From the inquisitive face of a young foxcub in Chiddingfold country, who trotted up to the Reading group and made friends, to the lifeless mask of another, butchered by the Cheshire Forest Foxhunt.
These pictures were taken within a week of one another during one September’s cubhunting, at opposite ends of the country.
Foxhunting is an ugly game; We are here to put a stop to it…
This brief document was written by active Hunt Saboteurs. It seeks to redress the lies and myths spread by our opponents (slavishly repeated by the media), and to outline what we do and why we do it. It is dedicated to the 2 Hunt Saboteurs killed by huntsmen so far and the animals we could not save. The images shown are from our photo archive, the hidden side of hunting seen at first hand by Hunt Saboteurs week in week out.
The Hunt Saboteurs Association, in organised existence and with unrivalled experience of hunting in the UK since the early 1960’s, was ‘inexplicably missed off’ the original list of organisations contacted by the Governmental Inquiry into some aspects of Hunting with Hounds chaired by Lord Burns.
As an organisation dedicated solely to the direct prevention of cruelty to animals, we were initially sceptical of the remit and composition of the Inquiry panel. Our fears proved to be well founded according to leaked information, and confirmed by the actions of the partial, naïve panel and the enthusiastic participation of the hunting fraternity.
Despite the Prime Minister’s much publicised promise to ban hunting, the rules and agenda of the current inquiry were set by and for the convenience of the pro-hunting lobby, to their advantage, and against the wishes of the vast majority of the UK population. We boycotted the inquiry to avoid imparting any credibility to a wholly contrived rubber stamping exercise.
Hunt Saboteurs save thousands of animals every year, despite the efforts of huntsmen, terriermen, police and the courts to stop us. We act because we cannot stand by and allow the torture and killing of animals while politicians and media fudge the issues and delay any hope of legislation. Our actions mean the difference between life and death for hunted animals.
Over the past 35 years, hundreds of Hunt Saboteurs have been attacked at hunts, two killed by huntsmen and a huge number arrested by police in a futile attempt to stop what are proven tactics that save the lives of hunted animals.
Whilst the pro-hunt lobby and most of the mainstream media perpetuate the myth of ‘saboteur gangs’ armed with ‘staves and balaclavas’, the reality is, as the police would begrudgingly admit, rather different; Arrests have almost invariably been for ‘Breach of the Peace’ or more recently ‘Aggravated Trespass’ – not violence, just the heinous crime of blowing a hunting horn in a field or spraying lemon oil in a wood.
Whereas some campaigners will not overstep boundaries laid down for them by others, Hunt Saboteurs go directly to the source of the debate – and in doing so, see some of what really goes on in the hunting field.
There was no need for an inquiry into the effect of a ban on hunting – the outlawing of badger or bear baiting or dog-fighting were never delayed for the convenience of their participants on the pretext of job preservation or infringement of civil liberties as the current day hunters are managing. All it takes is political courage and honesty, something sadly lacking nowadays.
Whilst the media portrayal of Hunt Saboteurs is generally negative and mainly generated by press contacts and releases from the Countryside Alliance, some of you must wonder what we actually do to cause so much fuss!
Hunt Saboteurs have been using the same basic tactics since our inception 37 years ago; the underlying principle being to directly intervene in a day’s hunting, to tip the scales more in the favour of the hunted animal, mainly by delaying or confusing the hounds.
By observing how hunts operate, reading the available literature and with some lateral thinking, Hunt Saboteurs worked out that they could give hunted animals that extra bit of time to make good their escape from the jaws of the hounds, and on occasions render a whole day’s hunting useless.
Using hunting horns in a similar manner to the huntsman, Saboteurs found they could take control of a pack or at least cause enough confusion for the quarry to slip away. Voice calls to attract the hounds or to fool the hunt staff into thinking their quarry has gone in another direction are extremely effective, as are cracking whips to send the hounds back off the scent line of an animal or away from road or railway lines.
Pungent lemon oil sprays are used if the path of the animal has been seen, which serve to mask the animal’s scent and further delay the hounds progress. More recently, amplified tape recordings of a pack of hounds in full cry have been used to encourage the real pack of hounds away from the animal they are chasing and over to the Saboteurs, out of harms way.
We are accused of many things, including ignorance of the way a hunt is organised and carries on, but in our experience, it is usually the Saboteurs who will be up with the hounds, while the riders and followers wander aimlessly miles from the action!
