How do hunts get away with it ?
With trail hunting, there are many lies and excuses hunts use to avoid prosecution, however, how do hunts get away with “Cub Hunting” when it’s so blatantly obvious they are illegally hunting ?
Here we examine some of the ways hunts manage to get away with it.
DISCLAIMER : Please note
Cub hunting is the practice of hunting fox cubs with a pack of hounds. It is the hunting fraternity’s ‘dirty little secret’, and what’s more, it is illegal.
Hunts have tried to rename this practice to, “Autumn Hunting” or “Hound Exercise” to make it sound more publicly acceptable. Its a brutal, extremely cruel activity.
One of its main purposes is to train young hounds bloodlust and killer instincts, so they know what to do when the main hunting season begins. Hunts claim they no longer practice cub hunting, however, without this cub hunting introduction, young hounds would struggle to learn the fundamentals of hunting.
Cub hunting season usually starts as soon as the harvest allows and runs from August – October but can vary slightly from hunt to hunt depending on their calendar.
It usually happens early in the morning or late in the evening when scent is at its strongest, often deep in private land, out of the view of the public.
The huntsmen, a few invited riders and foot supporters will surround a wooded area (covert) or copse containing a den with a family of foxes, forming a stationary surrounding circle to prevent the cubs escaping.
They then send in a mixture of adult hounds with younger hounds to train the younger ones how to hunt and kill ready for the main hunting season.
The family of foxes is forced to bolt from their den (flushed). If not, they are dug out by terriermen.
If the cubs try to escape the covert, the surrounding stationary hunters will shout and smack their riding boots with their whips to frighten the cubs and drive them back inside the covert – and into the waiting jaws of the hounds to be brutally ripped apart.
Some cubs maybe allowed to escape (dispersal) to be hunted at a later date in the main season.
Up to 10,000 foxes are illegally killed every year in the name of ‘cub hunting’.
This is also a time when young hounds are assessed and will be later dispatched if they don’t show that killer instinct.
It is estimated that every year about 5,000 hounds are shot by UK hunts for being “surplus to requirements”, or “under-performers”.
Questions & Answers
Here are some question and answers which may help to explain how hunts get away with it.
Basically, it’s down to lies and poor wording of the hunting act, but mainly down to lack of crime prevention by police.
The answers are not our personal thought on what’s right or wrong, but more of an honest explanation of the way things actually are, which highlights the need for the law to change and the police to prevent illegal hunting.
Question : How do hunts get away with illegal cub hunting when it’s so blatantly obvious by surrounding a wooded area (covert) in a stationary position they are not following an artificial laid trail ?
Answer : Hunts lie and claim they are just hound exercising. We have to remember it’s not illegal to stand around a field, it’s not illegal to send a pack of hounds into a wood, its not illegal to go searching. The Hunting Act only forbids a pack of hounds to intentionally chase a fox.
It’s very disappointing the police fail to act and prevent this activity knowing an illegal brutal act is just about to be committed.
Question : Hunts purposely take a pack of hounds into an area where known fox families are. Surely this is intent to commit a crime ?
Answer : You would think so. Sadly, even though it’s blatantly obvious the true intention of hunts, intent is very hard to prove. As the burden of proof lies with the prosecution to prove intent and not with the hunts to prove they didn’t intend to commit a crime, this appears to be a huge failure in the Hunting Act to not include a reckless clause.
Its shocking that hunts are not required to prove they are not lying.
Presently, in the eyes of the law taking a pack of hounds into a known area where wildlife may live, knowing they are very likely to chase and kill any wildlife in that area, does not constitute intent or a crime, regardless of this action leading to an illegal chase.
Hunts could very easily avoid such wildlife areas, but they deliberately choose not too, then claim it was an accident if a chase took place.
Think of it another way. If a dog owner deliberately took their dog, off the lead, into a farmers field knowing it would chase and kill the sheep, would this be classed as reckless with intent to commit a crime ? would the police and courts still fail to act ? …. There is definitely double standards in our policing and judiciary system.
Question : The hunts poor excuses and lies are blatantly obvious, so why isn’t this questioned in a court of law ?
Answer : Firstly, there has to be enough evidence collected of not only hounds chasing foxes but also the hunts intent to do so, otherwise the CPS won’t accept a case. The burden of proof is placed on the prosecution to prove that the hunt intentionally broke the law, not for the hunts to prove they didn’t.
So basically, hunts lie and they are not required to prove it isn’t a lie.
Question : If hunts were truly only exercising their hounds as they claim, then why are terriermen present armed with digging out tools ?
Answer : Again hunts lie and cover the true intent of terriermen’s presence by claiming they are just there to open gates and mend fences.
This is a huge police crime prevention failing. Just police presence alone could easily prevent the hunts illegally cubbing and terriermen illegally digging out fox cubs.
Question : Terriermen are only legally allowed to apply their trade under certain conditions (Gamekeepers exemption – see explanation below), so why don’t police intervene when the conditions are not being fulfilled or even attempt to regulate it ?
