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8th Dec 2018

Hunting Myths Pt 3: Hunting Is Efficient & Humane

Nothing humane or quick about the hunting & killing of this healthy stag by the Quantock Stag Hounds on August 29th 1995. By definition, without the Hunting Act such atrocities would be legal. Stills grab from film taken by Kevin Hill.

OPINION: Zoologist Jordi Casamitjana writes exclusively for Hounds Off

Mr Barrington claims (Horse & Hound, 11.10.18) that hunting causes less animal suffering than other ways to kill such as shooting. This is not true. He claims that shooters often miss and injure the animals they target (which is true and this is why shooting should also be banned) and so hunting is a better alternative. However, he completely omits three key facts:

1) Only in hunting you have the psychological and physical suffering caused by the prolonged chase, which Professor Bateson and Elizabeth L. Bradshaw famously proved with their undisputed research which led to the banning of staghunting in National Trust land many years ago (a ban which, unfortunately, the NT does very little to enforce).

2) The animals may also be injured by the hounds and not be killed straight away if they managed to hide underground on time or to flee into land the hounds cannot enter.

3) Dogs, like most canids (wolves, hyenas, etc.), would not kill their prey by a quick bite in the neck as felids (cats, tigers, etc.) do, but by biting any part of the body they can reach, and keep biting. Therefore, the actual death along (ignoring the suffering already caused by the long chase) is likely to cause lots of pain and suffering.

Need more proof? If a horse is fatally injured in a race, a dangerous animal escapes from a zoo, or diseased livestock needs to be put down, what is the “humane” method the authorities choose to kill the animal? Do they choose death by “dog bites”?

Mr Barrington often claims that hunting is the most efficient way to control foxes, deer and hare. This is a curious way to use the term “efficient”, as it actually means “achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.” So, comparing it with other wildlife control activities (unfortunately still legal) such as shooting or snaring, how can it be more efficient?

Productivity wise – in this case meaning number of animals killed – a foxhunt will spend most of the day hunting an average of three or four foxes. Often some of these, if not all, get away. And the “wasted effort or expense” of this? Four or five paid hunt staff, dozens of paying filed riders, large vehicles to move the animals around, maintaining large pack of hounds, all the horses and their keep, expensive uniforms, and even all the policing due to allegations of illegal hunting, and public order issues when hunt saboteurs, hunt monitors or other witnesses are around … compared with a vehicle, a torch and a gun, or a stalker, or just a few snares. The most efficient, really? To be clear I think shooting, snaring and hunting should all be banned because they are all cruel and unnecessary. However, if they are ranked by efficiency, how anyone can seriously claim that hunting is the most efficient?

But let’s be generous and accept that there may be people out there who genuinely believe hunts are real “wildlife managers”. Well, it they want to call them like that then hunts are the least effective, least efficient and least humane wildlife managers in existence. So much so, that it almost looks like rather than be composed by ecologists, zoologist, veterinarians or anthropologists with a deep understanding of wildlife and the environment , they are composed by horse riders, bird shooters, dog breeders, livestock farmers, badger baiters and fox diggers. Oh wait … that’s why!

© Jordi Casamitjana
Zoologist

PREVIOUSLY 

Hunting Myths Pt 1: The Snakeoil Salesman

Hunting Myths Pt 2: They Only Go For The Sick Old & Weak

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7th Dec 2018

Hunting Myths Pt 2 (of 8): They Only Go For The Sick Old & Weak

The cover of Horse & Hound magazine, 25 October 2018. Their strapline, circled in red, says it all.

OPINION: Zoologist Jordi Casamitjana writes exclusively for Hounds Off

PREVIOUSLY: Hunting Myths Part 1: The Snakeoil Salesman

Mr Barrington often repeats the classic claim that hunts only go for weak, diseased or old animals. This is completely untrue and there is no need to find any scientific research to prove it. We simply have to understand what hunting with hounds is and how it differs from shooting, lamping or snaring, which are other methods people use to kill wildlife.

Foxhunts, hare hunts, stag hunts and mink hunts use packs of hounds which locate a prey (“quarry”) and begin chasing it following its scent trail. Then, people on horse, motor vehicles or on foot follow the hounds through the countryside. This is the “fun” of the activity. The longer the chase, the better the hunting day. Weak or ill quarry animals would not run but hide as they don’t have the energy to flee, so there would not really be a chase if the hunts targeted those … and without a chase, there is no hunting.

The truth is that hounds do not “decide” to go for the weakest animals as they just follow a scent and have no idea of the condition of the animal they are chasing.  This is why the Hunting Act 2004 – that was meant to ban hunting in England and Wales – outlawed the chase of the wild mammal with dogs, not actually the killing. Indeed, it makes it an offence to “engage or participate in the pursuit of a wild mammal with dogs”.

