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16th December 2015

Trail Of Lies – Deconstructing & Exposing The Hunters False Alibi

"Trail Hunting in general is nothing more than a post-hunting ban creation to provide a false alibi against accusations of illegal hunting" - International Fund for Animal Welfare

Hounds Off Founder, Joe Hashman, reports from London.

Trail Of Lies is a report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) which deconstructs then exposes Trail Hunting as the false alibi which many of us have always believed it to be. It was an honour to speak at the launch of Trail Of Lies yesterday in Westminster, on behalf of associates, friends and colleagues who have spent much of the last decade gathering the data and evidence upon which this report is based.

Trail Of Lies provides critical information which unveils the truth behind the false alibi of Trail Hunting and includes recommendations to solve the problem of enforcing the Hunting Act.

Here’s what I said:

The International Fund for Animal Welfare has run an Enforcement Team since the Hunting Act came into effect in 2005. During that time, in partnership with the police, RSPCA and League Against Cruel Sports, we’ve dealt effectively with attempts by the hare coursing community to rename and reinvent their pastime of choice in a way which was intended to circumvent the law. In fact, by working with our aforementioned partners, together we’ve eradicated organised club coursing from the British Isles.

The same can’t be said of fox, deer, hare and mink hunting with hounds and this is the source of great regret within our Enforcement Team. For many outside of the hunting bubble it’s hard to understand how and why these deathsports continue. The reasons are complicated, and one of them is the false alibi of Trail Hunting.

Don’t forget that the hunting community pledged to defy the Hunting Act even before it was passed. This same community vows to retain and defend the infrastructure of hunting so that, if they ever succeed in repealing the Act, full-on deathsports can resume seamlessly and without delay. Trail Hunting is a vital part of their strategy to keep hunting live quarry with hounds viable while actively degrading the Hunting Act and those who seek to enforce it, be they law enforcement agencies or NGOs such as IFAW.

The Enforcement Team has evidenced over ten years of cynical subterfuge and false alibis by hunts the length and breadth of Britain; hunts who we suspect have used Trail Hunting to pretend to be doing one thing while actively doing another.

Many of us believe that hope for a compassionate future lies in the hands of the younger generation – that the Hunting Act enshrines the will of the people but, until hunting and killing wild mammals with dogs becomes socially unacceptable, there will always be a problem. We believe our opponents know this too. That’s why Trail Hunting is so useful to them. It allows bloodsports to continue with a veneer of respectability and provides a readymade excuse if they get sussed out.

One of the changes which the Enforcement Team have noted over the last decade is that many Hunts split their day. They have a jolly ride until 2.30 or 3 o’clock and then, when folk who hunt to ride have mostly exhausted themselves and gone home, for the hard core who ride to hunt the real and illegal business begins.

Well-known in hunting circles is a phenomenon called the “3 o’clock fox”. Around this time on a winters day, atmospheric changes often make the scent left by wild animals stronger and, of coarse, from the angle of a Wildlife Crime Investigator, daylight starts fading which makes evidence gathering more difficult. We see it as no coincidence that this is frequently when the gloves come off and the business of hunting with hounds gets serious.

Integral to the continuity of deathsports is an ongoing supply of willing participants. A vital part of the infrastructure which traditionally leads horse loving youngsters into the dark world of killing-for-fun are the Pony Clubs. Most Pony Clubs are linked with mounted hunts and, so long as these hunts claim to be Trail Hunting within the law, they’re able to hoodwink many impressionable youngsters (and their parents) about their real intent. With a range of horse-related activities on offer which seem a million miles from the ritualised sacrifice of a fox, hare or deer, Pony Clubs provide a perfect gateway for introducing children into the ways of the Hunt.

Remember, Trail Hunting was invented post-Ban and is not even recognised by the associations which administer genuine non live animal hunting. In general, it’s nothing more than a charade which provides a perfect cover story for grooming the young and the gullible, especially when days are tailored to enhance the illusion and the messaging from respectable adults, supporters clubs, hunts themselves and their representative organisations all conspire to convince impressionable young minds that Trail Hunting is legitimate.

By the time the awful truth dawns it is seen as no longer awful. To the next generation of deathsports enthusiasts, indoctrinated into a world of false alibis, blind eyes and rural lies, wild mammals which are illegally hunted and killed may no longer be empathised with; reduced, instead to objects of amusement; to be besmirched and abused, accidentally or accidentally-on-purpose, depending on who’s looking or asking.

And so the hunting community can unite in defiance of a law they despise. In doing so, if they can misrepresent their dishonest intentions to the outside world or to a court of law and be celebrated as freedom fighters by their cock-snooking supporters and peers, they will. We’ve seen it time and time again.

Trail Of Lies is a report which deconstructs then exposes Trail Hunting as the false alibi which the IFAW Enforcement Team has long observed it to be. As a whistle-blowing document, we welcome it.

