to dig out and kill a fox from a badger sett a couple of seasons ago, something I witnessed while undercover monitoring of the Bicester with Whaddon Chase Hunt.

Point 1 – No argument here although the description of Trail Hunting seems to accept this is a “sport”. For a sport there has to be at least 2 sides which compete against each other. Not sure this really applies.

Point 2 – I love this one “…ask to speak to someone in charge”. Let’s face it if the hunt are chasing a fox they’re hardly likely to stop for you and answer your questions, in fact all the complaints we have is about the threatening nature of the hunt and their arrogance in dealing with the public. They have no qualms about hunting through private land and will generally ride roughshod over all and sundry. This is a totally unrealistic statement and quite frankly laughable.

Apparently the hunt will have also told the police they are out (well isn’t that nice) just so the police can probably ignore all the calls from the public and pretend they haven’t seen all those illegally ridden quad bikes.

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TVP ignoring the illegal quad on the road.

TVP have also stated they have some sort of working relationship with the Master of Hounds (how very cosy) who will insure there’s no unlawful “execution” of foxes. Execution? What the hell this? Execution is a term used for punishment. This is very odd wording to say the least. And is there a lawful execution of foxes and how the hell do we decide that?

Point 3 – The difference between Drag and Trail Hunting. So they’ve got this mostly right but what they fail to do here (and they’re still calling it a hound sport) is highlight the fact that trail hunting is a new activity designed to simulate real fox hunting and it’s a fox scent that they use, although don’t ask where they get that from. We all know it’s just an alibi for real hunting but I’m not going to go over all that again.

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The Kimblewick trail layer. A dry duster flopping about in the air and behind the hounds isn’t really going to work now is it.

Point 4 – Yes, live species do naturally live out in the open (no shit Sherlock) and the hounds are almost certainly going to pick up the scent of a fox if you put them in an area they are likely to inhabit. The fact is the hunters want this and they are sure hell not going to stop the hounds once they get on to one. But this is the big one:

“The accidental killing of a fox is not illegal”.

Well there you go then boys and girls, off you pop and kill as many foxes as you like. As long as you make it look like an “accident” you’re all good. We’ve got your backs. It’s nice they also perpetuate the tradition argument to make it sound all nice and socially acceptable. Tradition never was, and never will be, an excuse for cruelty and law breaking.

TVP’s explanation of the hounds on a scent also leaves a lot to be desired. It’s almost amusing to assume the public will believe the hounds are in distress. Anyone who’s witnessed hounds on full cry will see the very singular and focused nature of the hounds and their desire to catch their quarry. It can be quite a bone chilling sound.

Their understanding of the use of a horn is once again completely inaccurate. Only one person uses a horn during a hunt, and that’s the huntsman. The purpose of the horn is a method of communication between the huntsman and the hounds. There are several calls the huntsman can make with the most important being to hunt on or to stop. You’ll often hear the former when they are in cry (called doubling) but very rarely the latter. And again this is nothing to do with just “tradition”, what total nonsense.

Fox hunting does indeed remain a controversial subject, not just between hunters and animal rights advocates but the wider general public, mainly because they’re fed up with the lack of policing and the continued abuse of our wildlife carried out by a minority group who it would appear are above the law. And let’s just remind TVP this is the same hunt which was filmed throwing a trapped fox in front of hounds for them to hunt. How is that investigation going by the way?

If TVP want to get in touch you can find me easily enough. I’m happy to educate your officers on the reality of “trail hunting”.

Make your feelings know.

Thames Valley Police (Aylesbury Vale) Facebook Page

TVP Police and Crime Commissioner

TVP Chief Constable.

 

ADDITIONAL

Just look at the different approach TVP have towards hare coursing, the same legislation applies.

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Beagling is often the forgotten about blood sport with fox  hunting making all the headlines. This week we have another guest blog entry for a sab who knows all about it.

Red Herrings

The dictionary defines a red herring as “something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue”. The phrase was coined by social campaigner Williams Cobbett in 1803 after he sabotaged a hare hunt by dragging a kipper – a smoked herring – in front of the hounds. While today’s vegan hunt sabs won’t be adopting Cobbett’s tactic, his phrase perfectly describes the deceit that lies behind “trail hunting.”

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Beagling before and after 2005

Back in December, an eagle-eyed sab spotted an interesting item on eBay: a 2014-5 newsletter from the Wilts & Infantry Beagles who hunt MoD land on Salisbury Plain. The document provides a rare and disturbing insight into what goes on at hare hunts when sabs aren’t present. Before looking at it, let’s remind ourselves of what hare hunting used to look like and what the beaglers claim they do now.

Beagles and bassets are bred to hunt hares using stamina, not speed. They kill the hare by gradually wearing it down over an extended period of time. When a hare is found it will initially be much faster than the hounds; however, as the hunt progresses the beagles’ stamina will begin to give them an advantage as the hare tires. The hare will generally run in large circles (as it is reluctant to leave its home range) and the huntsman will become involved if hounds lose the scent or start to chase another hare. Eventually, the exhausted animal will be overwhelmed by the hounds and torn to pieces. Pre-ban beagling is therefore a dynamic, fast moving activity characterised by circular chases that can last anything between 30 minutes and three hours.

