Here is the text of a speech given by our founder, Mike Huskisson, to the National Federation of Badger Groups annual Conference in 1996. Please remember that the words are as written at the time, i.e. long before the Hunting Act 2004:-
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF BADGER GROUPS.
CONFERENCE TALK 1996.
The interface of Fox and Badger Persecution.
I am a self-employed wildlife investigator and photographer. I am employed on occasion by the League Against Cruel Sports as a consultant. I run my own organisation the Animal Cruelty Investigation Group. I have been actively involved in animal welfare work for some 25 years.
Foxes and badgers have been persecuted directly and indirectly by so-called sporting interests for many years. The species are persecuted directly by those who seek to kill them for amusement, usually with hound, terrier and/or lurcher, and indirectly by those such as gamekeepers who regard them as a threat to other bloodsports such as pheasant shooting. Foxes and badgers are also jointly persecuted by some misguided individuals amongst the farming community who regard them, each species in their own way, as some kind of threat to farming profitability.
The purpose of this talk is to take a closer look at the interface of fox and badger persecution particularly at the hands of the bloodsports fraternity. Almost since the dawn of hunting for amusement time the fox and the badger have been linked closely together by bloodsports enthusiasts.
In his book "Hounds in the Old Days" first published in 1913 Sir Walter Gilbey baronet writes that foxes and badgers were classed as vermin that afforded sport. They were termed "beasts of stinking flight" and for them specific hounds were prescribed. Sir Gilbey refers to a method of training foxhounds to hunt a trail or drag in which a cat was dragged along the ground for a mile or two at the end of which was turned out a badger with broken teeth.
The product of a bygone era? Certainly.
But the close association between badger and fox as objects for sport has endured and can anyone seriously argue that their treatment has become more humane?
In the relationship between the pastime of foxhunting and badger abuse we need to look at three main scenarios:
1). There is the direct abuse of badgers either for the sheer sport of that persecution, or in the mistaken belief that they are performing some kind of pest control, by those closely involved with the organisation and running of a foxhunt. The pest control aspect is now largely historical but it has occurred as recently as 1977.
2). There is the direct persecution of badgers by those who simply tag on to foxhunts. This is quite possibly done without the knowledge of those responsible for the organisation and running of the hunt.
3). There is the persecution of badgers by foxhunting interests in order to preserve and enhance the pleasure of the foxhunt. This might be called indirect persecution of badgers by foxhunters.
Direct abuse of badgers for either "sport" or "pest control" by those closely involved with foxhunts.
Let us consider the "sporting" side first. Recent changes in legislation that makes such behaviour illegal serves only to draw it to the public’s attention when the media circus takes note of prosecutions. When it was not illegal no-one took any notice.
I would suggest that it arises in the sporting context from the desire by those interested in terrier work to test the gameness of their terriers against tougher quarry than the fox.
One such incident of badger abuse was exposed following an RSPCA investigation on the Isle of Wight a few years ago. This involved the professional Huntsman of the Isle of Wight Foxhounds and another colleague who at the time of the conviction was a paid terrierman to a foxhunt.
The court case was heard by Newport Magistrates in May 1991. Stephen Clifton the professional Huntsman of the Isle of Wight Foxhounds and his colleague James Butcher, at the time of the hearing the paid terrierman for the Essex and Suffolk Foxhounds were each convicted of digging for badgers and each was fined £500. The court heard how RSPCA officers and police hiding near the badger sett in Great Combley Wood on the Isle of Wight arrested the men after they had been witnessed digging into the sett and Clifton had unsuccessfully attempted to smash a badger with a shovel. When arrested the men claimed to have been digging for fox cubs which they claimed had been "worrying sheep". Michael Poland senior Master of the Isle of Wight Foxhounds said he had known Clifton for 15 to 17 years and described him as a "super" person who was loyal and "did his job well."
In finding the case proved the magistrates told the defendants, "You both know full well what the law was in relation to badgers. You both set out deliberately to flout the law. It is very difficult to find any mitigation."
As a postscript to this tale on Saturday February 29th 1992 Stephen Clifton was seen laughing and joking with his chums at the meet of the Isle of Wight Foxhounds at Chale Green, albeit that he was no longer the Huntsman.
It is not really surprising that foxhunt servants, who relish a bit of digging with terriers, should have a sporting interest in the persecution of badgers. In the not too distant past, when such persecution was legal, the association between foxhunting and badger digging was open.