On a personal level I’d like to thank IFAW, and especially Jordi Casamitjana, for having the vision to produce Trail Of Lies, as well as acknowledging the important work of Wildlife Crime Investigators out in the field. Their dogged determination in difficult and often dangerous conditions has been essential to the production of this Report.

I hope and pray that Trail Of Lies is used wisely, and that IFAW continues to invest time and resources into the Enforcement Team so we can continue to monitor the effectiveness, or not, of the Hunting Act in England and Wales for another ten years at least.

© Joe Hashman

Read the summary report, Uncovering The Trail Of Lies here

http://www.ifaw.org/sites/default/files/Uncovering%20the%20Trail%20of%20Lies.pdf

Read the full Trail Of Lies report here

http://www.ifaw.org/united-kingdom/resource-centre/2015-ifaw-trail-lies-report

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6th December 2015

Not All Coppers Are Bastards

Here, police put an end to an illegal hare hunt. It's easy to feel angered by their inaction sometimes but worth remembering that they're people just like us. Whilst they are bound by instructions from their superiors, many sympathise with the plight of hunted animals and will help when they can. Photo: Hunt Saboteurs Association

Negative stereotypes can be unhelpful and are often wrong. It’s sometimes hard to relate to policemen and women who are impotent in the face of illegal hunting, heavy-handed when dealing with protesters and bound by diktat from their superiors. But many are decent people, as we shall see…

Once upon a time, many years before hunting was banned, I was out with a couple of friends trying to get in between foxes and the hounds from our local Hunt.

I was standing in a gateway looking across a large field which was studded with a few old oak trees and surrounded by hedges. The land rose gently ahead to an undulating skyline of open spaces, woods and occasional clusters of farm buildings. From somewhere in the not too distant distance, behind the fold of a hill, the sounds of hunting horn and dogs barking were just discernible on the wind.

My friends were in a car half a mile away, deliberately around a couple of bends to observe the country from another angle. We were in communication via CB radios. Pulled up on the verge next to me was a police car. The officer, who I knew as one of our local Bobbies, sat with his engine off and window half wound down. Apart from the sights and sounds so described, the countryside seemed empty.

Presently I saw the movement of an animal at the bottom of a hedge away to my left. The animal moved delicately, cat-like, and became more identifiable as it got nearer.

I took a step back to conceal myself from view so as not to frighten what was a fleet-footed fox. He went out of view for a few seconds, then into it again, ducking under the lowest bar of the gate and splish-splashing through a puddle which was not easily avoided. His head was down but tongue not lolling which was good – this fox had not yet been pushed too hard.

I saw the fox across Froghole Lane, a single track road with passing places, and kept watching him for as long as possible. I informed my friends what happened on the CB then took a garden mist sprayer full of diluted citronella oil from an inside pocket and dispensed aromatic clouds to cover completely the gateway, puddle, verges right, left and opposite, including where the fox slinked through and carried on running the other side.

The policeman did nothing. He remained sitting behind the wheel of his stationary vehicle, window half wound down.

In a few minutes we could hear the sound of foxhounds barking and on the move, getting closer. A red-coated rider appeared in the far right hand corner of the field in front and one, two hounds then more, poured through the hedge on our left and were running towards us, heads down, making an awful din.

In the meantime a Landrover had parked up nearby at a passing place along Froghole Lane and so had a couple of cars.

Well before the hounds got to ‘our’ gateway they stopped running as a pack and spread out in the field, noses to the ground. Their noisy, excited barking calmed and the red-coated rider shadowed them but kept a distance.

At pace, another red-coat rider, standing up in his saddle and with coat-tails flying, galloped alongside the hounds. He touched a horn to his lips and blew a staccato note, riding at pace with all hounds virtually at his heels from left to right in the field, straight across the gateway.

They never did refind the scent of that fox. The hunters and their hounds went back into the distant green yonder. The Landrover cranked up and drove off. Without even noticing the cars vanished to other lay-bys and pull-ins on other lanes. We friends continued to keep as close as realistically possible and try whenever we could to get between the hounds and their quarry.

I saw the policemen some time later in town. I’ll spare you his name as, although long-retired, he is to this day very much alive. I asked him why he did nothing to stop us from scuppering that hunt.

He smiled in a kindly way and nodded his head to the side as he winked. “I don’t like them either,” he said.

© Joe Hashman

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28th November 2015

The People’s Campaign Against Hunting

People-power ended 900 years of deer hunting in the New Forest. Six years before the Buckhounds disbanded, hunt saboteurs were protesting against the cruelty, as shown here. Eventually it was video cameras and an alliance of campaigning groups who made the positive change permanent.

Audio version of The People’s Campaign Against Hunting available here.

On Saturday 28 November 2015 Hounds Off Founder Joe Hashman was invited to speak at the Winchester Hunting Symposium. The Symposium was hosted by the Centre for Animal Welfare and the Institute for Value Studies at Winchester University and organised by Professor Andrew Knight, to whom we extend our sincere thanks.