Since the Hunting Act beaglers claim to hunt artificial trails. The Countryside Alliance invented “trail hunting” as soon as the Act became law and have aggressively promoted it ever since. Their central claim – which they have repeated under oath in court – is that trail hunting is a legitimate, legal activity that happens to be completely indistinguishable from traditional hunting.

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The exception that proves the rule

The group that I sab with know hare hunting very well. We seek out beagle or basset packs whenever we can and some of us have significant experience of sabbing them pre-ban too. Of the many, many foot packs we have visited since 2005 the only time we have ever witnessed legal, non-lethal hunting was at the New Forest Beagles. The NFB operate in unique circumstances: they are subject to strict licensing conditions by the Forestry Commission and hunt in an area that is extremely popular with members of the public. Because of this they appear to have developed a form hound activity that is legal. We obviously don’t know what they do when we’re not there, but on those occasions we have attended we have not needed to intervene. They use a runner who jogs around spraying a substance – which they claim is Olbas Oil – as he goes. The key features of this activity are:

(a) It is very small in scale – the trail is sprayed for a few hundred yards at most.

(b) Each ‘hunt’ is therefore very short – certainly no more than a couple of minutes. The huntsman jogs along behind the hounds but plays no meaningful part in the proceedings.

(c) The route is generally linear or simply dictated by the terrain. No attempt is made to replicate the circular running patterns of hunted hares.

(d) The trail is sprayed in full view of the huntsman so he is aware of exactly where it has been laid.

(e) Hounds show minimal interest in the trail – there is very little ‘voice’ or ‘drive’. In fact, with the trail-layer often remaining in sight, hounds sometimes appear to be running towards him rather than following a scent.

(f) It is very stop-start: once hounds have run up to the trail layer the whole process has to begin again.

The Countryside Alliance would no doubt like to call this trail hunting, though it is actually a form of drag hunting. Whatever they call it, one thing is clear: it looks absolutely nothing like pre-ban beagling. This is because it is physically impossible to artificially reproduce the experience of hare (or fox) hunting. If it looks like real hunting, it’s because it is real hunting! This simple fact has eluded our stupid and corrupt police forces for the last twelve years.

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The Wilts and Infantry Sprint of Shame

Anyone who has sabbed a beagle pack will be familiar with the “walk of shame” – the response by 99% of beagle packs when confronted with sabs. They pack up because trail hunting is a red herring and so there is literally nothing else for them to do. The Wilts & Infantry have developed their own version of this manoeuvre: the “sprint of shame”. They absolutely peg it as soon as we appear and then career off in their hound van at high speed! A look at The Season Past section of their newsletter explains why; about forty meets are described, all of which are nothing like NFB-style drag hunting and exactly like traditional beagling. Here is just a small selection:

(1) “After a warm welcome by the Collins family at Manor Farm, Codford hounds were quickly away on a good scent running fast from the valley onto the high ground with the Field totally enthralled as they ran several large circuits almost to the main road and back before a successful conclusion.”

(2) “A red letter day at Home Farm, Seend . . . hounds crossed the brook twice settling on a line and two big circuits around Great Thornham finally crossing the brook yet again heading to Bulkington stopping short of Manor Farm swinging back towards Pantry Bridge and back up the brook for a successful conclusion.”

(3) “Back to Rodmead . . . as Angus and Sarah hosted the largest Wednesday meet of the season. Putting in on the West side hounds were away almost immediately but on a tricky scent running under Little Knoll towards Newmead then back over the drive to lose touch in sheep foil. Drawing on they picked up on the Elm Farm side with two hard circuits and were duly rewarded.”

(4) “And so to the Closing Meet at Manor Farm, Stockton with Phylidda Stratton our hostess . . . Dry and hard underfoot with the wind still Easterly scent was uncertain however hounds ran outstandingly well after putting on the left of the track running away toward Sherrington Dairy and working back over the dry ground gathering pace running past the pheasant pens down the valley beyond up through Gilberts Cleeve then left handed for a successful conclusion.”

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It all smells a bit fishy . . .

. . . to say the least. All of these hunts were long, fast, continuous pursuits over several miles across the challenging terrain of Salisbury Plain. They all also feature the characteristic circular patterns run by desperate hares. In hunt (1) the trail was supposedly laid by the “main road” – the very busy A303; in hunt (2) the trail appears to have been repeatedly put across a stream; while in hunt (3) it was laid through a flock of sheep. All the hunts also ended in a “successful conclusion”; what exactly does this mean in trail hunting? Countryside Alliance guidance clearly states that the huntsman “does not know exactly where the trails have been laid” so how does the Wilts & Infantry huntsman know when the trail has finished and that hounds have been “successful”?

The answer to all these questions, of course, is that the Wilts & Infantry Beagles are openly describing their cruelty and criminality in a document that they never imagined would enter the public domain.

Sab the bastards

In TV crime dramas the police eventually see through all the red herrings and arrest the real criminal. In real life it’s not so simple; twelve years on from the Hunting Act the police continue to dutifully believe everything they are told by the Countryside Alliance. Meanwhile, the heart-breaking cruelty revealed in the Wilts & Infantry newsletter – hares chased for miles until complete exhaustion – is repeated twice a week, six months a year by over sixty other beagle packs up and down the country.

There is literally only one way to stop them: we’ve got to get out there and sab the bastards!