16th December 2015
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
Read the full Trail Of Lies report here
6th December 2015
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