Incidentally, the hounds have been selectively bred over generations to run slower than their quarry but with superior stamina. This is one way to deliberately prolong the hunt and provide good “sport”.

And as far as the claim of chasing “old” animals is concerned, it is important to realise that in autumn each foxhunt engages in cub hunting to train their hounds to kill foxes. They go to woods, copses, fields of standing crops and other places where they know there is a fox den, they surround them so they cannot escape, and then they send the pack of hounds in to kill them. These are “cubs”, not old foxes, and every year an estimated 10,000 fox cubs are hunted by the UK hunts, even now.

Despite the claim of doing “trail hunting” (actually just a cover for illegal hunting) the hunts still need to train their hounds to chase and kill foxes, and they can only do that with the secretive and clandestine activity of “cub hunting” (which they have re-named “autumn hunting”).

Part 3 of this series will be published here tomorrow.

© Jordi Casamitjana
Zoologist

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6th Dec 2018

Hunting Myths Part 1 (of 8): The Snakeoil Salesman

Stills grab from https://youtu.be/d6JgW9zQCi0

OPINION: Zoologist Jordi Casamitjana writes exclusively for Hounds Off

Hunting with dogs is an obsolete cruel activity, full stop. Surely everyone knows this, even those who participate in it, promote it, or fight against those opposing it? If some people want to call it a “sport”, then it is a cruel sport that should be banned. If some people want to call it a countryside “pursuit”, then it is a harmful pursuit that should stop. If some they call it a British “tradition”, then it is a primitive tradition that should be abolished.

But one thing is for certain. Hunting with hounds is not a method of wildlife management. It never was when first conceived, it never become when it was popular, and still isn’t one now that is being phased out. We know that simply because foxhunts have always bred and kept foxes later released to be chased, as the “fun” of hunting only occurs by participating in long chases across the countryside, and without “quarry” there is no chase. You can read this in all traditional books about hunting, and still see it today, even when hunts claim that what they do now is “trail hunting”, which is in fact a false alibi to avoid being prosecuted for breaches of the Hunting Act 2004.

Why is it then that the hunting fraternity seems to have given up defending their beloved “sport”, their cherished “pursuit” and their revered “tradition”, and the only thing you hear them now repeating again and again is that they are just “innocent” pest controllers providing a service to farmers? Well, the answer may be that they have run out of arguments, evidence and also “champions”. And the proof of this may be Jim Barrington.

On 11th October 2018, the Horse & Hound magazine, the front publication of the hunting fraternity propaganda machine, has for the first time published an interview with Jim Barrington, titled “Hunting’s most valuable asset?” Barrington is currently an “animal welfare” consultant of the Countryside Alliance and one of few remaining public champions of the hunting cause. In the last few years, you seldom see Hunt Masters, Huntsmen or any other actual hunt expert publicly defending hunting in debates or interviews. You mostly only ever see Jim Barrington, who has never hunted and is not hunting today, and who a few decades ago was a Director of the League Against Cruel Sports, one of the then leading anti-hunting organisations.

Why him? Because the hunts now claim to be something they never were, a pest control service, and therefore they don’t really need an expert in hunting anymore, just an expert on deception. The problem is that they have not chosen an expert on pest control or wildlife management either. They have not chosen an ecologist, zoologist or qualified animal welfare expert. So, it is not surprising that Jim Barrington’s arguments, repeated again and again every time the hunting debate surfaces, are so easy to debunk. So once again I will debunk them here, as I have done in the past, and I undoubtedly will be doing in the future as it seems these days the hunting fraternity only has this broken record to play.

But first let me make a general comment about Mr. Barrington’s current role. An “animal welfare” expert of the Countryside Alliance is like a “conservation” expert of British Association of Shooting & Conservation, or a “science” expert of Japanese whalers, or a health consultant of a tabacco company, or an environment consultant of an oil company. These lobbyists are hired to distract people from reality when a wrongdoing has already been exposed and the general public begin to move away from the companies and fraternities they represent. Their job is to confuse any debate, present falsities as facts, and ultimately to con naïve people into believing that “they do nothing wrong”, despite the compelling evidence. They will twist reality to convince you that extracting and burning petrol is good for the environment, that smoking is good for your health, that killing whales is good for science, that releasing millions of exotic pheasants in the wild and shooting them is good for conservation, and, of course, that hunting a terrified mammal until ripped apart by a pack of dogs is good for animal welfare.

So, on this basis, it is not Mr. Barrington’s fault if he has to exaggerate, mislead and deceive to try to get his points across, as this is his job, and he would not be hired if he stuck to the truth. But he should not complain when others tell it how it is. I remember how succinctly, directly and satisfyingly Dr. Brian May did this in the Newsnight’s interview when he famously stopped Mr. Barrington on his tracks.

In my next Blog, to be published here tomorrow, I will begin debunking Mr. Barrington’s arguments expressed in the Horse & Hound article mentioned above.

