The Hunting Act needs to be strengthened
It is very pleasing to see that the Tories' planned attempt to overturn the ban on hunting has been dropped (Theresa May scraps vote on fox hunting in latest U-turn, 4 July.) Unfortunately, if anyone thinks this means all is well and that foxes, hares, deer and mink are safe from the hounds, they are completely wrong.
Hunts continually and blatantly hunt live quarry knowing that the law provides exemptions and loopholes that they can ruthlessly exploit. These give them a selection of handy excuses every time they get caught, and prosecutions of organised hunts are very rare despite the anarchy which is taking place.
The police are indifferent, and the Crown Prosecution Service is weak in enforcing the law. The only way this appalling situation can be remedied is by a significant tightening of the Hunting Act. Anyone who monitors hunts, as I do, will know how ruthlessly hunters continue with their horrible cruelty, and how aggressively they turn on anyone who opposes them. The monitoring and evidence collecting of no other law of the land is left to ordinary citizens as is the ban on hunting, and I hope and trust an incoming Labour government will finally put a stop to this atrocious state of affairs.
Penny Little Great Haseley
The EFRA Committee attempt to stop the RSPCA acting as prosecutor is just the latest phase in a vicious campaign against the Society being waged by the bloodsports lobby because the RSPCA had the temerity to bring cases against Hunts, who think they should be above the law and behave as if they are. All five of the Tory EFRA Committee members are strong supporters of hunting.
The particular case that brought down the hunters' wrath was, as mentioned in the article, that against the Heythrop, an Oxfordshire fox Hunt to which the then PM, David Cameron was very close and which is supported by a number of extraordinarily rich individuals [including the 'Chipping Norton set'], some of whom played a significant role in fostering Cameron's candidacy as MP for Witney and then assisted his campaign to become Party leader. It was no coincidence that Cameron's first and, for a long time, only policy commitment as Leader was to repeal the Hunting Act.
The Heythrop Hunt had been monitored by a group, of mostly middle-aged ladies, all volunteers, for the past several years. They had observed and filmed them and other neighbouring Hunts engaging in live quarry hunting over and over again. They had taken their evidence to the police over thirty times, only to be told by the police and/or the CPS that there was 'insufficient evidence' on all but one occasion, when the CPS finally charged the Huntsman with two counts of illegal hunting, only for the CPS to drop the charges as soon as an excuse to do so presented itself. It later emerged that the Prime Minister had intervened in this case on behalf of the Huntsman.
Over those few years the monitors had been subject to repeated obstruction, abuse, threats, harassment, criminal damage, theft of equipment and violence by Heythrop Hunt riders and followers, such that the latter had been convicted or cautioned no fewer than 14 times for offences against the monitors.
Despairing of ever getting justice for the animals being so ruthlessly and illegally tormented and killed for 'sport' by the Hunt the monitors approached the RSPCA and asked them to look at their catalogue of filmed evidence against the Heythrop for the 2011/2012 Hunt season. The Society's lawyers concluded that there was sufficient evidence there to lay no fewer than 52 charges against 4 senior Hunt members and the Hunt itself as a body corporate. The Heythrop and the individuals alike vehemently denied the charges, forcing the Society into great expense to prepare the cases. Then, almost on the eve of the full trial, in December 2012, they suddenly sought a plea bargain. The Huntsman, a former Master and the Hunt itself agreed to plead guilty to 4 charges each of illegal hunting, in return for which the RSPCA would drop the other charges, an offer which the Society felt obliged to accept, even though they thought that they could have obtained convictions on most, if not all, the other 40 charges.
Great play was made by the hunters of the amount the RSPCA expended in bringing the Heythrop to justice, ignoring the fact that they and their members had effectively forced the RSPCA to do so by refusing to plead guilty until the last minute when they knew very well that the evidence against them was utterly damning. The judge himself started the RSPCA baiting by criticising the Society for such expenditure, which attracted much publicity, though his later official reprimand for speaking out of turn did not.
The bloodsports lobby has been remorselessly bullying the RSPCA ever since, assisted greatly by their friends in the right-wing press. Meanwhile, monitors report that there appears to have been little change in the behaviour of the Heythrop or other Hunts in the area, though the Hunts now concentrate even greater efforts into preventing monitors from gathering evidence that might convict them.
These monitors and others across the country have little or no faith in the police/CPS to properly investigate and prosecute illegal hunting, which is rife. A former Chief Inspector of the CPS told the RSPCA that the law was being 'extensively flouted' and urged them to campaign to have the Hunting Act strengthened, something for which my organisation, Protect Our Wild Animals [ www.powa.org.uk ], has been campaigning since before the ink was dry on the legislation, because it is riddled with weak wording and unjustifiable exemptions which, combined with reluctance of the part of many police and CPS offices to take on often wealthy and influential Hunts, has allowed the latter to drive a pack and horses through the spirit and letter of the Act, a law now supported by over 80% of the public.
