ANIMAL WELFARE INFORMATION SERVICE
P.O. BOX 8, HALESWORTH, SUFFOLK. IP19 0JL
REPORT ON THE FIELD VISITS MADE BY THE LORD BURNS COMMITTEE OF INQUIRY INTO HUNTING WITH DOGS.
FEBRUARY 4TH TO JUNE 7TH 2000
Dean Smith, Terrierman, Thurlow Foxhounds. 21/2/2000
By Mike Huskisson and Graham Sirl
It must be stated at the outset that most of the hunting and hare coursing that the Committee of Inquiry set out to observe is open to public view. The meets of many Foxhound packs and the meets of nearly all the Staghound packs are advertised in Horse & Hound and in the local papers. Some meets of Harriers and Beagles are publicised in Horse & Hound and in local papers. The phone numbers of all the hunts are listed in Bailys Hunting Directory and their meets will with a little encouragement (or in the case of some hunts a lot of encouragement!) be given over the phone. The National Coursing Club publishes an annual fixture list. This gives a date for each fixture for each club. The venue is not given but details as to how to contact the Club Secretaries are given and in practice it is not too hard to elicit the required information.
With the Welsh gunpacks it is somewhat harder, but still not impossible to find out the location of the meets.
The lamping is a different matter. Finding out where that takes place is usually a matter of knowing the individual(s) involved.
Given that the hunting and coursing is all comparatively easy to access there were clearly several options open to those planning these Inquiry visits.
1. The first option would have been for the Inquiry team to have made their own plans and to have turned up unannounced to either side at a fixture. This would have given the Inquiry team some opportunity to see these pastimes as they really are but of course once members of the Inquiry team were asked and identified themselves the subsequent behaviour they saw would be likely to change. With no official observer from either side in attendance, but of course the hunting fraternity there for the event, the latter would have the advantage of having the ear of the Inquiry team without their opponents being able to give a counterbalancing view.
2. A second option, to make allowance for this failing of the first, would have been for the Inquiry team to have turned up unannounced but with an observer from the Campaign for the Protection of Hunted Animals (CPHA) to counter the view from the hunting side expressed on the day.
3. A third option, and the one that was ultimately chosen, was for the Inquiry team to give to the hunting authorities a broad list of that which they wished to observe: fox hunting, stag hunting, hare coursing and hunting, mink hunting, drag hunting etc. Then for the hunting authorities to suggest the particular packs and make the arrangements with the Inquiry team for the dates. The Inquiry team were then treated as guests by the hunt or coursing club selected and they turned up with an observer from both the CPHA and the Countryside Alliance in tow.
Many have expressed the view that in the interests of seeing what really occurs in the hunting field the Inquiry team should have operated in much the same way as a CPHA investigator. One of the latter, such as myself, would turn up at a hunt, perhaps in a hired car and using a false name. The element of deceit would be a necessary price to pay for the access with hidden cameras to record what really takes place. Such behaviour whilst fine for us would be simply inconceivable for the likes of Lord Burns and his team.
Whatever the merit we cannot have expected any of the Inquiry Committee to have lied about who they were and what they were doing to any inquiry from the hunting fraternity. We understand and accept why reputable journalists cannot tell lies in such situations and it would be wrong to expect the Government Inquiry to be any more devious.
Having said that, in the interests of gathering the best possible evidence, there were a blend of options available. Some of the visits could have been made with the agreement of the hunt concerned with only a Countryside Alliance observer present and no-one from our side if in return a similar number of visits were made to hunts at our instigation with only ourselves having foreknowledge and attending, and not the Countryside Alliance.
From the point of view of gathering information regarding the true flavour of hunting wildlife with packs of dogs it is unfortunate that a poor option for visiting was selected. Further, perhaps for reasons of economy, within this poor option the manner in which the visits were conducted was hardly conducive to acquiring the most accurate information.
It appears that apart from the initial basic request as to what they would like to see the agenda throughout has in the main been set by the Countryside Alliance. Of the 22 visits no fewer than 17 were at the behest of the Countryside Alliance. Three were at the request of the CPHA. These were the Essex Farmers and Union Foxhounds, the German drag hunt, and the drag coursing club at Wickwar. At the Essex Farmers and Union Foxhounds no actual hunting was witnessed. The visit, to the Brecon and Talybont Foxhounds, was at the request of Lord Burns, and the second visit to the Blencathra foxhounds, by Lord Soulsby alone was because the latter was unable to make the earlier visit.
Perhaps the aspect that causes most concern is that at all the hunting visits, but not the coursing where it did not apply, the transportation and guides were provided by the hunting fraternity. [A possible exception to this is at the German drag hunt where I do not know what transport arrangements were made]
In effect the Committee of Inquiry had embarked on an escorted tour of the hunting field.
The Committee of Inquiry chose the start time and the finish time but apart from that they largely went where the hunting fraternity wanted them to go and saw what the hunting fraternity wanted them to see. It is hardly surprising that little untoward came into view. There is evidence that the worse cruelty that did occur on the days of the visits took place when the Inquiry team were safely out of sight.
For all their good intentions at the outset, it is clear with hindsight that this Hunting Inquiry had about as much hope of successfully witnessing the cruelty that concerns the public as would sending a Home Office Inquiry team on an arranged visit to check for cruelty in the infamous childrens homes of North Wales.
At one of the very earliest visits I heard Lord Burns explain that these visits were important for the Inquiry to get a "flavour" of what occurred in the hunting field. To gain an impression of the sort of people who took part. It was said that members of the Committee had already seen plenty of videos of fox hunting, stag hunting etc. but these were somewhat dismissed with the view that such videos could be edited and used to portray any viewpoint. Now the Hunting Inquiry wanted to see the real thing.
For all their honest endeavours and for all the miles they travelled we will see in the coming pages just how little of the "real thing" the Committee of Inquiry were allowed to see.
The compilation of this report is based on the following sources of evidence acquired from various individuals:
1. Direct personal recollection.
2. Written notes made on the day or soon afterwards.
3. Video film.
4. 35mm negatives and slides and digital camera images.
The evidence acquired by methods 2,3, and 4 is available to the Committee of Inquiry and will be made available to the media and to the public.
12. 6/3/2000 Irfon & Towy Foxhounds
13. 14/3/2000 Coniston Foxhounds at High Yewdale Farm, Holm Fell
It is interesting to compare the visits that actually took place, as listed above, with those that had been originally planned. Below is the first list of planned visits that I was sent:-
27/1/2000 Bicester and Whaddon Chase Foxhounds
31/1/2000 VWH Foxhounds
3/2/2000 A Lincolnshire pack
9/2/2000 Border Foxhounds
11/2/2000 Hare Coursing, Kimberley and Wymondham
15/2/2000 Hare Coursing, Alresford
17/2/2000 Hind Hunt, Devon and Somerset Staghounds
19/2/2000 Beagling, Old Berkeley Beagles
21/2/2000 Thurlow Foxhounds
23/2/2000 Hare Hunt, Waveney Harriers
28/2/2000 Gunpack, Afonwy
6/3/2000 Gunpack, (Wales)
12/3/2000 Drag Hunt, Staff College
14/3/2000 Fell Pack (Lake District)
22/3/2000 Drag Hunt, Staff College
24/3/2000 Fell Pack (Lake District)
28/3/2000 Stag Hunt, Devon and Somerset Staghounds
8/4/2000 Mink Hunt, Ytene Minkhounds
22/4/2000 Mink Hunt, Ytene Minkhounds
27/1/2000 (THURSDAY) : BICESTER WITH WHADDON CHASE FOXHOUNDS AT PRIORS HARDWICK.
CPHA observer : Mike Huskisson
Hunting Inquiry visit cancelled.
The rendezvous place for the Inquiry team was Banbury railway station at 9.30a.m. I stayed over in Banbury the night before and was at the station on time. I waited and waited and when no-one arrived I phoned my office to find out what had happened. I learned that the decision had been made to cancel the visit due to frost.
It was a bright and sunny morning and whilst it had indeed been cold I viewed it as likely that the hunt would indeed go out. If British hunts cancelled their meets every time the weather was less than favourable our wildlife would be happy indeed! I knew that this hunt has a reputation for being fanatical, hunting in all weathers and until the last ray of light.
I went to the meet venue and true enough found that hunting had simply been delayed for an hour. Hunt monitors were out and they told me that the whole meet was strange. It was on a Thursday but was not in the usual Thursday hunt country for this hunt. The area selected for this meet was regarded as being much "safer" for the hunt.
I stayed for some time to film the meet and the hunting over the nearby countryside. I saw a bobtailed fox fleeing the hounds. In the absence of the Inquiry team I was unwelcome on the land. It was hard to monitor the hunt in this area so I left after a short while. It was a lovely sunny afternoon.
