Hereford is the most rural diocese in England, it is good hunting country and a recent expose of the Hereford hunt by the Hunt Investigation Team (HIT) resulted in five people being arrested and charged with animal cruelty.
(Hunt Investigation Team expose of south Hereford hunt throwing live fox cubs to a kennel full of hounds. https://www.youtube.com/embed/iwwfwUsLDEY)
With the horrific footage raw in mind, a HIT supporter wrote to the Archdeacon of Hereford about the Church and hunting.
The Team posted the following comment on their Facebook page last week.
“We are concerned by the Archdeacon of Hereford’s response to a HIT supporter's email about hunting. We suspect a tinge of bias here. What do others think? If you have concerns, please raise them politely with the Archdeacon, and support us in asking individual churches to prevent suffering and pledge not to host hunt meets on their land.” (Hunt Investigation Team August 2016)
Below is the Archdeacon’s reply which is not exactly what anyone expected.
"Your case can be made by speaking to people, as I am sure you do, and writing to them to persuade them that your views are correct.
Hunt supporters would no doubt tell you that hunting foxes with dogs is at least as humane as shooting, trapping or poisoning them. They would therefore hold that hunting foxes is consistent with animal welfare (and certainly promotes the welfare of poultry, lambs and even on rare occasions human babies).
Other people however are dismayed at the sight of horsemen and hounds tracking down and killing foxes. This dismay is not always motivated by love of foxes. It sometimes grows from dislike of privilege, or from a principled repudiation of killing for sport.
As I said, both views are represented in church, and in each case the people concerned would claim to be acting in the interests of animal welfare. There is no contradiction in the church’s refusal to take a side officially,
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Open letter to the Archdeacon of Hereford.
I read with incredulity and alarm your comments regarding hunting with dogs, an activity that has been illegal for several years, particularly in light of events in Hereford where an investigation revealed video evidence showing live fox cubs being apparently thrown to young hounds at the South Herefordshire hunt kennels.
The video caused nationwide revulsion and condemnation of a cruel and sadistic practice. This evidence is currently the subject of a criminal investigation.
I was raised as a Christian but it is difficult today to consider myself a religious believer when I see a representative of the Church such as yourself showing a total lack of concern for God’s creatures. My Christian education as a child taught me to follow the example of Christ in loving my neighbour, treating others as myself and valuing kindness, compassion and decency above material concerns. To read then a response from you stating that opposition to hunting 'sometimes grows from dislike of privilege' reaffirms my view that the Church is out of touch.
Polo is a sport practised in the main by privileged members of society, as are many equestrian pastimes.
If the assertion regarding privilege were correct, would it not be reasonable to imagine a number of people objecting to these sports? I would counter that the vast majority of people object to hunting due to the horrific suffering it inflicts on sentient wild animals who I presume you believe to be part of God's creation.
Be assured, Archdeacon, three quarters of the country are against hunting with packs of dogs.
Surely, even the most ardent of supporters of this cruel form of entertainment could not accuse ALL of us of being jealous of privilege?
My personal opposition to the violent, bloodthirsty and cruel practice of hunting with dogs stems purely from a sense of compassion and pity for a vulnerable wild creature who has a hard enough time simply trying to survive without being persecuted mercilessly by a pack of braying fools on horses. Wild foxes rarely survive beyond 18 months anyway, most die on the roads, but those that survive should surely be left to live their lives in peace.
The Burns report, which resulted in the hunting ban, was at pains to be impartial, yet Lord Burns was unequivocal in hisfindings that hunting severely compromises the welfare of wild animals. (Not to mention the welfare of the dozens of pets killed by rampaging hounds annually, and the hounds themselves shot in the head or bludgeoned after six seasons when they are no longer deemed fit to hunt.) And it’s not just animals who suffer, those who monitor hunts, including the saboteurs, are regularly harassed, threatened and injured at hunt meets where the atmosphere is one of threat, menace and sadism.
I have myself been a victim of hunt trespass, many of us living in the countryside are given little support against hunt bullies who tend to go wherever they wish, and who seemincapable of controlling the large pack of dogs they have let loose in our countryside.
My niece, aged 6, was visiting when hounds invaded my land. She was inconsolable when she learned that a wild animal was being pursued to a grisly death, and she was terrified for our pets. I managed to secure our animals inside, but when I asked the hunters to vacate my property I was told in a very un-Christian way that I should be the one to 'leave'.
Is this the sort of behaviour the Church now condones?
The League Against Cruel Sports employs a number of monitors armed only with cameras to follow the hunts to ensure that the law is not being broken. Recently two of the League’s monitors were attacked by pro hunt thugs. One suffered a broken neck when both men were thrown down an embankment.