The Field, October 8th 1921, carried the following under the caption "Badger Digging in Leicestershire":
"...we had a day near Loughborough with Mr Paget, Master of the Quorn. We first tried a new earth blank, though Jack marked through the brick wall of an artificial earth. Bantam was put in there and bolted a fox. We then tried another earth, and found. We bagged a badger after a hard but uneventful dig."
Later on the same page the author describes a dig at Kibworth as being "a great day" They slipped seven terriers and dug out two badgers weighing over 30lbs, he adds:
"Curiously enough, only Jack was bitten, and that at the very beginning. Twinkle, who is one of the small, active, short legged stamp, not too big boned, and weighs about 12lbs to 13lbs, had been two days cubbing and two days badger digging out of five days, and was to ground five hours in all the last day." (Cubbing there is a reference to the foxhunting practice of hunting fox cubs in mid to late summer as a prelude to the main hunting season starting in November.)
The foxhunts of that era organised their own badger digging clubs. Berrow's Worcester Journal of the 6th November 1937, under the heading "Good Day from Kenswick Mill" tells us:
"Clifton Hunt Badger Club met at Kenswick Mill on Thursday. The weather was of the best, and there was a large company present to greet the new Master, Mr C. Millincheap. A move was made to Black Pool covert where Col Britten's keeper Mr Spilsbury had some badgers in residence ready. There were about four and a half couples of terriers out and some good work was witnessed. Finding straight away there was rare music from the club terrier (Tarten) which stuck to his badger well and got him on the move in a large place where badgers usually get the better of things. As there was a large earth, the club thought it better not to cut the badger off by halving the earth but took the risk to drop it where the music was best. This was done twice before the terrier could hold up the badger for them and a large badger was accounted for. No sooner had she been taken when a big hog badger tried to make his escape. He also was accounted for, making a brace in sixty minutes, two fine specimens weighing about 28 pounds each."
You will note here that these badgers were "accounted for" which is hunt speak for killed. Often the apologists for such activity these days write of digging days in the past as if they were all for the benefit of the badger. Gerry Emmsley (a pen name used for articles from more than one source) writing on A Hundred Years Of Badger Digging in Earth Dog and Running Dog number 8, Nov/Dec 1992 said of brock: "Like a true English gentlemen he defends his position to the last until, at the end, he comes marching out, glorious in defeat, unharmed and still unbowed, to be bagged and moved on to pastures new." Such romanticised nonsense bears little relationship to the truth.
There is plenty of evidence in the literature of the close link between foxhunt enthusiasts and badger digging. The publication Border Tales was compiled from articles in the Year Books of the Southern Border Terrier Club 1947-1965. Under the heading Terriers at Work by David Allibone the author describes the sport he had in 1963 with his new Border bitch named Kim:
"So on Saturday's badger dig I took her along with the rest of the terriers to try her. When within a yard or so of brock we picked up the other terriers to try Kim who went straight in and had a go at him. She got bitten but it did not worry her, and when we tailed brock she was rearing to have another go, and voicing her opinion with the rest. In the words of one very experienced old badger digger present "This red'un is going to be a real good'un she is." After this first meeting with brock she worked 14 badgers in the next three months, she always got bitten but would not come out and would not let a badger dig even in the very sandy soil which we have in some parts of this country."
David Allibone was writing of the Somerset area and he went on four years later, in 1967, to become Kennel Huntsman to a local pack of foxhounds Mr Roffe-Silvester's, a position within hunting that he retains to this day.
Also in Border Tales another Kennel Huntsman, this time preferring anonymity, writing of his days as a terrier man to a pack of foxhounds described the sport he had with a new dog Sue:
"I took her with two of my other terriers to an artificial Fox Earth. These were numerous in this particular part of the country, having been put in by an ex-Master in the more prosperous pre-War days. I knew badgers often used one in particular, so I chained Sue up with one of the others, and entered an old dog that had done a lot of badger digging. He had not gone far before I heard him baying and, after a time, we worked a badger up to the end of the drain, which was blocked earlier, as I thought. Quite suddenly, out bolted a second badger. Sue quickly spotted him as he was disappearing into the thick undergrowth, and she began a violent tugging at her chain and before I could get to her, it snapped, and she was away in hot pursuit of the badger. After much searching and listening, I suddenly heard a commotion near the boundary fence and, on getting to this place, I found Sue fastened to the Badger's neck who, in turn, was held by the chain that had become entangled in the wire fence."
