HSA news release 17th November 2001

Hunt Saboteurs Association letter to DEFRA

16th November 2001

Ms Patricia Schofield
DEFRA
Area 108
1A Page Street
London SW1P 4PQ

Dear Ms Schofield

I write to advise you of the comments of the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) on the Government’s proposals to allow the resumption of hunting with hounds from the 17th December, following the outcome of the Veterinary Risk Assessment report.

The HSA was appalled, but unfortunately not surprised, to learn that the Government proposes to allow the resumption of hunting with hounds (and by this we mean any type of hunting with dogs, and make no distinction between the three types referred to by DEFRA) before the whole of the UK is declared Foot and Mouth Disease free. We believe that this seriously misguided decision was reached following pressure from organisations representing hunting interests, with the main instigator highly likely to be the Countryside Alliance, and that the decisions can never be in the best interest of the countryside.

We do not simply object to the decision to resume hunting simply as traditional opponents of hunting, but from the knowledge of hunt activities gained from almost 40 years attending, monitoring and sabotaging hunt meets. In brief, our arguments against the resumption of hunting prior to the UK being free of FMD are as follows:-

  • Hunts are unable to realistically control the ‘hunting area’ – Despite the proposed licence restrictions asking for maps of the hunt country, and for precautions such as ‘buffer zones’ to avoid crossing from a FMD county to an At/High Risk county, hunters have proved time and time again that they are unable to control hounds once they are on the scent of the fox or hare. The term ‘riot’ is a familiar term amongst the hunting fraternity, and not without good reason – once the hounds are on the scent of the hunted animal they do not care for pre-planned routes, ‘buffer zones’, the huntsman’s calls or disinfected feet! Incidents of hounds causing havoc by trespassing on busy roads, railways and private property have consistently shown that a huntsman can never be 100% in control of his hounds, and as such a real risk exists of hounds and horses helping to spread FMD.

  • In the same way that hounds do not care for pre-planned routes, they often do not care which animal they hunt, and the term ‘riot’ can also be applied to hounds who chase an animal other than that intended. As such it should be a real concern to DEFRA that hounds are not only likely to disturb deer, but may also hunt them after ‘rioting’ from the correct quarry. This of course has serious implications as deer can not only carry FMD, but are susceptible to it. The risk of spreading FMD this way surely warrants more concern than asking the hunt's ‘best endeavour’ to disturb deer as little as possible?

  • The HSA, like many other anti-hunt organisations, has recorded numerous incidents of hunts blatantly failing to abide by their own scant codes of conduct. In light of this we find it beyond belief that you have effectively left the policing of restrictions up to the hunters themselves, through the appointment of the MFHA to act as an ‘independent assessor’ in respect of licence conditions. How likely is it that a body in charge of the people it is sent to police will report any lapses with all the bad press this could attract, when the wider issue of a hunt ban hangs over them? And what of unregistered packs, or indeed hare hunts (which are regulated by the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles rather than the Master of Foxhound Association?)

  • Your failure to consider the involvement of hunt protestors, whether actual hunt saboteurs who by their very nature will be present with the hunt in the hunting field, or hunt monitors who watch the hunt from the road and footpaths is indicative of your failure to understand the wider hunting issue. Hunt saboteurs will always endeavour to sabotage hunts as and when they take place, and this remains the case once hunting is resumed, as indeed it has been for almost 40 years. Despite this you have failed to even consider the consequences of our presence (and this is not the first time we have been so spectacularly ignored, as the Government failed to invite us to make submissions to the Burns Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs until we complained!). Had the HSA been consulted on this matter we could have advised of this potential problem from the outset, and despite the lack of consultation we are stating categorically now that this situation will arise.

I trust that the above comments are self-explanatory, but should you require any further information and have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me on 07961 113084. A copy of this letter has been passed to our press contacts, as we believe that DEFRA’s current proposals concerning the resumption of hunting prior to the UK being declared FMD free are seriously flawed, and that the general public has the right to access this information.

Yours sincerely

Dawn Preston (Ms)
Press Officer - HSA