Last year a young female saboteur was ridden down by a mounted huntsman who did not stop. She suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung, from which she is still recovering. These incidents are by no means isolated, and if corroboration is required, then please, Archdeacon, visit the POWA website, (Protect Our Wild Animals).
A quick browse through the list of 'latest hunting news' will show you all of the incidents involving pro hunt law breaking, cruelty and bullying. The list of hunting crimes against animals and humans is enormous.
I, for asking the hunt to leave my land, have had dead foxes and hares left at my house. An unpleasant experience I’m sure you will agree.
Again, is this sort of menacing intimidation, trespass and cruelty now endorsed by the Church?
I notice that you mention the usual pro-hunt arguments and scare mongering. To suggest that human babies are in danger from foxes, and that this is a legitimate reason for those animals to be pursued and torn apart by dogs, is laughable.The pro hunt Daily Mail, from which I’m informed you get your information, is notorious for publishing unverified scare stories and anti-fox propaganda. Perhaps you could use Christ as your example and allow compassion and kindness to guide you rather than the Daily Mail scare stories and lies by put about by those with a hobby to protect.
No human has ever been killed by a fox, despite the best efforts of the Countryside Alliance and other pro hunting organisations to publicise any made up story demonising foxes. As for the assertion that hunting is at least as humane as shooting, trapping or poisoning, the experts would beg to differ. The Burns report showed unequivocally, that if an animal MUST be killed, shooting is preferable to hunting from a welfare perspective.
Many studies suggest that fox control is unnecessary, but the propaganda against the species by people, including yourselfit seems, who support killing animals for fun, may prejudice others who might otherwise consider leaving our wildlife to live in peace.
I also note that you did not mention stag hunting with dogs. Was that because of less opportunity to demonise deer as they are herbivores and cannot be accused of eating children?
Compassion is surely a Christian concept that, with advancements in our understanding of sentience and animal psychology, should arguably be extended to other species as God's creation and thus worthy of a degree of respect, rather than a convenient source of 'sport'.
Let us remember too, that Cardinal Ratzinger and his predecessor decreed that animals have souls.
Fox hunting is anything but humane and the post mortems of four hunted foxes pre Burns showed that hunted foxes die in agony.
Perhaps, Archdeacon, instead of identifying with the people who take pleasure in killing harmless wildlife, you could try to imagine the terror of a hunted wild animal used to his wild life in the quiet of the countryside. Suddenly you are confronted by a pack baying hounds, thudding hooves, shouts and horns as you are chased with no escape because your bolt hole has been blocked by the men the day before. Imagine if you can, a small fox who does manage to find a hole in which to hide.
Often a gun may be fired into the hole, or a terrier sent down. You have no escape just the sounds of digging and the men’s voices above getting closer and closer to where you are hiding. Eventually, you are dragged out, bludgeoned, shot or thrown to the hounds.
Foxes that are caught above ground by the dogs are eviscerated as they fight for their lives.
In February 1999, five years before the hunting Bill became law, the hounds of the Chiddingfold, Leconfield & Cowdray Foxhunt scented and chased and caught a fox. Luckily for the fox, Andy the saboteur happened to be there.
"When I saw the hounds bite into the fox's backside, I knew I had to do something and the only thing left was to jump in and rescue the fox myself. Grabbing the fox distracted the hounds enough for them to let it go, but the terrified fox bit me and I lost my hold...the fox saw its chance and bolted down a rabbit burrow. Its tail was still poking out, so I sat on the hole to stop the hounds from snapping at it. To my amazement, a policeman lent me his helmet to plug the hole, and refused to let the hunt dig out the fox and kill it.
Even the police must have been affected by the plight of this pathetic little creature! Eventually, once the hunt had left, we got the fox into a travelling cage and raced it to the vet's."
‘Copper’, irreverently named after the policeman who helped in the rescue, was examined by wildlife vet, Richard Edwards, who said the fox would have died without prompt treatment.
However, its life-threatening condition was not caused by the bites Copper had received, but by extreme stress - caused by the prolonged chase of the hunt. (He had even begun to bleed from his penis, evidence of kidney damage due to trauma or extreme physical exhaustion.)
After medical treatment Copper spent some weeks recovering and recuperating in a wildlife hospital. He was released, fit and well, into a non-hunting area in March 1999.
Although illegal today, terriers are still often sent below ground where they fight with a fox in complete darkness. This often results in horrific injuries to both animals.
It is a myth that hunting is necessary animal control, in fact it’s an open secret that hunts across the UK rear foxes specifically for the hunting season. This cruel practice waseasily exposed by the League Against Cruel Sports earlier this year when they rescued 16 fox cubs from a barn where they were being reared to ensure a plentiful supply to hunt later in the season.
I look forward to your response, Archdeacon, and a decision on whether your Church will allow access to hunts on its land.
Very best wishes,
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