© Jordi Casamitjana
Zoologist

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30th Nov 2018

Another Wretched Day With The Quantock Stag Hounds

Confused and frightened, Red deer hinds which were hunted by the Quantock Stag Hounds on Thursday 29 November 2018. Stills grab courtesy: Somerset Wildlife Crime

From November through February deer hunters turn their attention, dogs and guns onto the females of the species. Red deer ‘hinds’ become the target. Often the hunt is little more than a shooting frenzy with multiple animals hounded then blasted. This was the case yesterday (29.11.18). I don’t know how many deer were killed by the Quantock Stag Hounds because most of their dirty work was hidden deep in private woods, but before midday I’d heard four gunshots. In the afternoon, two more deer were definitely taken and another possible before everyone dispersed and the Huntsman led seven hounds along the lanes back to their kennels. There seems to be less ritual afterwards. Maybe hinds don’t hold the allure of a majestic, beaten, stag. There are certainly less trophies to be had. You can cut off and mount the feet (known as ‘slots’) and pull out the teeth for ornaments but most hunt followers have plenty of these things already.

For us it was a difficult day and horrid. That said, we got some useful film which will help us continue to shine a light on this disgusting pastime, so I’m holding on to that. Some of it can be seen here.

At this time of year hinds might be pregnant, running with a first year calf still in tow, or both. They’re herd animals and like to stay close to home. So no long chases over miles of countryside here. Everything is much more contained as the deer run around in big circles, trying to shake off the hounds and dodge the bullets which can be around any corner or behind any tree.

In the interests of crop protection The Hunting Act (2004) permits the flushing of deer with two hounds providing that –

(a) reasonable steps are taken for the purpose of ensuring that as soon as possible after being found or flushed out the wild mammal is shot dead by a competent person, and

(b) in particular, each dog used in the stalking or flushing out is kept under sufficiently close control to ensure that it does not prevent or obstruct achievement of the objective in paragraph (a).

Sadly, the wording is sufficiently vague to enable versions of stag, and now hind, hunting to continue which satisfies the bestial urges in a minority of country ladies and gentlemen and leaves the rest of us sickened and confused.

Special thanks to fellow volunteers from Hounds Off and Somerset Wildlife Crime. Thanks also to everyone who supports our work. We could not do this without your backing. If you’re able, please consider making a contribution towards our campaign running costs.

Somerset Wildlife Crime donate here
Hounds Off donate here

Stag hunting in Somerset, October 2018 watch here

© Joe Hashman

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30th Oct 2018

PRESS RELEASE: Stag hunting in Somerset Oct 2018

Hunted stag runs for his life. Quantock Stag Hounds, 25.10.18 Photo credit: Hounds Off

SHOCKING FOOTAGE EMERGES OF STAG HUNTING JUST TEN MILES FROM TAUNTON

  • Campaigners have released shocking footage of a Red deer stag being hunted by the Quantock Stag Hounds in Somerset on Thursday 25 October 2018.
  • The hunt took place about ten miles from Taunton near the picturesque West Somerset Railway line at Crowcombe Heathfield and lasted for three hours.
  • Hunters used combination of horse riders, dogs and four wheel drive vehicles to harass and harry the stag through woods for nearly two hours before forcing him out into the open, and on his own, for another hour.
  • After being flushed from the woods, film clearly shows the stag running with his mouth gasping and tongue lolling. There is a heaviness to his gait.
  • About an hour later two hounds, which had been set to follow the stag by scent, have chased him to exhaustion. The stag is ‘at bay’ behind a tree in undergrowth.  Hounds can be clearly seen ‘marking’ their target; barking incessantly, rushing forwards and jumping back as the stag uses his antlers to keep them from attacking.
  • Gunmen from the Quantock Stag Hounds get within close range but the stag jumps up and makes a bid to escape. Hounds give chase and five minutes later, away from cameras, the stag is killed.
  • Hunt followers and riders gather in the woods for the traditional carve-up, where the body is divided into trophies for people to take away and remember their day.

The film can be viewed here.

Many people think that stag hunting was banned when the Hunting Act (2004) made chasing and killing most wild mammals with dogs illegal. But it hasn’t quite worked out like that. Stag hunters in the West Country have reinvented their bloodsport with subtle differences which allow them to exploit loopholes and exemptions which circumvent the law, including;

  • Claiming to be conducting Research & Observation according to Schedule 1 (9) of The Hunting Act (2004), in the same way as Japanese and other whaling nations carry on killing under the pretence of scientific research.
  • The Research exemption was intended to enable scientists to carry out their studies if they needed dogs to find a wild mammal. But it does not specify that people claiming Research under this exemption have to be scientists, that their research has to be genuine or that it should be non-lethal.
  • The Observation part only requires a hunter to be looking at the stag when it is killed.
  • Flushing to guns. The Hunting Act (2004) provides for this in Schedule 1 (1), so long as only two hounds are used and the stag is shot as soon as possible.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  • The National Trust banned stag hunting in 1997 after Professor Patrick Bateson published a report which found that hunting deer with hounds inflicted cruelty and distress far beyond anything they might experience in nature.
  • Stag hunting was prohibited on Forestry Commission land in 1997 too.
  • Campaigners have documented numerous incidents of trespass by the Quantock Stag Hounds on National Trust and Forestry Commission land during September and October 2018.
  • The Quantock Stag Hounds hunt deer with dogs Mondays and Thursdays throughout September to April.

