Posts Tagged ‘Wildlife Crime Officer’

So another hunting season is over.

It’s always good to look back and evaluate what’s gone on and see how you can learn to make ourselves more effective in future operations. We’ve tried a new direction this year and it’s certainly been an interesting experience but whether it turns out to be a success or not still remains to be seen.

Traditionally there has been a lot of suspicion and distrust between activist groups and the police and not without good reason. However we’ve made a concerted effort to break down these barriers and this pretty much started after my conversation with the Chief Inspector after I published this story (see here). It still seems a little odd to me that 6 months down the line we’ve had no contact with the officer that was the subject of that story in her position of Wildlife Crime Officer. Whether she still holds that position or not I don’t know but I can only assume she does. From then on we did however have a reasonable flow of information coming from the police. We were assigned a liaison officer with whom I met and discussed the way forward and we have continued to keep a regular dialogue. For their part the police seemed to be improving and took illegal hunting more seriously as well as the threat to our safety from the moronic half wits who act as the hunts personal security force. With our help the police were able to identify that the hunt was clearly hunting illegally and while not able to prosecute they didn’t impede us while we operated.

The problems arose with consistency of officers and the nature of the way our operations work.

As a group we have our own intelligence network and rely on informants within the hunting community passing on meet information or simply local people who have had enough of hunt riding roughshod over them. I’m fairly sure the police will understand this and we would inform our liaison as soon as we knew we would be operating in the county. This would often be the day of the hunt however apparently this doesn’t give the police time to act in any meaningful manner. This proved to be the case on the 4th of March when we were assaulted and had cameras stolen in a private woodland behind the Oakley Hunt kennels. The perpetrators claims we were trespassing and had the right to remove us from the land when the truth of the matter was the complete opposite. One particularly obnoxious couple even took their toddler to the confrontation, something any normal parent would clearly wish to avoid. We’ve been in regular contact with the owners of the wood and needless to say they are not happy with what occurred and have made repeated complaints against the hunt and to the police.

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Police vehicle parked in the Oakley Hunt kennels

The fact the hunt denied all knowledge of the people involved speaks volumes about the obvious lies they are prepared to tell to cover their own arses. The vehicles owned by the people responsible were parked in the hunt kennels! The response of the police on the day was appalling to say the least. The officers were utterly uninterested in hearing our complaints and sided instantly with those who had committed the crime even though they didn’t know the full story. We will be having a meeting next month with the Inspector in charge of that part of policing for the county and shall make our feelings known. Slightly concerning was the lack of information being passed between the officers themselves. I spoke to our liaison some time after the incident expecting her to be aware of it and yet it was all news to her. Surely if an incident took place involving us the first person to be informed would be our liaison officer? Clearly there is work to be done here and as it stands we’ve withdrawn all contact until our meeting but for the time being we’ll continue down this path for as long as it takes to get these one sided attitudes changed.

Of course not all forces as the same. We’ve had a fair amount of contact with Cambridgeshire rural units and they’ve done pretty well by bringing the Fitzwilliam Hunt to court (26th/27th April), and at the very least being impartial and investigating illegal hunting when required. Leicestershire have been awful in the past but now have a number of officers trained in matters relating to hunting (Well done to Northants Hunt Sabs who had a big hand in this) but Northants Police still have a way to go although having said that it was nice to know that some of the main protagonists among the thugs have recently been arrested by the Northants force, some for the second time and after searches of their houses alleged stolen property seized. We have submitted plenty of video evidence against them so fingers crossed that justice will be served. I do know that forces further afield still turn a complete blind eye to illegal hunting and still actively persecute the sabs and monitors in the fields attempting to stop these crimes, perhaps this is due to the story I published here or senior officers are hunters themselves?

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One of the many we saved, this time from the Fitzwilliam.

From a sabbing point of view the season has been a bit up and down although we can comfortably say we’ve made a big difference. Like everything in life we have good and bad days but even on the bad days we’ve saved lives and that’s what really counts. Our attentions have reduced the Oakley to a pathetic shambles, more often that not with only a handful of riders and a huntsman who can’t control the hounds. We’ll be surprised if huntsman Calamity Jack still has a job next year. What’s also been clear is their lack of hunt country. Land owners have clearly been pulling out from giving them permission to hunt on their land, there can be no other reason for the hunt to be so restricted and using the same areas several times a season and now that there are hunt hounds implicated in the spread of bTB things are only going to get worse for them.

We’ve had some good PR in the press both local and national and this of course has lead to more public support and people inquiring about getting involved. We’ll be running a training day over the summer for these potential new sabs, we’ll be fund raising and doing some outreach with a stall in a local Lush this May and a vegan fair later in the summer.

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One of our own escorting the shambolic Oakley.