On behalf of Hounds Off, Hashman gave an adress entitled The People’s Campaign Against Hunting. Here is the text:

I understand that hunting with hounds stirs emotions in people that run deep. I understand also that human beings are complicated creatures. Although we have domesticated ourselves in many ways, wild animal instincts lie within us all.

I also completely get it that we are all motivated by different things. Hunting with hounds stirs emotions in people in different ways and on different levels. For some it’s a thrilling recreation. For others the whole concept of hunting with hounds is no more than an excuse for animal abuse.

My mother was a badminton player of some repute long before professionals and money entered that sport. One of her prizes was a tea tray which hung above our fridge. It had fancy wooden edges and depicted a colourful hunting scene. The picture on the tray fascinated me. Mounted riders stood in semi-circle around a pond, all looking down at hounds and a dismounted redcoat who held in one hand a flashing blade and in the other, by the tail, the slightly curled body of a fox. In this painted picture one of the gentlemen on horseback was leaning forward and raising his hat.

My eureka moment was during a TV show called Nanny. The main character was looking after a boy who went out on his first hunt. When a fox was killed it’s tail was cut off and the bloody end smeared on the boy’s face. It shocked me. I asked my mum if such things happened in real life and she confirmed that, yes, they did. Thus, I made the connection between the blooding ritual portrayed on telly and the sporting art above our fridge.

On the first hunt I attended, two foxes mysteriously appeared from the same field corner where terriermen were gathered and digging. Hunters unleashed their pack of hounds on the second fox. I ran with others into the fray, screaming and shouting at the hunt to stop. Later investigations revealed an artificial fox earth at the location on Upper Circourt Farm, Denchworth near Wantage in Oxfordshire. The artificial earth was constructed as advised and described in famous hunting literature. It was clear to me that the foxes I saw flushed for the hounds to chase in 1982 had been loaded by hunt servants in advance to guarantee some Boxing Day sport.

Over 22 years later a minor miracle happened when the Hunting Act became law. The cruel and abusive nature of foxhunting and related bloodsports had been exposed repeatedly and beyond doubt. The majority Labour Government acknowledged the will of the people by legislating against it. That should have been an end to the matter. Enough scope was built in to the legislation to provide for non live animal hunting to continue, and therefore all the pomp and ceremony, but unfortunately much surrounding the Hunting Act has been confused ever since.

I say “ever since”. Actually, confusion has reigned for longer than that. The Hunting Act should have been clear to understand and straightforward to enforce. Alas, during the journey through Parlaiment to statue book, it suffered constant tactical tinkering by pro-hunt forces. Now, although the spirit of the law is clear, it’s application can be problematic. A combination of cynical subterfuge, false alibis, legal loopholes and institutionalised reluctance from law enforcement agencies to engage with the Hunting Act ensures that wildlife is still illegally hunted and killed for amusement.

When it was revealed two months ago that David Cameron himself had personally intervened in stopping a Hunting Act case during 2008, I wasn’t surprised. He’s part of the ‘untin’ minority which refuses to accept the will of the people and is unashamedly committed to repealing a law they hate.

In July this year, with a Conservative Party promise to repeal the Hunting Act yet to be kept, with a majority of Tory MPs in the Commons at last and with nearly seven weeks of summer holidays just days away, cunning and crippling amendments were introduced via something called a Statutory Instrument. Although technically doing nothing wrong, I believe the intention was to circumvent due process and fast-track amendments to the Hunting Act which would have completely castrated it. If passed, these amendments amounted to repeal by the back door.

I strongly suspect that the Countryside Alliance was in cahoots with pro-hunt Government forces in the drafting of the amendments and the way they were marketed as “a minor change to bring English law into line with Scotland.” Actually the amendments proposed far more than that.

But hunt supporters underestimated how much most people still dislike ritualised animal abuse. If they thought they could undermine the Hunting Act (and democracy) quietly, unnoticed and with little resistance, they were spectacularly wrong.

Millions of people roared their disapproval and lobbied their MPs. The masses spoke, wrote, tweeted, retweeted, shared, liked, favourited, pinned, posted, demonstrated, reported, advertised, sang, shouted and dreamed about defeating these amendments and the dark forces behind them.

Key to saving the Hunting Act was MP support. It has been claimed that the Scottish National Party scuppered the amendments but that’s not wholly true. Fact is, an irresistible coalition was built which consisted of MPs from across political parties and the Home Nations who were committed to protecting the law.

With the writing on the wall, the amendments were withdrawn a day before voting – a tactical move to allow for regrouping and future reintroduction, and avoid conclusive final defeat.

So why do most normal people hate hunting with hounds?