For more information or interviews please contact:

Bobbie Armstrong
Somerset Wildlife Crime: 07572495309

Joe Hashman
Hounds Off: 07711 032697

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18th Oct 2018

Government Defends Wildlife Crime On Public Land

Forestry Commission sign warning of a 2016 drag hunting event at North York Moors, where no actual drag hunt operates. Photo courtesy International Fund for Animal Welfare

GOVERNMENT DEFENDS WILDLIFE CRIME IN PUBLICLY OWNED FORESTS

Yesterday, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs responded to a petition calling for an end to the licensing of so-called ‘trail hunts’ on the Public Forest Estate, which is owned & managed by the Forestry Commission on behalf of the public. The response is pretty much a paraphrased Countryside Alliance press release and there are a couple of things they’ve either overlooked, perhaps accidentally, perhaps not:

– The petition specifically doesn’t call for an end to licences given to hunts which have agreements formed under a general agreement with the Master of Draghounds & Bloodhounds Association (MDBA), as drag hunting & clean boot hunting are not covers for wildlife crime.
– DEFRA’s response omits that licences are also granted to hunts under a general agreement with the Association of Masters of Harriers & Beagles (AMHB), such as the New Forest Beagles.

Most importantly, though, they’ve regurgitated one of the most worn out lies in the country and they’ve done so without scrutiny. This is, of course, that fox & hare hunts have stopped hunting live quarry and started to ‘trail hunt’.

‘Trail hunting is a legitimate activity … Many hunts have since turned to trail hunting as an alternative to live quarry hunting…’ – DEFRA, 17th October 2018.

Here’s a couple of brief reasons why this is rubbish:

– In 2014, a review of RSPCA prosecuting activity was published by Stephen Wooler CB, a former Chief Inspector for the Crown Prosecution Service. On P109/s9.1 it stated that: ‘The evidence reviewed leaves no room for doubt that, despite the 2004 legislation, traditional fox hunting remains “business as usual” in many parts of the country.’
– Both before & after the Wooler Review, hunts that have been licensed to use public land by the Forestry Commission have been convicted; the Meynell & South Staffordshire Hunt were convicted under the Hunting Act 2004 based on footage from Derby Hunt Saboteurs and the Cottesmore Hunt were convicted under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 based on footage from the League Against Cruel Sports.

DEFRA have rejected the requests of the petition on a completely false premise. It remains open & ongoing to gain signatures, and needs 100,000 signatures before 18th March 2019. If you haven’t signed this already, please do so here!

© Jack Riggall

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13th Oct 2018

Game Of Cat & Mouse Continues #TrailHuntLies

HOUNDS OFF OPINION

The National Trust has started issuing licences for foxhunt packs to carry out so-called trailhunting on their land. But this season the business-as-usual status quo has changed slightly. Licences will now be open to public scrutiny and a small team has been appointed to oversee this activity. For many this is not enough, for others it’ll be too much.

Myself, I’m a realist. I know the National Trust is a huge chuntering juggernaut of a conservation charity which must cater for a wide spectrum of opinions and beliefs. I know how frustratingly slow it can be to effect positive change but I also recognise that the National Trust has a history of being led by its Members and it is always worth using your voice and your vote.

So it was that on Friday 12 October I travelled to Birmingham and, with Jack Riggall from National Dis-Trust, met with Nick Droy and Rob Rhodes from the National Trust. Nick is five weeks into his role of Trailhunting Manager and Rob (who attended via telephone) is the Head of Countryside Management & Rangers.

Trailhunting Manager is a new post, created by the National Trust in response to concern from Members and the public that trailhunting is nothing more than a false alibi used to provide a cover for illegally chasing and killing wild mammals with dogs.

Nick told us that his professional background is in practical countryside management at both regional and national levels and it started eighteen years ago when he was himself a National Trust volunteer. He explained that he has no hunting in his background and is approaching this complex issue with a fresh eye and open mind.

Nick will lead a team of three; an office-based co-ordinator and a worker who will assist in carrying out face to face engagements, checks in the field and monitoring of so-called trailhunting on National Trust land.