Inquiry team : Lord Burns, Lord Soulsby, Dr Edwards, (Mark Sanderson)
CPHA observer : Mike Huskisson
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
Hare shortage. Two hares killed.
This was the first day of the Barbican Cup a two day meeting. The East of England Coursing Club advertised 10 days coursing in their fixture list for 1999/2000.
The Inquiry team were given the rendezvous of Ely railway station at 9.00a.m. The coursing card, subsequently acquired, states "First Brace in Slips at 9.00a.m. prompt." The drive in convoy from the rendezvous to Twenty where the coursing took place was some 60 miles and took over an hour.
I had arrived at the rendezvous on time. I met Mark Sanderson in the company of a man named Michael Darnell, who I know to be a hare coursing supporter. I was then introduced to Lord Burns, Lord Soulsby and Dr Edwards who arrived by train. We split up the party for the drive to the meet. Michael Darnell had a four wheel drive vehicle driven by his son. He took Lord Burns and Lord Soulsby whilst Dr Edwards and Mark Sanderson came aboard my car.
Knowing that coursing always starts early I was concerned throughout the drive as to what we would be missing. On arrival we drove up a track and met the person selling the entry cards. I was intrigued as to whether we would be expected to pay. Michael Darnell stepped out and spoke to the lady. We were then all passed the entry cards. I did not pay the £5 entry fee and it did not appear that anyone else from the Inquiry team had to pay their entry fee.
We were directed further up the track and parked at the end of a line of vehicles. We were then introduced to Simon Hart, the Head of Public Relations for the Campaign for Hunting, there to represent the Countryside Alliance. The hare coursing was well under way in a nearby field and we were guided forward to a suitable site from where to observe. I was determined to have more evidence than merely my recollections so I took out my photographic equipment.
I used still and video cameras and both Lord Burns and Dr Edwards also used cameras. We were introduced to Charles Blanning, the keeper of the Greyhound Stud Book and the man who runs the National Coursing Club offices in Newmarket. At a suitable opportunity the judge for the day, Mr R. Burdon, mounted on his horse, was introduced to the Inquiry team.
We saw two hares killed. Both kills happened some considerable distance from us. None of us were able to see at close-hand whether the hares were killed by the dogs or by the Pickers-up. On both occasions the Pickers-up were seen to break the hares neck.
When the first hare was caught some 35 seconds elapsed before the picker-up was able to retrieve the hare from the dog. I thought I saw it at the time and checking my video after the event suggests that this first hare caught was not killed by the dogs. When released from the dogs it appears to make a dash to escape and the Picker-up catches it and kills it. He turned and obscured what he did to the hare from our view.
The strong wind whipping across this open Fenland made hearing difficult. When the second hare was caught I heard the hare crying. I checked with Dr Edwards and she told me that she had not heard this but perhaps this was due to her untrained ear. Simon Hart who admitted that he had seen very little of coursing before this event also said that he had heard nothing from the hare.
I asked that the Inquiry team be allowed to see the body of the first hare killed. We were told that this would be no problem but in fact we never were shown that body despite my reminding the organisers on several occasions that they had told us that we could see it.
We were shown the body of the second hare killed. This was a male. The only visible injury was a cut producing blood from just in front of a back leg. In the first instance the body was shown to Lord Burns, Dr Edwards and myself. Lord Soulsby was nowhere in sight.
That would have been that and the body would have been disposed of but for the fact that knowing Lord Soulsby to be a senior vet I expressed the opinion that he should see the body too.
We set off to find him and located him back with the supporters vehicles. He was keen to see the hare and we all proceeded some distance up the track to a suitable place and the body of the hare was tipped out of the binliner on to the ground. Lord Soulsby crouched down and felt the neck of the dead hare.
Lord Soulsby : "Did it have its neck broken...er..by the hunt?"
Mike Huskisson : "The picker-up....."
Hare Courser : "No, the dog.....the dog went for it"
Hare Courser : "First grab...."
Mike Huskisson : "Sorry?"
Hare Courser : "First grab was the back of the neck..."
Hare Courser : "And when it come forward the other one got hold of the other end."
Mike Huskisson : "Right."
Hare Courser : "And actually it was dead before the other one collared it..."
There was a pause while Lord Soulsby examined the body of the hare. Then a vehicle horn sounded indicating that we were blocking the way. A hare courser apologised to Lord Soulsby and indicated that there was room to the side.
Lord Soulsby : "No, thats fine. The....er...It seems to have been got by the by the neck....."
It was indeed "got by the neck". We had seen the picker-up break the hares neck. What is disputed is whether death was caused by the picker-up breaking the neck or by the dog. The Inquiry team, and others, may wonder whether it is common for the picker-up to break the neck of a hare that is already dead.
I thought it would be a good idea for the Inquiry team to see the Slippers view of the coursing. It is a view that I, when posing as an ordinary coursing supporter, have never been given. I felt sure that if the request was made the coursers would feel obliged to help and they duly did so. Lord Burns joined the Slipper in his shy to see the dogs released. He had been in the shy when he dogs were released that resulted in one of the kills. I had hoped that all the members of the Inquiry team would be able to take a turn in the shy but on this visit only Lord Burns was able to do so.
For the last coursing beat that we saw I waited with Dr Edwards by where the dogs are gathered before being put in the slips. We were waiting for Lord Burns, Lord Soulsby and Mark Sanderson. We saw the beat line coming in and I was torn between waiting with Dr Edwards for the others to arrive and making my own way down the flank line to film, and thereby record for the Inquiry team, whatever occurred. My briefing had been not to leave the Inquiry team so I waited with Dr Edwards.
Realising the need for urgency she then said that we should go on ahead and leave the others to catch us up. We did so. Lord Burns and Mark Sanderson quickly joined us but Lord Soulsby never did. Instead he stayed way back from the area where the hare was likely to be caught, near the slip Steward. He seemed to have a problem with his mobility which did not bode well for future visits given that that this was the very flat lands of the Fens.
We saw no more kills but one of the coursing dogs did suffer a severe impact when misjudging a jump over a ditch at the edge of the field whilst in close pursuit of the hare. In severe pain the dog howled and cried horribly. Dr Edwards heard this too and accompanied me to see what had happened. Luckily the dog, we were told, did not have a broken leg. Nevertheless after a period to recuperate it was carried from the scene. Lord Soulsby, the man with veterinary expertise was too far away to know that any of this had occurred. I noticed that the injured dog was carried past him. Later I asked him his opinion of the injury but he did not tell me that he had checked it himself. He did repeat the coursers diagnosis of the injury.
At 3.00p.m. the Inquiry team felt that they had seen enough and they decided that we should leave. The coursing carried on. The Darnells drove Lord Soulsby back to his home. Simon Hart and I ferried the remainder of the team to Peterborough railway station (that was much nearer than the Ely station to which they had come in the morning). I had the pleasure of Lord Burns company for this journey whilst Dr Edwards and Mark Sanderson travelled with Simon Hart.
Points of note:-
At any coursing meeting there is a real onus on the spectators to behave in a manner so as not to impede the escape of the hare. This is clearly stated in the National Coursing Club rules. All coursing meetings of any size produce cards that have to be purchased for entry (we were given ours this day). On many cards there is reference to this rule in however an abbreviated form. The card for this day, for the very prestigious Barbican Cup included no reference to the need to stand still and keep quiet if the hare approaches.
I did not hear anyone from the Coursing club, nor did I hear Simon Hart, tell members of the Inquiry team about this rule and they certainly did not tell me. Indeed when we took up our position on the coursing field it was left to me to point out to the Inquiry team how we should act in order not to impede the escape of the hare.
Aside from the kills, the most memorable fact from the whole day was the shortage of hares. We arrived an hour after the start and yet they had run just three courses in our absence. The lines of beaters walked in again and again with very few hares to show for their efforts. The coursers told the Inquiry team that this was due to the efforts of poachers, often working at night. These coursers were at pains to stress to the Inquiry team the great cruelty that is caused by those who poach hares, with coursing dogs.
As the hares were clearly present on the farmland in very low numbers they could not be described as pests. It is often claimed that where there is coursing there will be hares. It is not the case here. Furthermore for all their complaining about the shortage of hares what is certain is that at the end of this day there were at least two hares fewer.
Finally, albeit that it is was source of humour and banter it was clear that many of the beaters employed for the day were students playing truant from the local schools.
Inquiry team : Lord Burns, Professor Winter, (Brian Caffarey)
CPHA observer : Mike Huskisson
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
Fox saved by the presence of the Inquiry team and the media. Two other foxes killed out of their sight.
I made the long trek to the north by car on the Tuesday evening. I was booked in at the prestigious Percy Arms Hotel, a well known hunting establishment, the rendezvous for the Inquiry team in the morning. The last half hour of my drive over the open moorland was made through a blizzard. Much more of that I thought and the local foxes will be given a rest day in the morning.