In areas where there has been concerted and consistent sabotage of particular hunts, local saboteurs are amongst the most knowledgeable ‘followers’ of the hunt – some in Surrey have seen the backs of 6 huntsmen and countless other hunt staff on just one hunt! Such continuity is often accompanied by thorough record keeping and research into the hunts and where they hunt.
This brings up an interesting point when it comes to the argument put forward by hunters that they could not change to drag-hunting because it isn’t the same or that the excitement is not there. Apart from implying that their excitement comes ultimately from the death of an animal, any Saboteur who has followed a hunt closely for a number of seasons could (and sometimes will) lay a false trail that mimics the runs and jinks of the most evasive fox!
Hunts meet at traditional locations at similar times of the season and usually follow the same pattern of drawing woods and fields every season. To say that this could not be replicated by a false trail in many if not all cases is to deny the truth. We know of experienced Saboteurs who can beat hounds, huntsman and horses to where a fox has gone simply because they have seen foxes follow the same lines over generations (sometimes it is even the same fox).
Whilst the huntsman has to let the hounds work out the line of the fox by scent, in order to show good ‘sport’ to his paying customers (the mounted field), the Saboteurs can cut corners and intercept the line of the hunted animal well before they are pressed hard by the pack.
Amongst the disparaging reasons given by the Burns Inquiry for not seeking to view hunting from ‘the other side’ by accompanying anti-hunt protesters or Saboteurs was that they would be breaking the law by trespassing and could face arrest. Saboteurs feel that there is a greater crime of deliberate cruelty during hunting and as such an attempt to stop such cruelty takes precedence over other laws such as trespass. We would take the same action if we saw a person being assaulted, a child being abused or a domestic or protected animal being ill-treated on private land as we do to stop animals being hunted. It is an anathema to us that some animals are afforded protection in law from persecution, whilst others are not.
In being so close to the action during the course of a hunt, Hunt Saboteurs often witness scenes that the hunting fraternity would wish hidden from the public. We feel that the only reason hunting has lasted so long is that it usually takes place in remote woods and areas well away from the public eye and mostly during the week when the majority of the public are at work rather than cavorting around the countryside. Hunts are wary of strangers and anyone with a camera is viewed with deep suspicion nowadays.
Over the years Hunt Saboteurs have witnessed more deliberate cruelty than most people could bear, but it is their ability to use the experience to save another animal’s life the next time around that keeps them going. There follow some excerpts from our magazine written by active Hunt Saboteurs that illustrate what goes on during a day’s hunting and what we are prepared to do to stop it:
8am Saturday 17 October 1998, Old Surrey & Burstow hunt, Chartwell, Kent.
I get there at 6.30am to spray around all the coverts I know they hunt through from this meet, and find myself in the middle of the worst rain so far this autumn.
Twice in half an hour, a fox passes within feet of me and I manage to spray right behind it. In the woods below Puddledock, they get onto one which they hunt around back into the village and they have to leave it. The hunt turn south towards a covert they always draw, but I’ve already sprayed it, so it should be enough to put them off. We get to the covert (a small wood of about 1 acre) and the hunt surround it with riders and followers to scare any foxes back into the wood to be killed.
The hunt are determined to kill the fox in this wood, and things are getting fraught. There is little we can do at this point except encourage the hounds out of the wood, but with so many riders surrounding it, we don’t succeed. After nearly an hour of patchy hunting, we hear the huntsman blow for a kill, and we rush in to try to stop them getting the “trophies” at least – they wanted to cut its tail and head off. This we do, but it’s no victory. The fox was no cub, but in very good condition before its mauling.
The huntsman has the cheek to say of the mangled corpse that “it didn’t want to leave, did it?” – well would you after finding every exit blocked by baying hounds and riders? On my way home after the end of the hunt, as the hunters were tucking into their breakfast, I had to pass back through the wood where they killed. Underneath the torn undergrowth where the fox had been ripped apart, I could see the entrance to its earth which it was obviously trying to get into when caught by the hounds – it had been deliberately blocked up with straw and mud by the hunt. I can only imagine what that fox had gone through being chased around its home wood trying to escape.
Holcombe Harriers / Royal Rock Beagles 1997/98 Season.
