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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. 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.

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.

© Joe Hashman

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20th November 2015

Winchester Hunting Symposium, Sat Nov 28, is ON!

Winchester Hunting Symposium

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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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. 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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24th August 2015

The Fox Hunting Season Has Begun #keeptheban

Hunt riders holding-up maize in Dorset 22.08.15 pic: Dorset Wildlife Protection Hunt riders holding-up maize in Dorset 22.08.15 pic: Dorset Wildlife Protection

A new season of fox hunting begins as soon as the harvest is in sufficiently to afford access to the land. In many parts of the country this means that during August, and certainly from September, hunts are out in force with horses, hounds and four-wheel drive vehicles.

Fox hunting in late summer and autumn is a prelude to the pomp and ceremony of the full season which runs mostly from end Oct/early Nov until March or April. Since the 2005 Hunting Act outlawed fox hunting, participants refer to autumn hunting as ‘hound exercise’. Before then it was known more honestly as ‘cub hunting’ (or ‘cubbing’ for short).

Hunt supporters may claim that what is described below is outdated because hunting is different since the Hunting Act. Actually, most of the evidence we have seen and heard suggests that very little has changed and the law is being widely flouted. Links at the bottom of this piece are evidence of this. Sure, there have been a few cosmetic tweaks which serve to confuse the issue, but the following is as true before the ban as now, ten years after. That’s why Hounds Off and many others are calling for the Hunting Act to be strengthened in ways which mean that foxes (and other abused wild animals) are afforded better protection.

The purpose of this article is to outline what cubbing is, what it looks like and how you can report it if you see it (or hear about it on the grapevine).

Cubbing usually starts in the early morning at first light. This means from 6am in mid August, getting later as autumn comes. By mid October 9.30 or 10am is the norm. At the beginning of the day, before the sun is at its full power, hounds are able to smell foxes better. Hounds hunt by scent so are trained to do this at times when conditions are best. In the early season hunts may finish by mid morning or, in late September/October, by mid afternoon.

Evening hunts are popular too. Scent is often good later in the day and an evening ‘meet’ might combine killing foxes with a social occasion (such as a barbecue).

Cubbing is vital for hunting purposes.

The principle objective is training the hounds. They need to recognise the smell, look and taste of a fox as well as how to hunt as a pack. Dog packs will be large. Many are youngsters trying to make the grade. Some older, experienced hounds will be there too, to teach and lead by example.

Young hounds are best trained by hunting and killing a lot of foxes. Cubbing, especially early in the season, is a brutal and bloody affair (though mostly conducted out of sight).

Here’s what the late 10th Duke of Beaufort wrote in his 1980 David & Charles publication, Fox-Hunting, on pages 68/69 (the late Duke had massive status in the hunting world):

“The object of cub-hunting is to educate both young hounds and fox-cubs. As was said earlier, it is not until he has been hunted that the fox draws fully on his resources of sagacity and cunning so that he is able to provide a really good run….I try to be out cub-hunting as often as possible myself, and the ideal thing is for the Master to be out every day….Never lose sight of the fact that one really well-beaten cub killed fair and square is worth half a dozen fresh ones killed the moment they are found without hounds having to exert themselves in their task. It is essential that hounds should have their blood up and learn to be savage with their fox before he is killed.”

If one or two foxes do escape that’s good from a hunting perspective too. These foxes know to get up and running when hounds are about and are dispersed to all over the place to ensure a reliable spread of animals to chase. Later on, when punters pay a tidy fee for the privilege of ‘riding to hounds’, these are the foxes which are hoped to provide the best sport. Hunts are businesses, after all.

By harvest time this years litter of cubs look like young adults and are still in family units. Huntsmen already know where foxes are living. Farmers and gamekeepers supply this information. Hounds will be taken for training to these places, one by one.

Cubbing in August and September often involves surrounding small woods or rough bits of ground with a ring of people on foot and horseback. This is known as ‘holding-up’. Holding-up may also happen around fields of maize or large-leaved crops such as sugar beet. Families of foxes often reside there because they can creep around freely but safely under cover. Woodland or standing crop, old orchard, bramble thicket or somewhere else, a foxy place is called a ‘covert’ (pronounced with a silent ‘t’).

When hounds are first entered into covert there may be complete silence apart from the occasional toot on hunting horn or odd word of encouragement from the Huntsman. Hounds will be searching, noses down, for the smell of a fox. When one hound gets a whiff he or she will ‘speak’. That means they bark in a particular way. As other hounds find the scent too so the speaking gets louder until all the dogs are ‘on cry’ and their collective noise reaches a crescendo.