Answer : Police have the power to stop and search if they feel a crime maybe committed. However police fail to execute this right when it comes to the hunting fraternity committing crimes. The police do however cherry pick who they target as they don’t seem to have a problem stopping & searching hare coursers or poachers.
Terriermen are the masked thugs and wildlife terrorists of the countryside. They are usually seen on quad bikes armed with digging out tools and boxes attached to their quad bikes which contain terrier dogs. They are employed by hunts and seem to have three main parts to play :-
- To dig/flush out foxes, which hunts have chased and have gone to ground, using their terrier dogs.
- To block up fox den and badger sett holes to prevent foxes going to ground.
- Hired masked thugs who attack monitors to intimidate and prevent filming.
or if you believe the hunts :
- Opening gates.
- Mending fences.
Many crimes are committed by terriermen who are rarely questioned by police.
All these crimes could easily be avoided and stopped by police prevention, presence and intervention.
* Digging out : The law states that terrier men are allowed to …. as soon as possible after being found or flushed out the wild mammal is shot dead by a competent person.
However, in reality, the correct conditions are rarely followed and dug out foxes are flushed out to a pack of hounds rather than being instantly shot. Police are never on site to regulate this even though they are fully aware this illegal activity is taking place.
Police could easily request prior notification from hunts of any areas the hunt will be using, i.e to prevent any traffic disruption or public risk. Sadly police do not seem interested in preventing any fox hunting related crimes or incidents.
* Blocking of setts & dens : It is common practice for terriermen to visit setts and dens prior to the days hunting to block them up to prevent foxes going to ground. This blocking of setts and dens is a sure indication that an illegal hunt is about to happen and the hunts intention to chase and kill foxes. The police are fully aware this illegal practice happens but fail to act on it.
* Firearm Licence : For a terrierman to legally be allowed to dig out foxes (gamekeepers exemption) they are required to shoot the fox as soon as possible after being found or flushed out . To enable them to legally do this they have to carry a gun which must be licensed (some air rifles exempt) and be able to show their firearm or shotgun certificate if asked by the police.
The police rarely question, stop or search terriermen to ensure they have the correct means to legally dispatch foxes.
If the truth be known terriermen rarely dispatch foxes legally, they either throw them to the dogs/hounds to kill, hit them over the head with a shovel or other brutal cruel ways. But the main point is police fail to regulate or investigate this.
* Written Permission : The law states that terriermen, need written evidence that the land on which the stalking or flushing out takes place belongs to him, or that he has been given permission to use that land from the land owner. They have to make this evidence immediately available for inspection by a constable who may ask to see it.
Police rarely question this when it’s associated with foxhunting.
* Permitted areas : The law states that terriermen are restricted to digging out foxes who pose a threat to game birds or livestock.
Therefore, it should be questioned whether the threat of a fox is applicable to crop and beef farms ? and if any terriermen who accompany hunts armed with digging out tools and dogs are legally permitted to engage in the practice of digging out in non-threat areas ?
Once again, the police never seem to question or prevent this.
* Illegal non-road worthy quadbikes : It is rare for police to stop terriermen using illegal quadbikes on roads, and even rarer for police to take any further action than just a verbal warning.
If a regular member of the public (non hunt related) rode an illegal quad bike down the road, for example, it is normal police action to arrest that person and confiscate their vehicle, but this doesn’t seem to apply for the hunting fraternity’.
This is another prime example were police actually enable crimes to be committed by turning a blind eye. Nearly every fox hunt in the country are accompanied by terriermen riding on illegal quad bikes.
Rules on quad bikes used on roads
Police rarely ensure that terriermen are acting within the law when using their quadbikes on the road.
Quad bikes must be approved, registered, taxed and have an MOT (if needed) to be used on the road.
Most quad bikes cannot be used on the road because they do not meet road safety standards.
- Registered and licensed : Agricultural quad bikes used on roads must be registered and licensed for road use and must display a number plate.
- Quad bike road tax : You do not have to pay vehicle tax on quad bikes used for agriculture, horticulture or forestry, however quad bikes used on roads may have to pay for a limited use tax class.
- Passengers : Quad bikes used as light agricultural vehicles should be made with only a driver’s seat. They are not allowed to carry passengers. Other quad bikes should only carry passengers if it is designed to do so and has the right number of seats
- Insurance : You must have third party insurance to drive a quad bike on the road.
Question : Why are hunts allowed to get away with stalking or flushing foxes in a covert. ?
Answer : There are two parts to this answer which involves * (a) Pack of hunting hounds * (b) Gamekeepers exemption, terriermen using dogs to flush.
(a) Hunting hounds : Hunts get away with stalking (searching) for foxes using a pack of hounds because in the eyes of the law, stalking/searching is only looking, not actually chasing. For it to be classed as chasing, first the quarry has to be identified. So hunts claim they are just searching for an artificial scent or hound exercising. If a fox bolts in front of a pack and they chase it, then they claim it is an accident, even though they have actually flushed the fox out using a pack of hounds.
Sadly the law fails to acknowledge that deliberately taking a pack of hounds into a covert where foxes are, allowing hounds to search, then flushing a fox and chasing it are all acts of deliberate intent.