Hunt supporters and their representatives love to accuse people who are against bloodsports of being driven by prejudice, of jealousy, class war, hatred of people or any other mud they can sling. I would say that, without doubt, folk are sick of being obstructed on the roads by arrogant riders, of having their property invaded, pets killed and livestock worried by out of control hounds, of seeing beauty spots and ancient monuments trashed by inconsiderate hunt followers, of blatant criminal behaviour by hunts who have been sticking two fingers up at the rest of us for over a decade. But actually what most people object to is animal cruelty – the practice of chasing wild mammals with dogs until they are physically incapable of outrunning the pack, then killing them in various different, cruel and unnatural ways.

The British Field Sports Society formed in 1930 to, quote, “keep watch on all legislation which might adversely affect Field Sports”. The clue as to the real reason most people go hunting is in the name Field Sports. It’s fun, they love it, it’s the thrill of the chase. In 1997 the British Field Sports Society rebranded itself as the Countryside Alliance. A more user-friendly name, slicker, snazzier, more ambiguous, a name which disguises killing-for-fun.

In reality, foxhunting is pre-meditated and ritualised. I call it animal abuse. Foxes are frequently bred specifically for hunting; they’re given a head start at the beginning to ensure good sport; hounds are bred deliberately to run slower than a fresh fox and thus prolong the chase; followers on horseback, foot and car all combine to keep tabs on ‘their’ fox; holes are blocked beforehand to keep the hunted fox on top and running; if he does get down a hole the agony is usually far from over. The fox may be baited with terriers who kill it in a bloody underground fight; he may be dug out and shot; dug out alive and thrown to the hounds; or flushed out and forced to run again.

The Ullswater Hunt in Cumbria wrote a report in the local paper detailing a 1996 hunt where the same fox was chased to ground then forced to run four times in succession before being killed. Or, as they say, “accounted for.” Lake District hunts always claim pest control is their reason to be. If this is true, why did they prolong the foxes agony? Do you think the hunters enjoyed themselves?

Beagling is hare hunting. This quote from the Horse & Hound magazine of November 7 1980 illustrates that a quick, clean kill is not the hare hunters preferred option either:

“It is probably better to have a good hunt of an hour or 90 minutes, rather than over match the hare and pull her down in 20 min.”

Numerous times over the years I’ve seen so-called “good hunts” and “well-hunted” hares. They’re stiff-legged and hunched, a far cry from the coiled-spring of muscle and heart which characterises these handsome beasts of the field when they are not being relentlessly hounded under pain of death. Oh, and hares cry like babies in pain when being torn apart by hounds (but beaglers won’t tell you that). Listen to this from Hounds Magazine, April 1990:

“North Staffs Moorland Beagles
Hounds had never run so fast…it took a good three hours to roll their hare…clever she was too; ran along a disused railway, the hedge of an extremely busy road, through sheep and plough, only to meet her end while nesting in long grass.”

Often hares elude the beagles only to be betrayed by the people who enjoy an active role in this game of life and death. In a quote from the same edition of Hounds Magazine, “fresh find” describes a hunted hare that has escaped the Pevensey Marsh Beagles but is spotted afterwards by hunt followers who put the dogs back on. Here it is:

“…useful information helped them to fresh find the hare and kill near Church Farm ditch at 5.10pm.”

Hounds Magazine of November 1988 reported on the Britannia Beagles and Colne Valley Beagles hunting the same area morning then afternoon. The report details the Britannia failing to kill but, quote, “leaving several tired hares which the Colne Valley set about in the afternoon.” According to Hounds Magazine, two of these hares were then hunted and killed.

Deer hunting is a particularly cruel affair. In the West Country I’ve seen stags escape hounds but not the army of followers who are determined to prevent their quarry resting and betray its whereabouts at every opportunity with whistles and shouts. I’ve seen the look of fear in a hunted stags eyes as he turns his head left and right at a road lined with cars, wondering where to run with the hounds in cry behind. They have big, emotional eyes. God knows, I’ve bourne witness to the end of staghunts and the almost orgasmic frenzy which unites the human mob on foot and horseback; when a once proud beast is beaten and bewildered, standing at bay in a pond or river, waiting to be savaged by the hounds, wrestled to the ground by hunters or shot, sometimes all three in that order.

In 1996 I tracked a stag on the Quantocks who was chased until it lay, exhausted, in some heather. Only its antlers were visible. Riders and hounds stood back. The huntsman dismounted and crept forward to get as close as possible. He took a shot which was clearly botched because the wounded stag jumped up and ran on, leaving a trail of blood from heather to woodland and then deep into the trees before being accounted for with another, point blank, gun shot.

I was there, with others, during the time that Professor Bateson conducted his ultimately damning research into the welfare of hunted deer. Hunting with hounds is a bloodsport which reduces a noble beast to a weak and pathetic remnant. Without an ology, with just our eyes and instinct, we knew Bateson would reveal that deer hunting causes unnatural suffering which is severe and extreme, even for those that get away.

Fallow deer buck were hunted with hounds in the New Forest for at least 900 years before a halt was called in 1997. So how did that come about?

