28th February 2012
There is no moral case for hunting with hounds in the minds of most right-thinking people and that’s why the seven-year old Ban is such a good thing: it represents a positive shift in the humanitarian values of our society.
Let’s be honest; the spirit of the Hunting Act (2004) is clear. That’s why many hunt supporters hate it so much. And, however difficult applying the letter of this Law might be, it has proved to be by no means impossible.
Propaganda from the pro-hunting lobby has always been, in my opinion, a deliberately confusing smoke-screen of half-truths and lies.
Take this last few months for instance: Newspapers have reported incident after incident of Hunts across the nation trespassing on private land, hounds running out of control, public safety put at risk, pet killings and livestock worrying. Pro-hunt apologists repeatedly claim that such misdemeanours are accidental and that their ‘sport’ is conducted legally. Yet, simultaneously, they’ve bombarded the press with arguments that the Law isn’t working and must be repealed.
A simple truth is that over 180 prosecutions of offenders under the Hunting Act (2004) have established that, however it is ridiculed, misrepresented or ignored, enforcement can and has been successful.
Statistically and morally, I think that repeal of this legislation should be a political non-starter. Instead of pandering to the demands of folk who are desperate to get their kicks from chasing and killing defenceless creatures we need MPs and the police to demand more transparency from Hunts. This could start with requiring that hunt supporters tell the truth; are they adhering to the Law of the land or are they breaking it?
Posted by Joe Hashman
23rd February 2012
I was on the phone to a local policeman the other day whilst discussing an incident of hunt-related wildlife crime. The copper was under no illusions about the mythical practice of ‘trail hunting’. He was well aware that live foxes are regularly being harried and killed.
“They’re all at it,” he said in reference to the packs on his beat.
I represented Hounds Off at a meeting with police in Dorset earlier this month, alongside other animal protection groups. We’d all noticed a rise in Hunt trespass reported in the local press. We pointed out that a representative from one Hunt in particular had issued apologies via the newspapers for running roughshod through village gardens and over forbidden land on four separate occasions in recent weeks.
His excuses included, “it seems they [hounds] picked up the scent of a fox and went after it,” (Blackmore Vale Magazine, 6 Jan); “there are times when the hounds deviate onto live quarry or when wind shifts the trail,” (Blackmore Vale Magazine, 20 Jan and Western Gazette, 2 Feb – same quote for two separate incidents); and “The hunt was in the wrong. We have apologised and won’t let it happen again,” (Blackmore Vale Magazine, 10 Feb).
The meeting was told that in these days of budget cuts and statistics-led policing, as far as the authorities are concerned, illegal hunting is not reported enough for it to register as a problem that needs resourcing.
One way to address illegal hunting is to report every incident witnessed. I asked the police at our meeting how we, the public, could do this most effectively. They said the answer was to phone 101 and make sure that your complaint is logged. Like it or not, there needs to be a critical mass of complaints before, statistically-speaking, the police actively enforce the Law.
101 is the non-emergency police hotline. Wherever you live the instruction is clear: if you see a Hunt and suspect it’s acting illegally then phone 101 and report it. Make sure the person on the other end gives you an Incident Number too. Pass on this message to your family, friends and neighbours. It might feel like a pointless action in isolation but, together, we can make a worthwhile stand.
Posted by Joe Hashman
21st February 2012
I visited a Dorset farmer this morning who lives right in the heart of hunting country. Three different packs of hounds could be in his vicinity at any time. This farmer has been a man of the earth for 40 years and never permitted foxhunting across his respectable acreage during that time. 20 years ago one of the local Hunts did trespass and, with his father, he took legal action to prevent a repeat.
Their preventative action worked, until recently. The offenders in question have had to be reminded in no uncertain terms that, regardless of whether they’re ‘trail hunting’ or breaking the law, this farmers land is off limits to anyone connected with the Hunt and that includes their dogs.
People like this man and his family are at the core of what Hounds Off seeks to do; to unite ordinary folk who, for whatever reason or reasons, do not like wildlife to be hunted on their land for sport.
This Dorset farmer is regularly buttered up by the flush-‘em-out, hunt-‘em-down and tear-‘em-up fraternity. They sent a representative round with a cake after they were caught trespassing the other week. This anti-hunting farmer is solid in his active support for wildlife protection though. The cake was refused. In fact, it didn’t even get past the front door.
As I mentioned, this guy lives and works deep in a rural county. When I asked him what Hounds Off could do to help all the other people who are quietly like-minded the message was clear, “Tell them to write a Warning-Off Letter, with a map showing their property boundaries, to their local Hunt.”
This, ultimately, is what Hounds Off is all about; sharing practical support and help between anybody who suffers the distress, harassment and alarm of Hunt trespass.
I left our meeting feeling supported too. It’s reassuring to know that, even out ‘in the sticks’, we anti-foxhunters are not alone.
Posted by Joe Hashman