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22nd October 2016

It’s Good To Talk

Debating fox hunting and the Hunting Act at The Game Fair 2016. Photo credit: Oli Melzack Debating fox hunting and the Hunting Act at The Game Fair 2016. Photo credit: Oli Melzack

From the moment we had a social media presence we’ve had trolls. Online abuse is inevitable when you’re standing up to be counted. We don’t support it or partake. Hounds Off fundamentally disapproves of antisocial behaviour from anyone on any side.

We accept our own advice regarding trolls which is to, with a very rare exception, ignore them. That’s why their type always quieten down and, mostly, go away.

SPREADING FOXY LOVE

The news is often appalling. Human beings can inflict the most heinous crimes against their kind and fellow creatures. God knows, often the horror is very hard to understand or absorb. However incensed or outraged, we encourage folks in our Hounds Off community to spread foxy love instead.

To achieve the dream, foxy love must reach beyond its comfort zone and into what might be described as enemy territory. Foxy love seeks also to find common ground with people who, by whatever inclination, are practitioners of or apologists for foxy hate – folks who are not our natural bedfellows. That’s why it was great to represent Hounds Off in a debate about fox hunting and the Hunting Act at The Game Fair in July. There’s no doubt that we challenged negative stereotypes and made a few die-hard hunt supporters think, however briefly, about the cruelty which is central to the pleasure they feel from participating in ‘country sports’.

We advertised our attendance in advance so that all our trolls were informed and aware of their chance to discuss the rights and wrongs of killing for sport face to face and in the comfort of their home turf. For reasons known only to themselves, our trolls didn’t grasp their opportunity, or if they did decided to keep quiet.

NO-PLATFORM ATTEMPT

A year ago Hounds Off was represented at the Winchester Hunting Symposium. There were all sorts of smear campaigns from hunt supporters beforehand. One of our then-regular trolls even published a rubbishing blog full of lies and misinformation designed to scupper the event (it has since been removed). Additionally, as the Hounds Off representative, I was personally besmirched and accused of supporting violent protest. A pro hunt MP threatened to pull out of participating if I was given a voice. I had to answer to the organiser and he then justified my attendance to Winchester University elders who decided the outcome of this no-platform attempt. We took it as complimentary when the Countryside Alliance joined in.

It’s good to have a voice and be listened to. Hounds Off attended the Winchester Hunting Symposium and, on behalf of hunted animals, our voice was heard.

DORSET DING-DONG

Recently we had a little ding-dong in the Dorset press about the seldom-mentioned issue of Hunts killing healthy but unwanted surplus hounds. For whatever reason, the Blackmore Vale Magazine Editor closed correspondence having given a hound-killing apologist the last, and inaccurate, word.

We used our social media platforms to keep this issue alive and it was latched on to by a troll who, evidently spoiling for an online argument, was particularly prolific about a month ago.

Our troll had been sprinkling mischief here and there. We monitored his presence discreetly but, as stated earlier, are not in the habit of censoring comments. After all, it’s good to talk.

Eventually our troll settled down into a dialogue with a Hounds Off supporter and the nitty-gritty realities of trailhunting aka foxhunting.

PSEUDO-SCIENCE

Eventually, playing his believed trump card, our troll posted a link to the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management (VAWM). The VAWM works towards repeal of the Hunting Act by employing lengthy, convoluted and twisted interpretations of pseudo-science to, incredibly, justify bloodsports. When you hear the likes of Conservative Party Environment Secretary Angela Leadsom say that hunting with hounds is good for animal welfare, this is where she gets her stuff.

Although superficially persuasive, we encourage all who are tempted to look a little deeper and read between the lines. VAWM arguments in support of bloodsports are fatally flawed.

COMMUNICATING & BEING HEARD

It’s good to have a voice, to talk, to be listened to. Via our website and social media platforms, Hounds Off continues spreading news, views and foxy love, giving all-comers a safe place to express themselves and censoring rarely.

In solidarity with people who wish to protect their property, livestock and pets from hunt trespass, we offer ongoing support, help, advice and back-up.

