[Image credit: @nottinghamhuntsabs]

Fox hound, Harrier, Beagle and Basset packs are now routinely being taken out exercising by hunt staff, with many actively beginning cub and leveret hunting. This pre-lude to the main hunting season is carried out to train young hounds how to kill. Aside from this, the training process is vital for building a relationship between the huntsman and hounds as well as hounds learning how to work as a pack. Therefore, sabotaging this is not only important for protecting wildlife on the day but can also be detrimental to hunting efforts during the main season by becoming acquainted with the landscape and where wildlife specifically reside which gives them a better opportunity to act. Many sabotage groups across England and Wales have been present during exercise and have taken action when cubbing has been attempted, including Devon County who disrupted three meets in one week as well as other activity.

Stag hunting, which is confined to the south west of England, has also begun. Sabotaging this form of hunting comes with differing challenges to cub & leveret hunting but efforts to disrupt this has produced results. Though there were multiple kills by the Devon & Somerset Stag Hounds during one Saturday, the hunt was unsuccessful the following Saturday due to efforts made by saboteurs from Mendip, Devon and Dorset. Following a three-hour chase, the hunted stag escaped into sanctuary land which forced the hunt elsewhere. Land ownership played a key factor in this and, despite the real problem of hunt trespass, can limit a hunts availability to hunt freely. Advice on hunt trespass can be found from your local sab group. Days later at another meet, the same hunt resorted to violence against saboteurs from Devon and Mendip who received multiple injuries, including one who was taken to hospital, two vehicles severely damaged and equipment stolen. Both groups are calling for donations for repairs and replacements and be done via their social media pages.

Border County Mink Hounds attempted to hunt on a Sunday, likely as an attempt to evade being caught due to being an uncommon day to hunt. However, they were successfully intercepted by saboteurs from Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire and Manchester and were packed up within minutes. Later in the month, the Dove Valley Mink Hounds packed up instantly on the arrival of saboteurs from Staffordshire and Nottingham.

Saboteurs from Brighton announced that the South Down and Eridge Hunt have had their application for their annual boxing day parade rejected by Lewes council. These parades are historically the biggest day in the hunting calendar, are hugely symbolic and are carried out by the majority of hunts across the UK and Ireland, if not all. Though it is possible for a parade to happen in another capacity, this rejection is a huge blow to a hunts morale and their pocket, as they often use it as an opportunity to raise money. Pressure from depleting funds and overall support is a sure route to a hunt disbanding.

Grouse shooting has begun and, as is tradition, started on the 12th August which is self-proclaimed as the ‘glorious twelfth’. Historically this date has seen shoots taking place on the majority of Grouse moors, if not all, across the middle and north of England as well as Scotland, but has become increasingly targeted by saboteurs from across the UK. This is by far the most expensive form of shooting and can cost shoot organisers thousands in financial loses simply through refunding participants if a shoot is called off. Saboteurs turning up, especially on mass, is a sure way to achieve this and is exactly what they achieved this year after intercepting and shutting down multiple shoots over three days. Two saboteurs were found ‘guilty’ of aggravated trespass and were handed conditional discharges, restraining orders and a fine of £3500. Staffordshire Hunt Sabs are calling for support and donations which help cover such costs and can be done by following the link on their social media accounts. Direct action is playing an important role in the demise of the Grouse shooting industry and is accompanied by mounting pressure from campaigns led by conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts. With land-owning facilitators such as United Utilities pulling the plug on licensing, shooting is becoming less and less sustainable. Whilst in the area, saboteurs also used the opportunity to search for, and respond to, the abundance of traps across the estates. One gamekeeper was quoted saying “there is no doubt that the sight of sabs makes the keepers’ hearts sink”. 

Similar items and more, have also been found and destroyed in other parts of the country throughout the month, including high-seats, snares and fen traps. As Staffordshire Hunt Sabs point out, Larsen traps are banned in their country of origin, yet remain legal in the UK. Campaigns to ban traps are ongoing and is a method that can produce results, such as the National Anti Snaring Campaign and the recent ban on snares in Wales. Until then, a direct approach can not only save wildlife at the time, as seen by Staffordshire and Jorvik saboteurs, but also causes financial damage to whoever intends on using them.

Preparations for the intensive badger cull continue with surveying, information gathering, sett checking and training days, as seen by groups such as Derbyshire Against The Cull as well as saboteurs from Yorkshire, Sheffield and elsewhere. Funds are crucial for groups to continue to operate so consider making a donation. One dedicated anti-cull group, Underground Badger Syndicate, who has been busy with high-seats, is one group asking for such support for fuel costs.

Anyone can play a part in wildlife defence. Information and tip-offs can make a huge difference, whether it is about a hunt taking place, suspicious behaviour in the countryside or concerning discoveries whilst walking a dog or going for a walk. Most, if not all, sabotage groups have social media accounts which be used as a point of contact, with some having direct contact phone numbers and can be found via a quick search online. Otherwise, the tip-off line for the Hunt Saboteurs Association is 07443148426.


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