[image credit: Staffordshire Hunt Sabs]

As we enter spring, the main fox and hare hunting season (using packs of hounds) comes to an end. The work of wildlife defenders and hunt saboteurs continues however as campaign strategies against these fox and hare hunts remain ongoing. Direct threats to wildlife continue elsewhere and so do the actions taken to protect it.

Though the main hunting season has finished, action against hunts continues. The East Essex Hunt, who have been abusing wildlife for over 200 years and have a historic reputation of violence against opponents of hunting, are now vurnerable. Huntsman Gary Thorpe, hunt secretary Roxy Dawson and chairperson Sally Greenlees have also vacated their positions, leaving the hunt with no senior staff with no replacements in sight. As part of a targeted campaign, North London Sabs exposed the hunt in national media, demonstrated all summer fundraising events and lobbied relevant landowners in addition to disrupting dozens of hunt meets. Neighbouring sabotage groups have also contributed to these efforts. In a recent Facebook post, the London-based saboteurs reaffirmed their stance to anyone who would consider taking up vacant positions in the hunt; ‘expect us, and our friends’.

Demonstrations by locals and sabotage groups have also been carried out against the Cottesmore Hunt and the West Norfolk Foxhounds at their ‘fun ride’ events which aim to raise money and recruit new supporters to the hunts. The tactic of discouraging support to a hunt is important as running a hunt isn’t cheap. Without a cash flow that comes from fundraising events and paid supporters, a hunt cannot afford to operate.

In a seperate attempt to not fully dispand, some hunts will amalgemate. In Somsert, the West Somerset Beagles and the Ilminster Beagles are to join together and become Ilminster and West Somerset Beagles, meaning one less pack of hounds hunting hares. The county once had five hare hunts but now only have one. As hare hunting becomes concentrated to one pack, they become more vulnerable to a targeted campaign. If successful, the county could be free of hare hunts.

The vast majority of hunting hounds in the UK and Ireland are used to hunt foxes, but some are used to hunt stags. Only three packs exist in the UK, plus one in Ireland, and continues throughout April. Much attention is given to fox hunting, due to its scale, but multiple sabotage groups, have also kept up the pressure on some these stag hunts and have successfully prevented their efforts. However, the Quantock Stag Hounds and Devon & Somerset Stag Hounds were able to kill stags on separate occasions. Saboteurs present published evidence of this and highlighted how stag hunts use of loopholes to evade an anti-hunting law. Preventing a hunt killing is the primary aim but when this cannot be achieved, raising awareness on public platforms, along with an education approach, can be enough for others to decide to contribute to the campaign and take action. As the situation escalated throughout the month, more sabotage groups travelled from afar to show solidarity and get involved, which is not only important for the primary objective of protecting wildlife but also for the moral to keep up the fight.

Earlier in the month, the UK Government released the figures for the 2022 badger cull. This cull has been going for 10 years and has, according to government documents, resulted in over 200,000 badgers killed to appease the dairy industry, with property developers, private estates, golf courses, wedding venues and others benefiting. The controversy of the badger cull has emboldened many people to get involved in however way they saw fit. Some took a direct approach to stopping the badger cull, including hunt saboteurs and others working autonomously, by destroying cages used to trap badgers and preventing marksmen from shooting, whilst others have taken up a traditional campaigning and outreach approach. To quote Underground Badger Syndicate; “Even though the numbers are horrific, those who fought to protect setts and their inhabitants should still take pride in their actions. There are badgers still alive because of what you did.”.

Spring time is a busy time for wildlife. While many embrace this, gamekeepers and others intend to dissimate anything that they see as a threat to their interests (sometimes as pathetic as having a neat and tidy lawn). However, simply walking around the countryside can make a difference when looking in the right places. As Hertfordshire Hunt Saboteurs have shown in recent social media posts showing multiple traps they had removed, ‘direct action saves lives’.


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