In 1991 a group of hunt saboteurs decided to dedicate attention to the New Forest Buckhounds. We used non violent direct action tactics to stop them from hunting and killing deer. Initially it worked. Fewer kills were made but after a season or so we noticed that hunters behaviour changed. Large numbers of people were drafted in to obstruct us and, meanwhile, the hunters resorted to what I can only describe as ‘cowboy tactics’ and started to catch more deer.

A few of us decided to put down our sabotage equipment of scent dulling sprays, whips and hunting horns. We purchased video cameras instead. For four seasons we literally ran with the hounds and filmed exactly what happened without any intervention from us.

Our evidence was groundbreaking. We filmed gruelling chases of five hours or more, exhausted buck being wrestled then held under water by huntsmen while they waited for the gun and, crucially, we exposed an oft-repeated lie that a deer at bay never gets bitten by hounds. I forget how many times we filmed buck being savaged while the hunters played catch up.

We worked with other anti hunting groups and took our evidence to the streets via stalls and information days. We engaged the media outlets of those times – TV, radio and newspapers. Coverage of New Forest Buckhounds atrocities went national. We attended virtually every hunt during the mid-Nineties. We were relentless in our creative campaigning and stood with banners on Cadnam Roundabout in the rush-hour each Monday and Friday to inform the public what was going on, mostly hidden from view, in the Forest.

The Forestry Commission, over whose land the Buckhounds hunted under licence, suspended them occasionally when we proved the terms of their licence had been breached. We looked to the Commission to withdraw the licence altogether and, in this respect, owe massive thanks to John Denham MP who was a terrific ally.

In July 1997, with the Bateson Report pending, Labour in power, the public up in arms and hunting looking vulnerable, the New Forest Buckhounds disbanded. This preceded a decision by the Forestry Commission four months later not to issue deer hunting licences on its land.

The Buckhounds saga illustrates the power which normal people like us have to effect positive change, and also the importance to hunting of having land to tally-ho over.

Hounds Off was born in 2010 in order to support landowners affected by hunt trespass and help anyone who wants to ban hunting, illegal or otherwise, from their property. We’re following in the footsteps of the League Against Cruel Sports, who started purchasing sanctuary land in the West Country in the nineteen-fifties, and numerous landowners who have forbidden hunting with hounds over the last more than a century. Our team knows that, regardless of legislation, without country to ride or run across, hunting with hounds is doomed.

We’re under no illusions. The minority landowning establishment is powerful and rich. But we believe we’re providing the tools and support which ordinary people need to make wildlife sanctuaries of their gardens, paddocks, small-holdings, farms and estates.

So all over the country today, tomorrow and in the future, while politicians politicise and pressure groups pressurise, Hounds Off is empowering the compassionate majority to make a practical and peaceful anti-hunting stand.

Please visit our website, www.houndsoff.co.uk , where you will find a wealth of tools and information. And engage with our community on social media where you can keep up to date on the latest news and views from around the country.

Listen to Joe Hashman presenting this text at the 2015 Winchester Hunting Symposium here.

© Joe Hashman

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20th November 2015

Winchester Hunting Symposium, Sat Nov 28, is ON!

Winchester Hunting Symposium is ON.

Saturday 28 November, 9am – 5pm at the University of Winchester, Hampshire.

If you’ve heard it’s been cancelled ignore – pro hunt apologists have been spreading lies & misinformation. What are they worried about??

Jane Goodall CBE will be talking about the impact of hunting on chimpanzees and other creatures, Will Travers from Born Free on the true cost of trophy hunting and (among others) Hounds Off Founder Joe Hashman will be be presenting The People’s Campaign Against Hunting. Promises to be an informative day. Come if you can!

Full spec including speaker bibliography here

Programme here

Book online here

© Joe Hashman

 

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17th November 2015

Good Karma & Positive Vibes

In these mad times love has never been more important. We’re talking on a worldwide scale as well as closer to homes and hearts. And we acknowledge that it’s not always easy to feel. Sometimes it’s downright impossible. Some of the animal abuse dished out by sport hunters is very hard to take. But please, please hold on to your love. Nurture it as a magic seed that you’d like to grow.

If you read bad or sad news on our social media pages, or see an image which makes you angry then don’t hurl insults but instead channel your emotion into a good thing. We’ve made it easy for everyone to do this.

Go to our Hounds Off online shop and, a couple items down, you’ll see our Sleeping Fox logo as a static-cling window sticker. Buy one. They cost £1.75 online. PayPal gets its cut (that’s life these days) but the balance still gives us about 50p for funds after postage and production costs. Every little helps us to keep supporting people affected by hunt trespass plus sending out leaflets and business cards into the communities where illegal hunting takes place.

The point is, with a few clicks you can vent your spleen in a way that helps us and hunted wildlife. For just a few pennies you get a fab window sticker for your motor or office window and people will see it.

