Originally written in 2014 this post is as relevant as ever as the British Conservative party look at ways to overturn the UK hunting ban.
The hunters are today attempting to negate the anti-hunting argument by inferring that banning hunting has nothing to do with a love of unmolested wild life, and everything to do with spiteful bullying and jealousy of the upper classes. What they omit to mention is that they themselves are not strangers to some horrendous upper class bullying and hatred of the plebs who dare to stand against them.
The Protection of Wild Mammals Bill, a forerunner of the hunting Act we have today, was a modest but welcome step which had to be critically defended in the face of a seven-year counter-assault by the forces of a militant tendency in upper class Britain. The introduction of the Bill saw venomous resistance in the House of Lords and fierce extra parliamentary attacks with direct action and civil disobedience.
Building on the Wild Mammals Act, and to give UK wildlife the right not to be hunted and torn apart by a pack of dogs, came the hunting Act, and if we had seen sedition in the upper echelons with the forerunner of the Act, it was nothing to the mayhem and anarchy that prevailed in town and country alike when the toffs thought their cruel pastime was about to be snatched away for good.
Notoriously, a plummy mob of violent protesters hijacked Parliament Square in London, and members of the 'Ledbury set' led by their pro hunt pin up boy Otis Ferry, broke in onto the floor of the House of Commons to protest about what they thought should be their human right to kill for fun.
*The old aristocracy and the parvenus who ape them and their bloodthirsty ways, bile-belching reactionary journos, the Tory Party's front bench and backwoodsmen, along with a rag tag army of retainers, hangers-on and village idiots, took to the proverbial barricades in rebellion against townies, democracy and the 21st century.
And the battle for the British countryside began, but it wasn’t started by the common decent folk. It was started by that privileged minority who had never in their lives before been told that they must defer to the rule of law and desist in pursuing that nefarious and cruel pastime known as fox hunting. That symbol of aristocratic privilege and the natural order of things where the upper classes ruled and the surfs did as they were told, or at least didn’t argue back, had come to an end. Their God-given right to do as they like had been challenged by Labour party upstarts no less and they were jolly well going to see about it. They immediately declared the Act a waste of time and unworkable. They called it an unjust law, and on that premise they took their grievance to the Court of Human Rights where they were promptly told that it is not a human right to kill.
Bloody-nosed but undeterred the hunters signed a declaration to break the law, and they hoorayed and trumpeted their defiance, dressed in hunting pink, the length and breadth of the land, killing and chasing foxes as before whilst pretending all the while they were following trails of foxes which had long been turned into American fur coats.
Then the RSPCA successfully prosecuted the Heythrop for illegal hunting, and the toffs turned really nasty. The aristocratic and land-owning elite and their right-wing middle class allies, aided and abetted by the right wing press, orchestrated a prolonged, vicious and scurrilous attack on the RSPCA, the League Against Cruel Sports and any other animal charity that dared voice an opinion against hunting. Sir Barney White Spunner, recently erstwhile CEO of the Countryside Alliance, wrote in the Telegraph saying that the RSPCA was a sinister organisation. Simon Hart MP, himself an avid hunter, who it is rumoured entered politics specifically to fight to repeal the ban, wrote to the Charity Commission complaining that the RSPCA had over stepped its remit and the prosecution was politically motivated. The Charity Commission ruled that the RSPCA had no case to answer. Mr Hart went so far as to discuss the matter in Parliament, but again the RSPCA was vindicated, with the Attorney General adding that the Charity performed an essential and valuable service which could not be easily picked up by the police or the CPS.
Undeterred and still charging over the fields on horseback, and still breaking the law whilst at the same time declaring themselves Martyrs and decrying the infringement of their basic human rights, they attempt to align themselves with heroes like Nelson Mandela and Martyn Luther King. As if these hunt apologists ever lifted a finger to protest at the true injustices visited on the working classes during the miners’ strike or the present day hardships of those on zero hour contracts and people that are made homeless because of the bedroom tax.
Odd that these very same people who admit gleefully to breaking the law are ardent supporters of law and order when it comes to prosecuting hunt saboteurs for aggravated trespass. (A law brought in specifically to stop our sabs entering private land to record video evidence or prevent illegal hunting. Aggravated trespass carries a stiff fine, a criminal record and may incur a term of imprisonment.)