At this point the fox is darting around in the undergrowth ahead of the pack, trying to escape. If it pops out from the edge of the covert then the surrounding riders and foot followers will shout, clap and slap their saddles to make a wall of noise to scare the fox back. Even if a fox is not seen, but the sound of hounds speaking is close enough to indicate that the fox is running close to the edge, a wall of noise is created. Hunt supporters help considerably to kill foxes during cubbing.

Sooner or later the fox will be caught and killed, either above ground in the jaws of the hounds or when dug out by men with spades and terriers if it tries to hide down a hole. This happens repeatedly until the whole litter is destroyed. Some brave foxes will beat the wall of noise and get away. These are ‘good’ foxes which are hoped to run far and fast during the winter months.

Cub hunting is not all holding-up. Any place likely to provide foxes is tried; hedgerows, streams, field corners, untidy back gardens, derelict farm buildings, even ivy-clad trees. Short hunting runs may be encouraged by hardly holding-up at all or on side only so that, by October and just before the lucrative full season, hounds are hunting their quarry in the open over decent stretches of ground.

Cub hunting has been illegal since February 2005 and should be reported to the police by dialling 101 (some forces suggest 999) and giving as much information as possible, especially regarding what you saw and the location.

Cubbing happens August to October on any day of the week except Sunday, usually in the morning but sometimes in the evening after working hours. Meets are often held in farm yards or fields. Groups of riders, hounds and 4×4 vehicles are tell-tale signs.

The occasion and dress code is informal, even scruffy sometimes. Often nobody wears the distinctive red coats known as ‘hunting pink’. So you may see a hunt but not actually realise it because what you witness looks like just random groups of riders or people assembled at odd times in strange places and apparently looking at nothing.

Hounds running close to or across roads would strongly suggest illegal hunting. Nobody in their right mind would risk laying artificial trails in such dangerous places where the risk of accidents is so real.

Look out too for lines of riders spaced apart at regular intervals along country lanes or in fields and woods. They could be holding-up. Listen out for the ‘wall of noise’ made by hunt followers to frighten foxes. Staccato cries of “Aye-aye-aye!” are commonplace alongside whip-cracking. The combined sound is often unearthly. Riders may converge at pace amid a lot of screaming in an effort to force their quarry back towards the hounds.

Hunts make great play of the fact that they only go to where they’ve been invited. So if a hunt is trespassing on forbidden ground or somewhere else unwelcome then there’s little doubt that they’ll be up to no good.

We advise always report suspected illegal hunting to the police using 101 (or 999 if appropriate). Other people to inform are the League Against Cruel Sports on their wildlife crime hotline 01483 361 250 and the Hunt Saboteurs Association via @huntsabs on social media or phone 0845 4500727. All info received is important and will be recorded for future reference or acted upon immediately.

Here is evidence of illegal cub hunting which resulted in prosecutions for members of the Meynell and South Staffs Hunt in 2012:

Here is an expose of the North Cotswold Hunt apparently feeding and housing foxes in artificial homes then hunting them with hounds during an autumn cub hunt in 2014:

On behalf of hunted wildlife, thank you for reading this and for caring.

© Joe Hashman

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10th August 2015

Petition to organisers of Bucks County Show – stop promoting bloodsports


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:


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


©  Joe Hashman

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24th July 2015

Who Do You Believe? #keeptheban

Photo courtesy IFAW Photo courtesy IFAW

Re: The proposed Hunting Act 2004 (Exempt Hunting) (Amendment) Order 2015, by Statutory Instrument

We think many MPs were aware, had the above (Amendment) Order been passed using an inappropriate parliamentary process, that the Hunting Act would effectively be a dead law. Being complicit in deceiving colleagues either satisfied their own personal leisure preferences, or those of others who helped them to power. We also realise that many MPs do not know much about about hunting with hounds and/or are vulnerable to peer pressure, especially if newly elected.

In English Foxes, James Gray MP (Conservative, North Wiltshire) blogged his take on recent events in his online Weekly Column. We have no problem with him voicing his opinion but we do feel that disingenuous statements must be countered. Two lines in particular caught our attention.

1. The Government was proposing a very modest little Statutory Instrument

Official documents are heavy to read, so we’ve simplified these for all to see and (hopefully) understand. The Statutory Instrument proposed five crippling amendments:

a/ Allowing an unlimited number of dogs to be used to flush wild mammals out of woods and similar places in front of people armed with guns to shoot them (rather than two, as the law currently allows).

b/ Extending the circumstances where Hunting Act exemptions permit dogs to be used underground to hunt wild mammals (so-called ‘terrier work’).

c/ Removing the need for those engaged in terrier work to carry written permission from the landowner with them whilst so engaged.

d/ Broadening exemptions to include permitting hunting of wild mammals which the hunter “believes” may be diseased; surely a gift for any defence lawyer.

e/ Permitting an unlimited number of dogs to be employed in chasing wild mammals for the purposes of “Research and Observation”. Hunting by definition requires that quarry species are observed by someone and this amendment, alongside any pseudo-scientific research that might be invented in conjunction, would open the floodgates to hunting with hounds as practiced before the Hunting Act came into force. We all know how certain nations twist R&O to fit their whale hunting bent.