You’re now helping to spread foxy love. An angry post or comment reinforces negative stereotypes. Hunters like that. It speaks their language. Foxy love, on the other hand, is softer, gentler but ultimately stronger. It’s also the last thing hunters want so for that reason alone it’s a legitimate thing to do. But imagine if a stranger connects and thinks, “Hounds Off eh? Hmmm, yes I’m going to do that as well!” Result – real tangible positive energy. Much better, we believe, than feeding the bad karma of the dark side.

© Joe Hashman

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12th November 2015

“Out Of Control” Hounds & “Extensive Damage”

In October 2015 the Portman Hunt caused "extensive damage" to the ancient monument when hounds ran "out of control." Photo: National Trust

Mick Spreader writes poems for Hounds Off but on occasions composing verse takes too long. Here is Mick’s personal view of the damage done by the Portman Hunt to the archaeological site prominent in North Dorset called Hambledon Hill.

(Just imagine! A group of errant off-roaders, landys, quads, motor bikes get on to the Stone Henge site and drive round and round, backwards and forwards, wheelies and hand-brake turns, in and out of the great World Heritage stones. There’d be all hell to pay. Squad cars by the dozen, coppers by the score, even the Wiltshire police helicopter. I’m sure the National Trust would not be issuing a statement to the effect that the off-roaders had lost their way.)

A few weeks ago the Portman Hunt were on Hambledon Hill – we shall call it National Trust land for the present – and did “extensive damage” to a scheduled archaeological area when hounds were “out of control.” And it’s not the first time.

So what is the response from the NT? They wrote to the Portman and, according to the general manager for West and North Dorset the “hunt left the track to round up some dogs.”

Hambledon Hill does not belong to the National Trust, they are not the landowners. They hold the land in trust for the nation, that is, for you and me. And yet they allow the Portman Hunt to carry out their activities on this ancient monument.

Remember, it does not belong to the Portman Hunt or to the National Trust; it belongs to you and me, 80% of us would not have the Portman hunting there at all. And then, in violation of the of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, the perpetrators being known and photographic evidence obtained, the NT area manager writes to the Portman and gets a lame excuse that the damage was done when dogs running loose had to be rounded up.

For God’s Sake, these vandals have destroyed the Dorset’s heritage for us and for our children and their children. Instead of their spineless response;

1/ the NT should have told the Portman Hunt to stay off Hambledon Hill immediately and always.

2/ the NT should have informed Dorset Police that they believed that an offence had been committed and asked them to investigate.

3/ the NT should examine other protected sites for damage caused by the Portman Hunt.

And while we are on the matter, the wildlife in these islands belongs to the inhabitants of these islands; they are the wildlife heritage of its citizens. The landowner might have put his cows on his land, but not the flowers and the insects, the hen harrier, the badger, the deer, the hare and the fox. They belong to all of us to enjoy, to be to be enlivened and enriched by. But that’s another matter for another time.

© Mick Spreader

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1st November 2015

Outfoxed Take Two – The Shocking Truth Behind Huntings Glossy Facade

Outfoxed Take Two by Mike Huskisson tells the story of his activities as a Hunt Saboteur in the 1970's and then as a groundbreaking undercover investigator in the early 1980's who revealed the shocking truth behind huntings glossy facade.

Our main objection to the various forms of hunting with hounds is that they inflict deliberate and needless cruelty on foxes, deer, hares and mink – cruelty which, when you know about it, is shocking and impossible to defend. Hunt supporters present themselves and their pastimes with a veneer of respectability and construct many arguments designed to cloud the cruelty issues. Until the early years of the 1980s, despite occasional news headlines about the activities of Hunt Saboteurs, outrage when hounds killed a pet or an uncooperative hunted creature ran into somewhere public, little was known about how extensive animal abuse was in the name of ‘sport’. Then Mike Huskisson blew everything out of the water.

Huskisson was employed by the League Against Cruel Sports to expose hunting with hounds, warts and all, in a two year project that followed in the footsteps of previous investigators – but he delved further, deeper, and more intimately into the dark and secret world of bloodsports than anyone had done before.

Mike Huskisson is clearly a prolific record keeper and cameraman of note. His ground-breaking undercover investigations used early-Eighties state-of-the-art equipment to prove beyond any doubt the depravity of hunting wild animals with hounds, and that such premeditated cruelty has no justification in a modern, enlightened society.

In effect the original Outfoxed, published in 1983, was seminal. Twenty-one years later the activities which Huskisson exposed, and that shocked our nation, were banned.

And here’s why its so important that people read Outfoxed Take Two: because, aided by cynical subterfuge, false alibis and an Establishment which shows little will to enforce the law, hunters are still abusing wildlife. In fact they’re putting every effort into repealing the Hunting Act which, at present, technically makes hunting wild animals with hounds illegal. Given their way, every horror story you read about in Outfoxed Take Two could come back (if indeed they ever went away).