When it comes to defending their privilege, whatever it takes becomes their credo and violence against anti-hunt people and property is common place. The battle is not just about foxhunting. Fox hunting is part of a long class war and the toffs are determined to show the rest of us just who runs Britain.
She is also looking at how badgers may interact with cattle as well as looking at farming practices which may reduce the risk of infection spreading.
So why is this happening? Why are David Cameron and Elizabeth Truss so determined to fly in the face of science and turn their backs on badger experts, scientists, vets and most of the country?
It seems they are also flying in the face of their own better judgement too, as in December 2014 they admitted for the first time that future culls might fail because of the small overall numbers of animals killed. Undeterred, Secretary Truss, after releasing the results of the 2014 cull pilots in Gloucestershire and Somerset, said she is still determined to continue culling.
DEFRA minister George Eustice has been pressured from both sides of the debate as opposition MPs demand to know what justification he has for extending the cull to Dorset, whilst at the same time, South West Devon MP Gary Streeter wants to know when Devon farmers can expect to be able to kill badgers on their farms. This is a particularly alarming situation, as there is no way of knowing that the culls last year have made any difference to the disease in cattle, yet without any evidence to show killing badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire has reduced bTB in the cattle in those counties, the government is happy to slaughter more animals in Dorset, whilst Devon is clamouring to start killing too. It is nothing short of a national scandal that this Tory Government is treating British wildlife like so much trash.
For some reason which the Government refuses to divulge, there is no independent expert review process or analysis of the safety, effectiveness or humaneness of the culling and no satisfactory explanation as to why these issues are being ignored. So we have two failed culls and a third cull underway with extended parameters to include an extra county and no information coming out of Westminster.
There are some who are hailing the previous culls a success. One such is the sacked DEFRA Secretary Owen Patterson who lost his job due to the badgers moving the goal posts in 2013. His comments are based on nothing more than anecdotal evidence from farmers who said at the end of last year that bTB outbreaks had dropped from 36 down to just 12.
People in the anti-cull camp didn’t believe those miraculous figures, so they did a little research of their own and came up with an entirely different scenario which showed that whilst there had been a slight drop, it was nothing like the grand scale of things that had fired Mr Patterson and had prompted him to make such a grandiose statement. In fact In Somerset 2013, on the day the badger cull started there were 17 herd breakdowns inside the cull zone and on the last count, on 30 June this year, there were 14. The bad news for the cull “anecdotal evidence” success story lies on the outer edge of the zones, where consensus of scientific opinion had predicted an increase due to fleeing badgers. BTB had indeed increased by 50% from 12 cases to 18 since culling had started according to the same set of government statistics. These statistics were taken from the Governments own figures.
It was hoped earlier this year that the roll out would be shelved for 2015, but Liz Truss soon quashed any hope that sanity would prevail, and farmers began applying to Natural England to sign up for a licence to kill.
In April, 2015 the British Veterinary Association dissociated from the cull saying the shooting of free-running badgers at night had not proven effective or humane. The BVA did feel that some badgers could be culled but cage trapping was more effective and certainly more humane. It is also much more expensive too.
Those against the killing are mobilised and the wounded badger patrols are out in the cull areas again. It was reported in the Western morning News that Anti-badger cull protesters are defying their leaders and breaking the law to try to prevent the killing of badgers. One farmer claims the patrollers have been trespassing to free a badger from a cage
A video posted on the Facebook page of the Gloucestershire Badger Office shows a group of saboteurs crossing private land and then releasing a badger trapped in a cage.
CEO of the Badger Trust Dominic Dyer said the Trust is supporting wounded badger patrols in all three cull zones in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset. But he said protesters should operate lawfully. Teams opposed to the culls have set up camps and are walking public footpaths in all three cull areas to draw attention to the Governments flawed policy on controlling bTB.
The anti-cullers have asked for more feet on the ground saying, If you are able to come to the zones and help, please do. Somerset and Dorset especially need more people on the ground. If you live in or near the cull zones and you can spare any amount of time to help, or if you are able to travel and stay at camp, please contact the organisers.
Western Morning news
The Telegraph story was pretty similar adding that the man who fell off his bicycle lost his glasses and the club members had to barricade themselves in the building as the fox stalked them outside. The woman who was bitten tried to distract the fox with food so the others could escape apparently.
