5th April 2015
You thinking of moving to the country any time soon? Everything is not always as it seems, especially on a sunny day at Easter when the mud and chaos of winter seems so very far away. Read and follow the words of wisdom below, from one of our long-term supporters, to protect your property, livestock and pets from illegal bloodsports, hunt havoc and trespass:
When first going to live in the country, check out whether hunts are active. The way to do this is to go and talk to one of the fancy estate agents who deal with large properties. Do not tell them your views on hunting, instead ask, “is riding popular in the area?” If they say yes, follow up with, “do you know which is the nearest hunt?” and then “where do they generally meet?” Many of these estate agents are connected with the local hunting fraternity (they often sponsor hunt-related social events).
Once you’ve bought a property, find out from the locals in the pub etc which is the local hunt. Again, do not discuss your own views; there will be a range of views around you. Hounds Off can provide you with contact details; or search online (though this is becoming increasingly difficult as hunts try to avoid contact with the public).
Make sure to find the name and contact details of the Hunt Master. Try and get phone numbers, email addresses as a postal address. Now write a polite and clear letter to the Hunt Master saying that you do not wish to have their hunt, or anyone or anything connected with it, on your property. Enclose a plan of your property. Send it recorded or registered delivery and do keep the record of posting and also keep a copy of the letter. Open a large file and put it in their, in readiness for many more letters. Any discussions by phone, email or whatever should be recorded in your file. This is important for later. Keep these on computer, but have a hard copies too.
It’s perfectly reasonable that you contact the hunt in advance and ask that they do not come on your land. No need to express opinions.
If the hunt do not answer, then you could try an email with a further (electronic) copy. If that is not replied to try a phone call, or call round in a friendly neighbourly manner, ideally with someone else. Stay cool but be firm.
Another thing you can do at this stage of the process, while still relatively unknown, is to mix with the followers and watch the hunt in progress. Now and again take a photo with your mobile phone discreetly. If a fox is being chased you may be able to video it, but be careful and do not take any risks. If you pretend to be making a call if anyone comes near, that will help and you can also leave the video running and have a little conversation with anyone around to see what might be picked up about who and where. If you feel safe and accepted you can ask things like, “where did they pick up the scent?” or, “looks like the fox is getting tired” etc. But I stress, do not attempt anything like this if you feel there could be any danger. Anything you do should be lawful and reasonable; just casual conversation.
If the hunt then come on to your land regardless of your request not to, phone the police and explain the situation. Then call the Hunt Master, ideally on their mobile phone. Be careful of getting into an argument directly with anyone on the ground, just firmly tell them they must leave your property immediately and say that the police are aware.
After the hunt has gone, write down everything that happened. Then call the police again and tell them how you felt. If you felt harassed, distressed or alarmed, say so. If they fob you off then write to the local police station and complain. If they take it seriously and come and visit you, be calm and collected and explain the situation honestly. Always convey how you felt. They will say what they can and cannot do for you. Try to build an understanding with them so they recognise you are reasonable. They may then do their best to help.
Write again to the Hunt Master to complain and use a more strident tone; not rude or angry, but very clear.
At any stage it’s quite reasonable to contact Hounds Off and any other people you feel may be able to offer support and help. There are a number of ways they may be able to assist.
If you have the hunt come on your land again you’ll need to ramp up your efforts. As well as the police, contact your Parish Councillor, your District or Borough Councillor and your MP with a letter explaining your position. You should try and get to see the politicians face to face if you can. Go and see your MP and discuss it in person. Ask your MP to contact the police and ask them what they are doing about it.
When contacting the police this time, be very clear how you now feel. Follow up with a letter to the Inspector dealing with wildlife crime.
Now is also the time to link up with any other sufferers. Contact neighbours, see if they are affected, have a cup of tea and ascertain their views. Some will help, some will sympathise but not help, others will be frightened, and some will perhaps even support the hunt. So be aware who are your allies and who is not and may have connections.
Keep Hounds Off informed, keep records and keep up the pressure every time it happens. Call the police, ideally you will have direct mobile numbers for officers by this stage.
In terms of legal action, you may feel you wish to contact a solicitor to discuss your options.
contact Hounds Off: firstname.lastname@example.org
photo © Colin Varndell
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