As well as having some of their number involved with or running the badger digging clubs many of the foxhunts actually killed badgers themselves routinely on hunting days and were proud to put their claims in for the numbers they killed each season. Whether they claimed to kill badgers to preserve and enhance foxhunting or as some kind of "pest control" measure probably depended on who asked the question.
Looking at the historical record we learn from the Hunting Diary for the 1927-28 season of the following examples of numbers of badgers killed:
The Avon Vale hounds accounted for 3 badgers.
The Cotswold 10 badgers
The Croome 9 badgers
Middleton (East) 3 badgers
Portman 4 badgers
Sinnington 5 badgers
Tedworth 2 badgers
Whaddon Chase 10 badgers
Wheatland 2 badgers
and in Ireland the Kilkenny claimed 6 badgers killed.
We know something of the circumstances in which two of these badgers were killed from the report from the Morning Post, Nov. 16th 1927: "On November 15, the Cotswold Hounds found a brace of foxes. One was drowned in a dyke, the other driven to ground. "A terrier was put in with the object of bolting him, but a badger was bolted instead. Hounds killed him, and a second badger from Tewkesbury Park drain was also accounted for."
In all in one season 16 foxhunts claimed to have killed no less than 60 badgers on their own account with their own hounds. The figure given for the Whaddon Chase must have been an estimate though as it appears that they sometimes didn't even know the exact tally. The Daily Chronicle September 6th 1927 reported that the Whaddon Chase that day "had a good morning's sport, one or two badgers being killed." However a tally of 60 badgers must have been a bad season for the fox/badger hunters. In that season the maximum number of badgers claimed killed was 10 by both the Cotswold and Whaddon Chase foxhounds. Just a couple of years later the South Dorset Hunt alone claimed to have killed no fewer than 46 badgers.
The fact of hounds killing badgers continued for some time. In The Terrier's Vocation published in 1949 Geoffrey Sparrow writing of the badger reported that he had "more than once seen hounds find and kill one above ground in the hunting season."
One may wonder just how foxhounds go about killing badgers. We gain an insight into the cruelty that occurred from the following passage taken from My Fifty Years of Sport by Major Charles Van Der Byl, written in 1937:
"Killing a badger with hounds, on the other hand, is both cruel and barbarous. It takes about twenty-five minutes of worrying before life becomes extinct; because, hounds are unable, as in the case of a fox to tear the skin. The time can, of course, be shortened if anyone can get in and hit the badger on the head: but this is not always easy to accomplish. The poor badger is also an animal which does very little harm and a great deal of good. It will dig out and destroy every wasp's nest which it comes across in its nightly rambles.
The unwritten law of badger digging is that the quarry, when taken, should be put into a sack and weighed, and then released; but there are fiends in the shape of human beings, in some parts of the country, who put the badger in a loose box and turn all the village dogs on to bait it, until they and their friends are tired of looking on; the operation being continued day after day. Such barbarity should indeed be strongly dealt with by the local authorities.
The only harm which a badger can do to hunting is that it will sometimes reopen an earth which has been stopped. It can only give a very poor run over about one field when hunted, which affords no sport whatever."
As might be expected when foxhounds encounter a badger the cruelty is not all one-sided. Fred J. Taylor writing in his diary page The Countryman in Shooting Times and Country Magazine May 21-27 1981 commenting on the noises a reader reported to him a badger made in one particular wood way back in 1933 went on: "The blood-curdling racket continued on and off until November when foxhounds in the wood contacted a badger which killed two of their number and mortally wounded two more before being killed itself."
Now it could be that that badger was the biggest beast in creation and the only one ever to have killed foxhounds in combat. It could be but we must regard that as unlikely and in that case we can only wonder at the number of foxhounds that lost their lives to kill 60 badgers in the 1927-28 season? Further how many hounds did the South Dorset Foxhounds lose when they succeeded in killing 46 badgers?
Sometimes foxhunters claimed "pest-control" as justification for their killing badgers. For instance: the incident that occurred at the Duke of Beaufort's hunt in 1977. The late Duke, still revered throughout the hunting world for recruiting Prince Charles to foxhunting, was still digging out and slaughtering badgers four years after Parliament passed legislation to protect the species from badger diggers. This is proven by a letter written by the Duke himself on the 14th October 1977. This referred to an incident that occurred on the 26th September 1977, i.e. during cubhunting, when the Duke was hunting his hounds on the Escourt Estate deep in the Beaufort Hunt country. A family of eight badgers were dug out and killed. The Duke writes:
"The reason for the destruction of the badgers in Shipton Wood was as follows. The Landlord of the Escourt Estate, Mr. Desmond Escourt, had received complaints of the number of badgers in and around Escourt Park from several of his tenants, all of whom have large dairy herds, and have suffered from outbreaks of tuberculosis. The Ministry of Agriculture officials have failed to reduce the number of badgers, and Mr. Escourt is most grateful that the eight badgers were killed in Shipton Wood on September 26th.