Mid December and we’re out midweek on a lowland meet near the master’s home, just four of us. This area is really difficult, teeming with hares and although the pack was split they killed a hare after about an hour – we were near enough to hear it scream, too far away to do anything. Within half an hour they put up a fox and the huntsman headed it off after just two fields to get it caught. I got there the same time as the huntsman was getting off his horse, again we got the pack off but as we went to rescue the fox which was dragging itself along by it’s front legs, the hind legs dragging behind it, I was stopped by riders who had dismounted and started fighting us to prevent us getting nearer to the fox. The next thing I saw was the whipper-in bludgeoning the fox’s head in with his whip handle. He quickly passed it on to another rider – there was no way they were going to let us get hold of this one…to see thirty people watch a man smash an animal’s head in is something I’ll never forget.
The hunt had lost a few days in January due to bad weather and it was still cold when we found them on the 25th on the edge of the moors. The hounds put up a hare but we quickly stopped the pack, they soon found again and lost the hunt staff due to the terrain. We raced after the pack, calling a few off, to find the main pack on the far side of a reservoir, some swimming in it. We saw them there the same time as the huntsman, he rode round one way, we took the shorter route and called what seemed the full pack out of the water and round to us and off to the rest of the sabs who held them in a valley.
Back at the reservoir though there were still hounds in the water only now we saw that the water was iced over and the hounds had fallen through when seemingly chasing the hare across the ice. We ran round to find a few of the hunt on the shoreline throwing rocks in to try and break a way out for the five hounds in the water. We joined in and this tactic worked for the hound nearest the bank who came out, although it soon became obvious that this wasn’t going to help the other four hounds.
One had already gone under and the others were struggling to keep afloat, all the time letting out a haunting, baying cry. Two of us joined with a rider in tying together whips to form a rope before wading out into the reservoir, breaking the ice as we went. He had to swim the last couple of feet to get to the nearest hound. We dragged them both out, the hound was cold to the bone and as I carried him ashore I saw the last hound’s head go under for the last time.
We dried the rescued hound off with our coats and carried him up to a supporter’s car, on the road overlooking the reservoir. When we got there a local told us that another three hounds had been knocked over on the road and we could see them in the back of a supporter’s land rover. All those riders and supporters, who could only watch their hounds drowning, couldn’t even look after the few up on the busy road. The hunt collected the rest of the pack from the other sabs and packed up at 1.30, our worst day ever, and of course, not a good day for the hunt either – although a day of their own making.
Copper the Fox…..
Around 15 members of WSWPG were in attendance at a meet of the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray Foxhounds at Upperton Common near Petworth when the incident happened at around 1.30pm on the 6th February. Hounds had been on the trail of a fox for over an hour, and the exhausted animal, about 18 months old and the size of a terrier, had tired to such an extent that the lead hounds were almost upon him. Just as they caught up with the fox, biting at his hind legs, one gutsy saboteur waded into the pack and managed to pluck the fox from the very jaws of death.
The fox, obviously terrified, unfortunately turned on his rescuer and bit him on the hand, causing him to drop the animal. The fox had been given the break it needed, and managed to seek refuge down a rabbit hole. As its tail was still visible, saboteurs sat in the hole to prevent the hunt gaining access. The hunt then approached with the intention of digging the fox out. However police present intervened to prevent a breach of the peace, and advised the hunt that they could not dig out. Unbelievably, one policeman lent his helmet so that the burrow could be blocked to stop the fox escaping without treatment. An hour passed until the fox re-emerged and sabs then managed, with the help of West Sussex Badger Protection Group who were also out monitoring the hunt to place the animal in a cage and take it immediately to a vet.
Richard Edwards, a vet specialising in the treatment of injured wildlife, first administered antibiotics and put the fox on a drip. Mr. Edwards later described Copper’s injuries in the veterinary press: “On presentation, the animal was semi-conscious, hypothermic, profoundly shocked with multiple bite wounds to both hind legs and exhibiting haematuria. There was no evidence of any other internal or external injuries. Within 2 hours, the fox was conscious and sitting up. Within eight hours, it had torn its drip out and tried to bite me”! Mr. Edwards also stated that Copper would have undoubtedly died from shock without treatment, “I have never seen such trauma in a dog, even a badly injured one” he added.
Professor Patrick Bateson, the animal physiologist who found that deer suffer sever stress while being hunted told reporters that it was the first hard evidence that foxes were similarly affected. “This is an important first step in getting the evidence that fox hunting is unacceptable too”.
