If you are a foxhunter in this country, where hunting has been illegal since 2005, you need have no such qualms,
because the Hunting Act does not contain a reckless behaviour clause, or those three magic words “cause
or permit” which are contained in so much legislation. Hunt monitors nationally have submitted to the police many pieces
of clear filmed evidence of hounds chasing and killing foxes, which have been rejected by the Crown Prosecution Service because
the hunts have claimed the incidents were “accidents”.
the foxhunts enter their ninth season since the Hunting Act came into force, the media is full of the hunters’ hubris.
It is worth studying some of their claims.
In an article in the
Daily Telegraph on 30th October 2009, the Treasurer of the Exmoor Foxhounds says “The art of the trail hunt is to replicate
as much as possible an actual fox hunt.” The Huntsman, adds “Four trail setters run across fields, through ditches
and over hedgerows in an effort to mirror the movements of a hunted animal.” The article states “On the morning
of today’s hunt, teams are out laying a number of trails and [the Huntsman] has only a slight idea where they will start
So foxhunts claim to mimic a genuine fox hunt
by laying the scent through ditches and hedges – precisely where foxes are likely to be found. Surely this is recklessness
of a high order.
We further learn that the Huntsman, the man actually in charge of a pack of around 40 unleashed dogs,
has only a “slight idea” where these trails have been laid. So what if the hounds are running on cry, clearly
hunting? Should they be stopped because they are onto a fox which they’ve found in these ditches and hedges, or is it
just a trail? The Huntsman claims not to know! Utter recklessness, endangering not only the foxes but also the general public
as hounds may career onto roads and into gardens after what proves to be – surprise surprise – a fox.
Horse and Hound, the hunters’ bible, has just run
an article entitled “What all huntsmen need to know”. In this, the Huntsman with the Exmoor Foxhounds, says “Since
the 2004 Hunting Act, I have to be confident before I leave the meet that I’ll have enough evidence to use in my favour
should it be necessary to defend my actions in a court of law. A good way to end a line is to stuff the trail down a hole
so hounds can “mark to ground” at an old fox earth in much the same way as if a fox had been run to ground. Foxes
will almost certainly be viewed on a day’s trailing and maybe seen crossing or following a similar line to that of a
trail before hounds arrive on the spot.”
So we are told that a “trail” is sometimes ended down a fox hole. Tough luck then if
there happens to be a fox in it. What a huge surprise that would be! Just another “accident”! This Huntsman also
tells us that foxes dash around the place and actually run on the same line the trail has been laid upon. As Harry Hill would
say “What are the chances of that happening?” It seems the hunters are certainly reckless and just for good measure
they claim the foxes are too.
Independent on Sunday on November 2nd, Julia Caffyn, Master of the Southdown and Eridge Foxhunt says “The whole thing
is a farce...We ride according to the letter of the law, laying down a trail with a fox brush dipped in urine, but the law
is unenforceable anyway.” A “brush” is what foxhunters call a fox’s tail, and the urine is fox’s
urine. This is no way to deter hounds from getting excited by a fox’s scent. Reckless? Of course it is.
In the same article, an unidentified hunt regular from
the north tells the journalist “...yes, foxes do get killed in the old way.”
The Master of Draghounds Association’ website defines a difference between drag hunting and
“trail” hunting. They say “whereas most draghunt lines start in open country at a known spot and follow
a pre-determined route, trail hunting involves simulating the search in cover for a scent to follow.” Well cover means
woods, maize fields, reeds, brambles. Cover is where foxes live. Cover has been where foxhunts have gone to find foxes since
the practice began, and cover is not the place to lay a trail if you want to avoid the hounds finding foxes.
So we are told that trails are laid in the following : cover, hedges, ditches, and fox holes! This
is surely a recklessness delirium. It is worth noting that there is no known recorded incident of a genuine drag hunt being
involved in an incident of “hunt havoc” – i.e. when hounds run riot over roads etc., whereas such incidents
post-ban which involve so-called trail hunts are numerous. For details of these, see the POWA website at www.powa.org.uk
There are two ways of looking at this. One is that trail
hunting is a complete fiction used as a cover for illegal foxhunting, with the alleged similarities to foxhunting due to the
fact that it is foxhunting. Hunt monitors are certain this is the case. The other option is to see that the practices of “trail”
hunting as described by the hunters themselves are so utterly reckless that they are virtually certain to result in “accidents”,
and lots of them.
Either way, this outrageous situation can be resolved by amending the Hunting Act to deal with this
reckless behaviour by making it an offence to ‘cause or permit a dog to hunt, attack, injure or kill a wild mammal’.
That removes the possibility of an accident being used as a defence, and removes the need for intent to be proved in court.
It should be remembered that hare hunters also claim to lay a trail, and any pursuit of hares is dismissed as the inevitable
“accident”. Mink hunts can claim they set out to hunt rats (a preposterous claim in my opinion) and that any mink
pursued and killed by hounds was “accidental”.
When the general public pressed their MPs to ban hunting, they did not want a ban that would allow hunts to
behave with such arrogance and deceit. They wanted the practice to be stopped, with genuine drag hunting the only legal alternative.
At the moment hunters are behaving as a group that is above the law. Not only do they treat the law
with utter contempt, they also treat the democratic process that brought about the law with similar contempt.
It is time for MPs to revisit the law, and make that small
adjustment that would make the law fit for its purpose, because at present the proscribed quarry species continue to be hunted
exactly as before the ban.