I was somewhat surprised when on checking in, giving my name and filling in the hotel registration form I was told: "Oh! The rest of the Inquiry Committee have phoned to say they will be a bit late." I asked how the chap, who I took to be the owner, knew that I was anything to do with the Inquiry. There was a brief embarrassed silence followed by the news that he had been told. But he could not remember who had told him.
At 9.30p.m. Lord Burns, Professor Winter and Brian Caffarey arrived. Lord Burns and Brian Caffarey had travelled up by train whilst Professor Winter took the aerial route from Bristol. We all enjoyed dinner together.
After about 45 minutes we were joined at our table by Michael Hedley, the Joint Master and Huntsman of the Border hunt and by Simon Hart. It transpired that Simon Hart was staying with Michael Hedley at the hunt kennels nearby.
At the end of the evening we were told that the hunt had arranged for two guides from the hunt, Barry Richardson and Gordon Wright, to collect us in a Landrover 110 from our hotel the following morning. It was all a bit too civilised for my comfort.
We duly met these people at 9.15a.m. on the Wednesday. It was a bright dry morning and it was clear that there had been little further snow. We were advised that there would be a drive of about an hour to the meet. I piled into the Landrover with the rest of the Inquiry team whilst Simon Hart chose to follow along behind in his car.
This was the day of the television crews. The meet was at Heatherhope high up in the Cheviot hills on the Scottish side of the border. The previous Friday Simon Hart had expressed the view to me that for a Wednesday meet in Border Hunt country there would be just a few riders and followers but there were more than a few. A couple of supporters introduced themselves to Lord Burns as being followers of the Bicester with Whaddon Chase hunt. They said that they were sad that he had not been able to see their hunt but they had come to see him.
At the meet, which seemed to be the end of a track in the hills, one of the wildest and remotest places imaginable, a couple of television crews came strolling up! One was local, from Border television, doing a "fly on the wall" type documentary "A day in the life of a hunt". The other was from Sky television. The presence of the latter caused considerable consternation to the Inquiry team. The reporter from Sky TV was asked how they knew about the event but he merely said that his colleague in London had been told.
Sky television filmed an interview with Lord Burns and with Michael Hedley. Lord Burns took some photographs of the meet. Professor Winter did not appear to have a camera with him. It was noticeable the high number of supporters riding quad bikes at the meet.
A liberal amount of drink was passed around. Eventually Michael Hedley set off on foot with the hounds at about 11.00a.m. We watched from the vehicles and then drove in pursuit as the hunt appeared to drift to the north towards Hownam. We came upon the Sky TV film crew parked by the road. They were out of their vehicle with their camera on a tripod trained on the hillside. It was about twenty minutes to noon. Lord Burns was the first of our team to see the fleeing fox that had been the object of the cameramans attention. We stopped, jumped out and observed a big fox making his way with no great rush from left to right on the hillside across from us. He disappeared near some buildings to our right. The hunt was some way behind with their hounds running widely scattered. In due course the lead hounds came by giving cry. Simon Hart timed them as being four and a half minutes behind. They appeared to be running right on the line of the fleeing fox.
One of our guides from the hunt advised us to turn round and drive in pursuit which we did. We noticed a cluster of quad bikes parked to our left. Stopping we approached them but the riders indicated that the hounds had gone on. We clambered back into our vehicle and drove on and next saw the hounds milling about in a field of grass to our left. I feared that they had already killed the fox. We parked and made our way to the scene. Simon Hart was there first, chatting to the hunt supporters milling around. A hunt follower coming away told me that the hounds had marked the fox to ground. "What will happen now?" I thought.
The hounds were digging and baying at the edge of an old stone wall. We rushed to the scene as did the Sky TV crew. They trained their camera on the hounds and I did likewise with my small digital videocamera. The whole Inquiry team were swiftly at the scene. Riders on quad bikes and horses were there as were plenty of other hunt supporters but not Michael Hedley. I noticed a hunt terrier catching a ride on a quad bike. The hunters used their radios to call up Michael and discuss the situation with him. It was decided to "give the fox best".
To my knowledge the landowner was not present at the scene. At least if he was he did not introduce himself in my hearing. The Inquiry team was not told whether the landowner wanted the fox killed or left. From the manner of its gait that we had previously witnessed this fox was not of an age or in a state of injury so as to render it infirm.
The Inquiry team was told that the fox was left by the hunt out of fear that the wall might collapse if they dug under it. I was delighted that the fox was left alive but as to why, I saw no effort made to ascertain the exact nature of the underground tunnels, and in my opinion the reasons for the fox being left had more to do with the presence of the Inquiry team and the cameras, particularly from national media.
Sky television conducted an interview with Lord Burns and Professor Winter by the wall overlooking the scene.
After that incident the hunt was mostly confined to distant high hillsides apart from one occasion when they came near us close to a small reservoir by Heatherhope. I had previously ascertained from the Hon. Sec. of the hunt, a Lt. Col. Cross, that the hunt does have one artificial earth that he knows of, albeit an old one. I took the opportunity to discuss this in the presence and hearing of Lord Burns, Professor Winter and Brian Caffarey. Lt. Col. Cross said that he did not know why the artificial earth had been built.
With the hunt roaming the distant hillsides and ourselves confined to the hunt Landrover there was little of interest that we could see. At one point I noticed Lord Burns dropping off to sleep in the front passenger seat. He slumbered and we sat in the vehicle whilst who knows what was taking place out of our sight. He stirred and I waited until he was fully awake. Then knowing his role as a Director of Queens Park Rangers football club I commented "This is about as exciting as watching a football match from outside the stadium!" He laughed out loud then added to my view with his own opinion that it was worse than my analysis because at least outside a football stadium you could hear the sounds of the crowd!
However no-one can expect bloodsports to be banned because they are boring. The goal for our opponents appears to be that by making the pastimes appear boring, by eliminating the drama, they reduce the drive for legislative reform. At all our visits our hosts were very hospitable. We were driven here to see hunts in the distance, we were driven there to see hunts in the distance. We were told what the hunt were probably doing whilst out of sight. But this glamorous facade concerns no-one. What angers people, and generated the need for this Inquiry, is what happens when the quarry is caught, and just before.
Professor Winter had a flight booked at 6.00p.m. so we had to leave the hunt at 3.15p.m., before the hunt had finished. As a result we missed the main action because when I phoned Michael Hedley the next day he told me that they had in fact killed two foxes that day. At the time of our departure from the hunt we had not been aware of any kill having happened.
Points of note:-
During the conversation at the dining table the previous night Michael Hedley told us that his hunt operates over some 200,000 acres. He said that a lot of the country they hunted was Ministry of Defence land or Forestry Commission land. He claimed that all the landowners in their hunting country made them welcome. He said that they kill about 200 foxes a year and that of these they dig out a lot, about a third.
When we approached the reservoir on the hunting day our guide had cheerfully informed us that the previous shepherd to the current one by the reservoir had so disliked the hunt that he used to wire up the gates whenever the hunt visited and that his actions made it really difficult for the hunt. Given the claim from Michael Hedley the previous night that every landowner welcomes them perhaps there is a difference in attitude to the hunt between those who own the land and those who work it?
J.N.P. Watson in Volume III of British & Irish Hunts & Huntsmen (B.T. Batsford Ltd., London 1986) describes his visit to the area as follows:
Where 20-mile runs are not rare
The meet was at Buchtrig...............Driving me there from Otterburn, in the company of his Jack Russell and Border terriers, Roy Wallis - one of the great benefactors (with his time, energy and craftsmanship) of the Border hunt - waved his hand towards either side of the road, indicating the stands of conifer plantation, which have been a feature of those foothills for the past 40 years or so. He remarked that they were at once an asset (in their value as fox strongholds) and a hindrance (in that foxes too often led hounds into them, and thus shook off their scent among fresh foxes)."
Of his actual day with the Border hunt J.N.P. Watson writes:
"They drew blank over Mr John Tweedies Buchtrig, and the same down Hummelmoor and Chatto Farm, which belongs to that generous all-round field sportsman, Mr Bob Tyser. Mr Tyser likes to see plenty of foxes, as well as pheasants on his land, and has no time for the local, government-sponsored Fox Club, whose members shoot and gas in the interests of vermin control. Who needs a fox club, ask the Border followers, when their hunt, the traditional means of fox control, accounts for 50 brace and more a year? (Last season, notwithstanding seven weeks missed owing to hard weather, they succeeded in killing 63 brace.)"
It should be noted that this meet described by J.N.P. Watson and the area that was hunted over was very close to the area hunted at the time of this visit by the Inquiry team.
Inquiry team : Professor Marsh, (Brian Caffarey)
CPHA observer : Mike Huskisson
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
An unusual days hare coursing.