Shooting them at close range with a .22 pistol is far more humane than gassing them in large earths, which is the method used by the Ministry officials. All the badgers were dead when they were buried."
Direct abuse of badgers by those who tag onto foxhunts.
Foxhunts can attract people whose real interest is badger digging and who simply hang on to the hunts in order to gain local knowledge. What better excuse for tramping around woodlands with or without your terriers than that you are following the hunt? I have heard convicted badger diggers boast that they know the location of nearly every badger sett in Wales and along the border with England. I have heard the same people boast in court that they are keen followers of many foxhunts over this area. The connection is obvious.
Back on the 25th August 1983 the Daily Telegraph carried a small report captioned: "Three fined for badger digging". Briefly three men had been fined £80 each plus £20 costs after being convicted by Appleby Magistrates of digging for a badger at Drybeck Fell, Cumbria. The three were Peter Doey of Lancaster, Andrew Cuthbertson of Morecambe and James Ellison of Chorley. As so often in such cases the defendants claimed that they had been searching for fox cubs. The Lancashire Evening Post of the same date stated that "The three men, who had hunted with the North Lancashire and Cumbrian fell packs, claimed the Drybeck area was regularly used by foxes." This newspaper quoted Cuthbertson as telling the court, "We do not hunt badgers." Well he would say that wouldn't he?
Nearly a year later the Sunday People undertook a lengthy investigation into badger digging and baiting, culminating in their acquisition of a bloody, hour long video of a baiting session staged near Liverpool. (Incidentally this was the first video proof of the revival in these gruesome pastimes). The People published their story on the 17th June 1984. In the course of their investigations People reporters questioned Cuthbertson about his penchant for abusing badgers and he is reported to have said:
"I've done it for about six years and also dug for foxes. I'm a member of the local hunt too. On the day in question we were digging for fox but I have dug for badger on many occasions. Badger baiting is an art. To me it's a country sport, just like foxhunting and I see no reason for it to be banned."
Other cases have come to light following undercover infiltration of badger digging gangs. One such investigation led to the conviction in the summer of 1989 of Alan Mallet and Philip Williams for offences against badgers. This followed private prosecutions brought by the League Against Cruel Sports. Whilst giving evidence to Gloucester Magistrates and then to Carmarthen Magistrates Philip Williams boasted of his active involvement with the Ledbury Foxhounds and named four other foxhunts that he followed. Alan Mallet was not quite so forthcoming, naming only one foxhunt with which he was associated. What sort of characters are these that tag on to foxhunts? In the course of the investigation Alan Mallet was phoned and the conversation recorded. He was proud of his dogs and boasted of the ability of his lurcher to deal with badgers as follows:
"And the old dog can see him like, she f***ing yanks him out then like...she'll f***ing rip his f***ing head of like." Then, referring to a scenario where the badger might be allowed out of the hole he goes on: "Let them come out of the hole on their own and then let her go....an' I'll tell yer something, that f***ing badger won't go nowhere.....she'll f***ing grab him by the throat right.....she'll kill the bastard right...she's f***ing mental." That is the sort of character to be found tagging along with present day foxhunts.
Is it any wonder that our wildlife is in peril at the hands of such people. Mind you to be fair the Ledbury Hunt reacted with horror when Philip Williams claimed association with them and in the Western Daily Press of the 21st June 1989 the hunt denied all knowledge of him.
Indirect persecution of badgers by foxhunters.
This appears in two main forms. Firstly there are the occasions when hunted foxes seek refuge in badger setts and the foxhunters then damage the sett in trying to get at the fox. Secondly there are the cases where badgers take up residence in locations that are inconvenient to foxhunters. As a result foxhunters sometimes take what might be described as pre-emptive strikes at the badger setts to try and move the badgers away.
