[Image credit: @glasgowhuntsabs]
The main hunting season in the UK & Ireland is in full swing. Equally, so are the efforts to prevent packs of hounds from killing fox, hare and deer. With the demise of hunting in Scotland, hunt saboteurs from Glasgow, Edinburgh and beyond have taken their efforts across the border to support those in the north of England, including against the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Foxhounds and the North Cumberland Hunt. Though using packs of hounds to hunt has effectively been criminalised in Scotland, activity of the remaining hunts continues to be monitored.
In England and Wales, where hunting is technically legally restricted, hunts continue to operate how they please. Despite the best efforts of Devon County Hunt Sabs, a fox was killed by the Eggesford Hunt during their opening meet. In a statement, they confirm that though they continue to share evidence with the police, they know they are not interested and that is why saboteurs continue to take direct action themselves.
A deer was also attacked by hounds of the Puckeridge and Essex Hunt whilst attempting to hunt a fox. Hunting the wrong animal, known as ‘rioting’, is simply seen as collateral damage to those involved in or in support of hunting, with deer and domestic pets being the most common victims. Hunt saboteurs from groups East Herts and East Northants, as well as Herts Wildlife Monitors, were able to intervene and prevent a kill.
Some hunts however, intend to hunt deer. Failing to successfully hunt and kill a hind, hunt staff from the Quantock Staghounds attacked saboteurs from North Dorset and Mendip after they had called off the hounds. Multiple saboteurs sustained injuries, including to the head, with one having to be taken to hospital. The camera containing evidence was also smashed. Violence was also seen at a meet of the South Shropshire Hunt, where a terrierman used their quad bike to run down an opponent, whilst they hunted on land they had no permission to be on. It is reported they suffered a broken leg.
Rumours are circulating that the Suffolk Hunt may turn to drag hunting; a form of hunting where hounds follow a genuine artificial scent. This is not to be confused with trial hunting, which was created in response to the Hunting Act 2004 and is used as a guise of illegal hunting. In recent years, this hunt has been consistently sabotaged by multiple groups including North London and Suffolk & Essex. The pressure has caught up with them and resulted in the huntsman and other staff walking away. Failing to replace these fundamental roles has meant they have had to split their hounds into neighbouring packs. The Suffolk Hunt are hanging on by a thread. Direct action has been a major part of this achievement and shows that, regardless of their reputation, any hunt is capable of collapse.
A number of hunts have traditioned to drag hunting since the ban which reaffirms that they can do it, it’s simply a choice. Though there are legitimate concerns of continuing to breed hounds and horses for this purpose, at least drag hunting operates without the need to kill wildlife, trespass and cause danger to road users. Hunts who refuse to transition, or simply disband, will continue to feel the pressure from hunt saboteurs and the wider community.
An abundance of hit reports were published by sabotage groups throughout the month, with too many to mention here. For updates and other developments, find your local group online and follow them on social media platforms. Support can also be given, and tactics can be replicated, abroad. Skill sharing can begin simply by networking online.
November has also seen a mixture of results within the legal world. Chris Mardles, former member of the Pytchley with Woodland Hunt, was found guilty of using his horse to ride down a saboteur from Northants, causing multiple broken bones, a punctured lung and required airlifting to hospital. The prosecution took 3 years but resulted in an 18-month prison sentence.
In complete contrast, a member of the Cottesmore Hunt who intentionally trampled a saboteur and later arrested for ‘attempted GBH’, was found not guilty. Hertfordshire Hunt Sabs stated that this was because of the influence of positive character references from his mother-in-law as well as Lady Sarah McCorquodale, the sister of Princess Diana. Ultimately
NO LIFE LIKE THE WILD