So the struggle continues. Mike Huskisson knows this. That’s why he’s revised and updated the original book. His accounts of the atrocities dealt on foxes, deer, hares and mink by so-called sportsmen (and women) have never been seriously challenged by those he names and shames. The cruelty he describes remains, fundamentally, what the current political battle is all about – to repeal the Hunting Act or make it stronger; to permit or prohibit abusing animals for entertainment.

As a historical document and point of reference for anyone with even a passing interest in the hunt and the anti-hunt, Outfoxed Take Two makes vital reading. As a devastating expose of how cruel hunting with hounds really is, Chapters 7, 8, 9 and 10 are second to none.

At this dangerous time your MP especially needs to be informed. Please buy a copy and spread the news.

© Joe Hashman

Outfoxed Take Two is available for £19 (£16.50 each plus £2.50 post & packing) from: Animal Welfare Information Service, PO Box 8, Halesworth, Suffolk IP19 0JL. Cheques payable to ‘AWIS’ please.

Online sales: purchase direct from the Hounds Off shop

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22nd October 2015

Questions To Answer Following Latest Wildlife Crime Injustice

Middleton Hunt supporter Lee Martin at the badger sett he blocked "to prevent a fox escaping from a chasing pack."

News on Wednesday 21 October 2015 of another successful hunter appealing conviction has left Hounds Off totally confused. Here’s the background:

We hear that in March 2014 investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports used remote camera technology to film badgers going in and out of their sett for a few nights prior to the Middleton Fox Hunt meeting in the area. Some of this film was of badgers taking bedding down their holes.

Then, on the morning of the fox hunt, they filmed an active supporter of the Middleton Fox Hunt blocking the holes. On subsequent nights, more footage of badgers at the holes was obtained by the same investigators in the same way. The hunt supporter was convicted under the Badger Protection Act but appealed his conviction. He was cleared on Appeal at York Crown Court.

The Yorkshire Post reported the reason for blocking the hole. “The aim was to prevent the fox escaping from a chasing pack during the Middleton Hunt, which was due to meet on March 29 last year,” their article said.

They further reported, “Crucially, there was no evidence that the sett was in use on the day of the hunt. Mr Jameson QC, who was sitting with magistrates, said that although it was obvious that Martin [the hunt supporter] had blocked entrances to the sett, ‘we do not think that the evidence alone can prove there were signs of current use by a badger’.”

Our eyes-rolling reaction to this wildlife crime injustice starts with the fact that badgers are shy, nocturnal by nature and quite domestic in the spring. Was film of badgers introducing fresh bedding not enough evidence of badgers at home, most likely with young? Indeed, was this vital evidence used and if not why not? How fully prepared was the CPS Barrister? Who were the expert witnesses (from both sides) and how ‘expert’ were they really? What on earth was Judge Jameson thinking and why? We could go on.

But also, and this is a massive ask in the current political climate, how can illegal fox hunting be a reason for blocking the badger sett in the first place? In their report on the case, the Yorkshire Post opens with this; “A fox-hunting devotee has won his appeal against a conviction for blocking up badger setts to give huntsmen and hounds a better chance of reaching their quarry.”

The Countryside Alliance trots out their predictable spiel about wildlife crime fighting being a waste of taxpayers money, like they give a damn.

Wildlife crime fighting is important because abusing animals is not good for the animals that suffer or the damaged individuals who enjoy it. We stand with the compassionate 80% majority who agree, the investigators who work tirelessly to expose it, and policemen like Jez Walmsley from Malton Nick. It’s a mark of the man that eight years after contributing significantly to a high profile hare coursing prosecution in his back yard, and many more besides, he’s still seeking justice for hunted wildlife.

Alas, in this case almost everyone else has serious questions to answer.

© Joe Hashman

Read more: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/main-topics/general-news/hunting-enthusiast-wins-his-court-appeal-1-7525721#ixzz3pK3CZorr

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27th September 2015

Thinking Differently

Supporters of the Atherstone Hunt get over-excited at a recent meet in Leicestershire. Photo: West Midlands HSA

We have some interesting threads to posts on our Facebook page. The story which emerged a week ago about the Atherstone Hunt supporter who simulated sex with a dead goose has understandably caused quite a storm. We’ve made our position clear: there’s no point in heaping negative energy on the lad because we think he needs to learn the basics of compassion, decency and respect. That’s unlikely to happen if he feels attacked and picked upon in the aftermath. Indeed, it might make him worse. We’d prefer his sort to be love-bombed and educated as to the error of their ways. The world has to be a better place, surely, if children are raised to be kind?

On Twitter a while back a pro hunt troll screen-grabbed a quote from another thread and tweeted it back to us. The comment was about chopping hunters testicles off as punishment for cruelty to animals, or something like that. Our troll used this example to insinuate that if you’re opposed to bloodsports you’re a violent extremist too. Oddly enough, we’ve seen plenty of heated social media comments from both sides of the hunting debate. We take them mostly with a pinch of salt.