The rendezvous was Norwich railway station at 8.20a.m. I caught the train from Diss and by pure coincidence found myself sat behind Brian Caffarey who I observed ploughing through a lengthy tract from the National Coursing Club.
Amongst the influx of commuters heading for work Professor Marsh met us at Norwich station and drove us in his aged but sturdy Volvo to the venue for the days coursing at the small village of Kimberley, to the south-west of Norwich. It was a lovely sunny morning.
Brian Caffarey had been advised by the Coursing Club to look out for their direction signs which would show the way to the coursing meet. In my experience such signs are never big advertising boards saying "Live hare coursing this way". The coursing clubs prefer small, and more anonymous (several inches high) coloured direction arrows or similar sized arrows with simply the initials of the club on.
As a consequence finding the venue was not easy and necessitated several turn arounds. We ended up paying more attention to following cars that looked to contain coursing supporters. The name Hall Farm had been mentioned. I recalled the location as having been the site of a hare hunt by the Dunston Harriers that I had attended the previous Autumn. For all that it was still hard to find the coursing and we ended up amid several cars of bemused and lost coursing supporters. Eventually the correct site was found. The card declared a start a 9.00a.m. sharp and we were about half an hour late. However we had missed nothing, the start was delayed to 10.00a.m. due to frost on the ground.
Coursing dogs have enough problems to contend with in the form of adverse ground conditions such as sharp flints and, if the time of season suits, short sharp stubble. Both these can lacerate their paws. Frozen ground is an additional hazard that can often be avoided by waiting for the sun to rise.
I pointed out to the Inquiry team that on the back of the meet card there is in bold print the warning:-
"PHOTOGRAPHY, BOXES, STOOL ETC. STRICTLY PROHIBITED"
It was soon clear that there was an abundance of hares in the locality. Perhaps this is because Norfolk Constabulary are more able or more willing to deal with the threat posed by illegal coursing than are their counterparts in Lincolnshire. Certainly on the one occasion, early in 2000, when I called out Norfolk police to illegal coursing they reacted with commendable swiftness.
The coursing started with it soon apparent that there was almost a queue of hares waiting to be driven on to the coursing field. The slip length appeared to be the normal. The conditions of the ground and the field topography must have favoured the hares as none were killed. One however was caught by the dogs right in front of us and flicked up in the air. Thankfully it landed intact and was able to escape thus negating the common claim from coursing supporters that their dogs kill the hares "instantly" by the "swift nip to the back of the neck".
Soon after we noticed the slipper, Bob Blatch, experiencing a degree of difficulty in the slips. On closer examination we saw that this was due to his two canine charges, waiting in their paired collars, having a fight. In many years observing coursing I have seen such fights occur before but they are a rarity. That they do occur is evidence of the measure of excitement and expectation engendered in the dogs. The coursers explained to the Inquiry team that the fight was due to the dogs involved being puppies.
Many of the coursing supporters were people whom we had seen on our visit to the East Of England Coursing Club at Twenty, the previous Friday. Many had also travelled large distances. One I spoke to had driven up from Kent to attend both venues. This confirmed our view that hare coursing is, with the single exception of the Waterloo Cup, supported by a small group of enthusiasts who travel from club to club and drive large distances for their pastime.
Thankfully there was just one hare killed on the day. It was a curious kill because the hare was caught by a single dog running on its own. I have seen this happen before but it is a rare event. The course lasted more than 50 seconds before the hare was caught. When she was caught the picker-up, or trainer, moved in quickly and obscured the condition of the hare from our view. After this kill I suggested to Professor Marsh and Brian Caffarey that they should have a look at the body. The coursers appeared willing to oblige but I recalled that with the first hare killed at the East of England the coursers had appeared likewise willing to help but had never actually produced the body of the hare. This time their willingness was never tested as Professor Marsh declined my suggestion saying that he didnt think they would gain anything from seeing the dead body.
The coursing day ended at about 3.15p.m. when the final course scheduled was not run due to one of the dogs involved being withdrawn. The whole Inquiry team stayed until the end. Brian Caffarey told me that he had counted 32 courses run. Whilst welcome, the low kill ration of 1 out of 32 was wholly unusual and in no way representative of the usual threat to the hare posed by coursing. (I have seen reports of kill ratios as high as 82% over a full days hare coursing) Having said that I cannot point my finger at any unusual difference to the organisation of the coursing on this day.
Professor Marsh took a turn in the shy observing the slipper at close hand.
Points of note:-
There are several points to be noted from the meet cards that were given to myself and the members of the Inquiry team (these cost the coursing supporters £5 each but again we were allowed in free).
Firstly, on the front is the following caution printed in bold text:
"Anyone found returning to the running grounds and poaching will be reported to the NCC and will lose their membership of K&WCC"
Now of course the initials here represent the National Coursing Club and the Kimberley & Wymondham Coursing Club.
The need for this caution must have arisen comparatively recently. I have in my possession two other meet cards for the Kimberley & Wymondham Coursing Club, both also for coursing at Kimberley. One is dated Monday 4th March 1985. The second is dated Monday 15th January 1990. Neither contains any reference to the caution against club members returning to the running grounds and poaching. Clearly this "difficulty" for the organisers of coursing is a new phenomenon.
When the Committee of Inquiry ponder over the vehemence with which the coursers at the East of England Coursing Club damned the cruelty and threatening behaviour of the "illegal coursers and poachers" they should recall this matter of the meet cards at a nearby club.
I had some discussion with Professor Marsh as to the level of economic input provided by such a coursing club. Whilst the meet was at Kimberley Green there was no question of the equivalent to the hunting "stirrup cup" at the local pub taking place. The meet was merely a rendezvous point from which to follow the direction signs to the coursing field. There was some input of money to the locality by the payment of beaters. The refreshments were provided by a mobile catering vehicle which if my memory serves me correctly was the same one as seen previously at the East of England coursing fixture. With a two day meeting, as this was, there might be some trade provided for local hotels, B&Bs and the like but given the need to accommodate the coursing greyhounds this cannot have been taken up by all. Most importantly this club only advertised 10 days coursing in their entire 1999/2000 season and given that they have several venues at which to course their presence cannot be portrayed as a significant input into local economies.
Inquiry team : Professor Winter, Dr Edwards, (Mark Sanderson)
CPHA observer : Graham Sirl
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
Committee of Inquiry see and hear hares suffer.
The Alresford advertised 7 days coursing, one of which was listed as (P Provisional) in their fixture list for 1999/2000.
The coursing started at around 10.00a.m. and finished at around 3.00p.m. The Inquiry team were present for the whole duration of the coursing. There were around 60 people present, most of whom were the owners of dogs, the trainers of dogs, or friends and colleagues of the aforementioned. There were few true spectators or locals.
To start with the team were placed in a position from where they were unlikely to see any kill. At the request of Graham Sirl they were moved and within 5 minutes, at 10.55a.m., a hare was caught just yards from where they stood. Some 4 seconds after it was caught the hare is clearly heard screaming. It took all of 22 seconds for a picker-up to arrive and pull the hare from the dogs. The hare was still alive when the picker-up and the owner/trainer reached it. The actual killing of the hare was concealed from the view of the Inquiry team. When questioned later the picker-up claimed that this hare was already dead when he got to it. The picker-up placed the body of the hare in a black plastic dustbin liner.
The drive was changed. Soon after midday the Inquiry team saw an occasion when a hare was coursed by three dogs. Whilst this hare escaped she was effectively mobbed by being coursed in this fashion and must have endured greater suffering than is usual as a consequence. This incident must have been caused by a loose dog becoming involved in the course. Rule 28 of the National Coursing Club rules allows for any person who allows any dog or dogs to get loose during a meeting to be fined. Indeed the meet card for this day, given to the Inquiry team, includes the following warning on the back:-
"The fine for a dog getting loose is up to £10 (NCC Rule28)"
It is more usual for a third dog to become involved in the course when it hasnt been caught again by its owner/trainer after the previous course. This time though the dog had broken free whilst waiting to go into the slips. The hares were being driven past the dogs queuing to enter the slips and not surprisingly this drove the dogs frantic. It must have caused chaos to the running order!
Coursing was seen to take place in a wood to the side of the running field and soon after, at 12.17p.m., and a second hare was caught. Again the hare was heard to scream as the greyhounds tussled over her. This time Professor Winter ran with the picker-up and was present when the hare was retrieved. Professor Winter noted that the hare was alive and screaming when he arrived at the scene. It was noticeable that on this occasion when the picker-up was running with a member of the Committee of Inquiry at his side he ran with a far greater sense of urgency than had been displayed when the unfortunate first hare was caught.
There were only a small number of pickers-up present with none at all at the end of the field (where the hares are likely to be caught).