This season, the Trailhunting Team will be conducting one pre-arranged inspection of each Hunt which is granted a licence by the National Trust. My problem with this is that it provides an easy way for #TrailHuntLies to avoid detection because when Nick is about Hunts will temporarily change the way they behave.

I told Nick and Rob this and referred them to a 2015 report called Trail Of Lies. It is a fantastically complete and in-depth exposé of how Hunts have used trailhunting to circumvent the law, to carry on abusing and killing. The only problem with Trail Of Lies is that it was complied and produced by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and so hunters consider it to be propaganda.

It is not and, to reinforce the point, I signposted the National Trust Trailhunting Manager to another, independent, source which reaches the same conclusion; the Wooler Review.

What happened was the RSPCA had grasped the nettle in terms of taking private Hunting Act prosecutions and landed seminal convictions against the prestigious Heythrop Hunt in 2012. The Countryside Alliance went ballistic and set out to destroy their opponents.

Their criticism reached a crescendo in January 2013 when former Countryside Alliance head honcho Simon Hart MP initiated a debate in the House of Commons about prosecutions brought by the RSPCA and in response Her Majesty’s Attourney General suggested that an independent review could be advantageous. The RSPCA Council took heed and appointed Stephen Wooler CB to do this. Wooler is a Barrister and former Chief Inspector to the Crown Prosecution Service.

During our meeting I read a passage from the Wooler Review and asked Nick to think of his Trailhunting Team as being the police officers to which Wooler refers;

“Securing the evidence neccasary to mount effective prosecutions under the Hunting Act 2004 in respect of mainstream foxhunting therefore requires far more than sending a team of police officers to take the names and addresses of those at a hunt gathering. The evidence required is such that it is unlikely to be achieved through police presence and observations alone since behaviours would then be likely to change.” (1)

In fact, Wooler goes on to describe a “cat and mouse game between hunting participants and supporters and those endeavouring to gather evidence through observations and recordings.” (2)

I concur with Wooler (2014) and Trail Of Lies (2015): giving hunters a heads-up when they’ll be monitored on National Trust land is rather like the police telling a burglar when they’ll be round to look for stolen goods.

As Trailhunting Manager, it is part of Nick Droy’s job description (and background research) to meet with the likes of Jack and myself. I found him to be friendly, open and likeable. That’s a good start, but I do believe that there are fundamental flaws in how the National Trust have instructed him to carry out his duties. We agreed to keep lines of communication open and meet again next summer. Doubtless much will happen between now and then.

© Joe Hashman

References:

(1) The independent review of the prosecution activity of the RSPCA, Stephen Wooler CB, 2014. Page 110, paragraph 5.
(2) The independent review of the prosecution activity of the RSPCA, Stephen Wooler CB, 2014. Page 110, paragraph 6.

Hounds Off is run by volunteers. We rely on public support to fund our work. If you would like to contribute please do so here.

Costs incurred on 12 October 2018;
Return travel by road from Dorset to Oxford (179 miles at 44 pence per mile) = £78.76; Oxford to Birmingham New Street return, by train (Adult Standard Class) = £79.20; Total = £157.96

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9th Oct 2018

Staghunting On The Quantock Hills 08.10.18

Scene from Quantock Stag Hounds carve up at Staple Farm, West Quantoxhead, Somerset, 8 October 2018.

There was a moment yesterday when I thought that the Quantock Stag Hounds had decided not to go hunting but alas it wasn’t so. In the end they killed a stag and took the body to a farm to carve it up. Men and women supped cans of drink and watched in gory fascination as the Huntsman, elbow deep in warm blood, dished out bits of inneds and butchered the animal at their feet, in front of their eyes.

They started not far from Bishops Lydiard which itself is a stones throw from Taunton. I was part of a team of Hunt Monitors. We were parked near the beauty spot of Lydiard Hill, by some horseboxes. We anticipated that the Hunt would come in this direction.

Shortly after 11am my radio crackled and the message came through that there was movement our way. Then a gaggle of hunt riders came along the lane, gave us a bit of verbal, loaded their horses into the boxes, and drove off. That was when, fleetingly, I vain hoped they were going to leave stags on the Quantock Hills in peace.

Instead, the Hunt relocated. We got a message that they were up Crowcombe and sure enough that’s where they were hunting.

Staghunting on the Quantocks is not what it was. Prosecutions, campaigning pressure and changing attitudes from the police have forced them to stop using a pack of a dozen or more hounds to chase stags to exhaustion. This season, which started at the end of August, they’ve been using two hounds and an army of riders and vehicle followers to chase and chaperone their quarry. It’s a tactic which staghunters on Exmoor have employed for years now and I think they believe it exempts them from prosecution under the Hunting Act.

There were a couple of huntable stags in Crowcombe Park but an especially big fellow was the target. It took a while for the Hunt to flush him up onto the hills but eventually their pressure forced him out.