In July three men were convicted under the Hunting Act after they’d been stopped by Herefordshire police with a live fox in a bag and bloodied terriers in the back of their van. It was patently obvious that they had been setting their dogs onto the fox in order to enjoy the fight. They got done quite rightly. As you can imagine, many people were shocked and appalled.

One of those convicted was a serving soldier. A petition was started to get him discharged from the Army. We shared the outrage but didn’t support the petition. Our reasoning remains that if he had been booted out then highly likely he’d fall back on his cruel ways. Far better to keep him on the straight and narrow and combine that with some counselling to open his heart and mind to compassionate behaviour. Better for him and, crucially, for future animals which are not abused because he’s learnt to be a nicer person. Which ever way you look at this one it’s a tough call. We get that too.

Ours is not a rose-tinted view of how things could be. We want humans to find ways of living and passing time which do not inflict pain and suffering on animals. This might sound a bit idealistic but it’s honestly not – it’s simply about education and appealing to the better nature which hopefully resides in all of us (some more than others, yes).

In the real world there are not the resources to enable correction therapy for miscreants like the hunt supporter who thrilled himself with a dead bird or the off-duty soldier who enjoys setting dogs onto foxes for sport. We can only speculate as to the peer pressure and degenerate adult examples being set around them. Often the prognosis for abuse addicts is not good. So it’s up to us, the compassionate majority, to resist instinctive loaded reactions and think differently. A paltry fine and some cutting remarks on social media won’t make the problems of immature behaviour and illegal hunting go away.

© Joe Hashman

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20th September 2015

190 New Acres Forbidden To Hunting …. & Counting

Even Jenny Rogers's horses were ready to defend their land when cub hunting took place right on their doorstep last week.

A lovely photo appeared on our Facebook page on Friday. Jenny Rogers posted it, showing two horses looking over a gate with a Hounds Off NO HUNTING notice attached. The local hunt held an early morning meet in the area last week and it helped persuade them to avoid the property on this occasion. We hope they continue to keep their hounds off land where they are not wanted.

There was lots of positive feedback from our online community. Jenny wrote the following in response;

“Thank you for your comments. We have protected our farm for the past 30 years but last March the hunt sent their dogs onto our land and chased our foxes. It was a horrible day as I desperately tried to stop the hounds on my own. This year I decided it was going to be different! Seeing as the hunt believe they are above the law and happily chase and kill foxes throughout our countryside daily, we spoke to neighbours who agreed to be added to our boundaries for ‘no hunting’. This took our fox oasis to 130 acres. Since then 3 more neighbours have contacted me with another 60 acres! I encourage everyone to do this no matter how small your garden. We were sat last year in a friends 1/4 acre garden with our young children playing when a whole pack of hounds ran into the garden and started baying. The riders/followers were no where near and had no control. If the hunt had received a letter stating that the hounds were not allowed there and there were posters up then they would have to have made more effort to control them and we hope would keep their distance. Just think if we all did this and encourage others too. Soon they will run out of ‘safe’ land to ride through where their hounds can keep contained, or face prosecutions. Together we can stop them.”

The conversation continued. Cheryl Woodall enthused, “That’s brilliant and I’m so so pleased that a fellow country dweller and horse owner has stood up to the hunt! I come from a huge hunting area and feel like a Alien because of my views. It takes courage to stand up for your beliefs in a pro hunt area as they can be intimidating and the local police turn a blind eye and let the hunt flaunt the law daily! It’s so corrupt.”

Jenny replied, “Hi Cheryl, we run a horse retirement charity on our farm so have about 20 elderly horses. We combine this with conservation and are in the process of turning our farm into a nature reserve. The hunt have been trying to get on our land for years and we have always felt helpless. Now I think the times are changing and as soon as I stood up to them I was amazed at the support from neighbours and friends.”

We salute these folks, and people everywhere, who actively oppose illegal bloodsports, make their homes and gardens sanctuaries for wildlife, engage with us and others via social media, write letters to the papers, or do one of the many things we can all do to voice our disapproval of hunting with dogs for sport.

Despite being a minority pastime, hunters continue to have an out-of-proportion influence over rural communities. One of the great things which Jenny has demonstrated through her actions is that when you do come out as anti hunting others take heart and feel able to speak up too. It’s nice to know that you’re in good company.

Illegal hunting is widespread. Until politicians act to reinforce existing legislation, and while we wait for the police to take enforcing it seriously, warning hunts to keep their hounds off our farms, smallholdings, paddocks and gardens is something which is really making a positive difference.

The Hounds Off website, www.houndsoff.co.uk, contains all the information you need to empower yourself and protect wildlife where you live. You can visit our Action & Advice pages, download your own NO HUNTING notice, become part of our online community or maybe simply purchase some greeting cards and other foxy merchandise from the online Hounds Off shop. We are easily contactable too.

We’d love you to stand with Jenny, Cheryl, ourselves and thousands of others who are not alone in saying “Hounds Off Our Wildlife!” and doing something about it.

© Joe Hashman

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