The Countryside Alliance and pro-hunting vets claimed with certainty that the fox’s stress level had been caused, not by being hunted at speed by a pack of dogs, but by the actions of Hunt Saboteurs in rescuing it. However, none of them could explain how it managed to recover so quickly whilst being treated by humans!
After 3 days at the veterinary surgery, Copper was making an ‘uneventful’ recovery and was well enough to be moved to the Hydestile Wildlife Hospital at Godalming, Surrey, where he continued recuperating from his ordeal. In March he was released, fit and well, into a non-hunting area to live out his life hopefully free from the persecution of ‘sportsmen and women’.
THE HUNTING MYTHS THAT COPPER’S CASE DISPROVES:
“The chase itself does not cause the fox any stress; many actually seem to enjoy it”.
Mr. Edwards has claimed that no-one has been able to come forward with any other satisfactory alternative explanation for the degree of shock displayed by Copper, other than it was caused by almost total exhaustion from the hounds’ chase. As to the fox enjoying all the symptoms displayed by Copper .. frankly it’s just ridiculous!
“Hunted foxes are either killed or get away unharmed”.
Copper’s case shows that foxes which escape the hounds after a chase may be suffering from such extreme stress that they may die a lingering and painful death anyway.
“A hunted fox is always killed by a quick nip to the back of the neck by the lead hound”
Copper had been bitten by the lead hounds – on his back legs! The lead hounds had bitten whatever part of Copper they could reach first, which of course were his back legs, so that they could bring him down. Once ‘bowled over’ Copper would have been disemboweled. Mr. Edwards is quoted as saying about the old ‘quick nip’; “Given the relative size and strength of a foxhound and fox, I think it is almost physically impossible for this to be the case.”
Hunts and violence are two subjects that seem to sit very comfortably together in the news. All too often it is the presence of Hunt Saboteurs that is used as the excuse for the coincidence of the two, when in fact the Saboteurs are the overwhelmingly the victims of attacks at hunts.
We would say that wouldn’t we? But attached to this document is an appendix detailing the convictions for violence held by members and followers of hunts in this country collated over the last 20 years. In total, the convictions of the people in the list would probably outweigh the convictions of Hunt Saboteurs for Aggravated Trespass and Breach of the Peace ten fold. And these are only the convictions we know about!
Now that the hunting fraternity are finally facing up to the realisation that their ‘sport’ may be about to be banned, their prophecy: ‘The Poll Tax, you ain’t seen nothing yet…’ may be coming true.
In the last month of the main hunting season, 8 hunt saboteurs were arrested in the whole of the UK for the heinous ‘offences’ of straying off a footpath or ‘shouting near the hunt’.
During the same period:
- Vinny Faal, a spokesperson for the Countryside Alliance in the North, and a representative of Sharston Lurcher Club, was arrested for Section 4 of the Public order act after allegedly punching a female protester in the face during a hare coursing protest.
- A certain ‘terrier’ man linked to the Southdown and Eridge Foxhounds in E.Sussex bit the end off a male protester’s finger after first punching the man’s wife in the face and damaging their vehicle near the hunt kennels in Ringmer. He is notorious in the South for his appearance on film offering to sell ‘good billy dogs’ (terriers for badgers), which is of course illegal.
- Two drunken hunt stewards employed by the Quorn foxhounds were arrested by Leicestershire police, and Hunt Saboteurs given a police escort out of the area ‘for their own safety’ on the last Saturday of the Quorn’s hunting season. One has subsequently pleaded guilty to violent offences. Inquiries into the role of the then huntsman ‘Dirty’ Dangar (he has since resigned) in the trouble are currently ongoing.
- A police inspector from East Sussex was beaten almost unconscious by hunt followers of the Southdown and Eridge after refusing to accede to hunt supporters demands that Hunt Saboteurs be arrested. After informing them “I can’t arrest them if they aren’t doing anything wrong” he was punched to the ground by 3 men and kicked senseless, sustaining a broken arm and ribs.
- At a protest outside the Effingham Park Hotel, Surrey, the venue for a Hunt dinner, a well known hunt employee left his taxi at the gate to punch an unsuspecting protester to the ground so severely that his eyeball came out. The protester suffered multiple fractures of the orbit, and had to undergo surgery. The hunt employee returned to the hotel to eat his meal.
Millions of pounds of taxpayers money have been spent policing hunt meetings. The hunt, unlike football or other sporting clubs, do not pay towards the cost of the police turning out to ‘protect’ their ‘fun’. Real sports involve competing but consenting participants who generally do not end up being abused and killed by the other participants.