I think the biggest thing we have learnt is more about ourselves. No matter what abuse we face, be it physical or verbal we only come back stronger, no matter how difficult it may be to work with the authorities it only makes us more determined. The general public are overwhelmingly on our side and that’s a powerful weapon to wield in conjunction with an unshakeable spirit to stand up and do the right thing. The Countryside Alliance may bang on every year about record crowds at hunts but the facts are somewhat different. There can be only one final outcome, it’s just a matter of time.

There has been quite a bit of interest in the story I published a few weeks ago regarding the stinks pits and industrial scale killing of our wildlife from snares, poison and traps. Two local newspapers ran an article with pictures and the general public who are, by and large, completely unaware that such practices are going on reacted in a suitably disgusted manner. While I was away I was contacted by BBC local radio who want to do an interview on air during their breakfast show, along with the local Wildlife Crime Officer from Hertfordshire Police. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly the police were reluctant to get involved so it didn’t happen. The RSPB investigations team were also very interested in the illegally set Fen traps and may have visited the site which I can now name as Spitals Wood near the village of Wallington, just outside Baldock in Hertfordshire.

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The story published in the papers came from a member of the public who witnessed for themselves the horrors contained in that wood which in due course lead to this blog and yours truly. With the police and the RSPB now showing an interest as well as that from the wider public due to social media and local press it would seem pressure was building on the gamekeeper and land owners to do something about it. The member of the public involved was later informed by the police that the site had been cleared and he then related this message to me.

Now, call me cynical but I don’t have a whole lot of respect for the police when it come to wildlife crime. I know the WCO in question and he was happy to watch the Puckeridge Hunt go about their business without getting involved or indeed even get out of his car last hunt season. He kept what I could probably describe as neutral stance which I guess is better than most on the police side who generally seem to pick the wrong side. However I had to see for myself if indeed the area had been cleared of the stink pits which would be no easy task considering there was years worth of dead and decaying animals to remove.

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Well I’m very pleased to say the police were true to their word. The carcasses had been completely removed, only a few bones and bits remained. There were no more snares and traps evident and even the poison had been dug out of the ground and taken away. Needless to say I’m very happy about these developments. Locations and gamekeepers like this probably account for more foxes and general wildlife than any hunt so I can only hope it remains that way. Needless to say it will continued to be monitored just case the game keeper makes an attempt to return to his old ways.

It just goes to show the pressure which can be exerted on these people through the press and social media and how a positive outcome can be achieved with non-violent direct action and the opening of peoples eyes to the truth behind the shooting industry and the damage they do to our native wildlife.

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Saturday was glorious. It was one of those clear and crisp winter days that invigorate the soul with the icy clean air filling your lungs while the watery winter sun shines low on the horizon. The frost under foot gave everything a Christmassy feel although it would seem goodwill to all men was definitely lacking somewhat. I wonder what the percentage of hunters follow the Christian faith? Do you think they justify their actions by the text in Genesis 1:26 or are they just a bunch of bloodthirsty junkies obsessed with killing wild animals?

I joined up with sabs from Northants, Notts and Derby to see what the Cottesmore Hunt were up to. It’s a pretty big hunt and also one of the oldest and after Saturday I can confirm one with some of the most arrogant riders. Lots of youngsters out with them as well. I always considered encouraging children to commit a crime as some sort of child abuse but I guess they have to indoctrinate the next generation of killers somehow. They’ve certainly got the rudeness off pat. Even the youngsters were pulling faces and shouting abuse. Charmers one and all and it’s easy to see how their superiority complexes develop.

It's not a car it's a chocolate tea pot

It’s not a car it’s a chocolate tea pot

The Cottesmore use the loophole in the Hunting Act of flushing to a bird of prey, in this case a Golden Eagle. However said Golden Eagle and handler were usually miles from any hounds and certainly not ready to engage in any hunting activity of it’s own. The hood never came off and it spent most of it’s time either in the box or precariously trying to stay on it’s handlers fist as he drove a quad bike erratically one handed. Not a great example of falconry and I’m pretty sure something you’re not supposed to do on the public roads. Birds of prey will only hunt if they’re the right weight and hungry. I’d wager this bird was well fed and unlikely to fly after anything. Eagles need big open spaces so hunting the hounds through woods is clearly in breach of the act.

For my own part I ran miles, got very muddy and had lots of lovely cuddles with the hounds who are always pleased to see us (it’s the only affection they ever see) and managed to save some wildlife. I was also hit by a horse and the local Gamekeeper tried to kill me with his Landrover. Shame I didn’t get it on video but I was diving out the way at the time and doing my best not to end up under his wheels. The police were their usual pointless selves, their local Wildlife Crime Officer (PC Draper 1350) happy to sit in her car or mingle with the support. Later on she ever denied she was the WCO and they were just using that particular vehicle. Yeah sure, we believe you.

Quote of the day came from the Huntsman: “I’ve never killed a fox in my life”. Needless to say we treated that with the contempt it deserved. Anyway, enjoy the video and feel free to share.