The final course scheduled was a failure owing to shortage of hares. Over the two day event four hares were killed.
The coursing steward told the Inquiry team that on the previous day there had been a number of sad incidents with dogs being injured on the flints on adjacent fields. There was one incident on the day of the visit where a dog was injured following a collision. It was noted that there was no vet present.
Points of note:-
The Code of Rules of the National Coursing Club includes the following:-
"21. Duty to Dispatch Hare
(1) Notwithstanding that this Code of Rules provides for the appointment of four Pickers-up at every Coursing Meeting it shall be the duty of any person (including any person who has gone forward in accordance with Rule 19(2) but excluding the Judge) who is in the vicinity of any hare brought down, before taking any other action, to satisfy himself that the hare is dead and if it is not dead to kill it forthwith."
No indication or advice is given as to how to actually go about killing the hare. Whether it should be clubbed, or have its neck stretched, or anything else that comes to mind. Scientific evidence suggests that having the neck broken alone is not a humane death as the blood supply to the brain if maintained can ensure a painful death albeit that the victim may be paralysed and therefore not apparently suffering. On one occasion at the Waterloo Cup I had the misfortune to see a hare caught by the crowd at a meeting at Lydiate. She literally had her head torn off when a chap stood on her body and ripped her body away. Such a death was savage and gruesome to watch but all things considered it was probably a damned sight more humane than the current means of death meted out to most hares at coursing meetings. This should not be taken to excuse the former but rather to damn the latter.
The only reference to this rule of a duty to dispatch the hare on the meet cards that were given to the Inquiry team is the catch-all Rule 42 Jurisdiction of the National Coursing Club the gist of which is that anyone at the coursing meeting should have read the Bye-laws and Code of Rules and agreed to abide by them. The National Coursing Club sent their Code of Rules to the Inquiry team. Whether they also impressed on individual members of the Inquiry team their personal responsibility for minimising the suffering of hares when visiting hare coursing is unknown.
When the first hare was caught Professor Winter, Dr Edwards and Simon Hart were with Graham Sirl watching. They were clearly much nearer to the site where the hare was caught than was the Picker-up. The rules of the National Coursing Club imposed a clear duty on them to satisfy themselves firstly that the hare was dead and if it was not, as was clearly the case, to kill it forthwith. It might not have been expected of Professor Winter, Dr Edwards or Graham Sirl that they should carry out this action but there was a clear onus on Simon Hart to do so. He must have had some experience of dispatching animals in his hunting career (he was Master and Huntsman of the Royal Agricultural College Beagles from 1983-1985 and Joint Master and Huntsman of the South Pembrokeshire Foxhounds from 1988).
Failing that, the organisers of the coursing should have placed someone with the Inquiry team who was capable of dispatching any hares caught by the dogs. Their failure to do so and their failure to move the Pickers-up to a position nearer to where the hares were likely to be caught resulted in increased suffering to the first hare caught.
It should also be noted that the front of the Alresford Coursing Club meet card includes the following instructions to those attending:-
"Any person making any unnecessary noise will be warned off the coursing grounds
Spectators must stand still when a course is being run, and they are requested to avoid damage to fences etc."
This is exactly the reference that was missing from the East of England Coursing Club meet card.
At the Alresford meeting Charles Blanning from the National Coursing Club was asked about the relocation of hares for coursing at the Waterloo Cup. He said that there was a shortage of hares at the Waterloo Cup in the 1970s and that the Cup had been stopped for four years from 1977. He told the members of the Inquiry team present the following about this hare movement:-
"They brought in hares from East Anglia where they were in excess and restocked the grounds. They waited four years until 1981, which is why they appear in the accounts for 1981, and then the Waterloo Cup started again." The clear impression that he gave to the Inquiry team was that the movement of hares to the Waterloo Cup happened on just this one occasion. It is conceivable but rather far-fetched that he was unaware that is has happened regularly and indeed that the restocking of the coursing grounds with hares was envisaged by the Waterloo Cup Committee in 1981 as being an "annual necessity".
It is pertinent to note that the meet card for the Kimberley & Wymondham Coursing Club for their meet at Kimberley on Monday 4th March 1985 includes the following on the back:-
"To meet the requirements of Rule 42 and in particular to ensure the effective control and authority of the National Coursing Club over meetings - to which the House of Lords Select Committee attached great importance - all persons directly interested in entries at a meeting as well as all persons actively engaged in whatever capacity, must have in their possession an up to date copy of the National Coursing Club Rules and agree to submit himself to these Rules in their entirety."
Then below this is printed the following caution:-
"RULE 21 (i) .....it shall be the duty of any person........who is in the vicinity of any hare brought down before taking any other action to satisfy himself that the hare is dead and if not to kill it forthwith."
Inquiry team : Lord Burns, Professor Marsh, Professor Winter, Dr Edwards, (Brian Caffarey)
CPHA observer : Graham Sirl
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
The first hind hunted was lost in thick gorse. They returned to the starting area to draw for a second hind. This hunted deer ran exactly the same line as the first and ended up on Dunkery Beacon before running onto National Trust land at about 3.00p.m. The hunt then ended for the day. The Inquiry team were with the hunt for the full duration of the hunting.
Points of note:-
The hinds hunted would have been about 4 months pregnant. The hinds give birth to their calves in May and June. Hind hunting starts early in November and ends at the end of February. Connoisseurs of the pastime reckon that the later hind hunting offers better "sport" as the following quote confirms:-
"At first the hinds will perhaps run round and round in a most exasperating way, and many days are marred by the hounds changing on to fresh deer when their hunted one is more than half beaten; nevertheless the sport is often first-rate. Especially is this the case after Christmas, as by that time the calves are able to take care of themselves, and a mother when pressed by the hounds will leave her offspring and go straight away, instead of ringing round to the place where she hid the little one under a bush in the morning." (Fur, Feather, & Fin Series Edited by Alfred E.T. Watson. Red Deer. Pub. Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912. Page 238-9. Stag-Hunting section by Viscount Ebrington, Master Devon & Somerset Staghounds 1881-87)
Tom Yandle the guide for the day of the visit, the High Sheriff of Somerset and Chairman of the hunt had told the Inquiry team that Snowdrop Valley, that they went into, was usually closed at that time of year but had been opened especially for the team.
Graham Sirl checked this claim with the Exmoor National Park Authority and was told that the road into Snowdrop Valley had been opened to avoid any congestion with the scheduled coaches which are run at this time of the year for visitors to see the Snowdrops. The hunt had in fact refused to change their meet. The Exmoor National Park also confirmed that they had received a number of complaints the next day about hunt vehicles being driven over the verges and destroying the snowdrops.
Given the day of the week and the time of year there was an unusually high number of supporters both on horseback and in vehicles. There were around 60 riders on the day compared to around 30 the following Thursday, even though the latter was also half-term.
Conversely, whereas there are usually 5 or 6 riders on trail bikes following the hunt on this occasion there was only one.
The Thursday following the visit by the Hunting Inquiry a hind was killed within half an hour of the hunt setting off.
Inquiry team : Lord Burns, Professor Winter, (Brian Caffarey)
CPHA observer : Graham Sirl
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
The hunt moved off at around 1.00p.m. The Inquiry team left the location at 4.00p.m. with the hounds still hunting. Not much hunting was missed as it would soon have been dark.
There was an abundance of hares in the area hunted.
One of the Joint Masters of the hunt, R.A. Knight, told Professor Winter that the beagles were not bred for speed. He went on to say that he could make them faster by cross breeding.
Professor Winter ran with the hunt staff following the hounds. He saw them running backwards and forwards for three quarters of an hour in a wood that turned out to be owned by the Woodland Trust.
Graham Sirl filmed the hunt staff crossing a railway line near Quainton to the north west of Aylesbury. This line is used twice a day by trains from London. He pointed this trespass out to Lord Burns.
The President of the hunt, John Robinson, told Lord Burns that Beagling does not control the numbers of hares. He said that hare numbers are controlled by foxes killing the leverets. He also told Lord Burns that it was not necessary to have any other form of hare control on Knapps Wood Farm, which was where they were hunting that day.
John Robinson told Lord Burns that the leverets were around at this time of the year.
Points of note:-
The concept expressed during this visit that the beagles should not be bred for speed fits in very well with the general theory for enjoying this pastime that the quarry, the hare, should not be "over -matched". This was emphasised for hare hunting enthusiasts by the following advice printed some twenty years ago:-
"It is probably better to have a good hunt of an hour or 90 minutes, rather than over match the hare and pull her down in 20 min." (Horse and Hound. November 7, 1980)
Inquiry team : Lord Soulsby, Dr Edwards, (Mark Sanderson)
CPHA observer : Mike Huskisson
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
Young healthy dog fox dug out and killed.
