Non-enforcement erodes U.K. pack hunting ban
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2006:
LONDON–Almost a year after the Hunting
Act banned most forms of hunting with dogs in
England and Wales, effective on February 19,
2005, pack hunting participation on Boxing Day
was reportedly undiminished.
As many as 250,000 people either rode to hounds
or followed the dogs on foot on December 26,
2005, the traditional peak of the British pack
“Far from consigning hunting to history,”
Times of London countryside editor Valerie Elliot
claimed, “thousands more are in the saddle or on
foot in pursuit of a fox scent, sometimes
accidentally hunting real foxes.”
Entering 2006, there were still 317 active hunt
clubs in Britain, including 184 that hunt foxes
and 100 that hunt hares. The Aldenham Harriers,
of South Hertfordshire, disbanded in
mid-January, but hunting participation overall
is up an average of 33%, asserted Elliot.
“Police have been told not to foil
illegal fox hunts because of health and safety
regulations,” Daily Telegraph political editor
Melissa Kite disclosed in June 2005, after
obtaining a 30-page set of enforcement
instructions under the Freedom of Information Act.
“Guidance drawn up by police chiefs
instructs officers to take the most cautious
approach when investigating reports of illegal
hunts for fear that they might injure themselves.
They have been told not to go near hounds or
horses and not to confiscate dead animals as
evidence in case of injury or infection,” Kite
“Officers are told to carry out risk
assessments before embarking on an investigation;
to ask farmers for permission to go on their
land; and not to use helicopters in case they
’cause alarm to horses,'” Kite added.
Through October 2005, according to the
League Against Cruel Sports, volunteer hunt
monitors documented 157 violations of the hunting
ban by 79 hunt clubs, without obtaining any
International Fund for Animal Welfare
volunteer Kevin Hill, 55, a hunt monitor for 15
years who trains others to safely and legally
document hunts, was allegedly beaten by stag
hunters at Exmoor on October 27, 2005 while
videotaping their activities. No suspects were
The incident occurred nine days after
Essex Union huntmaster Simon Upton, 40, was
fined £1,555 for whipping protesters Tim Burn,
39, and Melissa Marr, 24, along with an
unidentified man, while riding at one of the
last legal fox hunts on February 9, 2005.
Discovering that the Hunting Act is not
being enforced and that activist efforts to
document violations are not being supported has
encouraged open defiance, charged the League
Against Cruel Sports.
“In February, hunts pretended to be drag
hunting. Then they went out with two dogs,
pretending to be flushing to guns. Now they have
the full pack and look as though they are fox
hunting,” League Against Cruel Sports
representative Paul Tillsley told Owen Bowcott of
The Guardian in November 2005. Stag hunting with
dogs is also up, Tillsley said.
Fox hunting continues through exemptions
in the pack hunting ban that allow hunters to use
up to two dogs to flush a fox or other quarry
toward a gunner. Hunts may also unleash a full
pack of hounds in pursuit of a scent trail, or
just for exercise.
“Other oddities include that rabbits and
squirrels can be hunted by packs, but hares
cannot,” explained Terry Kirby, chief reporter
for The Independent. “The sole prosecution,”
Kirby said, “has been against a man in
Merseyside, Lancashire, who was accused of
The Vine & Craven Hunt in October 2005 encouraged
Freddy Tett, 12, Archie Rutland, 13, and Tom
Small, 12, to form the Wormstall Rabbit Hounds
Hunt. “Twenty children aged between 4 and 14
used six dogs and killed four rabbits” at their
first meet, said The Times of London.
“Some hunts have been advised that
several pairs of hounds can be used in different
parts of the same field in the process of
flushing a mammal toward a gun,” wrote Bowcott.
“A number of hunts admit they have had
‘accidents’ when hounds out exercising or trail
hunting came across a fox.”
Hunters are also allowed to use up to two dogs at
a time to flush out prey for falconry. About 50
hunt clubs have reportedly acquired falcons as a
pretext for pack hunting.
Moretonhampstead residents Paula
McAlindon and Michael Mosforth alleged that
members of the South Devon Hunt allowed hounds to
kill a fox on their property on Christmas Eve.
“We were flushing with a pack of hounds to a bird
of prey and trail hunting,” responded South
Devon huntmaster Ian Pease to the BBC.
A bird of prey does not actually have to
be a skilled hunter to provide a pretext for pack
hunting: the pack hunters can claim to be
training the bird.
Enforcement of the pack hunting ban is further
complicated, Bowcott explained, because while
“The act permits the police to enter private land
to seize items connected with illegal hunting,
officers do not have an automatic right to access
merely to watch or monitor a hunt.
