Covert footage obtained by the Hunt Saboteurs Association shows two men from the Grove and Rufford hunt in Nottinghamshire, attempting to bolt a fox for hounds to chase. The men are seen attempting to put terriers into an artificial earth and drainage rods are then used in an attempt to force a fox into the path of the hounds.
This footage comes just weeks after online meetings, at the highest level of the hunting world, were leaked, exposing what campaigners are calling a national conspiracy to illegally hunt wildlife. During these webinars, trail hunting is described as a ‘smokescreen’ which huntsmen can use to give the appearance of acting lawfully. Since the leak, Police have begun an investigation into the Hunting Office; the body who hosted the meetings.
Terrier work, such as that shown in the recent footage of the Grove and Rufford, also features in the leaked webinars. One leading official describes it as their “soft underbelly” because “if you’re going trail hunting, why do you need terrier men following you around?” Terrier men are employed by fox hunts to ensure foxes cannot escape into underground dens. Covert film taken in November shows the two men at the Grove and Rufford hunt trying to force a fox from their sanctuary in an artificial earth, a den constructed by hunt followers to encourage foxes to live in an area favoured by the hunt.
In the footage, a hunt official can be seen inspecting the site before the hunt were due to meet. Later on, the terrier men arrive to begin their work around ten minutes before the hounds are brought into the covert by the huntsman, who can be heard in the background. The men are heard communicating with other members of the hunt on the phone and radio, while trying to coax terriers into the underground construction. When it becomes clear the pipe is too blocked for the dog to enter, drainage rods are retrieved and used in an attempt to unsettle a fox. As the hounds enter the wood, the rods are forced into the earth and the net is removed from the other end, so that a fox may run and the hounds may chase. After the hounds pass through, the men are disappointed and are heard remarking that the hounds would have ‘ripped apart’ anything which came out, before discussing where they are to carry out their work next.
A spokesperson from the Hunt Saboteurs Association said:
“This footage shows how integral terrier men are to fox hunting and despite their attempts to appear lawful, hunts simply cannot stop themselves from acting illegally in their pursuit of killing wildlife. This behaviour is shocking. Not only in their treatment of the terriers, but in their flagrant obsession with chasing wild animals. It is now more clear than ever that the presence of terrier men on a hunt is a direct indication of their intent to illegally hunt.“
This is not the first time this side of fox hunting has been uncovered. Two employees of the Kimblewick Hunt were convicted of animal cruelty offences after they were filmed using drainage rods to force and then drag a fox out of a pipe by its tail, so that hounds could give chase. This hunt recently made headlines again, after its staff and hounds were filmed trespassing and killing a fox. Artificial earths are a key feature of fox hunting and have been for centuries. The Duke of Beaufort wrote of their use in hunting in the 1980s, many of these constructions have been found throughout the Beaufort hunt country. In November 2020, footage of the Duke of Beaufort’s hounds chasing a fox, filmed by an ITV news team, was shown on the national news.
This is not the first time the Grove and Rufford have made the headlines. While this hunt regularly feature in stock hunting photos and images of traditional Boxing Day meets, they were also convicted under the Hunting Act in 2017 after a fox was killed. Though this conviction was over turned, the hunt is clearly still aiming to chase and kill foxes, as shown in the recent footage. A hunt supporter was filmed ramming stationary vehicles containing hunt saboteurs in distressing footage taken at the closing meet of the hunt in 2019. The following season, hunt followers were filmed blocking another sab vehicle in and smashing the windows with a hammer. Do these actions against those who seek to protect wildlife and prevent illegal activity ring true with an organisation who supposedly acts within the law?