In defence of the Hunting Act 2004, Hounds Off will carry on deconstructing the propaganda and exposing the lies of bloodsports apologists who have yet to accept that the cruel pastimes of hunting wild animals with dogs for sport have been ruled as socially unacceptable.

© Joe Hashman

 

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30th July 2016

Hounds Off at The Game Fair 2016

Foxhunting & the Hunting Act 2004 were debated at The Game Fair by Hounds Off, League Against Cruel Sports, Countryside Alliance, Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management & the assembled audience. Foxhunting & the Hunting Act 2004 were debated at The Game Fair by Hounds Off, League Against Cruel Sports, Countryside Alliance, Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management & the assembled audience.

Hounds Off Founder Joe Hashman reports from The Game Fair at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire.

It’s good to talk. Receiving an invite to debate Hunting Act rights and wrongs at the biggest fieldsports show of the year was not what we expected, but the opportunity came and was seized. We figured that appealing to the better nature of hunting folk could only be productive, especially if misinformation and negative stereotypes were exploded at the same time.

In favour of bloodsports were the Countryside Alliance and Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management. Shining a light for compassion, progressive and civilised behaviour were Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports (Scotland) and myself. Before taking questions we were each given ten minutes to hold the floor. On behalf of Hounds Off, this is what I said;

I’ve known enough of you over the years to realise that many of you are decent human beings. I know you love your families, your animals, your countryside. So someone like me, who feels profoundly upset by the suffering inflicted on wild animals when being hunted by hounds, simply doesn’t understand how you can’t feel it too. Because I know, apart from a handful of phsycopaths who sadly do love the blood and power, that most of you are not bad people.

Hunting literature tells us that fallow deer, chased by the New Forest Buckhounds until 1997, were never attacked by dogs at the conclusion of a hunt. I found it hard to believe but at the time had no evidence to the contrary. So, with others, I attended most Buckhound meets in the Forest for five years from 1992.

Repeatedly, we filmed deliberately protracted chases lasting for many hours. We got footage of deer being savaged by hounds, wrestled to the ground by hunt supporters, held underwater and half drowned. We proved that the public face of this centuries old tradition and its private reality were indeed two different things. Thankfully, the Buckhounds disbanded 19 years ago.

Even today, foxhunting literature claims that foxes were hunted “in their wild and natural state.” It sounds fair, reasonable even. But that was not the case on Boxing Day 1982 when, for the first time in my life, I attended a hunt. It was the Old Berkshire at Wantage in my home county. Towards the end of day, in a field corner near Denchworth, a couple of blokes with terrier and spades stuck their dog down a hole and, as if by magic, bolted a fox. There was no chase beforehand, hounds did not mark to ground. It just happened that the pack and mounted field were waiting patiently close by while the terriermen did their work. When their fox was running in the open and in full view, the Huntsman let his hounds go.

I revisited that field corner and found an artificial earth. It conformed with what I’d read about in a book on foxhunting by the 10th Duke of Beaufort. I still can’t get my head around why decent people would think that it could ever be okay to capture, imprison and then make a fox run for its life in front of a pack of dogs. Even if you think you know the answer, ask yourself; what is that really about?

In November 1996, The Cumberland & Westmorland Herald reported a meet of the Ullswater Foxhounds at Dockray. One fox was marked to ground, bolted with terriers then chased by hounds on four occasions before being dug out and killed the fifth time it sought sanctuary underground. The fifth time. If that’s not animal cruelty for sport, then what is it?

Anyone who’s been hare coursing knows that hares in pain cry like a human infant. You too may have witnessed greyhounds with their teeth clamped around the bodies and limbs of live hares whilst pulling them in opposite directions like a living tug o war rope. It frequently took minutes before lumbering humans prized the hare out of their dogs mouths and delivered a neck-snapping coupe de gras. In hare coursing the fabled “quick nip to the back of the neck” was a deliberate untruth promoted to defend the indefensible.

Why would anyone want do this, especially to a hare, and for amusement? No wonder that the National Coursing Club issued guidance for spectators not to identify with the hare. Thank goodness that the Hunting Act 2004 genuinely has ended the abomination of organised club coursing, and successive court cases have made it crystal clear that using live hares as a competitive lure for running dogs is an offence.