As an example of the first I offer the incident that occurred at the meet of the Cumberland Farmers Foxhounds on December 6th last year in the Penrith area. The outcome was proclaimed by the banner headline "Huntsmen Guilty of Sending Terrier Down Badger Sett" in the local paper The Herald, August 10th 1996. Briefly the case involved the actions of Kennel Huntsman Peter McColgan aged 30, a full time hunt servant who has been with the Cumberland Farmers pack for 15 years and Edwin Dickinson an assistant terrier man and official earth stopper also for 15 years with the same pack.
The men were charged with "interfering with a badger sett by causing a dog to enter it". The case hinged on whether the badger sett was seen to be active at the time when the hunt terrier was put into it to bolt the fox.
The operation of the hunt that day seems to have been singularly inept. Foxhounds marked the fox to ground in a badger sett. There were 8 to 10 holes, 6 of which were covered by nets and the rest stopped up with lose earth. Dickinson put in a terrier with a beeper on its collar, the position of the fox was located but whilst it was being dug out it, incredibly considering the nets and the stopping, managed to bolt and escape. In his defence McColgan said that the fleeing fox was pursued by hounds to an active badger sett were it was "duly left alone".
On January 22nd this year a prosecution expert, a Mammal Society council member examined the sett that the terrier was put into and stated that it showed evidence of "intensive and long-term badger activity". The men were found guilty and each was fined £150 and ordered to pay £250 costs. The presiding magistrate Donald Cameron said "We are sure that the sett in question was active on 6th December and that the signs of activity were visible to those who wished to see them".
In his defence Peter McColgan, the Kennel Huntsman, claimed that "he had seen a fox go to earth in an active badger sett at least 250 times and the hunt had always left it alone." (Cumberland News 9/8/96), given his 15 years service with the hunt that is by his reckoning some 16 times a year that the hunted fox flees to an active badger sett. This is an indication of the scale of the threat to the badger posed by foxhunting. How reassuring it is to have his word that they always leave the badger sett alone in these circumstances is open to doubt.
The latest news on this case is that the British Field Sports Society is to appeal against the conviction of these two foxhunt employees/enthusiasts. According to the Cumberland News August 16th 1996 the BFSS claims that the evidence was circumstantial and open to interpretation.
As for pre-emptive strikes this focuses on the alleged nuisance that badgers are to foxhunters.
The theme of badgers being a nuisance has been propounded for some considerable time now.
Earlier this century a report in the Berrows Journal on the activities of the Clifton Badger Digging Club, a club that was actively supported by at least two MFH's gives the following reason for their killing badgers:
"The Clifton Badger Club, like others of its kind, pursues with zest the partial extermination of badgers because of the burrows they provide for foxes in the area of the hunt."
Viscount Knutsford in the chapter "Reflections on Hunting" in the publication "The Book Of The Horse", edited by Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald, and published in 1946 is clear about the matter:
"The badger is a nuisance as far as fox-hunting is concerned and must be kept under control in a fox-hunting country. He adds to the earth-stopping difficulties, for wherever there are badgers it is necessary for the earth-stoppers to go round again in the morning to make certain that the earths have not been reopened. If a badger takes to an earth it is unlikely that foxes will stay there....."
However there was clearly some dispute as to the real extent of the damage caused by badgers From volume 7 of the Lonsdale Library, Foxhunting, published in 1930 we can read the following on page 122, written by Sir Charles Frederick, Baronet and Master of Foxhounds:
"Badgers, which are far more numerous than is generally supposed, are often blamed when a fox gets to ground. No doubt they often scratch open an earth when they wish to return home after their nightly prowl, and it will need to be stopped again in the morning. At the same time they are frequently made the scapegoat when the earthstopper's own carelessness is really responsible. If a covert owner finds that badgers are becoming a nuisance his best plan is to stink out their earths, when the tenants will betake themselves elsewhere." As for the pre-emptive strikes Sir Charles Frederick condemns them: " I have no sympathy with the digging out and wholesale murder of these poor harmless creatures, as practised in some countries." By country in the hunting context Sir Charles doesn't mean the likes of France or Germany, he is of course referring to the hunting areas of individual foxhunts.
In the same publication, The Lonsdale Library on Foxhunting, Charles McNeill O.B.E., Master of the Grafton Foxhounds for seven seasons and Master of the North Cotswold Foxhounds for five season writes a chapter on The Hunt Terrier. In this he informs readers that:
"In the old days I had as many as eighty terriers in my kennels at Carlton Curlieu, Leicestershire, and such noted winners as Champion Oronsay Marvel, Champion Match Maker, Meersbrook Magpie and All Bristles. Both the latter, by Meersbrook Bristles, were undefeated at fox or badger."
