With fox hunting Opening Meets taking place in a couple of weeks, hunting’s so-called governing body – the British Hound Sports Association (BHSA) – is laying on several promotional events to try to convince the public about trail hunting.
As always with the inept BHSA, it’s not going well.
‘Trail Hunting Demonstration’
The first initiative is a series of ‘trail hunting demonstrations’ being organised around the country. These stage-managed events involve the laying of a trail in front of an invited audience of gullible press, politicians, and police. Of course, this charade bears no resemblance whatsoever to what hunts get up to in the hunting field nor does its bear any relation to ‘trail hunting’ as described on the BHSA’s own website!
The HSA trusts that any police officers or journalists invited to these BHSA events will not make fools of themselves by attending. Instead, we suggest they demand a full list of hunt meets so they can turn up unannounced on actual hunting days – they will then quickly discover the reality behind ‘trail hunting!’
As we’ve come to expect from the hapless BHSA, their public relations need work. One of the packs chosen to give a ‘trail hunting demonstration’ is Derbyshire’s Barlow Hunt, who made national news in December 2019 when – in some of the most sickening footage ever caught by sabs – a fox suffered an agonising death as she was torn to pieces by the hounds.
As Recommended in the Hunting Office Webinars
These public-facing events are part of a well-established strategy to try to fool the public about trail hunting. In 2020, Hunting Office “smokescreen” webinar presenter Paul Jelley specifically recommended that hunts hold a pre-season ‘trail laying’ display for the benefit of local police.
Jelley advised that:
“Something we used to do with the beagles when I was in charge, hold a trail laying session right at the start of the season. No other reason, do it as part of a fundraiser, a social event or something, lay a trail around a couple of fields, let your hounds go, hunt it, record it but ideally have a few independent people, not necessarily hunting folk. Invite the local policemen along, you know, local farmers who aren’t hunting folk. You can use them in evidence if you happen to go to court later on in the year.”
However, Jelley warned his audience of hunt masters to use different phones when recording these events and when they were out hunting:
“So something for you hunt staff and terriermen, trail layers and everybody to consider, if you’re recording evidence for the Hunting Act, trail laying, whatever, don’t use the same phones or anything you’ve been using for social media and bragging about what you’ve been doing out hunting.”
As Jelley makes clear, public ‘trail hunting demonstrations’ are specifically designed to fool observers into thinking that ‘trail hunting’ out in the field is real, legitimate activity.
The second initiative is the BHSA/ Countryside Alliance Newcomer’s Day – another tightly managed event where members of the public are invited to attend a hunt.
Of the 195 foxhound packs in the UK, the PR-geniuses at the BHSA have selected the Somerset’s Seavington Hunt as the ‘face’ of its Newcomers Day. Like the Barlow, the Seavington were the subject of sustained national news coverage when, in March 2022, they were filmed tipping a ‘bagged’ fox from a sack in front of the hounds – the most serious offence in fox hunting and one that was illegal long before the Hunting Act. The Seavington huntsman was convicted of animal cruelty and the hunt was ‘suspended’ from the BHSA…though this has not stopped them fronting the Newcomers Day campaign!
An HSA spokesperson commented,
“Since the passing of the Hunting Act in February 2005, hunts have effectively operated as organised crime gangs. They meet in absolute secrecy and any member of the public who chances upon them is treated with immediate suspicion and hostility. Nobody should be deceived by these rare public facing events – if hunts had nothing to hide, they would publish their meets, as they did before the Hunting Act. And if committed fox-killers like the Barlow and the Seavington are the best the BHSA can come up with to front their open days, then hunting is in even deeper trouble then we thought!”