And what about the Hunting Act? In some areas, and with certain offences like hare coursing, it is employed well. But, as many of us know, for hunting with scent hounds, enforcement is proving much more difficult. In many ways, I have to salute the organised, determined, campaign of resistance waged by the hunting community.

However, I’m with Judge Pert. In the 2011 case of Hopkins and Allen, he perceptively described two convicted members of the Fernie Hunt of using the cover of trail hunting as a cynical subterfuge to create a false alibi for illegal, live animal hunting.

I’d suggest that Hunts circumvent the Law in other ways too.

On Saturday 17 February 2007 I followed a joint meet of the Croome & West Warwickshire and the Radnor & West Herefordshire Hunts. That day they were nudging and winking at the Falconry exemption under Schedule 1 of the Hunting Act 2004. In reality, aside from minor cosmetic changes, I observed them to be foxhunting in the same way as it existed pre ban.

At ten-to-three, Huntsman and hounds were at a place near Upton Snodsbury known locally as Ken’s Orchard. I was chatty with the man in charge of a golden eagle that day. “It doesn’t hold as well as it used to because Ken died and he doesn’t feed them anymore,” the birdman said.

We were parked on the verge amongst hunt followers, watching. Presently a terrierman went on foot into a bit of rough just off the road. He had a poke around, warned us not to make too much noise, then got on a walkie-talkie and said, “Come up the track, turn left, put them in to the brambles on the right.”

Huntsman and hounds appeared from Ken’s Orchard and did as instructed. Within seconds a fox shot out and took the main body of the pack south-west. Simultaneously another fox ran out on the north side and, with hounds almost on top of him from the start, was devastated at the first fence which he couldn’t get through in time.

The car followers around me loved all this and there was much excitement and laughter about “another accident.” The birdman, who witnessed everything, had made no attempt to even get the golden eagle out of its box. In shared post-kill pleasure, which obviously I was faking, we joked about his inaction while the tattered-rag-of-a-fox was stuffed in a bin bag and taken away on the back of a quad bike.

Most people do not support bloodsports. This applies in rural areas as much as in towns and cities. To be honest, rural opposition to hunting doesn’t surprise me because it’s here, in the countryside, where ordinary people are personally affected by hunt trespass, the chaos that goes with it, and the fear of sometimes serious repercussions if they make their true feelings known by simply saying “No Hunting”.

I set up Hounds Off six years ago to support those people. Today we support hundreds of folks who are fed up with the antisocial behaviour of Hunts that stick two fingers up at the compassionate majority; Hunts that continue to ride roughshod over their wishes, properties and the law of the land; Hunts that continue to chase and kill wildlife accidentally-on-purpose.

I am not an anti because I’m jealous; I would not want to be you. I’m anti hunting because I know that it is wrong to compromise the welfare of animals and, especially, it’s wrong to compromise their welfare for fun. And d’you know what, thankfully I’m not alone.

People who I talk to say that what they hate about bloodsports is the arrogance and sense of entitlement which many participants exhibit; in thinking that animal protection laws do not apply to them; in behaving like the countryside is their own private playground; in thinking that it is okay to inflict dangerous chaos and obstruction on others as they go about their daily business; and most of all, the arrogance of deliberately making hunted wildlife suffer for the sake of entertainment.

I’m really grateful to the organisers for inviting me to The Game Fair and thank them for giving me an opportunity to say this to you. I’d like to appeal to anyone here who has an open mind to open your heart as well and consider change. To you I’d say drop the cynical subterfuge, discard the false alibis, trail hunt lies and embrace country sports which don’t involve cruelty to animals. Drag Hunts and Bloodhound packs have been doing this for donkeys years. There are many ways to preserve the pomp, ceremony, employment, rural infrastructure and the thrill of the chase without forcing a wild animal to run for its life at the sharp end. This is the future and this, surely, has to be the way of a civilised, progressive society.

On behalf of the League Against Cruel Sports, Robbie shared some fair points and home truths too. Read his account of The Game Fair 2016 here.

© Joe Hashman

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26th August 2015

First Beam Of Light To Shine On Showground In 148 Years

Remember that petition to the Bucks County Show asking them not to support illegal hunting? Well, something amazing has happened. Tomorrow near Aylesbury, for the first time in 148 years, a beam of light will be shining on the showground in the name of wildlife protection.