This hunt and venue were proposed by the Countryside Alliance. The Countryside Alliance arranged the transportation for the Inquiry team and our movements in the course of the visit were determined by the Joint Hon. Sec. of the hunt, Paddy Bell.
This is an old hunt. The first Master of whom much was known was James Paton who was Master from 1770-1800. The present hunting country that amounts to an area of about 13 miles by 15 miles was formed as the Newmarket and Thurlow hunt in 1884. In 1970 that hunt was amalgamated with the Puckeridge to form the Puckeridge & Thurlow hunt but in 1992 that amalgamation ended and the hunt reverted to its original name.
Reference to a map of foxhunt countries in the United Kingdom show that the Thurlow, at 195 square miles, occupies one of the smallest areas of size.
There has been a long tradition of preserving foxes in the Thurlow hunt country. Michael Brander in his book Portrait of a Hunt The history of the Puckeridge and Newmarket and Thurlow combined hunts (Hutchinson Benham Limited, London 1976) writes on page 93 of the Newmarket and Thurlow in the 1920s:-
"At this time the country was being hunted five days a fortnight and the old strife between hunting and shooting interests had entirely ceased. Everyone was dedicated to foxhunting and no one shot on hunting days any longer and keepers did not kill foxes. Poisoning and trapping were no longer hazards to be suffered in silence. Mr C.F. Ryder of Thurlow Hall was a keen fox preserver and General Sir Charles Briggs, ex-cavalry commander and successor to Mr R.W. King as chairman of the hunt committee, rented the shooting of several of the best coverts on the Wickhambrook side of the country as well as maintaining supplies of foxes in his own."
And adds on page 97:-
"Just how considerable a fox preserver Mr C.F. Ryder had become may be a little hard to appreciate without outside evidence. In his first season Mr Deacon personally counted twenty -two litters of cubs within a two mile radius of his house."
From the rendezvous at Whittlesford station at 9.05a.m. we drove in convoy to the hunt kennels at Wadgells Farm, Great Thurlow. We were then given a guided tour of the hunt kennels by a team from the hunt, Joint Master and Huntsman, Edmund Vestey, Joint Hon. Sec. Paddy Bell, and Kennel Huntsman and 1st whipper-in, Chris Amatt.
Edmund Vestey gave us all a little green booklet entitled "A List of the Thurlow Foxhounds". The Inquiry team were shown a hound that had been entered into the pack way back in 1991. I was surprised that they retained a hound that old in the kennels but on checking the little green booklet it is clear that at the time of our visit they had three hounds in kennels that were entered in that year.
It was clear that the Inquiry team were impressed by the care apparently shown towards the hounds. It is not always the case at this hunt. I recalled an incident some years previous when I and a colleague were monitoring this pack as they hunted in the Horseheath area. Driving towards Horseheath on the busy A604 I was alarmed to see an HGV in the distance, heading in the same direction as myself, throw up a cloud of smoke and slew across the road as he locked his wheels after fierce braking. Reaching the scene we found the incident had been caused by a hound running over the road. There were no hunt staff or supporters around. We stopped to prevent other hounds from crossing this road. When a member of the hunt staff eventually appeared I suggested that the hunt was at fault for allowing their hounds over this road to the peril of the drivers. This impressed him little so I added that if nothing else they could easily kill a hound that way. His response was to the effect, with suitably fruity language, that it would save shooting it!
Whenever I hear hunting fanatics professing their love for their hounds I am reminded of the following words spoken by the acknowledged hunting expert on hounds:-
"When asked the secret of his success, the greatest hound-breeder of all time, Lord Henry Bentinck, replied laconically, "I breed a great many; I put down a great many." His were the highest of standards, and even if he put down many hounds for the slightest fault~hounds that, with patience, might have proved themselves~Lord Henry did prevent what he thought were indifferent hounds from begetting their kind."
(Come and Hunt. The Hon. Charles Willoughby. Pub. Museum Press. London. 1952. Page 144)
We were told that they make no charge for their collection of fallen stock.
In the yard I asked Edmund Vestey about artificial earths. We know that the Thurlow Foxhounds have at least 31 of these together with at least 16 stickpiles. I asked if he could arrange for the Inquiry team to see an example of one of these. He said they had nothing to hide and would be happy to do so. We were told that the foxes that are caught are old, infirm, sick or injured.
We were driven to the meet and once there it was clear from the greetings exchanged that Lord Soulsby was in the company of plenty of friends, but that is not too surprising as he lives not far away. There were a large number of riders and followers at the meet but that was explained by the hunt as due to it being half-term rather than any attempt on their part to bus in supporters.
The hounds were taken into Hart Wood for the first draw and we followed. I know of no artificial earth in Hart Wood so I asked Paddy Bell, our guide and driver, if there was an artificial earth in the wood that he could show to the Inquiry team. He replied to the effect that he did not know and that I knew more about artificial earths in Thurlow Hunt country than he did. Besides being Joint Hon. Sec. for the Thurlow Foxhounds he is also I believe Land Agent for the Thurlow Estates so I think in his reply to the Inquiry team he was being shall we say, economical with the truth.
We parked by the pheasant release pen in Hart Wood and climbed out to listen and watch. A deer ran by through the wood but the hounds made no attempt to pursue it.
Paddy Bell told us that if they didnt find a fox in this wood they certainly would in the adjacent wood. He was right. The fox, pursued by the hounds, left the adjacent wood then returned, ran round and around then went to ground. We faced a bit of a trek over the wet farmland to reach the scene. Dr Edwards, Mark Sanderson, Paddy Bell, Simon Hart and I set off. Lord Soulsby said that the walk was beyond him and he returned to the Landrover. That deprived us of his veterinary expertise at the dig. However before we had reached the adjacent covert a rider approached us and told us that they had decided to leave the fox.
Why? I asked whether it was in a natural earth. He told us that as far as he knew it was in a natural earth but he hadnt seen the site himself. He didnt know why they had decided to leave the fox. I tried to press for an answer but without success.
However he had ridden up to us to tell us. Someone knew why they had decided to leave this fox so why when the message was passed to tell us that they were leaving the fox was the message not passed as to why? We were an Inquiry team after all. The failure of the hunt to adequately explain opens the door to all manner of speculation as to the real reason why this fox was left.
We turned about and returned to join Lord Soulsby. I was beginning to feel that this hunt would only display to the Inquiry team exactly what they wanted them to see.
Paddy Bell expressed the view that as the hunt was due to head for Carlton we should do so to. There is an artificial earth in Carlton Wood and a stickpile in an adjacent copse so I found it none too surprising that they should head in that direction to find a fox. As we were about to leave we could hear the hounds returning and we queried with Paddy Bell that we might be better to stay. But he was adamant that we should drive round so we did so. It was clear that in his mind he was taking us on a guided tour, just as tourists might be taken on an escorted tour of the Pyramids. He was operating on his schedule, showing us what he wanted us to see. He was amenable to making subtle changes such as lingering a little longer if members of the Inquiry team wished but he never viewed his role as being merely that of a chauffeur, going where and when the Inquiry team wanted, at their bidding. I am sure that the Inquiry team would have been able to acquire more useful evidence that day if they had enjoyed a free hand to travel wherever they wished and their own transport in which to do so.
We were driven round to a spot between Park Grove (where there is an artificial earth) and Lophams Wood (where there is another artificial earth). We looked back across the fields and saw the hounds in Hart Wood, exactly where we had just left and where Paddy Bell had been insistent that we should leave. The hounds went out towards Carlton and then returned. As we looked towards Park Grove a fox crossed the open field from left to right in our view.
There was a deer settled down in the open in the same field. The hounds appeared and although they were slow to follow the scent of the fox they were, admirably, totally disinterested in the deer. Mind you I noticed that the hunt placed a rider in a strategic position to ward off any riot after the deer that might occur.
We then followed the hunt down towards Temple End. The fox was not to ground but the hunt opinion was that he was close at hand. Whilst they tried to stop the hounds casting off for a fresh fox exactly that occurred. A fresh fox jumped up from some long grass at the back of the farm giving the Inquiry team a grandstand view of the hounds coursing the fox at close quarters. The fox, little bigger than a cat, dashed past the bulk of the mounted field who were waiting in the farm yard. The contrast in size was memorable.
This fox was pursued out towards the old Bomber Command airfield at West Wratting, then hunted back towards Temple End, then lost.
Following in the wake we saw some further hunting and then saw the hounds marking at what appeared to be a drain in the distance. Paddy Bell drove us to the scene. Simon Hart was quickly out of our vehicle and strode forward to have a chat with Edmund Vestey, out of our hearing. The terriermen drove up in their Landrover.
Simon then returned to us and told the Inquiry team that the hunt were happy for them to see how they would usually deal with this fox. In the interests of safety they would just have to stand back when the fox was actually shot. I knew then that the hunt were determined that the Inquiry team should see a fox killed that day.
