Posts Tagged ‘Trail Hunting’

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!

 

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.

 

Now I promise you I have no obsession with the Fitzwilliam Hunt. They are just another bunch of wildlife abusers who happen to be fairly local and who we’ve gathered enough evidence on to take to court. However they do keep giving me plenty of material to write about and while this continues I’ll counter their lies with the truth and show them up for what they really are.

Here’s their latest post on their Facebook page.

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1 – “The landowners gave us permission to cross their land”. That kind of sounds like they just went through the grounds of Burghley House, like crossing a river over a bridge, merely going from A to B. This was not the case. The meet was in the grounds itself and they spent over 2 hours within the grounds boundary openly drawing every piece of woodland they could put the hounds through, starting on the west side before covering the large area of woodland to the South and east. They even drew a reed bed next the lake in the grounds. During this time they flushed a hare which serial wildlife abuser John Mease couldn’t resist releasing his eagle on and this animal was killed. While this in itself is not illegal it certainly wasn’t the aims of the hunt and puts into question his purpose on the day. Hares are also in huge decline at the moment and need more protection but these people care not about such matters.

The hunt also spent several hours outside the park to the south-east openly hunting, although by this stage much of the field had gone home.

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Burghley House & Park.

2 – “We engaged in a variety of legal forms of hunting, including laid trails for the hounds to follow”.  Does anyone really believe this nonsense? We had them under observation ALL day. Not once did we witness any trails being laid and the hounds were being put through areas of undergrowth where no trail layer could ever have gone (thick woodland and reed beds). It was abundantly clear to all except the blind and terminally idiotic they were illegally hunting. And if they were following a trail what was the purpose of the masked up terrier men on quads?

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Fitzwilliam terrier men – no purpose on a trail hunt

3 – Whilst undertaking this legal activity, there was sadly repeated trespass and harassment by hunt saboteurs who also endangered both hounds and people by interfering with hounds and calling them away from the control of the huntsman”. So, we’ve already established it wasn’t a legal activity so that’s done with and as I’ve stated in previous posts trespass is a civil offence and hunting is criminal, you can trespass on private land to prevent this crime from taking place. It should also be noted that the park grounds themselves are open to the public so it was in fact impossible to trespass here, something the hunt once again failed to note. There never was any harassment either, we simply follow the hunt, predict their movements and be ready in place to intervene should we be required to. If there was any harassment taking place it came from the jokers who were assigned to us by the hunt to act as minders.

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One of our “minders” – not the sharpest tool in the box.

The statement is also a bit of a slap in the face for their huntsman, Simon Hunter. If a bunch of sabs can so easily take the hounds away from his control what does that say about his abilities as a professional huntsman? Doesn’t sound like he’s up to the job, perhaps they should sack him and get someone else in. There never was any danger to either people or hounds, except of course when Simon let the hounds riot on some of the many deer in the area. He lost the pack all on his own. In fact we retrieved several lost hounds and bought them back to him but this of course wasn’t mentioned in the FB post, funny that. Once more, this is an utter fabrication with a single purpose, to make the best of a bad day and save face. Remember this is the same hunt who lost control of their hounds and caused havoc through the village of Upwood, much to the annoyance of the locals.

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Simon Hunter with the hounds under control for once.

4 – Sadly we had to ask the police to attend due to this dangerous, unlawful and irresponsible behaviour by the saboteurs. We always encourage hunts to call the police. They can then explain what they are up to. It also tends to keep all the hunt thugs in order. So what happened then, did multiple units turn up and arrest every sab in sight?

Nope.

A couple of bored looking units arrived, clearly they had learnt their lesson from previous encounters and are now aware of the lies told by the Fitzwilliam and are refusing to act as their private security force. They smiled and waved at us as we drove past and made no arrests.

5 – “All hounds were safely returned to the huntsman despite the saboteurs efforts to prevent this”. The hounds weren’t returned by anyone. The simple fact is the Whipper-in probably spent hours galloping round the countryside trying to retrieve hounds which had run off after some of the local wildlife. Some hounds would have found their way back on their own. Despite these outrageous claims we always want the best for the animals and although the hounds often look half-starved and covered in scars and growths the only option is back with the pack. Hunts will often make this claim in an attempt to turn the argument into a class war type thing and paint sabs as just trouble makers with no respect for animals but once again this is just a whole pile of steaming horse shit.

The statement as a whole is nothing more than a very poor attempt to put a positive spin on a day that was a complete disaster for them on what was supposed to be a prestigious meet. They set out 2 hours early in an effort to avoid our attentions and yet we still found them. The simple fact is they are being spotted by the general public and they are in turn letting us know their movements. We have eyes and ears everywhere and the hunts are universally disliked. Their days are numbered.