And lastly we turn to hunting. This is a subject that simply refuses to go away. Five years on since the ban was put into place the arguments and tensions are as raw as ever. David Cameron has upped the anti even more by promising to repeal the act if the Tories get into power. We are sure to see increasing tension from both the hunting fraternity and the anti hunt lobby in the coming months.
The ban is surrounded by controversy and contains many loopholes which hunters are accused of using to flout the law. Many people are under the misguided notion that the ban has put an end to the killing of foxes with hounds and are shocked to discover that there is a growing amount of documented evidence to show that foxes are still being hunted and killed in pretty much the same way as before, with the addition of birds of prey which are used to attack the fox once it has been flushed out into the open.
The League Against Cruel Sports has been regularly monitoring hunts and claims that violence towards the monitors is commonplace. Monitors are people employed to check that the hunt is not acting illegally but, according to The League, they are often prevented from carrying out this task by threats of violence.
The League Against Cruel Sports stated that this photograph was taken well after the ban against hunting was implemented
In an attempt to intimidate monitors, the hunters dump the body of a fox they’ve killed on top of the monitor’s car.
The following is a generalised account of a pre-ban fox hunt
Prior to a hunt the Master or huntsman would usually contact farmers and landowners in the area to agree where the hunt could go. The night before, or early on the day of the hunt, efforts were made to block up the entrances to fox earths, badger setts and places such as drains to prevent foxes going underground once the hunt has started. The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 had permitted “soft” stopping of badger setts, although this is now illegal.
Usually, riders, hounds and followers met at about 11:00 am. The huntsman, hunt staff and hounds would go to the agreed starting point. The mounted field led by the Field Master, would follow at a distance. Followers would set off, in vehicles and on foot, to watch the hunt.
The hounds would be encouraged to search for a fox in coverts, woods or rough ground. Once the hounds found a scent they would bark excitedly and follow the scent trail. Sometimes the hounds would catch a fox quickly and kill it before it could run. Other times, the hounds would pursue the fox. Often, the hounds would lose the scent so they might have to search in order to find it again. If the hounds were successful in their pursuit they would catch it, kill it and tear it apart. After a kill the huntsman or woman would call off the hounds, and then the tail of the fox, and sometimes its feet, would be removed and given to the followers.
Several sessions of trying to search, pursue and kill foxes would be carried out during the hunting day.
Often the fox would go underground, commonly referred to as ‘going to ground’. It might be dug out by a terrier man and killed if the farmer or landowner had requested this. It was not considered good practice for a fox to be hunted again after being dug out. However, it was not unusual for a fox to be bolted from its underground refuge and hunted again by placing a terrier below ground.
Some hunts operated on foot, particularly in areas where the terrain was unsuitable for riding. These hunts operated in generally the same way as described above except that there would be no riders and the hounds could be much further away from the huntsman.
Cub hunting would take place in August or September. The huntsman and others on foot or horseback would surround a covert or other place where foxes might be found. Hounds would be sent in to either kill the young foxes or flush them out and pursue them. Those surrounding the covert would try and stop the foxes from escaping by making noise. The purpose of cub hunting included the training of young, inexperienced hounds.
There have been over 100 successful prosecutions under the Hunting Act.
On 18 November 2004 hunting with dogs was banned in England and Wales with the passing of the Hunting Act 2004. The ban on hunting with dogs became law three months later on 18 February 2005. The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 pre-dated legislation on hunting in the rest of Britain by two years.
Before the Hunting Act came into effect many hunters announced their intention to flout the law. A ‘Hunting Declaration’, founded by Prof Roger Scruton, accumulated over 50,000 signatures from people prepared to break the law in the event of a hunting ban.
This was the culmination of many years of campaigning by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the RSPCA and the League Against Cruel Sports, along with other groups and individuals. A 2009 Ipsos-Mori poll showed that three out of every four people in Britain (75%) thought that fox hunting should remain illegal and 72% of those in rural areas do not want fox hunting legalised.
Since the implementation of the Hunting Act, professional hunt monitors have continued to document the activities of hunts. IFAW, the League and the RSPCA are now working closely with enforcement bodies and their evidence has led to public and private prosecutions being initiated.
This last blog is dedicated to the memory of Michael Foot who died earlier this week.He was a leading campaigner for animal welfare in this country. A man with a brave spirit and gentle heart! R.I.P.
The sun has just peep'd its head over the hill,
And the ploughboy is whistling so blithe in the fields,
The birds they are singing so sweet on the sprays,
Says the huntsman to his dogs, "Tally-ho! Hark away!"
Tally-ho! Hark Away! Tally-ho! Hark Away!
Tally-ho! Tally-ho! Tally-ho! Hark Away!
Come, now my brave sportsmen and make no delay,
Quickly saddle yur horses and let's brush away,
For the fox is in view and he's kindled with scorn,
Come along, my brave sportsmen and join the shrill horn.
He led us a chase, more than twenty long miles,
Over hedges, over ditches, over gates and over stiles;
Little David came up with his musical horn,
"We shall soon overtake him, for his tail darags along."
He led us a chase six hours in full cry,
Tally-ho Tally-ho! for now he must die.
We will cut off his brush witha holloaing noise,
And we'll drink a good health to the fox-hunting boys.
You gentlemen of high renown come listen unto me
That take delight in foxhunting in every high degree
A story true to you I'll tell concerning of a fox
Of Royston Hills and mountains high and over stony rocks
Old Reynold being in his den and hearing of these hounds
Which made him for to prick his ears and tread upon the ground
Me thinks me hears some jubal hounds pressing upon my life
Before that they to me shall come I'll tread upon the ground
We hunted full four hours or more by parishes sixteen
We hunted full four hours or more and come by Parkworth Green
Oh if you'll only spare my life I promise and fulfil
I'll touch no more of your feathered fowl nor lamb in yonder fold
Old Reynold beat and out of breath and dreading of these hounds
Thinking that he might lose his life before the jubal hounds
Oh here's adieu to duck and geese likewise young lamb also
They've got old Reynold by the brush and will not let him go
To recognise and respect the spirit of those less powerful than ourselves is to recognise and respect the true meaning of the human spirit.