28th May 2018
Mysteries surrounding fox scent and how it is (or isn’t) used as a cover for illegal hunting are explored in this Guest Blog by a Hunt Monitor from Surrey…
“Trail hunting is a legal activity and that is what was happening here. Hounds follow a trail of fox’s urine.” The Nottingham Post reported these words of Adrian Simpson of the Countryside Alliance in March this year following the successful appeal against the conviction of three members of the Grove and Rufford Hunt.
Mr Simpson added: “It became patently clear in the course of the appeal that a fox jumped out in front of the hounds, which pursued it for a short distance and killed it”.
So let’s get this right: the hunt’s hounds were following a trail of fox urine when a fox unfortunately jumped out in front of them. Now I have no way of assessing the likelihood of a fox thinking it would be a good idea to play chase with a pack of foxhounds, beyond stating the obvious that it looks like a bad evolutionary trait, but I can analyse the fox urine part of the story. I can do so (in part) because I have personally been shown a bottle which I strongly suspect did once contain fox urine – originally. Here it is:
I captured this image last hunting season when Mr Jeremy Gumbley, a former Master of and “trail layer” for the Surrey Union Hunt, showed it to me. He was in a good mood that day. Whether that was because the police had turned up in force (around 25 officers in five 4×4’s) and had arrested a Hunt Saboteur for alleged criminal damage, I could not say. But whether for that reason or because he was simply attempting to convince me of the legitimacy of his hunt’s activities, he not only showed me the bottle, but explained a little about it. He even invited me to smell its contents, though I declined that kind offer, explaining that I really didn’t have a sense of smell which could help me verify what it was.
As you can see, this product is called FoxPee and you can just about read that it also says “100% Fox Urine”. So far, so good then.
“Where did you get it from?” I asked Mr Gumbley. His answer? “A shop that sold it”.
A little coy maybe, but perhaps understandable. So I asked a long-time Campaigner about it. He recognised this as having been available from a country store in the exact part of Surrey where Mr Gumbley lives. So again, so far, so good. This story is really hanging together.
But wait a second. Does that bottle look a little old to you? Funny that, because the Campaigner also told me the product hadn’t been sold in this shop for a decade or more, and certainly it was not listed on-line as being available there when I looked. And yet the bottle was still half full. Now perhaps things are looking a little less clear cut.
Then you look on the internet and you find that this product cannot be bought anywhere in the UK, but rather is made (if that is the right word – farmed in some horrible fashion one imagines) by a company based in Maine in the north east United States, so it will need to be imported.
Then you do a little more research and find that the importation of this material would require a licence from the Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency. You then learn that in response to Freedom of Information requests it has been clearly established that no licences have been granted any time in recent years, the latest request taking the position up to March 2018.
And I should also have mentioned that Mr Gumbley said that he didn’t really think his bottle contained fox urine.
Put all these things together and it really is now looking a lot less clear cut. A reasonable deduction might be that this is an old bottle which has been re-filled with something. If so, what’s in it? Well that’s not really the point. If its not fox urine, why would the Countryside Alliance spokesperson say hunts use fox urine?
Of course strictly speaking he was only talking about the Grove and Rufford, even if his statement could, perfectly reasonably, be interpreted as meaning that all, or at least many, hunts use fox urine.
So where could the Grove and Rufford have got its fox urine, bearing in mind that it cannot have been imported (at least legally) any time in recent years, which eliminates any foreign source?
One possibility is from “Adrian’s Fox Scent”. That’s not as in Adrian Simpson’s fox scent – at least I assume not – its apparently a company trading name, the company in question being Harrier Contracting Limited. It has advertised itself as “the UK’s leading supplier of animal urines” according to these web-page screenshots I came across:
And apparently it issued this certificate to the Melbreak Hunt in 2016:
I am not sure why anyone would need a certificate of supply – an old-fashioned invoice with a VAT number might have been more what one might have expected – but taking it at face value, it seems to lend substance to the claims. But again there are just a couple of things which make things a little less clear cut.
First, where exactly does Adrian’s Fox Scent “make” its fox urine? It must be in the UK somewhere, unless those FOI requests were wrong. Anyone seen a fox-urine farm anywhere?
Second, how come Companies House records say that Harrier Contracting was dissolved on 7 February 2017, having never traded?
Sorry I don’t have any answers these questions. Nor do I have any other ideas as to where all this fox urine comes from. And as you will gather from this blog, I really have tried to find out.
Oh and there’s one final thing. At least according to my reading, fox urine comes within the scope of The Animal By-product (Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2013 implementing European Union Regulation (EC) 1069/2009. And since these Regulations prevent the introduction of products within their scope into the environment, this seems to mean that it is illegal to use fox urine as a trail.
So the next time your local hunt says it uses a trail of fox urine, can I suggest you ask them two questions:
Where do you get your fox urine?
Why do they think this is legal given Regulation (EC) 1069/2009 and The Animal By-product (Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2013?
Or perhaps next time Mr Simpson gives an interview, someone can ask him…
© A Surrey Hunt Monitor