Fox hunters vow to “keep buggering on”

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2005:

LONDON–A reported 300,000 people rode to hounds on February
20, a record number for one day of fox hunting in Britain, on the
first hunting date after traditional fox hunting was ostensibly
banned.
But the most publicized estimates of hunter numbers may have
been much too high. Twenty-four hours after Daniel Foggo, Karyn
Miller and Tony Freinberg of the pro-hunting Daily Telegraph put the
number of hunts in the field at 184, the most widely cited estimate
was 270. The discrepancy might have resulted from small hunting
clubs holding combined hunts, so as to boost the turnout.
The Scotsman political correspondent Jamie Lyons observed
“little discernible difference” between traditional hounding and
“flushing foxes out of a wood [with not more than two dogs] and
shooting them, before their scent is left as a trail for the
hounds,” as those who ride to hounds now must do in order to hunt
legally.
“The Countryside Alliance said 91 foxes were killed,” Lyons
continued, “most shot within the law. But there were four
‘accidents,’ and one stag was killed in the West Country,” Lyons
added.

Other sources reported that 270 hunts were active.
“After a largely law-abiding start to the ban, some hunts
are expected to defy the ban away from the media scrutiny,” reported
Charles Clover and Catriona Davies of The Daily Telegraph,
“particularly in areas where police have expressed unwillingness to
waste time following them. Other hunts are planning to exploit
loopholes in the law, such as the use of falconry, for which the
number of hounds who may flush out prey species is not limited by the
Hunting Act.
“Some hunt supporters are planning to defy the police to
arrest them for illegal events, such as mouse hunts,” Clover and
Davies added, “which they think will make the law look absurd.”
Members of the League Against Cruel Sports and other
anti-hunting organizations monitored about 100 of the hunts.
Allegedly illegal fox hunting was reportedly videotaped at six hunts.
Police confirmed that four hunting incidents were under
investigation, plus one case of alleged trespassing by hunt members
and a case of a hunter allegedly assaulting a protester at the East
End Hunt, near Ashford.
“Wiltshire police said they had arrested four men discovered
at around 4:00 a.m. with four dogs and the carcass of a hare,”
reported Owen Bowcott of The Guardian. “The suspects, who were
arrested under the new law but freed on bail, were not connected to
an organized hunt.”
Hunt Saboteurs Association member Jaine Wild claimed that a
van carrying members en route to monitor the Crawley & Horsham Hunt
in West Sussex was forced off the road. “We’ve had our van rammed by
a 4×4,” Wild told Mark Townsend, Anushka Asthana, and David Smith
of The Observer. “It’s totally smashed at the back,” Wild
continued. “We were rammed down the slope and thought we were going
to be pushed into a telegraph pole.”
Wrote Bowcott, “Police confirmed they were investigating the
incident and would also be discussing with the hunt an ‘unnecessarily
provocative incident’ in which a dead fox was thrown to the hounds.”
Objecting to “gratuitous, spiteful killing of foxes,” which
she said she had seen while monitoring the Bicester Hunt in
Oxfordshire, Protect Our Wild Animals member Penny Little told
listeners to the BBC-1 program Breakfast with Frost that, “If the
hunting fraternity go out into the field and commit offences and
attempt to run circles around this law, there is only one
development that can occur, and that is a tightening of the law. It
will not be repealed because they have behaved in a thuggish and
cruel manner,” Little promised.
Said rural affairs minister Alun Michael on BBC Radio 4,
“Reality is that the law is very clear. You can’t chase wild mammals
with a pack of dogs, whether the wild mammal is a fox or a deer. If
people do so, and pretend they’re not, it’s going to become very
clear. You can’t hunt accidentally.”
Nigel Yeo, public order spokesman for the Association of
Chief Police Officers, told Brigitte Dusseau of Agence France-Presse
that enforcing the ban would be “of a lower priority set against
everything else that is required of police forces,” but hedged by
adding that if civil disobedience by hunters degenerated into public
disorder, policing hunts would become “a significant priority,
because it is difficult to think of a higher priority for police
forces than public safety.”
The Countryside Alliance, the leading pro-hunting
organization in Britain, contended that the hunting ban was passed,
over opposition from the House of Lords, through an illegal use of
the 1949 Parliament Act.
On February 16, however, a three-judge panel of the Court
of Appeal headed by Chief Justice Lord Woolf dismissed that argument.
Hunt supporters pledged to appeal next to the European Court of
Human Rights.
Political positioning
Hunters are also preparing to push more pro-hunting
candidates in the next national election, reported Jonathan Brown of
The Independent. Hunters claimed one victory of note in the last
election, defeating former Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament
Jackie Ballard, who went on to become director general of the Royal
SPCA.
Rumor has it that Blair will call a national election in May.
A recent BBC poll suggested that hunting will not actually be a
vote-changing issue in most of Britain, as the ban was favored by
47% of the respondents, and opposed by just 26%. Earlier polls
showed up to 70% of respondents favoring a ban on fox hunting, but
the phrasing of the question rather than any actual loss of support
appeared to account for the difference.
Many fox hunting opponents have already moved on to other issues.
The League Against Cruel Sports, for instance, is
reportedly escalating a campaign against trophy hunting. AnimalAid
is campaigning against captive bird shoots.
“However,” wrote Rich Cookson of The Independent, “while
seeking the hunting ban united the animal welfare lobby, campaigns
against shooting are likely to divide it. Two of the organizations
with the most money and public support, the International Fund for
Animal Welfare and the Royal SPCA – are unequivocally against such a
campaign.”
Confirmed IFAW spokesperson Gill Sanders, “We have no plans
to campaign against shooting.”
Added David Bowles, head of campaigns for the RSPCA,
“Snaring is a problem from an animal welfare point of view,” but
“The RSPCA has no plans whatsoever to do any work on hunting or
fishing. It would be silly for us to open up a whole new area,”
Bowles told Cookson, “when there is no public and political support
for it.”

The last days

On February 17, the last day of legal traditional fox
hunting, the South Durham Hunt reportedly spent much of the morning
unsuccessfully hounding a fox who lives on the grounds of Labour
Party prime minister Tony Blair’s rural estate. South Durham Hunt
members said they had pursued “Tony’s fox” off and on for five years.
Dan Norris, Member of Parliament for Wansdyke, was pelted
with eggs and said a female aide was punched as they arrived in
Badminton for a TV appearance.
The ban on hounding mammals also applies to coursing, a
spectator event in which captive hares are released from cages to be
pursued by dogs. The Waterloo Cup, the most prominent coursing meet
each year since 1836, was held on the last weekend before the hunt
ban took effect. Future editions may be held in France or Ireland,
the organizers hinted.
The 20-member Pau-Hunt of France, founded by British
expatriates in 1840, is reportedly preparing to accept an influx of
displaced British hunters, but the Irish Masters of Foxhounds warned
its 41 member clubs in early February that British hunters should be
discouraged, lest landowners become intolerant of increased numbers
of riders, dogs, and horses. Not mentioned was the likelihood that
the presence of British hunters riding over Irish turf might rally
Irish nationalism behind growing Irish opposition to hunting for the
animals’ sake.
Captain Ian Farquhar, master of the 300-year-old Duke of
Beaufort’s hunt in Gloucestershire, noted for frequent participation
by members of the Royal family, reportedly told supporters that
Winston Churchill once said, “We must keep buggering on,” to uphold
British traditions.
“I intend to keep buggering on,” Farquhar concluded.

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