More Bluff And Bluster From Hunting Leadership

channel 4

If you’ve turned on the TV to see a hunting-related story over the past few years, it’s almost certainly been about one of the many illegal acts or animal cruelty offences carried out by hunts and the fanatics that follow them.

That was no different this week when scenes of horrific dig outs and illegal hunting were again broadcast on Channel 4 News as part of a follow up story on the Warwickshire Hunt’s anti-social behaviour on roads and their ‘secret protocol’ with Warwickshire Police.

But things have changed slightly in that leading members of the hunting community were also present, as they were on separate news stories on ITV and BBC, as they embark on a last ditch attempt to save hunting’s image.

channel 4
Channel 4 report on the Warwickshire Hunt’s ‘secret protocol’ with Warwickshire Police.

Smokescreens and subterfuge

Knowing that the days of routine law breaking may soon be made a thing of the past with Labour promising to tighten up the Hunting Act, the British Hound Sports Association (BHSA) has been busy inviting the media, police officers and politicians along to carefully choreographed ‘trail hunting displays’ their latest act of subterfuge.

These displays don’t even resemble a normal hunting day, offering a carefully manufactured and sanitised version of events away from foxes, terriermen and the risk of being seen doing something illegal.

They are also happily conflating drag hunting – a well regulated activity in which an artificial non-animal based scent is hunted, established long before the ban on hunting – and ‘trail hunting’ which was introduced as a way for fox hunts to continue after the ban, considered as ‘temporary’ until the ban was repealed, that has often been used as a smokescreen to cover the continuation of hunting foxes illegally.

No trail here. A fox flees from the hunt. © Hertfordshire Hunt Sabs
No trail here as a fox flees from the hunt. © Hertfordshire Hunt Sabs

Criminal Hunts & A Criminal Hunter

But despite these attempts to appear squeaky clean and above board, criminality is never far away.

Julian Barnfield, BHSA ‘executive director’ and spokesperson put forward for the Channel 4 News interview, is no stranger to illegal hunting. In 2012 he admitted to 4 counts of unlawful hunting with dogs while he was the huntsman of the Heythrop Hunt, with another man and the hunt itself admitting to 4 further counts each.

The hunt filmed during the display to highlight ‘trail laying’ in the news piece is the Dorset-based Portman Hunt. Local hunt saboteurs have documented them hunting foxes many times, and they’re due in court later this year on charges of illegal hunting.

And the Warwickshire Hunt, who’s nuisance behaviour on roads was the foundation of the story regarding their ‘special arrangement’ with Warwickshire Police, has since been charged with a Hunting Act offence following the death of a fox filmed by hunt sabs in October 2023.

Something Smells Fishy

Another contradiction in the messaging from the hunting community is what they are actually hunting!

On Channel 4 the trail was laid using clove oil (which incidentally can be harmful to dogs), and a few weeks ago Tim Bonner of the Countryside Alliance claimed on a Channel 5 talk show that hounds followed “aniseed or sandalwood scents” contradicting the clear definition given on his own organisation’s website which states in black and white that a “quarry-based scent” is used.

Gareth Watchman, master & huntsman of the Zetland Hunt, clearly didn’t get the memo of this new change either. Only last week he told ITV news, “[They] did try originally when the ban came in to hunt sort of on aniseed scent, that sort of thing. But they found that actually the hounds were slightly more wild, if you like, on it and therefore it was actually more of a risk of them maybe chasing a live quarry.”

“They found that the most sensible way to do it and the most successful way was to actually have an animal scent.”

As Barnfield said, “in 19 years we’ve learnt a lot since the ban came in, and we’re still learning.”

It seems they still need to learn to get the party-line straight on what it is that hounds are supposedly following while ‘trail hunting.’

Terriermen try to find their ‘trail’ which has escaped into a badger sett. © Devon County Hunt Sabs & Mendip Hunt Sabs
Terriermen try to find the ‘trail’ which has escaped into a badger sett. © Devon County Hunt Sabs & Mendip Hunt Sabs


The hunting community has had nearly 20 years since the ban to get this right. And they’ve had nearly 20 years to prove that ‘self policing’ works. But hunts are still ignoring their ‘governing body.’ foxes are still being killed, and hunters are still using violence against those who try to expose this.

The only way this rampant criminality can end is if the Government takes action to ban so-called ‘trail hunting’ and close the loopholes in the Hunting Act that are regularly exploited. Please follow the link in the box below and help make this happen.

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