COMMENT ON CONSERVATIVE LEADERSHIP CONTEST
Many anti-hunt people will have heaved a sigh of relief when fox hunt supporter David Cameron resigned after the EU Referendum in June. Unfortunately, both candidates seeking to replace him as Prime Minister - Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom - are also strongly pro-hunt and in favour of repealing the ban.
Theresa May appeared on BBC’s The Daily Politics programme in 2009 arguing against the late Sir Patrick Moore, who spoke eloquently against the brutal activity of hunting. May opposed his view and described foxes as “vermin” that need to be controlled. Leadsom has been even more open in her pro-hunt views - she has brought the issue up herself in the course of her campaign to become PM - once again saying she is strongly in favour of repeal and showing her complete ignorance in her arguments (pure Countryside Alliance-speak!) in favour of hunting.
So it’s Hobson’s Choice for any compassionate person who can vote in the election between the two women. Make your view known to them both, whether you can vote for them or not - write to them at the House of Commmons, London SW1A 1AA - and tell them what you feel about their stated views on hunting.
Letters: Horror that turned a hunt enthusiast vegan
These letters appear in the 14th July issue of The Independent
The hunting fraternity claims that those who are opposed to hunting wild mammals with hounds are “ignorant townies” hellbent on some class war. Such nonsense. I once used to go hunting, I loved it and for seven years participated heavily in the 1980s.
What changed me was that I witnessed a vixen dug up. She was heavily pregnant and the terrierman shot her in the head. Alas, she did not die and was still alive and suffering. Then they set the terriers on her and baited her for a few minutes before throwing her into the back of the Land Rover.
Mortified in the back of that Land Rover I heard, to my horror, a sobbing noise coming from the sack she had been thrown into.
At first I thought that they hadn’t noticed that she was alive, but when I shouted that she was suffering they laughed and said it was just the cubs moving about that I could hear, that she would die eventually and they were not wasting another bullet.
I have seen many kills but that incident was what sowed the first seed of doubt, because it was just so callous. I eventually stopped hunting, spoke out against it, became vegan and became an animal rights activist and hunt monitor.
Lynn Sawyer Newnham on Severn, Gloucestershire
If Cameron and his cronies’ despicable Statutory Instrument is accepted in Parliament on Wednesday, a further raft of convenient excuses will be handed to lawbreaking hunts.
In addition to allowing a full pack to flush out foxes for “pest control” it would also give these countryside hooligans the right to set their hounds on to animals (foxes, deer, hares, mink) they can claim are either injured or “diseased”.
Setting aside the idea that the fate of any such animal should be in the hands of hunters, of all people, the evidence to disprove their claim of “injury or disease”, the animal victim, will have either escaped, or more likely been torn into pieces by the hounds, and anyone trying to retrieve such tattered evidence would almost certainly be met with violence.
Hunt terriermen, for whom it has remained business as usual since the ban, as they can currently claim they are digging out foxes to protect game birds, would forthwith be able to claim they were doing so for the protection of livestock. If they are asked to provide evidence that they have the landowner’s permission, they will have a full seven days to conjure it up, not difficult when most landowners are hand in glove with the hunts.
The main excuse for this carnage, that foxes need controlling, is not supported by respectable evidence. The fact that the Prime Minister is using this humbug to try to help his hunting chums is truly shocking. I hope all decent MPs will make sure he does not succeed.
Penny Little Great Haseley, Oxfordshire
Although we are used to seeing sneering articles from completely ill-informed journalists - the majority of whom, oddly, seem firmly in favour of the tearing apart of wild animals for sport - the one that appeared in the Economist on March 7th - "The Hunter and the Hapless" - was a little different.
That's because this article, rather than using weaselly words about "trail hunting", openly and jubilantly explained how hunts are defying the law and repeatedly getting away with it.
The two paragraphs following in italic, taken from this article, sum things up very well.
The article explains exactly what is happening, i.e. the law is being broken by hunt gangs who cynically pretend to lay "trails" purely as a ready made false defence should they be caught when they proceed to carry on as usual, ie. chasing and killing foxes all day long.
The hunt the journalist visited have a police officer riding with them (as do many others). The antis are not present because of the violence that has been meted out to them by the hunt,
"The huntsman who welcomed your columnist explained that, in practice, this means that before a hunt one of his helpers films himself laying a pretend scent-trail—by dragging a rag theoretically, but not actually, soaked in fox scent, from a quad bike—to provide evidence for a possible defence in court.
Then the hunt goes out and hunts as it always has, but illegally. The police—one of whose officers was riding with the hounds that wintry day—understand this, but do not much care.