I was tracking the Quantock Stag Hounds (QSH) in a vehicle, in communication with others who were both mobile and on foot. From hilltops you get some fantastic views but the Quantock Hills are characterised by large blocks of woodland and numerous steep, deep valleys known as ‘combes’. The staghunters know this landscape intimately and are skilled at operating simultaneously in the open yet out of sight, if that makes sense.

The stag was somewhere below a high spot called Bicknoller Post. Horsemen and women lined the tracks and combe sides. The stag didn’t appear keen to run. It’s mating season for Red deer in Devon and Somerset (the ‘rut’) so likely he was pretty tired from all that. I thought they were going to shoot him there and then but no, they wanted some sport.

What followed was not a high speed, high adrenalin gallop and chase over the countryside. It was more akin to a slow walk. The stag kept low among whatever cover he could find to hide in and the hunters, co-ordinated by radios and aided by their two dogs, pushed the deer along and steered him away from our eyes and camera lenses.

We drove into the picturesque village of Holford. By now we had a hunt supporter tailing us. We waited to let a party of schoolchildren pass. I hoped they saw the anti hunting stickers in the car window and that’s why they smiled and waved and shouted hello as adults in yellow tabbards shepherded them safely to the side. Or, more likely, they were just naturally excited to be exploring such a beautiful place.

A sharp right and left and we were in the car park with dog walkers and tourists. Our hunt tail parked up herself and ran to keep tabs on the foot team we deployed. I drove up a remote, single track lane and at the end was a gathering of elderly hunt supporters in cars.

A number of wooded combes with streams converge at Holford and in the recent past it was a favourite killing place for the QSH. But these days they are no longer Kings of the Hills. They skulk more. Red coats have been swapped for fawny brown. They’re quieter. They still take up a lot of space but they try to avoid clogging villages with four-wheel drives and quad bikes. They are adept at chaperoning their stag quite discreetly away from public gaze.

There were moments while we were in Holford. We heard the hunting horn and urgent, loud shouting. Vehicles travelled at dangerous pace on bumpy lanes back and forth. But nothing more than that came our way.

Our teams of Hunt Monitors communicate by walkie-talkie and telephone, neither of which work well in this area of Somerset. It’s hard to be in the right place at the right time anyway but when communications are poor because the signal isn’t great it’s even harder. We believed that the hunted stag had left the Hills for farmland near Kilve but weren’t sure.

The stag was killed south of the A39 near Kilve late in the afternoon, in the depths of private property, and taken to a nearby farmyard for the post-orgasmic ‘carve up’. They were not happy about us trying to take some pictures and it was difficult anyway as they’d hidden themselves behind buildings. Out of sight but not out of our minds.

That was the bloody reality of staghunting on the Quantock Hills this day, 8th October 2018.

Volunteers from Hounds Off and Somerset Wildlife Crime continue to monitor staghunting on the Quantocks, bear witness and gather evidence to show how hunts are operating. You can support our work here. Mark your donation ‘QSH’ and we will dedicate it to this specific fund.

© Joe Hashman

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6th Oct 2018

Spot The Difference

Top: 'The First Essential Towards Sport' by Tom Ilvester Lloyd (1873-1942). Bottom: Ilminster Beagles from Bineham City Farm, near Ilchester, Somerset, 29 September 2018.

You could be forgiven for wondering why the Ilminster Beagles are not getting done for illegal hunting because film of them finding and chasing hares on 29 September 2018 is quite clear. The problem is that hunters have found cunning ways to avoid the law and one of their dishonest excuses is to cry “Accident!”

What the film of hare hunting near Langport, Somerset shows is the beagle pack searching for, finding and pursuing a hare. The dogs are sniffing around seeking the scent of their quarry when suddenly the hare jumps up from right under their noses and sprints away as the beagles start barking excitedly and giving chase.

This is exactly how many hare hunts started before the Hunting Act came in to force in 2005 so why are they not liable? Well, there is a subtle difference which provides an excuse that gets them off the hook. Read on.

Look at the pictures at the head of this blog. Toppermost is a painting by avid sporting artist Tom Ilvester Lloyd (1873-1942). It portrays “the find”, that moment when a hare springs up literally in front of hounds and the hunt begins. Ilvester Lloyd entitled his work The First Essential Towards Sport which says it all, really.

Now look at the grab below, taken from film of the Ilminster Beagles on 29 September 2018. This also captures the precise second when a hare is found and forced to make a run for it. It’s a post-ban, real-life version of The First Essential Towards Sport.

The reason why the Hunting Act cannot be enforced on the Ilminster Beagles is because in the evidence there are no humans in shot and therefore the Huntsman can claim that hunting of the hare took place by accident. Alas, thanks to a fundamental desire to circumvent the law and some unfathomable decisions in the Courts, crying “Accident!” is a get-out-of-jail card which hunters up and down the country are playing every time they go out.