A pest controller was called but when he tried to approach the animal it "went for him" and chased him back to his car. The animal was eventually caught and destroyed but there is no comment on how or when that happened. The only pictures supplied were a generic picture of a fox totally unrelated to the story, and another picture allegedly of the offending fox taken through the window of the sports centre. Apparently the terrified crew inside the building watched the animal casing the joint on the CCTV but no footage has been supplied as yet.
The May / Portillo interview was equally bizarre, with Dr May explaining carefully why hunting should stay banned and Mr Portillo replying that hunting and bull fighting were both great traditions and as such should be allowed to continue as before. He even went on to claim that his practising Catholicism impelled him to hold that view. Animal souls, Mr Portillo said, were not as important as human souls.
Of course we know that those in favour of blood sports twist what has gone before to suit their arguments too, but I have never heard the Catholic Church cited as a reason for enjoying eviscerating those small red cousins of our dogs. The excuses the hunting fraternity come up with for continuing fox hunting are quite similar to the excuses put forward by the slave owners when the Abolitionist movement first came into being, and indeed tradition, when deployed in this manner could be a cover for almost any disgusting and oppressive fetish held by those in power.
Defenders of slavery argued that slavery had existed throughout history and was the natural state of mankind. The Greeks had slaves, the Romans had slaves so why can’t we have slaves etc.. Hunters frequently assail us with similar reasoning, stating that because Richard Martin (a founding member of the RSPCA) was a fox hunter, it makes it okay for us to be fox hunters too.
Traditionally apparently two wrongs always make a right.
I wonder how Mr Portillo feels about defenders of slavery righteously quoting that in the Old Testament, Abraham had slaves. They even cited the 10 commandments saying, ‘Thou shalt not covert thy neighbour’s manservant, nor his maidservant.” So of course that must mean having servants, i.e. slaves was okay. The New Testament was also hauled up to bear witness that Paul returned a runaway slave and Jesus never uttered a word about slavery.
Just like animals today, slave owners said black people, (not just slaves) had no legal rights. They were property, and being property meant rights were not bestowed upon them. They could be used and abused as their masters saw fit. The slavers fought the Abolitionists in the courts and the Judges ruled in their favour. The slave owners were adamant that they had God on their side.
I’m getting a strange feeling of Déjà vu here.
Welfare is another claim made by the Countryside Alliance to persuade the rest of us that they are killing animals not just for fun, but mainly for their own good. Hunters are apparently saving the hunted from growing old and dying from natural causes.
Defenders of slavery argued that slavery was a good thing for the enslaved. John C. Calhoun said, “Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually.” That is almost something James Barrington could have included in his pro hunting blogs as he often infers that hunters are doing foxes a massive favour by killing them.
The slave owners also said that they would protect and assist the slaves when they were sick and aged, unlike those who, once fired from their work, were left to fend helplessly for themselves. Now here I think the slave owners had one up on hunters morally, because hunters never claim to protect the old sick animals. In fact chasing and killing old sick animals is doing the species as a whole a great service according to the Countryside Alliance. (I’m minded here that Dr Shipman had the same idea about the elderly under his care in the NHS) It’s not mentioned of course that there won’t be many old foxes because although they can live as long as our dogs in captivity, a wild fox is lucky to see his second birthday.
Next we come to the labels. James Thornwell, a minister, wrote in 1860, “One party to this conflict are not merely Abolitionists they are Atheists, Socialists, Communists, Red Republicans, Jacobins. The slave owners are the friends of order, religion and regulated freedom.”
Similar insults ring in my head about those of us against hunting cruelties today.
We are supposedly not just against blood sports, we are also jobless, scroungers who don’t wash and who spend our time thinking up terrorist plots to thwart the innocent hunters who after all are only abusing animals for their own good. We are called ignorant townies, which is meant to convey great insult. Only those who live in the countryside should have any say in what is allowed to live and what must die.
Throughout history, when a society forms around any institution, as the South did around slavery, it will formulate a set of arguments to support it. That those arguments don’t hold water didn’t seem to matter to the slave owners at all, and similarly the hunters don’t care that their reasons for the continuation of their barbaric and outdated tradition don’t hold water among the more empathic of their contemporaries.
Hunters talk about horrific cruelty to animals not associated with hunting, and in those cases proudly carry the RSPCA banner, then in the same breath they want that organisation cast down for prosecuting hunting abuse. A bizarre situation where it’s impossible to know if the hunters have managed to brain wash themselves, or if they are hoping that by repeated repetition of a lie, the rest of us will come to believe it to be the truth.
