Posts Tagged ‘Trail Hunting’

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.

Well that didn’t take long.

Since the National Trust vote on trail hunting there’s been a lot of interest in what would happen next, and rightly so. I’m not going to comment on the irregularities of the vote itself (that’s for another time) but instead I’m going to look at what’s actually happening in the field.

Before the vote the NT released a set of rules by which all hunts would have to abide by. I covered those in a previous blog entry here (The Pressure Mounts). However it soon became apparent that the so-called Countryside Alliance were pressuring the NT to drop some of these rules. Of course there’s no surprise there, as we all know trail hunting is merely a cover for real hunting and the rules as advertised would effectively curtail that and with the opening meets of the main hunting season taking place over the last couple of weekends all eyes were watching to see what would take place.

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Reports were soon emerging of hunts using NT land where no licenses had been issued.

Had these hunts been licensed to use the land or were they trespassing? They were certainly not abiding by the rules set out by the NT as there were terrier men present and also quad bikes were being driven along with the hunt, both were to be excluded in the new set of rules. Of course there was no way of knowing what kind of substance was being used as a trail or even if a trail had even been laid (highly unlikely).

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West Somerset Vale Hunt with terrier man with quad on NT land last weekend (Quantock Hills).

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Clearly searchinging for live quarry complete with terrier men (Quantock Hills).

The examples above are a clear and blatant violation of the new rules set out by the NT.

What is even more disturbing is now the NT seemed to have caved in to the pressure by the so-called CA by reneging on their promise to publish meet locations in advance. Their original statement is shown below.

“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”.

Now it seems that they will no longer do this.

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So the NT are claiming that they have been advised by the police not to publish meets and claim this has been done avoid any potential unrest.

Unrest from who?

Clearly if the NT wish to remain open and transparent there has to be the ability to independently monitor any hunt which uses NT land. The NT have already stated they don’t have the resources to do it themselves so therefore the only option is for other groups to do so. Whether these be monitors from LACS, independent or members from local sab groups makes no difference, the only time there is any conflict and violence it comes from the hunting side, both those actively taking part and their supporters. One has to wonder whether the NT did actually consult with the police or they are just using this as a handy excuse. And if they did it would suggest a level of collusion within the police force that they consulted.

Either way the NT are being shown up once again for what they really are, a big land owner who facilitates an illegal activity for the benefit of an influential minority. If the NT don’t take immediate action against the hunts in question we can only assume that all the fine words and statements were in fact complete lies and only there to help swing the vote on trail hunting.

One commentator on social media summed things up perfectly:

“As hunts are not monitored and specific routes wont be published how the hell are you (the NT) or anybody else going to be able to make sure our wildlife is protected from those who wish to slaughter it for the fun of it by calling it an incident? With an independent investigation imminent your charitable status is teetering on the edge of that hole you’re digging”.

I concur.

Keep up the pressure. Contact the NT and let them know your views. Twitter, Facebook, Phone: 03448001895 Email: enquiries@nationaltrust.org.uk

UPDATE: It seems the NT did promise to publish routes etc in the AGM material (thanks to Lou for the image (see below).

promies

So, after my publishing previous post I had some very nice comments on here and social media with encouragement to continue writing and I thank everyone for the kind words. I’ve decided to continue at least for another season and see what happens then. There may not be the weekly updates which I tried to publish previously but if there’s a subject which I feel needs a wider audience or promoting then I’ll put something out.

Moving on from there we are getting ever closer to the vote on Trail Hunting on National Trust land at their AGM on the 21st October. I’ve covered this previously (see here) and the National Dis-Trust are keeping up the pressure and encouraging members to use their vote appropriately. Even though I’ve said this before the importance of this vote cannot be understated and I urge all NT members to vote with their conscience and ban trail hunting on NT land for good. This will of course have serious ramifications for some of the hunts in question, with no land to use some of these hunts will cease to exist. Of course this is great news not just for the hunted wildlife but for the residents of these areas who suffer the bullying and intimidation from the hunts and their supporters.

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In our own neck of the woods we continue to work with our local police in an effort to break down the historical barriers between monitors/sabs and the law enforcement  authorities. Obviously things aren’t going to change overnight but I think we are making progress and hope the situation will continue to improve. We still have our liaison officers but a new inspector has taken on the responsibility for rural operations and I met with him for the first time last night. While new to the post and the hunting act in general I was pleased to see he’d taken some time to inform himself of the situation and had also spoken to at least one Master of our local hunt (the Oakley). It’s always interesting to get an insight from the police’s point of view and would have loved to have been a fly-on-the-wall at the meeting he had with Lady Lydia Thompson – pillar of the community, millionaire, choralist, model (I won’t publish the pics, they’ll give you nightmares) and wildlife killer.

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The Angry Egg gets his collar felt.

Despite all their claims to the contrary and much like many other hunts up and down the country the Oakley openly flout the law. We’ve caught them cubbing several times already this autumn and saved foxes when we were there. I believe the new inspector can see that this is taking place and while he also knows that getting a conviction under the hunting act is unlikely he can however restrict the hunts use of thugs to impede our operations. One particularly rotund chap we call the ‘Angry Egg’ was arrested a couple of weeks ago for another assault on a sab. Video evidence was supplied to the police and he was charged with common assault (after spending a very long time in the cells while I was in the pub) and bailed away from any hunting activity until his court case. I believe he is in court this week or at least very shortly regarding an incident last year and has to face a further 3 charges of assault and another of theft of one of our radios during a meet of the Pythley hunt at the very end of last season. Just restricting these morons will be a victory not only for us but also for justice and the decent majority of people who oppose hunting. People like him have been getting away with this kind of unacceptable behaviour for too long and but now the tables are turning. Sooner or later they’ll have to give up the thug act or end up behind bars.

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Lady Lydia Thompson.

Of course Lady Lydia would never admit to employing these low lives and denies all knowledge of them, even though previous master Guy Napier asked them not to attend Oakley meets previously after witnessing first hand their violence. Just like the hounds they are merely means to an end, tools to be used and discarded once their usefulness has run out.

We’ve changed the game and the thugs don’t know how to play by the new rules.