Interestingly, when the hunted hare runs close to roe deer and the Ilminster Beagles switch to following them, hunt staff are close enough to be able to stop them and prevent a riot.

It’s a shame that the police are so under-resourced. A little targeted training would help them understand why and how huntsmen and women across the land are cocking a snook at them (and us) and go a long way to preventing wildlife crime in the first place.

Illegal hunting by the Ilminster Beagles on 29 September 2018 was reported to Avon & Somerset Police and is recorded with the following Incident Number: AS-20180929-0304.

WATCH OUR FILM OF BEAGLING IN 2018 here.

HOW FOXHUNT MASTER CLAIMED “ACCIDENT” TO AVOID PROSECUTION film and report here.

IF YOU SEE BEAGLING phone the police on 101 or 999. Make sure that they record your call and give you an Incident Number.

IF YOU HEAR ABOUT BEAGLING tell us! All information is treated in confidence.

© Joe Hashman

 

 

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29th Sep 2018

Kent Wildlife Trust – Hunting For The Truth

Demonstrators at the Kent Wildlife Trust 2018 AGM, highlighting the fact that serious questions about their Chairman and his hunting connections remain in dispute.

At the Kent Wildlife Trust 2018 AGM, held at the Kent County Showground, Detling, on September 29th, Hounds Off Founder Joe Hashman spoke on behalf of over 205,000 people who have signed Tom Fitton’s petition calling for the pro-hunting Chairman to be replaced. Here is what he said:

Some people are not telling the truth about the Kent Wildlife Trust Chairman and his involvement with hare hunting. The truth matters because it cuts to the heart of who controls the countryside.

Kent Wildlife Trust accept that their current Chairman, Mike Bax, hunted hares with the Blean Beagles only until thirteen years ago, when this pastime was prohibited.

But our evidence shows that he was the Huntsman for the Blean Beagles from 1971 until ‘91 and from then until 2016 he was a Joint Master.

For twenty years, as Huntsman his job would have been to help his dogs seek and destroy hares for the amusement of paying spectators. As Joint Master, his responsibilities would have included the day-to-day running of the Hunt.

Beagling is a deliberately cruel bloodsport. The greater the suffering, the better the hunting. Beagles are finely tuned killing machines, selectively bred to run slower than a sprint-specialist hare but with enhanced stamina and sensitive noses so they can follow the scent that their quarry leaves behind as she tries to escape.

There is no natural predator that hunts hares like this. Beagling is the complete opposite of natural selection.

Beagles work as a pack under the guidance of a Huntsman. Their aim is to gradually tire the hare enough for the dogs to pull her down and bite her to death.

In favourable conditions and the right mood to chase and catch a hare, beagles are relentless. 90-minutes from find to kill is considered perfect (1). At the bloody end, the Huntsman and spectators will have been marvellously entertained, their quarry reduced to a stiff-legged, hunched, shattered shadow of her former self and the beagles will relish their hard-earned prize.

But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to what was being written in the sporting press shortly before beaglers took their activities underground to avoid falling foul of the law.

From the Purbeck & Bovingdon Beagles in Dorset; “… we had a splendid morning with a hunt of three hours finally killing in a field of kale.” (2)

From the Stoke Hill in Devon; “An entertaining day….A useful view of the hare running the road … saw hounds on good terms again … a final fast burst across some old pasture saw this well beaten hare accounted for … A hunt of over two hours …” (3)

“A useful view” means that the hare had given hounds the slip but someone saw it and told the Huntsman where. “Well beaten” means stiff-legged, hunched and shattered. “Accounted for” is a euphemism for catching and ripping apart.

From Somerset, the Clifton Foot bragged, “… a classic hare hunt … recorded a successful conclusion in three hours and twenty six minutes.” (4)

This from the Chilmark, also in Somerset; “The best of November hunting … the field had a grandstand view of an eighty minute hunt … they ran into the hare at the fields feet.” (5)

In beagling, spectators are known collectively as ‘the field’. So, translated, this means the dogs killed the hare right in front of everybody who was watching.

In the Home Counties, the South Herts gushed; “Better was to come … where visitors …. saw hounds catch their hare after a glorious seventy minutes of steady hunting.” (6)

The Cambridgeshire-based Pipewell Foot boasted, “An amazing hunt was enjoyed … for nearly one and a half hours … to a well-deserved conclusion.” (7)

The North Staffordshire Moorland wrote of one hunt climax, “The view … was magnificent as they rolled her over in an open meadow below.” (8)

“Rolled her over.” Sounds almost pleasant doesn’t it? But we’re not talking about making love in the clover. It’s a rose-tinted euphemism for glossing over the cruel reality of using dogs to chase a hare to the limit of her physical ability, then savage and rip her to pieces.