Animal rights activists know it, and it makes them mad, but it is so hard to collect evidence of lawbreaking, in the form of video footage showing a huntsman urging hounds on to a fox, that prosecutions are rare.
Only a couple of dozen huntsmen have been convicted for contravening the ban, for which they mostly received small fines.
Your columnist, though he has never wanted to kill a fox, is cheered by this. It suggests the resilience of an interesting aspect of English culture, whatever social change and meddlers throw at it, for the good reasons
that it is successful and loved. That is also why Steve, a well-built yokel who lays the fraudulent scent-trails, refers to the huntsman as “Sir”. It is his culture he respects; not, as Labour’s class-warriors
might assume, a poshly spoken superior. As an expression of a similar commitment, Bagehot also enjoyed, he confesses, the explanation John, a retired terrierman, gave for there being no antis about that day.
Was it because the country was remote? “No,” he said. “It’s cause we bashed ’em.”
This journalist might approve of all this, but 80% of the population do not. Even some of those amongst the remaining 20% - the "couldn't care less" section - may be appalled to learn of the anarchy that reigns in the countryside, and the fact that some police officers, paid by the taxpayer to uphold the law, are right in the thick of this cruel and disgusting conspiracy to BREAK the law.
Many officers who don't actually hunt choose to ignore lawbreaking by hunts.
This is a total scandal, and the pro-hunt Economist journalist has laid bare the facts.
Strengthen the ban!
Hunt monitor Penny Little from Gloucestershire, reflects on ten years of the Hunting Act.
Hunting argument is long won... who will enforce it?
07-11-2014 Western Daily Press
November 18 marks the tenth anniversary of the passing of the Hunting Act, a hard-won piece of legislation which resulted from the unstoppable momentum of public opinion.
As a hunt monitor of nearly 20 years experience, I am in a position to judge the current situation, which is frankly shocking. All hunt monitors, including me, will tell you that in their opinion the ban is widely and routinely flouted. Consider the facts.
The reaction of hunters and their supporters to the presence of monitors is very revealing. One would expect that, if the oft-mentioned but rarely (if ever) seen activity of "trail hunting" were taking place, the monitors would be treated with tolerance, perhaps even amused contempt. Sensible hunts would invite the monitors to have a close look at their trail laying, and the subsequent laying on of the trained hounds, and ensuing run along the course of the trail.
The hostility directed at monitors is intense. Routinely, a hunt follower will be detailed to attach themselves to a monitor's car and tail it closely throughout the day. If the monitor stops, so does the tail, if the monitor turns round, so does the tail, if the monitor loses the Hunt and has to drive round the country lanes to locate them they will have their tail behind them every second.
The monitor's position will thus be constantly relayed to the Hunt. As the monitor gets out and films the hunt from the road, the driver of the tailing vehicle will leave their engine running, and often also play loud music, which will drown out the sounds of the hounds, the hunting horn and the shouts in the hunting field, all of which constitute important evidence.
These tails sometimes follow the monitors for many miles as they drive home! Hunters and their followers vent their spleen by swearing at the monitors, blocking their cars to prevent them keeping track of the Hunt, and also blocking their cameras to stop them filming.
Sometimes the monitors are physically assaulted, or have their cameras stolen, or their tyres slashed. The people who dedicated so much of their lives to campaigning for a ban are not satisfied with legislation that has allowed hunting to continue virtually unaltered ten years after its inception.
The law must be strengthened to restrain the hunters, who have demonstrated only too clearly that they believe themselves to be above the law. The heart of the matter remains the hunted animals, the foxes, deer, mink and hares. I have seen sights that will haunt me to the end of my days.
I have seen and filmed a small fox so exhausted by the chase that, as he tried to run down a railway line to escape the hounds, he repeatedly stumbled and faltered. I have seen and fIlmed a crowd of hunt followers actually cheer as the hounds ripped a fox to pieces.
I have seen a fox, just feet away from me, in the extreme realms of exhaustion and terror, simply unable to run any more, crouching on the grass verge, and watched in absolute horror as the hounds closed in upon him and tore into his helpless body.
I commend the new campaign launched by Protect Our Wild Animals - of which I am an Associate - the Campaign to Strengthen the Hunting Act, to all those who also want to see the hunters properly restrained. This campaign aims to highlight how the law needs to be amended in order to control hunting in an effective way.
The website - www.campaigntostrenghtenthehuntingact.com is informative and clear. This campaign has been welcomed by many MPs, and it is important that these MPs hear from constituents that they wish to see the law strengthened.
The arguments for banning hunting were won long ago. The issue is about the democratic will of the public, and the rule of law. CSHA adds: To view some of the shocking and revelatory footage captured by Penny and her fellow monitors see the You Tube Channels 'scorpiovulpes' and 'zinfandelorganic'.