Later he recalls an incident at Norton Gorse in the Fernie Foxhunt country years previous when:
"...unfortunately a terrier (a show one) got locked with a badger, in each other's jaws. The terrier got the upper hold, consequently his lower jaw was in the badger's mouth and when we got down to him the badger had broken the poor brute's jaw. Even so, he was dead game and trying hard to have a go and presumably not knowing why he was so useless."
The theme of the badger harming foxhunting by reopening stopped earths as referred to by Major Van der Byl is also dwelt on by Captain Jocelyn Lucas writing in Hunt and Working Terriers, the classic work for the terrier fraternity that was first published in 1931. On page 101 Captain Lucas writes of the function of the earth stopper:
"the object of an earth stopper is to stop the fox out when he is away on his midnight prowl. If he runs a terrier through an earth, it is to satisfy himself that he is not stopping one in. It is easy enough to stop him out with a faggot. Badgers are different. You may stop them in, but you can't stop them out if they wish to get in, which is why big badger earths are such a nuisance in hunting country." Captain Lucas remarks that in his time "The casual visitor may be surprised at times to see apparently oversized terriers in kennel. They are kept because nearly every pack has to keep busy with the badgers from time to time, and a strong dog is of great value for that game."
At the level at which modern hunts simply find the badgers to be a nuisance and take active measures against them such as stopping setts etc. there is an abundance of evidence. In May 1990 the League Against Cruel Sports published the report "The Case For The Protection Of Badger Setts" that highlighted the problem. This report included reference to no fewer than 66 cases in recent years of excessive sett blocking and/or severe damage caused to setts by foxhunts. Amongst these cases were the following:
From Dyfed in February 1990:
"Local foxhunt attacked a main breeding sett and entered a terrier into the sett. It was pointed out to the Master of Foxhounds that there were probably badger cubs in the sett. The reply was "our dogs are trained not to touch badgers!" Since this incident there has been no badger activity in the sett."
In East Hampshire from December 1989:
Large breeding sett with seventeen entrances completely hard blocked with large flint stones, sticks, logs, thick plastic bag, compacted earth and diesel soaked newspaper. Claw marks on plastic bag by badger trying to get out. Hunt servant admits to blocking sett (but denies using diesel). Took eight people four hours to unblock. Subsequent visits over several months revealed no signs of badger activity. Badgers believed to have perished."
And finally from Fife in February 1990 the following:
"A very large sett has become deserted after years of digouts and blocking by the foxhunt. It used to be the biggest sett in Fife. The badgers have built a new sett nearby. On 21/2/90, the day of the hunt, this sett was demolished as a result of someone jumping violently on the sett entrances. Following this attack there has been a significant decline in badger activity."
Following all this the law was of course tightened up by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 that embraced sett protection measures brought in 1991. Still the foxhunters continued to harass badgers and several paid the price in the courts. The Times for the 4th August 1992 reported that Paul Cheeseman the kennel man to the Taunton Vale Foxhounds following a private prosecution brought by the League Against Cruel Sports admitted to Hertford Magistrates that he had interfered with a badger sett whilst employed as terrier man to the Enfield Chace Foxhounds late in 1991. Then on the 20th March 1993 the Western Daily Press reported that John Rossiter an official earth stopper to the local foxhunt had admitted to Shepton Mallet magistrates that he had interfered with a badger sett. He was fined £160 and ordered to pay £150 costs. That followed a private prosecution brought by the RSPCA.
The continued threat to the badger posed by illegal blocking of their setts by foxhunters was shown by the incident at the Vale of White Horse hunt on December 6th 1994: Richard Lovett, aged 41, a fencer and earthstopper for the hunt was accused of illegally blocking a badger sett with hard packed soil in Flisridge Woods near Swindon before the hunt. The RSPCA claimed that his actions resulted in cruelty to the badgers by restricting the air to their setts. All the badgers survived. Lovett was found guilty and fined £100 by the magistrates. It is perhaps of some interest that in the Shooting Times and Country Magazine for December 13-19 1984 there is a Richard Lovett listed as the Gloucestershire area representative for 1985 for the Fell & Moorland Working Terrier Club.