This from the Holme Valley, in Yorkshire; “…a hare was hunted for around for 70 minutes giving the remaining field some excellent viewing until hounds were rewarded in the copse.” (9)

Nobody thinks about how the hare feels do they? It’s all about the glorious view and the sweet little dogs who deserve a prize at the end of all their hard work. In fact, people who go beagling are actually advised not to consider the suffering of the hare and are warned that if they do then their enjoyment might be spoiled (10). I wonder if Mike Bax ever considered the plight of his quarry during twenty years as Huntsman and another twenty-five as a Master?

This from the Pevensey Marsh, just down the road in Sussex;

“The day from Little Marshfoot was probably the best of the season … killed at dusk, after ninety minutes.” (11)

And, bringing it right back home, during the season before the ban the Kent Wildlife Trust Chairman Mike Bax’s own Blean Beagles killed 22 hares and boasted in the sporting press of “producing some fine sport”. This included “accounting for a tired hare” after a “very fast” half-hour, and catching another after a continuous chase over two and a half miles (12).

Parliament banned beagling in 2005 because it seriously compromises the welfare of the hare (13) but the abuse didn’t stop. Many hunts pretended they were chasing a scent laid by a human runner. They called this newly invented fictitious activity “trail hunting”, but trail hunting is a con. It’s a false alibi designed provide a cover for illegal hunting.

Others pretended to be after rabbits because rabbits are not protected by the law.

Shortly after beagling was banned, one of the Countryside Alliance’s own national board members, the late Admiral Sir James Eberle, boasted, “a previously not well known breed of ‘bush rabbit’ provided a notable quarry.” The Countryside Alliance’s man was clearly and defiantly sticking two fingers up at the Hunting Act because there is no such creature as a ‘bush rabbit’ (14).

As I said earlier, not everyone is telling the truth.

Scratch the surface, read between the lines, take the trouble to inform yourself even slightly. Only the corrupt or wilfully ignorant could fail to see that, between the bloodsports community and Countryside Alliance, there is a nationwide criminal conspiracy to subvert the law and carry on cruel and illegal hunting.

This is awkward for the Kent Wildlife Trust. Mike Bax is part of the Kentish bloodsports community and his apparent addiction to killing for fun is clearly at odds with their aims and objectives.

As well as heading up the Wildlife Trust, former Huntsman and Hunt Master Mike Bax is an ex High Sherriff of Kent, sits as Chairman of the Kent Rural Crime Advisory Group and is President of Kent Crimestoppers. So what is really going on here?

For many years the hunting lobby has been infiltrating the system by getting their people into positions of authority. It’s a tactic called Entryism.

We believe that Mike Bax is part of this tactic. That’s not to say that everything he does is bad. He will be party to decisions and policies on which we all agree. This is all part of the smokescreen and, amid the fog, clearly Mike Bax swings his power and influence to open doors which Kent Wildlife Trust find so irresistible that they feel compelled to push misinformation about their Chairman to cover their backs.

This is actually about vested interests and criminal elements presenting an acceptable face to facilitate the abuse and killing of animals in beautiful surroundings. Their ultimate goal is to repeal the Hunting Act, then embed hunting into the fabric of society so that the public and Parliament never challenge its existence again.

Our campaign is not an attack on Kent Wildlife Trust, its employees, volunteers or members. We recognise and support what they do in terms of worthy work to restore, save and enhance our natural heritage. But, and it’s a big “but”, we have a wealth of evidence regarding the links between Kent Wildlife Trust, their Chairman Mike Bax and the Blean Beagles hare hunt which contradict their official statements.

In the absence of any explanations which stand up to proper scrutiny, it seems perfectly reasonable to continue to politely ask their Chairman to step aside.

As I said at the beginning, not everyone is telling the truth.

© Joe Hashman

(1) Horse & Hound, 07.11.1980

(2) Hounds Magazine, November 1990

(3) Hounds Magazine, December 1990

(4) Hounds Magazine, October 1987

(5) Hounds Magazine, April 1990

(6) Hounds Magazine, November 1990

(7) Hounds Magazine, Summer 1990

(8) Hounds Magazine, April 1990

(9) Hounds Magazine, Volume 4 Number 1

(10) The Art Of Beagling. Captain J. Otho Paget. Pub. H.F. & G. Witherby. 1931. Page 217

(11) Hounds Magazine, April 1990

(12) Hounds Magazine, Summer 2004

(13) Lord Burns Enquiry Into Hunting With Dogs, June 2000. Point 6.67

(14) Baily’s Hunting Directory 2006-2007, page xivi

At the Kent Wildlife Trust AGM held in Chatham on September 23rd 2016, Hounds Off Founder Joe Hashman spoke on behalf of 156,000 people who signed a petition calling for the Chairman to stand down. Read or listen here

Sign Tom Fitton’s petition here.

Support Hounds Off.

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