Katie Angus (who started the petition) from Buckinghamshire reminds us and updates this ongoing story…

There’s an old saying that if you want something with all your heart you’ll get it. What I want is an end to animal cruelty in the name of blood sports. Have I got it? Not yet.

What I do have though is a huge step forward. An opportunity to give these animals who are persecuted in the name of propaganda, a voice. A chance to dispel the pro Hunt myths that have been created over the years in an attempt to justify chasing a terrified animal to an unthinkable death of being torn apart by hounds. Can you imagine that being yourself for just one moment? A death of being chased, terrified, until you’re exhausted and then being torn apart by dogs. How can anyone consider this a sport when it’s another animal being killed so barbarically? And in the name of ‘fun’ or ‘entertainment’. To a person capable of empathy it’s unthinkable.

As I have mentioned previously, in a recent poll by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), 8 out of 10 people were opposed to fox hunting across all regions of the UK. Not one region had more Pro Hunt supporters than Pro Ban supporters. Including Buckinghamshire. So whilst I accept that the county show reflects rural life and “the best it has to offer” I find it quite disturbing that this would include the barbaric killing of animals for sport something to be proud of? Surely this isn’t the best it has to offer? Thankfully, the majority would agree with me.

With this in mind, I started the petition to Bucks County Show to challenge their decision to reflect the views of a minority by having the local hunt present at the show, and parading in the main ring! Whilst I knew the issue would generate a good level of support, the rate at which this support grew, from every corner of the globe, was staggering! Over 120,000 people have now shown their support and allowed my one voice to become the voice of hundreds of thousands!

This of course generated a lot of media attention, good and bad, but like they say, no publicity is bad publicity when you have a cause to support! Following several radio interviews I was made an offer. To apply for a stand at the County Show. As a busy working Mum with none of the literature and documentation you’d need for a county show I called upon the League Against Cruel Sports for some guidance and support. They, in turn, applied for a stall on my behalf and were rejected live on BBC Three Counties Radio, with no official explanation. We of course don’t need an explanation. The argument and evidence that the LACS have for the truth behind blood sports is overwhelming and this kind of presence would be unwelcome at a Show who have openly confirmed that they are in support of ‘legal’ country pursuits.

I was then made another offer. To attend the show myself. Just me. No support from a large organisation, or any organisation in fact. Just me, “and one other”. My immediate response was for my safety and I was informed that I will be positioned next to the police tent! Comforting. One of the most surprising responses I encountered publicly from people in support of the hunt was to belittle my concern for my welfare and that of my family. Not that I should be surprised really. If you are able to enjoy chasing a terrified animal to a brutal death it would suggest a severe lack of empathy. With no heart or soul it must be difficult to comprehend why a mother would be concerned for the welfare of her family. But there you are. Speaks volumes really.

However, I am extremely fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive family who understand how much this cause means to me and how close it is to my heart and they offered their full support in seeing this campaign through. With so much support behind me, refusing the offer was never an option.

So with that in mind I accepted their offer! The LACS hoped they would be able to provide me with a sponsor so I could benefit from the legal cover, etc needed for the show but this was again rejected. They have refused any direct involvement from the LACS.

So, I went back to the drawing board. I completed all the documents required personally and sourced my own public liability insurance. I also paid full price for the stand as wasn’t given the charity rate due to not being an official charity. I now had everything needed to complete my application. Trying to arrange this alongside being a working Mum of a very active toddler, who is of course my number 1 priority, and having my own commitments to fulfil was extremely challenging but with the support of my family and friends, including all of you, my fox family of friends, I was able to overcome each and every wall and today I was given confirmation that my application has been accepted!

A little bit of history has been made today and will be made tomorrow! It’s the first time in the 148 year history of the show that an Anti-Hunting presence has ever been allowed! It’s the first time these animals will have a voice there, albeit a small one in the form of myself and a few friends, but we’ll be there. Dispelling the myths and providing the truth, and offering advice on how we can help and protect our local wildlife! I am immensely proud to have been able to see this through to a result, for all of us, and while the presence of the hunt will still be included, the presence of the anti-hunt will also be there. For the first time ever.