2. All it effectively did was correct an anomaly and bring the practice in England more in line with that in Scotland

A lot of Government propaganda since the amendments were pulled has centred on assassinating the SNP for interfering with a law which does not affect them. This is disingenuous on two fronts.

Firstly, wild mammals do not recognise national boundaries and in the Borders may be hunted from England into Scotland, and back.

Second, the Scottish equivalent of the Hunting Act is widely acknowledged as being the weaker of the two and very difficult to enforce. So after ten years of cynical subterfuge, false alibis, much criticism but hundreds of successful prosecutions we suggest it’s no wonder that hunting apologists want to weaken English & Welsh law under the guise of becoming more like Scotland! In fact, as we hope you can see, if the amendments had been carried then in reality the Hunting Act would’ve been effectively destroyed from an enforcement perspective. This is why we (and others) have called this an attempt at “repeal by the back door.”


1. Recent Government figures show that in ten years there have been 590 prosecutions under the Hunting Act, with a success rate of 64%. By comparison, Scottish hunting legislation has had 210 prosecutions in thirteen years with a success rate of 35%. There have been no successful prosecutions of registered hunts in Scotland.

2. Interestingly, no mention was made of parity of penalties. Probably because in Scotland you can go to prison for 6 months whereas in England & Wales the worst punishment is a low fine.

3. A commitment to fully review the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 has been given by the SNP in light of recent events.

4. The Government would have lost that vote without any intervention by the SNP. It’s only certain media outlets who made it look as if the SNP stopped the castration of the Hunting Act.

© Joe Hashman

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14th July 2015

Our Roar Of Disapproval #keeptheban

Team Fox gathers outside Parlaiment to roar disapproval at attempted creeping repeal of the Hunting Act 2004 Team Fox gathers outside Parlaiment to roar disapproval at attempted creeping repeal of the Hunting Act 2004

Parliamentary plans to weaken the Hunting Act have been seen off – for now. Our collective roar of disapproval has been heard, loud and clear.

The means by which crippling amendments to the Hunting Act were intended to be slipped through is called a Statutory Instrument (SIs), which allows for quick and easy alterations to existing legislation. The SIs was was pulled today, twenty-four hours before MPs were due to vote, and pulled without a shadow of doubt because an irresistible coalition was built which consisted of MPs from across political parties and the Home Nations who were committed to defeating bloodsports enthusiasts on this issue.

In the first instance, respect and thanks to all those MPs and those who lobbied them; everybody who wrote, talked, tweeted, retweeted, shared, liked, favourited, pinned, posted, demonstrated, reported, advertised, sang, shouted and dreamed about defeating these amendments and the dark forces behind them. If those dark forces within and outside of Parliament thought they could undermine the Hunting Act (and democracy) quietly, unnoticed and with little resistance, they were spectacularly wrong.

Arguably, after our monumental efforts we would be in a better position if there had been a 90-minute debate then vote. Everything indicated that we would have won handsomely. The bloodsports lobby know this too, so we shouldn’t be surprised that they lost their nerve and decided to move the goalposts.

To most decent-minded folk it might seem strange that there are some people and associations whose sole mission in life seems to be to make hunting with hounds legal again, but sadly this is the case. What happens next is uncertain. Doubtless they will dust themselves down, regroup, plot and try another way.

So, foxy lover, be ready for anything. Stay informed and keen. Hounds Off, and others, will keep you fully up to speed via mail-outs, e-alerts or (in our case) blogs and social media. But for a moment, as you rest and take stock, reflect on the fact that within the space of seven days the latest bloodthirsty intentions of hunters were scuppered. Through wholly peaceful means, we have sent dark forces into retreat.

Hounds Off is proud to be part of Team Fox, which is itself a coalition of animal welfare organisations from across the political and campaigning spectrum who are united in their wish to see the Hunting Act reinforced not repealed. These organisations comprise the staff, volunteers, members and supporters who make impossible things possible. That’s what Team Fox is –  people like you and me; decent, compassionate individuals who have the collective energy to move mountains.