Intensive efforts by foxhunting interests to encourage foxes for sport can also result in suffering being inflicted on badgers. The League Against Cruel Sports has taken a close look at the activities of the Thurlow Foxhunt based near Cambridge and Newmarket. This hunt operates over one of the UK's smallest hunting countries yet within its boundaries LACS investigators have found no fewer than 26 artificial earths and 14 stick or log piles. That is 40 man-made structures, purpose built to encourage foxes. Up until 1995 investigators frequently found food such as heaps of dead battery hens, piles of rabbits, hares etc. put out for foxes. In 1995 publicity as to the illegality of such dumping of carcasses put an end to the activity. In at least two of the 26 artificial earths badgers have taken up residence. One of these "setts" was found to be hard blocked illegally on the day of a hunt on November 28th 1994. The police were called, the sett unblocked and the matter referred to the CPS. In the absence of any direct proof as to who had actually blocked the sett nothing further came of the matter. This is an area of the law that clearly needs tightening up a bit. At the time of the illegal blocking of this sett one Joint Master of the hunt was none other than Edmund Vestey, Chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association.
Foxhunting is clearly riddled from top to bottom with those who all too often seek to take their pleasure in the countryside at the expense of badgers.
Before I leave this topic I must to put the record straight regarding an incident that I referred to in my last talk to your Conference on this subject back in 1993. I referred then to a court case involving Capt. Ian Farquhar, Joint Master and Huntsman of the Duke of Beaufort's Foxhounds. He had just been convicted by North Avon magistrates of aiding and abetting the illegal stopping-up of badger setts and had been given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £4,000 costs. At the time I described how the RSPCA which brought the case said the action by Captain Farquhar caused nine badgers to die from suffocation.
Well, Capt. Farquhar appealed and at the High Court in December 1994, Lord Justice Henry sitting with Mr Justice Kay upheld argument by lawyers for Capt. Farquhar that, "having given a lawful instruction, he could not be held liable for its being carried out in an unlawful manner." The conviction was quashed and the conditional discharge and costs orders set aside.
What remains undeniable is that a Duke of Beaufort's Hunt helper illegally stopped two setts on National Trust land with hard clay soil and as a result nine badgers suffocated. The law might have cleared an individual huntsman of a specific legal charge but foxhunting itself remains convicted of gross cruelty to badgers in that singularly squalid case.
Present day attitudes to badgers shown by foxhunters.
Publicly the attitude of foxhunters towards badgers is one of benevolence and friendship. As an example of this I offer the following letter from Alastair Jackson of the BFSS published by the Kentish Gazette April 3rd 1996:
"All true countrymen and field sportsmen would agree with the chairman of the Badger Group in his condemnation of badger baiting.
However, I must protest strongly over the disgraceful point made by John Bryant of the League Against Cruel Sports, who suggested that banning hunting would deter badger baiters--thus directly linking the legal and strictly controlled sport of hunting to the illegal killing of badgers.
Anyone who undertakes the stopping of earths or terrier work for a hunt has to be on a national register and is well acquainted with the strict rules of the Protection of Badgers Act.
If there is any question of such a man illegally interfering with a badger sett or being involved with badger digging he would be struck off forthwith.
The National Working Terrier Federation, which is affiliated to the British Field Sports Society, exists to promote the working of terriers in legitimate pest control and to ensure that the illegal and despicable activities of badger diggers and baiters is properly distanced from this work"
How reassured can we really be by these words? Can the actions match the words? We are told that nowadays the hunting brigade are not only opposed to badger digging and baiting, they are also opposed to cockfighting. So they say. Yet at the Wheatland hunt back in the mid-1980's a cockfight was staged actually at the hunt kennels!! The RSPCA raided the event and numerous people including the professional Kennel Huntsman Terry Richmond were arrested and prosecuted. Terry Richmond was sacked from his job supposedly to be the pariah of the hunting world. He was swiftly offered another post in hunt service and in 1987 became Huntsman at the West Somerset Vale foxhounds, a position he retains today. Some pariah!
The foxhunters may come up with fine sounding rules and regulations but are they just words? What about the activities exposed at the Quorn hunt back in 1991. I filmed as the professional hunt terrierman pulled a fox from its earth and released it alive in front of hounds. It was swiftly killed. This flagrant breach of the number one rule in the Masters of Foxhounds Association rule book was witnessed by nearly all the hunters present including Michael Farrin, the leading and most revered Huntsman of his generation.