The Inquiry team considered the offer from Simon. They agreed as they felt it necessary that they should see the kill. To my knowledge the opinions of the landowner were never canvassed nor was there any mention of this fox being "old, sick or infirm", nor any claims of it being a "pest".
To me it seemed as if a very clinical exercise was about to be played out. There was just one problem, the fox it appeared, was not willing to play his role. The terrierman, Dean Smith, explained the theory of what they planned to the Inquiry. They would net one end of the pipe and then put a terrier into the other end to drive the fox into the net. Then they would shoot the fox in the net. First they had to check that there was a fox in the pipe. He crouched down and peered into the dark tube. He announced with no small hint of regret that it must have been a false mark as there was no fox in the pipe.
The Inquiry team, in particular Dr Edwards, appeared relieved that they were not going to see the fox trapped and shot. They also appeared a bit sceptical of the explanation given. If the fox was not in the pipe where had it gone? It cannot have vanished into thin air. If it had run off why had the hounds not picked up its scent and pursued it? Were the hunt and its terriermen trying to pull some kind of "fast one" on the hunting Inquiry?
In fact this was all part of the learning curve for those inexperienced in the ways of hunting wildlife with dogs. Such hunting is not an exact science. The hounds are only canine and they can be confused and fooled. Whereas they hunt the fox for fun he flees from them, for his life. The motivation is different.
The fox could have run through the pipe and away and the hounds failed to detect his leaving. The fox could have run to the pipe but declined to go in and backtracked or run of at a tangent, with the hounds not picking up this ploy. What is certain is that in a hunting country where there are a lot of such pipes, perhaps field drains or artificial earths (and we know of at least 31 artificial earths in the Thurlow hunt country) the hounds will be all too used to marking at pipe entrances and at the first sign of any difficulty with owning the line of the fleeing fox will mark at the nearest pipe entrance.
The Inquiry team must have made their scepticism obvious because I was offered the chance to have a look up the pipe just in case I did not believe them. I did not bother. I suspected from their whole demeanour that more than almost anything in the world at that moment they wanted a fox to be in there so that they could demonstrate a reasonably quick and clean kill to the Inquiry.
We climbed back into our hunting transport and Paddy Bell drove us back to the old airfield. Soon afterwards there was another hound mark at another drainage pipe. We drove as near as we could then disembarked and walked towards the sounds of the hounds baying. Simon Hart again went ahead to have a word with the hunters at the scene. However before either ourselves or the terriermen reached the site Simon returned with the news that the fox had bolted of his own accord from the pipe. The Inquiry team exchanged slightly baffled looks.
Soon afterwards the hounds were taken to Lophams Wood to draw. This is a very well known covert in the Thurlow Hunt country with a long history of use for the pastime of hunting foxes.
It was explained to us that this was a covert that was deliberately planted so as to be "warm" and thereby attractive to foxes and a range of other wildlife besides. I also knew that it held an artificial earth and wondered if Paddy Bell would show it to us, and indeed if he would show us the same artificial earth that I knew of! (At least one Thurlow covert, Trundley, holds two artificial earths, several others hold an artificial earth with a stickpile nearby).
As we walked into the covert Dr Edwards, Mark Sanderson and Simon Hart strode ahead with Paddy Bell. I strolled behind keeping Lord Soulsby company. We chatted about the pleasures of draghunting in various parts of the world.
As the hounds circled Lord Soulsby returned to the Landrover and I joined the others at one of the junctions of the rides in the wood. The hounds were piling through the wood in full cry. Visually tracking ahead of their sound as they hesitated I saw the hunted fox crossing a ride some distance beyond them. I stifled my exclamation out of fear that Paddy Bell would holloa to put the hounds right. Simon Hart saw what had happened and, surprisingly, shared the difficulty of my position. I wanted to tell Dr Edwards and Mark Sanderson what had happened, to keep them fully informed as to the course of the hunt, but top priority was not to imperil the safety of the fox. Simon Hart did not holloa. Either then or again a short while later when he saw the fox cross the ride nearby with the hounds floundering to pick up his scent. He explained that in his view his role was not to interfere in the normal course of the hunt.
Soon afterwards with it apparent that there would be a quiet spell in the proceedings Paddy Bell offered to take the Inquiry team to see an artificial earth in the wood and duly took us to the site of the one I knew of.
We are told that such earths are not built for foxes to breed in but instead are built to locate foxes where they do no harm. If the foxes thus "located" do no harm then why torment and kill them as "pests" I wondered. The facts about this issue are fairly straightforward. Artificial earths are often built in remote locations making their construction a difficult task that involves no little expense. A wide raft of reasons could be offered for their construction. What is beyond doubt, as one of the greatest hunting enthusiasts and experts of all time, the Duke of Beaufort made clear in his book, is that whatever additional purpose artificial earths may serve they are for foxes to breed in:-
"In countries where earths are scarce it is sometimes found necessary to make artificial earths, to provide somewhere for local foxes to have their cubs : in other words, for breeding purposes. Another advantage of artificial earths is that in grass countries where the coverts tend to be small and scattered it is useful to have snug earths judiciously placed at regular intervals, thus persuading foxes to take a good line. An additional advantage is that if an artificial earth is left open, it will only take a few minutes to bolt a fox. Also if it is a blank day, one knows where to go with some certainty of finding a fox.........In this book I only wish to touch on the subject, and to tell you what my grandfather had to say.
He felt that artificial earths should be primarily intended as breeding establishments, and so among the chief points to be borne in mind should be the aspect, position, soil, drainage and materials used for their construction." (Fox-Hunting. The Duke of Beaufort. Pub. David & Charles. 1980. Page 141)
As for the current hunting claim that it is solely a matter of "location" some of the 31 artificial earths that we know of in Thurlow country are placed precisely where foxes might be accused of being a threat. No fewer than 8 are located in woods that also contain a pheasant release pen (and one of the commonest reasons offered for reducing fox numbers is the threat they allegedly pose to shooting interests). One of these artificial earths is barely 40 metres from just such a release pen. The Inquiry team were told that the Thurlow hunt had put in no new artificial earths recently.
Whilst admitting that they had fed the foxes in their hunt country they said that such practices had stopped once they realised that to do so was illegal.
Paddy Bell then drove us back to follow the hunt who were operating in the vicinity of the old airfield again. There were plenty of foxes about. The hunting from our perspective was a matter of drive, stop, look, drive on, stop look and so on in increasingly frantic fashion. Eventually a fox was marked to ground in the corner of a wood. Low and behold this turned out to be Lophams Wood again. We drove across the field of grass to the scene and again Simon Hart jumped out and went ahead to have a word with the hunters gathered at the scene. This turned out to be the terriermen. He came back and I feared for the safety of any fox that might be in their clutches now. I noted the time on my watch as 3.05p.m. but of course the fox had been marked to ground some time earlier.
The hunted fox was in a shallow rabbit warren. Simon Hart told the Inquiry team that the hunt invited them to see how they would usually deal with the fox in such a situation. There was general agreement to watch and whilst it at first appeared that Lord Soulsby would have difficulty reaching the scene in the wood, to his credit he did eventually do so.
No-one identified himself as the landowner and said that he or she wanted the fox killed. If the fox was to ground on Thurlow Estates land and Paddy Bell, as Land Agent was responsible, he did not say so. In fact I had earlier asked Paddy Bell if they would be hunting on Thurlow Estates land that day and he told me, no. No-one offered any reasons as to why the fox should be killed. There was no claim of local damage caused by foxes, no claim that the fleeing animal had been seen to be old, injured or infirm. It appeared to me that this hunt were keen to seize their opportunity to demonstrate to the Inquiry team that a fox could be dug to and killed with little difficulty. From a shallow rabbit warren that was hardly surprising. In drier weather conditions the hounds might easily have completed the task themselves.
We dutifully walked forward to see the end game. The terrierman, Dean Smith, and his assistant were at the warren. I saw that the entrances had been blocked. We were told that in the interests of our safety when it came to the moment to shoot the fox we would have to stand well back. (They were using a free bullet pistol, not a captive-bolt and feared the effects on the Inquiry team of an unforeseen ricochet).
The blocking material used in the entrances was packed earth or more simply a spade thrust in. A small white terrier named Susie was put in. We could clearly hear the barks and yelps as the terrier bayed the fox just a short distance below ground. The terrier was brought out checked and put back into the fray on several occasions. Whenever it was visible it appeared uninjured. On other similar occasions at other hunts I have seen terriers dripping blood from wounds sustained in their underground combat with the trapped fox. The absence of blood on this occasion did not prove the absence of injury. It is well known that dogs can fight and bite each other in quite a vicious way without inflicting puncture wounds that draw blood. The injuries can lurk below the fur invisible to the eye. No-one from the Inquiry team asked to check the condition of the terrier.