“There have been no convictions of [fox] hunt officials or followers since the law came
into force,” Bowcott continued. “A private
prosecution brought by the League Against Cruel
Sports against Exmoor Foxhounds huntmaster Tony
Wright is to be heard in Barnstaple, Devon,” in
early 2006. The original trial date was set for
January 16. Wright allegedly illegally hunted
with hounds on April 29, 2005. The private
prosecution was initiated after police failed to
lay charges, based on videotaped evidence.
Scotland banned pack hunting three years
earlier, under the Protection of Wild Mammals
Act of 2002, but enforcement of the Scottish law
has also been weak. The first person charged
with violating the act, Buccleuch Foxhounds
master Trevor Adams, was acquitted in December
2004, but faces new charges, according to the
BBC, “in relation to an incident on October 10
at a farm near Kelso. The Buccleuch hounds are
alleged to have been seen pursuing a fox across a
field before he was killed.”
The British and Scottish pack hunting
bans also apply to hare coursing, which was
already somewhat more restricted than fox
hunting. British and Scottish police in spring
2005 cracked down somewhat on illegal coursing
with investigations called Operation Dornier and
Operation Hartley, respectively.
Claiming success, Cambridgeshire police
inspector Richard Lowings told the BBC that
reports of illegal coursing fell from 150 in
March 2004 to just 9 in March 2005.
Scottish police and the Scottish SPCA in
April 2005 arrested five coursers at the Fasque
shooting estate in Fettercairn.
Irish hunt clubs have made an effort to attract
British participation–and money– but so far
appear to have drawn relatively few fox hunters,
at least partly because the British ban is so
weakly enforced. Sixteen British coursers,
however, made up half the field at the January
14, 2006 Seamus Hughes International
hare-coursing meet in Sevenhouses, Kilkenny,
after the organizers made a point of inviting
former competitors for the Waterloo Cup. The
Waterloo Cup coursing competition, held annually
at Alcar near Liverpool since 1836, was
considered the top coursing event in the world.
British hare-coursing was usually done
with unmuzzled dogs in open country. Ireland
currently has 53 coursing clubs whose dogs chase
hares in open country, and 76 who chase hares in
enclosures, among 236 total pack hunts.
Coursing is not outlawed in Northern
Ireland, but has been suspended due to a decline
in the hare population, causing the two active
Northern Irish coursing clubs to relocate their
meets to the Irish Republic.
“Irish authorities have reacted to
protests by imposing conditions on coursing,
such as the 1993 muzzling of dogs and a ban on
the use of pregnant or sick hares. There is no
sign, however, that Ireland will outlaw it,”
wrote David McKittrick, Ireland correspondent
for The Independent.
Muzzling does not save hares, Irish
Council Against Blood Sports campaign director
Aideen Yourell told McKittrick, as the hares
still “are battered and mauled into the ground.
Any hare who gets a battering is likely to die,”
Yourell said. “They’re just dying in a different
“Now we see a sort of blood sports
tourism moving to the Republic. I think it’s a
great shame for a civilized country to be the
last bastion for a blood sport,” League Against
Cruel Sports chief executive Doug Batchelor told
The invasion of Ireland by even a token
few British hunters has inflamed the small but
fast-growing Irish anti-hunting movement.
Horse breeder Mick Farrell, of
Pleberstown, Thomastown, fired two shotgun
blasts into the air on St. Stephen’s Day 2006 to
deter the approach of the Kilkenny Hunt. “They
called off their dogs but over an hour later some
of the hunting animals were still in the
vicinity. I have no intention of hurting
anyone,” Farrell told Jim Rhatigan of the
Kilkenny Voice, “but I had no choice but to
protect the horses that are my living.”
A tactical divide opened on January 8 at
Jenkinstown Woods, Kilkenny, between
British-influenced hunt saboteurs and rural
residents who disapprove of both hunting and
protest methods that likewise disturb the peace.
Jenkinstown horse keeper Jenny Matthews
first organized and then tried unsuccessfully to
halt a January 8 vigil against a killing contest
held for more than 25 years by the Jenkinstown
Gun Club. Claiming record participation in 2006,
the contest targets foxes, squirrels, crows,
Matthews was incensed in 2005, reported
Mary Cody of the Kilkenny People, when gunfire
spooked her five horses.
“I had planned to hold a peaceful and
silent protest against the cruelty of the shoot,
and to highlight the disruption and public safety
hazard it causes, ” Jennifer Matthews told Dara
Defaoite of the Kilkenny Voice.
About 30 demonstrators turned out, but
approximately half were contingents from Cork and
Dublin who thwarted Matthews’ plan, alleged
Jenkinstown Gun Club secretary Canice Brennan,
when they “went into the woods in small groups
and set off a huge siren. The noise frightened
the birds and animals and upset sheep and
cattle,” Brennan said. “They talk about looking
after wildlife,” she added, “and yet they
scared the living daylights out of the locals.
It seems to defeat their purpose,” and in
Jenkinstown worked to the hunters’ political