© Joe Hashman

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13th July 2015

The Year Of The Sheep (revisited) #keeptheban

In between cutting his first courgettes and tending the sheep, our Hounds Off poet-in-residence Mick Spreader has been pondering on the latest cynical attempts at creeping repeal of the Hunting Act. He wrote the following especially for SNP MPs, hoping they’ll see that we’re the same side in our opposition to David Cameron’s furthering the narrow interests of “Privilege” and that they’ll vote accordingly.


At night they came with torch and noise
men mounted all on horse.
They drove you from your Highland croft
by brutal use of force.
Ancestral homes put to the torch
lit up the darkness deep
That year they cleared you off your land
is called “Year of the Sheep”.

And into towns they drove you
or forced to emigrate
You shipped off to a distant land
to an uncertain fate.
No longer did your homeland ring
with gaelic voice or pipe
The only sound that could be heard
– the bleating of the sheep.

In England it was different
the result was much the same
“Privilege” stole our common land
and did so without shame.
The choices for the labouring man,
when they were narrowed down, were,
Stay upon the land and starve
or slave away in town.

And so, my Scottish brother,
the enemy’s the same.
He’s endured all down the ages
and “Privilege” is his name.
Again he rears his monstrous head
his foul intentions plain
Send Cameron’s red-coat “Privilege” mates
“hameward to think again.”

© Mick Spreader
12 July 2015

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12th July 2015

An Open Letter To SNP MPs

Dear SNP MP,

I write regarding the Hunting Act 2004 amendments which are being voted upon in the Commons on Weds 15 July 2015:

Please vote against them. I’m aware that it has been said that these amendments simply bring English & Welsh legislation in line with your Scottish equivalent, The Protection Of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. I’m also aware that by pitching the amendments this way, pro-bloodsport Tories seek to compromise you and your SNP colleagues by claiming that voting against them would be hypocritical. This is not true. Actually, they need you to abstain in order to push their amendments through.

There are many details within the amendments which, if passed, will make the English & Welsh Hunting Act far weaker than its Scottish counterpart. For example, hunting wild mammals with a full pack of hounds will be exempt if conducted under the guise of “research and observation”. Laws which control the use of terriers to dig out quarry which has found sanctuary underground will be relaxed. Also, the amendments being put forward to MPs refer to all “mammals”, not just foxes as your 2002 Act does.

We all know that these amendments are a cynical and calculated attempt at creeping repeal which has been a long time in plotting. However, you cannot be accused rightly or wrongly of hypocrisy if you vote against because what you’re voting on is beyond comparison with the laws you have at home.

So please, please, please do the right thing. Attend the House of Commons on July 15. Vote against the Hunting Act amendments. Earn massive thanks and respect from us lot down here and join forces with the vast majority of English and Welsh people who believe in compassion not cruelty.

Yours sincerely,

Joe Hashman

Hounds Off
P.O. Box 162


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10th July 2015

Dishonest Intentions #keeptheban

A fox is killed in Somerset, pre-ban A fox is killed in Somerset, pre-ban

Nobody of a reasonable disposition can be in any doubt about the motives behind government moves to amend the Hunting Act so as to allow unlimited numbers of hounds to ‘flush foxes to guns’. Why? Well, because in practically every debate about foxhunting as pest control for over ten years now we’ve been told, by the hunters themselves, that shooting equals inevitable wounding and consequent suffering. We’ve been consistently fed the line that shooting foxes is cruel while being torn apart by dogs is humane. Yet now MPs are being presented with, and encouraged to vote for, an amendment which they say will make shooting foxes easier.

Without a clear majority of pro hunt MPs to be certain of success if outright repeal was tabled, motives behind the proposed Hunting Act amendments are to cynically subvert legislation which needs strengthening not weakening.

From the beginning of their hunting careers, bloodsports participants are told to disassociate with the quarry and connect with hounds instead. As children, hunt-related activities which are far removed from the realities of killing for fun are designed to convert young hearts and minds.

Hunting fox, deer, hare and mink (formerly badgers and otters too) with hounds are bloodsports which depend on people who take part developing blind spots to cruelty in their minds and an indifference to animal suffering in the recess of their hearts. Slowly slowly they’re converted to a place where they actually enjoy it so much that they’ll do and say whatever needs to be done or said to justify this animal abuse to themselves and those they seek to persuade.

Doubtless in other walks of life your average hunt supporter is a half decent individual. Alas, when it comes to defending the leisure activity of foxhunting they will do and say whatever it takes to circumvent any opposition.

Please contact your MP as a matter of urgency. Point out the hypocrisy of the amendments in terms of animal welfare and that if they vote for them on July 15 they’re either being complicit in the ongoing lie or duped by others who’s intentions are wholly dishonest.

Joe Hashman, July 10th 2015

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