Some 40 days later the League Against Cruel Sports made public what had happened. The hunting authorities were horrified and the Masters of Foxhounds Association immediately called an enquiry that ended with Masters of the Quorn being sacked, including some incidentally that weren't even out that day - that says a lot about the hunting world's concept of justice!
Why the delay? Why did it take 40 days for anyone to do anything? Why didn't any of the esteemed hunt supporters present complain earlier? Was it because they were too gutless? Unlikely, surely? Was it that they were ignorant? The number one hunt didn't know the number one rule of foxhunting? Is that really conceivable? Just possibly for the more than usually ignorant follower but surely not for Michael Farrin the leading exponent of his profession and Huntsman at the Quorn since 1968? If we cannot explain their inactivity for 40 days by their being gutless or ignorant then how can we? I would suggest that perhaps they were simply indifferent. That no-one did anything, no-one complained to the MFHA or the media because what they had witnessed that morning may not have been in any way unusual.
We can condemn the foxhunters not only for their inactivity before the MFHA enquiry but also for the hollowness of the "disciplinary measures" that resulted from that enquiry. Some of the sacked Masters have now been reinstated, and the official terrierman who actually threw the fox has been a fairly regular follower of the Quorn almost ever since!
Let us refer back to that incident at the Beaufort hunt where nine badgers were suffocated and the Huntsman was first convicted and then cleared. The badgers died, they were killed by the actions of a hunt helper. What did the hunt do? What did the MFHA do? What did these people do to help the police bring the culprit to justice? I think the answer could be written in a very small space! We could be forgiven for being sceptical over claims by hunt enthusiasts that they are keen to stamp out badger abuse. All the more so when they "gild the lily" such as Alastair Jackson did when he described the activities of badger diggers as "despicable". A dictionary definition of this word is morally contemptible. Do foxhunters really expect us to believe that they now view an activity that was lawful until a matter of some 23 years ago and was well supported by the hunting fraternity at the time, in this light?
Clearly we need to be cautious of the public face of the foxhunters. Whatever may be said to the public many hunters clearly have a private agenda. We need to consider the effect within their own ranks of this private agenda? What is the effect of the toleration of ex-cockfighters amongst their number? What is the internal message that the behaviour of the Quorn hunt sends to the other far lesser hunts about the country? Surely it is that anything goes so long as you can get away with it. We may not have much of a future, lads, so get your fun whilst you can!
It seems that the worst thing that the likes of Terry Richmond did with their cockfighting exploits was that they were caught doing it!!! Is it any wonder that our badgers are in peril at the hands of such folk?
Many current badger diggers defend their activities on the grounds that there is little difference between digging out a fox and digging out a badger. They should know and perhaps they are right. They have the hands on experience and if they tell us there is no difference and we for once believe them then surely that only serves to reinforce the argument to ban foxhunting; it should never be used as an argument to legalise badger digging.
So there we have it. There is an inextricable link between foxhunting and badger abuse. Both are what I would term Games for the Gutless. Both involve pitting one species against another simply for the amusement of those involved, neither have anything to do with pest control. For as long as people are allowed to put terriers to ground during a foxhunt to either bolt or kill the fox you will find people associated with this activity who desire to go a stage further and tackle the badger. It must be almost without exception that people who dig for badgers with terriers will have practised by digging for foxes first.
Some have argued that it might be possible to do away with terrier work at foxhunts and even that foxhunters might agree to such a move in a last ditch save to save their so-called sport. I doubt this very much. Foxhunts need terrierwork and terriermen. They need it to keep the fun rolling on and they need it to keep the Hunt Saboteurs at bay. Having got their terriermen can they control all of them? I venture that they cannot.
Foxhunts are currently trying to woo badger groups by pretending a common interest. The otter hunters did exactly the same with otter enthusiasts back in the late sixties and early seventies. I can only urge the badger groups to reject any and all such advances. The hunting ethic that it is right and proper to take pleasure from the torment of another creature is at the core of much of the suffering that is heaped on badgers. That ethic that the hunters propagate with feverish enthusiasm amongst their young followers causes so much damage. A lot of the quotes that I have given to you come from recently re-published books. They are re-published because many current hunters are so nostalgic over the heady days of their so-called golden past. They revere what they label the "wonderful hunting" that took place between the wars. As we have seen that was a time of immense cruelty and if we are not careful we will transpose past cruelty into present cruelty.
Foxhunting will be abolished soon by law. When it goes it will be that much easier to contain and curtail the curse of badger digging. Quite simply, the evil pastime will have had its roots cut off.