If hunting is a tradition that must be upheld, then it’s only fair that that great old RSPCA tradition of prosecuting those who kill for fun must be upheld too.
And it’s not just the wild animals that get hurt, terriers are often severely injured in the subterranean fights. The men have little regard for the pain of their dogs. That is borne out by the way they are transported and handled and the injuries the terriers receive which are often repaired using homemade sewing kits and no anaesthetic.
Imagine what is must be like for a small fox hiding in complete darkness. He has been chased to earth by a pack of baying hounds where he lies exhausted and trembling waiting for the danger above ground to pass. The men have either blocked or netted his other escape routes and introduced a dog into the hole. The fox is trapped and can only fight for his life whilst the men dig him out from above.
Sometimes if the fox is facing away from the terrier he may be savaged from behind. His hind quarters will be torn and slashed by the dog which will bite anything within reach of its jaws. Don’t forget dog and fox are fighting in a small space devoid of any light. Terrible injuries can result to both animals from these underground fights which are protracted and always bloody.
Fighting terriers, or hard-mouthed dogs, are forbidden under the hunting Act of 2004, but under pressure from the blood sports lobby, some terrier work is allowed to continue under exemptions for gamekeepers and others. What is not allowed is using a terrier other than to flush a fox from cover, but if you think these men give a fig about the law then think again. They are brutal, callous individuals who often try to claim they are providing a service by exterminating vermin.
This is a lie on two counts. First, foxes are not vermin and second, they mostly don’t need to be killed. The only thing these vile men provide is a grisly satisfaction for themselves and their ‘sport’. Where ever you find a sadistic act of cruelty you will also find an abuser who will defend his actions by claiming the animal he likes to torture is vermin. In 2011 a gamekeeper was convicted of extreme cruelty when he caught a fox in a snare and set his dogs on the animal, who was forced to fight for his life whilst snared and backed into a corner by this horrible thug. This man watched with a friend, and even videoed the fox’s torment on his phone. Eventually, when the fox was too weak to fight any more, it was shot. His defense in court was to claim he was dispatching vermin. He said it was only a fox and he had done nothing wrong by his way of thinking. The RSPCA Inspector said he had never seen anything so cruel in his ten years of working with the RSPCA.
These are the kind of people who often follow the hunt, although they can also be found acting independently, travelling up and down the country in pursuit of their vile entertainment. They are not immoral they are amoral, and they operate in a subterranean culture totally without empathy and without conscience. Setting a dog on a fox is indistinguishable from dog-fighting and baiting. Indeed in 2007 a BBC Panorama program revealed that many dog-fighting rings attend terrier and lurcher shows which are held throughout the UK. Terrier work and cruelty go hand in hand. To find the truth of this we need look no further than Facebook where people openly boast and post their nasty pictures of the wild animals they have persecuted, tortured and destroyed.
The League Against Cruel Sports has reported two recent incidents of cruelty to foxes in Wales. Members of the campaign group Wales Against Animal Cruelty reported that even though it is against the law two men admitted to sending a terrier underground to find a fox. The men had netted the escape holes and were caught on camera shooting the fox as it tried to escape.
The second incident has caused widespread outrage and has even prompted a petition insisting that the people responsible are arrested and prosecuted. The petition wording makes horrific reading,
“They came upon a young vixen who had just given birth to two young fox cubs. She was too weak to defend the cubs, and against the thugs of this hunt group and the dogs, she did not stand a chance.
The vixen whilst battling to defend herself as she was being torn to pieces would have had to watch as her two newly born cubs were also dragged from the den she had made safe and secure to give birth and feed these two sweet little cubs, the dogs then tore the vixen to pieces and killed her, not satisfied with this cruelty the "huntsmen" if you can call them that, teased the terrier dogs with the newly born defenseless cubs and allowed the dogs to take chunks from them.”
The petition calls on the Chief Constable of Dyfed Powys Police Constabulary to investigate the hunt and people on Twitter also sent messages asking what the police intend to do, if anything.
The League has stated on their website,
“The League has flagged these reports with South Wales Police, in a hope that they will look into the incidents further to determine if any illegal activity has taken place. The information will also be used by the League’s own Investigations Team, which is tasked to investigate cruel sports, illegal hunting and wildlife crime.”