There has been much debate over the definition of the wording “stalking, flushing, searching”.
Again this could so easily be avoided by police presence and prevention.
(b) Gamekeepers exemption : As previously mentioned, there are some circumstances where terriermen can legally dig out and dispatch foxes (gamekeepers exemption) providing certain conditions are satisfied.
Please note : These guidelines were originally produced by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) on the use of a terrier to flush foxes from underground and were approved by Defra to form part of the Hunting Act. In other words they were allowed to make their own rules up.
The Hunting Act 2004 – Schedule 1 – Section 2
Stalking and flushing out
(1) Stalking a wild mammal, or flushing it out of cover, is exempt hunting if the conditions in this paragraph are satisfied.
(2) The first condition is that the stalking or flushing out is undertaken for the purpose of —
(a) preventing or reducing serious damage which the wild mammal would otherwise cause —
Note : (i) & (ii) are the main conditions that generally relates to foxes.
(i) to livestock,
(ii) to game birds or wild birds (within the meaning of section 27 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981,
(iii) to food for livestock,
(iv) to crops (including vegetables and fruit),
(v) to growing timber,
(vi) to fisheries,
(vii) to other property, or
(viii) to the biological diversity of an area (within the meaning of the United Nations Environmental Programme Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992),
Use of dogs below ground to protect birds for shooting
2 (1) The use of a dog below ground in the course of stalking or flushing out is in accordance with this paragraph if the conditions in this paragraph are satisfied.
(2) The first condition is that the stalking or flushing out is undertaken for the purpose of preventing or reducing serious damage to game birds or wild birds (within the meaning of section 27 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (c. 69) which a person is keeping or preserving for the purpose of their being shot.
(3) The second condition is that the person doing the stalking or flushing out—
(a) has with him written evidence—
(i) that the land on which the stalking or flushing out takes place belongs to him, or
(ii) that he has been given permission to use that land for the purpose by the occupier or, in the case of unoccupied land, by a person to whom it belongs, and
(b) makes the evidence immediately available for inspection by a constable who asks to see it.
(4) The third condition is that the stalking or flushing out does not involve the use of more than one dog below ground at any one time.
(5) In so far as stalking or flushing out is undertaken with the use of a dog below ground in accordance with this paragraph, paragraph 1 shall have effect as if for the condition in paragraph 1(7) there were substituted the condition that —
(a) reasonable steps are taken for the purpose of ensuring that as soon as possible after being found the wild mammal is flushed out from below ground,
(b) reasonable steps are taken for the purpose of ensuring that as soon as possible after being flushed out from below ground the wild mammal is shot dead by a competent person,
(c) in particular, the dog is brought under sufficiently close control to ensure that it does not prevent or obstruct achievement of the objective in paragraph (b),
(d) reasonable steps are taken for the purpose of preventing injury to the dog, and
(e) the manner in which the dog is used complies with any code of practice which is issued or approved for the purpose of this paragraph by the Secretary of State.
There is one huge problem with all of the exempt hunting, none of this is policed or regulated to ensure the conditions are met allowing hunts and terriermen to abuse the law.
Why do police rural crime teams turn a blind eye to most crimes committed by the hunting fraternity ?
There are a number of reasons for this :
1. Directive from the NPCC to just police illegal foxhunting and its associated activities for public order offences.
2. Police class foxhunting and its associated crimes as not really worthy of their time, however police tend to see similar hare coursing and poaching crimes done by the less influential members of the community as more important, hence are happy to conduct full scale operations against these people.
3. For a rural crime team to function properly they need the assistance of the rural community i.e to give them tip off’s, inside information and to be their eyes in the countryside, therefore you will find a high percentage of RCT police are very familiar with what we call “brown nosing” the rural community to improve their arrest rating against less desirable individuals.
Its very much a case of we will scratch your back if you scratch ours, hence why you will see most rural police units reluctance to arrest the hunting fraternity
You see examples of this if you look on most police websites or pages, you will hardly see any mention of crimes committed by foxhunters or any their associated crimes, but they are happy to mention similar crimes committed by less desirable people.
This disproportion, biased, and non-impartial form of policing is totally unacceptable.
4. Many police officers are hunt riders or supporters themselves. Questions must be asked if police who support hunting should be policing hunt related crimes as a conflict of interest is inevitable.
Should police be made to declare any conflicts of interest or family connections to hunters ?
On the odd occasion you may see the police mention the arrest of a terrierman for an assault charge, this tends to be just to pacify people who oppose hunting and so they can appear to be impartial and non biased. Overall the rural police tend to turn a blind eye.
This is not what the tax payer is paying them for, to cherry pick which laws to uphold.
An extremely unprofessional and arrogant attitude some police officers have is when they make statements, such as, : “You bring us the evidence and we will act” in other words, they want members of the public to do their job for them.
Cheshire rural crime team are famous for this arrogant attitude.
Can you imagine if all police across the country turned to the public and said, “bring us evidence of crimes being committed and we will act” otherwise we won’t bother.
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