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
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