It takes a particularly nasty type of human being to set dogs on a defenseless animal in order to enjoy the outcome. More often than not the animals these vile people torture display a measure of courage that their gutless assailants could never match. This is one of many stories from the archives of the Hunt Saboteurs Magazine Howl 1989
“4th March: Essex Foxhounds hunt a vixen and mark her to ground. Before hunt saboteurs from the mid-Essex group can reach the scene the hunt’s terrier men dig the vixen out and kill her. They left the scene apparently unaware that the vixen was lactating and had obviously given birth. The vixen had been killed just inside the earth where she had stood up to and fought the hunt terriers to protect her young. Hunt saboteurs, on reaching the earth, heard faint mewing sounds from amongst the wreckage of the earth. They started digging and were rewarded with the sight of nine newly born and still blind cubs no more than five days old. Their vixen had sacrificed her life for them – but not in vain. These cubs were taken away to an animal sanctuary and with a great deal of care reared successfully for later release back into the wild, in a safe area.”
Hopefully in 2015, and with a change of Government, the law will be strengthened to outlaw terrier work completely and those found breaking the law will be treated to a spell in prison and banned from keeping animals and owning guns for life.
Resources and related reading
Keep the hunting ban, only civilised way forward
Political skulduggery and the Countryside Alliance
Time to strengthen the Hunting Act
British democracy, don't make me laugh
Sometimes he will be thrown to the dogs alive, and the men may take videos which are later posted up on social media sites like Face Book or Instagram. The terrier men are also the hunt bully boys who are not above committing GBH on others who attempt to disrupt hunting by diverting the hounds away from their fleeing quarry.
(Today it is illegal to use a hard mouthed, or fighting terrier, underground, and rather than risk taking an injured animal to a vet, the terrier men often stitch their dogs’ wounds themselves without anaesthetic or analgesia.)
The story of Copper the fox, named because he was saved by a policeman’s helmet, illustrates perfectly the misleading statement that foxes may escape unscathed. Copper had been chased down a hole, over which was placed a policeman’s helmet to prevent him being dragged out and killed.
The standoff lasted sometime, but eventually when the hunt gave up and moved off, Copper was rescued, and taken to a wildlife centre to recover. Such was his mental trauma from being chased that he suffered multi organ failure, including bleeding from both kidneys.
The other claim that fox hounds generally catch the old, weak, and diseased or injured fox is pure nonsense.
There is no fun chasing an old or sick animal who is quickly caught. Hounds will chase and kill anything, including pregnant vixens and even our pets, when their blood is up. It is also quite despicable to even think about setting a pack of dogs after a creature who is too old or too sick to run away. And why would it be necessary in the first place? Foxes only live for a couple of years in the wild and an animal that is sick can be easily caught and either treated or humanely euthanised by a vet.
Hunters also like to compare their dog-packs to packs of wolves. They pretend that the whole grisly business is nothing more than hounds emulating nature. Nature does not select specifically for a long chase, neither are wolves followed by people on horses, nor do they line the trail with supporters who cheer them on and keep an eye on the quarry for them, whilst preventing it from going to ground or escaping by hiding. Wolves most certainly do not keep terriers in little boxes on the back of quad bikes, nor do they go out equipped with nets, radio collars and spades. Nature determines the health and size of the fox population in the UK.
There are approximately a quarter of a million foxes in Britain, including urban foxes, and that number has remained static since records began. Like all predators, foxes control their own numbers according to food supply and habitat, they are not over populating and they never were. It’s worth asking why, if the hunting set is so concerned with the rest of us being overrun by foxes, that they go to so much trouble to build artificial earths to encourage foxes in areas where they are scarce, or where they can be safely killed out of sight of prying eyes. Pre ban foxes were imported from abroad when their numbers were so low that there were not enough to provide a day’s sport.
Hunting can NEVER be acceptable morally or practically. Hunters don’t kill enough to be termed controllers and foxes don’t need to be controlled. Attempting to justify hunting by claiming that other methods of killing foxes cause worse suffering is simply ignoring the fact that foxes don’t need to be killed in the first place.
It is not entirely certain that the Tories will have the numbers to repeal the hunting Act and the Donoughue proposal is being touted as an alternative. This is nothing more than a Trojan horse which will reinstate hunting exactly as it was pre ban with no possible hope of prosecutions for cruelty.
It’s all smoke and mirrors, all designed to make us believe that hunting is necessary and humane animal welfare. Dr May had it right when he said the only truth the hunters tell about hunting is that they enjoy it.
Country lover, amateur naturalist and fox lover fighting to preserve the ban on hunting
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