It’s an amazing breakthrough that wouldn’t have been possible without the support of each and every signature and share! Thank you all so much for your continued support and while it might only be me stood there tomorrow, I’ll be stood there for all of us, and I know I’ve got you all behind me! Our presence is a reflection that we’re living in a Pro Ban society, one where animal cruelty is no longer tolerated or wanted, let alone in the name of sport. This is a big step forward and a significant breakthrough. For those we couldn’t save and for those we still can.

Katie x

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10th August 2015

Petition to organisers of Bucks County Show – stop promoting bloodsports

fox-colin-varndell-2-blog

On Thursday 27th August the 148th Bucks County Show takes place near Aylesbury. ‘Attractions’ for visitors include the obligatory parade of hunting dogs. You’d be forgiven for thinking that in 2015 such a spectacle was a thing of the past but it seems not. Hunters and Show organisers would no doubt claim that they operate within the law. We question that. Time and time again the false alibi of ‘trail hunting’ has been proven to be a cynical ploy to circumvent the Hunting Act.

Many folks turn a blind eye to such things. Others take action. One such person is Buckinghamshire resident Katie Angus. She has started a petition asking the Show organisers to stop giving support to illegal hunting and we’re happy to share a link to her petition here:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/564/084/639/stop-bucks-county-show-from-promoting-fox-hunting/

Look out for reports in local newspapers such as the Bucks Herald. The LUSH store in High Wycombe will be sharing the petition on their social media platforms!

Katie contacted Hounds Off asking us to support her efforts. We asked Katie to write some words for us to use for raising awareness about her petition and the reasons why she started it. This she did:

What is a County Show? A family event filled with traditional fun and a sense of community? An opportunity to support local businesses and feel proud to be part of a more rural way of life?

What is fox hunting? A cruel, barbaric ‘pastime’ of a minority who find sick gratification in chasing a terrified animal to a torturous death!

So where I ask is the reasoning behind local fox hunts and beagles (hare hunts) being invited to parade in the main ring of the Bucks County Show? A direct promotion of the hunt and it’s vile ‘values’ that are statistically proven to provide no benefit to country life.

The UK fox population is stable and has been for the past decade, both in rural and urban areas. There is no overpopulation of foxes.

Foxes help to manage the rabbit and vole populations which has a significant economic benefit for farmers.

According to Defra, 95% of lamb losses are due to farm husbandry practices and, in a study conducted on  two Scottish hill farms, just 1% of lamb losses could confidently be attributed to fox predation. Just 1%!!

What justification is left? Tradition and sport??

Have we not evolved enough as a species that we no longer need to hunt and barbarically kill wild mammals for amusement?

Does anybody seriously consider it acceptable to drive terrified animals from their homes for sick entertainment by an out of touch minority with no conscience or heart?

66% of the British public are supporters of foxes, across every region in the UK! Every region has significantly more people in favour of the hunting ban than in favour of fox hunting.

So why do the organisers of Bucks County Show believe they’re providing Bucks residents, and those who travel from surrounding counties, with the kind of entertainment they want to see?

The truth is they don’t care what the majority of us want to see. The show serves to support their own outdated beliefs and provides a platform for them to promote their barbaric, depraved enjoyment to the public in advance of the continued attempts to repeal the Hunting Act.

Something so politically emotive and subjective should not be forced on the majority of the public who want to see an end to this barbaric ‘sport’.

This is the reason that I began a petition, after being dismissed with a generic email response and no explanation at all from the organisers as to why they feel it justified to invite the local hunt to a family event, meaning I wouldn’t take my own family if they paid me to!

It’s time Bucks County Show brought tradition in line with a changing society. One where the public do not consider animal torture as a sport or as entertainment! One where animal welfare matters and this outdated, terrible ‘tradition’ no longer has a place!

Please make your views known by signing the petition for the change that’s so desperately needed and help us to be the voice of the voiceless. Thanks so much in advance.

Katie Angus

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/564/084/639/stop-bucks-county-show-from-promoting-fox-hunting/

©  Joe Hashman

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