No amount of money or effort seems to be considered too much when it comes to directing manpower and resources for the convenience of hunting, and all to frustrate the activities of a bunch of ordinary people who are tired of waiting for a government to carry out the wishes of the vast majority of its electorate.
It is no small measure of our effectiveness and the power of the people who’s ‘sport’ we seek to affect and their friends, that has seen our relatively small number subjected to intense law-enforcement scrutiny and vilification in parliament and the media. We have seen laws brought in at the behest of the powerful pro-hunting lobby almost at the drop of a hat over the last 20 years.
In the early days of Hunt Sabotage, hunts that regularly found themselves the subject of attention from Saboteurs would generally resort to the most obvious and basic tactic of physical intimidation and attack to deter Saboteurs. When this failed to work, the police and the courts were brought into play. These initiatives have failed due to a lack of basic understanding of our reasons for existing – that we believe the hunting of a wild animal for sport to be inherently wrong, and as such we will do our utmost to prevent it happening, regardless of the attacks we face.
In our 37 years of existence, Hunt Saboteurs have experienced everything from the ancient (c1361) Breach of the Peace laws to the Prevention of Terrorism Act! What started off as a worrying threat for the early Saboteurs in the mid 1960’s was (as have been all the laws since) confronted and ultimately rendered ineffective when it was being abused. The use (and abuse) of the law has been one of the constant factors in Hunt Sabotage over the years.
Over the years, we found our best weapons against the abuse of existing laws, and the introduction of new ones have been to ignore them in the field and fight them in the courts. For example, in 1986, the Conservatives brought in a new Public Order Act with sections specifically to “curtail the activities of Hunt Saboteurs”. In fact, Section 5 as it became known proved to be the biggest fundraiser and source of overseas holidays Hunt Saboteurs have ever known! Despite suffering heavily at the start of the 1987/88 hunting season in terms of Saboteurs arrested, subsequent court cases proved to be less of a success for the prosecutors. The next 3 years saw civil cases brought by groups of Saboteurs detained in ‘mass arrests’, run into hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation and nearly a million pounds in defence costs.
1994 saw the appearance of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. Once again Hunt Saboteurs were singled out for special mention in the drafting of the law, despite our unchanging numbers and tactics. A tribute to our doggedness perhaps?! Certain police forces around the country were picked as trial areas to introduce the more extreme interpretations of the various sections, mainly Northamptonshire, Essex, Sussex, Northumberland and Yorkshire.
In the ensuing years, all the above police forces have seen at least one costly high-profile court case against saboteurs fail as arrogant police officers and complacent prosecutors were trounced by the ‘bunny huggers’ and their lawyers! Sussex police are now almost alone in the country in clinging to the use of the ‘Aggravated Trespass’ clauses of the act. Not coincidentally, they are also one of the biggest spending authorities when it comes to policing hunts, and paying compensation to Hunt Saboteurs for unlawful arrest, false imprisonment and assault.
The latest development is that the government, albeit a Labour one this time around, is considering using a catch-all Prevention of Terrorism Act. That it is only Hunt Saboteurs who have been killed by huntsmen, and that the police are the latest victims of assaults by hunt followers would be comical if it weren’t so perverse.
We do what we do – week in, week out, in the frost, snow, rain and mud – with little fuss, and for the most part, it hurts nobody or no thing except the warped sense of fair play that 50 ‘men’ and women get from setting 30 dogs etc on one wild animal. All the threats of obstruction, civil disobedience and violence are now coming overtly from hunting’s supporters. In the lead up to the Foster bill there were the threats to poison Welsh reservoirs supplying England, and at the end of the last foxhunting season we saw the first undeniable attacks on the police by hunt supporters. Sussex police didn’t catch the culprits of the assault on their inspector, because they spent all their time (as they always do) videoing the Saboteurs. They’d better wise up if they don’t want to be caught with their trousers down should another sab be killed this season. While they are at it, maybe they should check the hunters for weapons for a change, or for red diesel, out of date road tax or mismatched number plates – if they did that, they’d stop them in their tracks, and finance their force in a matter of weeks!
We will wait to see what cards we are dealt next, and act accordingly, but it is surely an anomaly that a government which so publicly committed itself to banning hunting is bending over backwards to target the very people who have kept it under pressure and in the public eye for so long.
The Hunt Saboteurs Association. May 2000.