While all this was taking place the pack of hounds were being held in check in the grass field adjacent to the wood. The riders were milling about. Clearly they were becoming impatient for something to happen as one of their number on several occasions rode up and called out to enquire how much longer it would take. The reply was always "Not long!" I asked why the hounds were being held waiting.
The Inquiry team were told that the MFHA rules prevented a fox being bolted from such a situation, so that was out of the question, and the hounds were only being held so that they could eat the fox when it was dead. This is not unusual hunting practice as it is generally reckoned that if the hounds get a taste of their fox in such circumstances it will help to keep them sharp, focused and hunting the right quarry.
However, at about 3.25p.m. they must have found the waiting simply too boring because the hunt and hounds outside the wood left the scene, presumably to draw for another fox elsewhere.
With the foxs room for manoeuvre considerably restricted the terrier was taken out and Simon Hart volunteered to return her to the terriermans Landrover.
Simon Hart with hunt terrier
Near the end of the dig Lord Soulsby asked how many of the people out hunting would normally see such a dig-out and kill. Paddy Bell said very few. It was stressed that such a dig-out was not part of the entertainment and indeed that the MFHA rules barred too many people being present at such times. It does of course have the effect of preventing undercover cameramen such as myself from recording exactly what happens on such occasions, when Government Inquiries are not present.
Eventually, by digging the roof off the shallow tunnels the fox was cornered in a very small area below ground. Deans assistant commented that he could see the brush of the trapped and helpless fox. He forced his spade into the entrance of the tunnel to thwart any attempt to escape. We prepared for the death of an animal.
Dean advised us that he was ready to shoot and as requested we moved back. Slowly and deliberately he loaded his pistol, reached into the hole and fired. We could not see what he was shooting at. I noted the time as 3.35p.m. He then pulled the body of the fox out and displayed it on the ground before us. Dean examined the teeth and estimated the age as 2-years old. He had been shot through the top of his head. Until that finality he had been a young, healthy dog fox. His body bore no signs of old injuries.
I had been taking video film and photographs throughout. At the end Dean commented:- "I hope were not going to be on News at Ten or anything now."
I was not in the least surprised that such hunt enthusiasts should be so keen for their actions to be kept out of public view. Paddy chipped in something to the effect that it was part of the agreement that pictures taken would be private to the Inquiry.
This was news to me. My view on these images has been made clear already. At the time I agreed that I was taking them for the Inquiry and left it at that.
The hunt had continued elsewhere but the Inquiry team decided not to follow any further and instead we climbed back into the Landrover and Paddy Bell drove us back to the kennels. Lord Soulsby sat in the front passenger seat next to Paddy Bell and casually asked what would happen to the body of the young fox. Paddy replied that it would be taken away by the terriermen and then dumped in the incinerator at the kennels.
We returned to the kennels and parted company, leaving the hunt to carry on in our absence.
At a later date I returned to Lophams Wood and paced out the distance between the place where the fox was killed and the artificial earth where he may well have been born. The distance was no more than 370 metres.
Points to note:-
The Inquiry team spent their day in prime Thurlow hunt country an area of countryside that has for years been dedicated to the pursuit of foxes for sport. As long ago as 1827 the Thurlow Hunt Club was set up with one of its aims being to preserve foxes which were apparently in short supply at the time. Later in the same century the Thurlow Hunt Club was restarted and at a meeting in Newmarket on May 31st 1859 some resolutions were agreed to, of which the following are of particular interest:-
1st - That the Club called the Thurlow Hunt Club be revived and re-established.
2nd - That the object of the club shall be the preservation of foxes in the district known as the Thurlow Country.............
5th - That the following Gentlemen, having consented to attend to the preservation of Foxes in the covers attached to their respective names, form a Committee of management, viz:
There then followed a list of people and coverts of which only the following are relevant to this Inquiry visit:-
THOMAS NASH, Carlton wood
W. TRAYLER, Hart, Temple, Lophams, Thurlow Groves
The resolutions continued:-
6th - That subscriptions be received from Gentlemen residing in the Thurlow Country, and others disposed to contribute; (no one subscription to exceed the sum of £5) and such subscriptions to form a fund for carrying out the objects of the club.
7th - That Cubs shall be purchased, and turned down at such parts of the Thurlow Country and in such covers as the Committee may determine.
8th - That one sovereign shall be given to any keeper, woodman, or servant, who shall take care of and rear any of the purchased Cubs.
9th - That the sum of £2 shall be given to any keeper, or woodman, in whose woods or covers a litter of foxes shall be bred and reared.
10th - That a donation of a sovereign shall be given to every keeper or woodman, in whose woods or covers there shall be a find and more than one find on the same day shall not entitle the same keeper or woodman to more than one donation.
12th - That at such annual meeting the conduct of any keeper or woodman, who may not have had during the preceding year any claim for a find may be considered, and the meeting shall have full power, if the members present think proper, to award any compensation to such keeper or woodman, for care or trouble they may have had in the preservation of Foxes.
12th(sic) - That if any complaint of the loss of fowls &c, by any person not being a member of the club, be laid before such meeting, such complaint be considered by the members present, who shall have the power, if they think proper, to award compensation out of the funds of the club.
Michael Brander noted the significance of this latter resolution on page 46 in his Portrait of a Hunt:-
"In the 1850s the idea of making good losses of poultry was comparatively advanced. It was unusual, to say the least, before this for the hunt to consider claims for damages of this nature. When, however, it was decided to set about breeding foxes deliberately, it must have been felt that some form of compensation must be made to those who had suffered by it."
This attitude towards foxes continued to more recent times as evidenced by the following reference again from Michael Brander on page 98 of his book, concerning a Newmarket and Thurlow hunt press announcement made in September 1939:-
"Mr. E.H. Deacon, Master of the Newmarket and Thurlow, has left to join his Regiment, and his wife has been elected joint-Master, and will carry on in his absence, with G. Samways as huntsman. Fifteen couple of hounds have been put down. As from Saturday, September 30th, no claims will be recognised or paid for damage done to poultry by foxes for the duration of the war."
Inquiry team : Lord Burns, Lord Soulsby (Brian Caffarey)
CPHA observer : Mike Huskisson
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
Meeting the hare coursers but seeing little of what they do, and nothing of the movement of hares that has sustained this event. A particularly brutal kill occurs after the Inquiry team have left.
It was almost 50 years ago that a previous Government Inquiry, the one whose Chairman was John Scott Henderson K.C., found that coursing such as carried out at the Waterloo Cup to be cruel. And that was a Committee that viewed gassing with cyanide as a humane method for destroying animals which live underground! Their finding that the Waterloo Cup was cruel appears in paragraph 280 of the Scott Henderson report:-
"Having regard to the meaning which we have given to the word "cruelty" in reference to wild animals, as set out in paragraph 11, we should not regard the degree of suffering which is involved in coursing as constituting cruelty in so far as it is used as a method of control. But coursing is also practised as a sport and, as pointed out in paragraph 274, the National Coursing Club do not claim that the control of hares is an object of coursing as carried out under their rules. No doubt, however, hares are kept down in number in some localities as an incidental result of the coursing meetings held there and, although the primary object of the meetings is sport, more shooting of hares would be necessary if coursing did not take place. In so far as that is true, on the principles we have adopted for our enquiry, the suffering caused to hares coursed at such meetings would not constitute cruelty. But that obviously does not apply to the coursing that takes place at, for example, Altcar, where hares are far more numerous than they would be if their numbers were controlled by ordinary methods, and the same is probably true in varying degrees in other places. Consequently, the suffering which is caused to hares coursed at such meetings comes within the definition of cruelty which we have adopted."
[Note: The Waterloo Cup is held at Altcar.]
The arrangement was for the Inquiry team to rendezvous at the Countryside Alliance tent at The Withins at 10.00a.m. The coursing card for the day shows at the bottom "First Brace in slips at 9.30a.m.".
I arrived at the tent on time and met Simon Hart. No-one from the Inquiry was present. The coursing had started. Lord Burns, Lord Soulsby and Brian Caffarey arrived at about 10.30a.m. They were introduced to prominent officials from the Countryside Alliance. The Hon. Secretary of the Waterloo Cup Coursing Club, Ronnie Mills, was introduced to us as our guide for the day.
Soon afterwards Ken Livingstone MP arrived with a considerable media entourage. Robin Page, who had been selling copies of his new book The Hunting Gene from a car boot type pitch near to the Countryside Alliance tent was one of the first to go and berate him. Vinnie Faal a notorious lurcher enthusiast from Manchester was also quick to harangue Ken Livingstone MP.
Ken Livingstone MP went to watch the coursing, with the attendant media circus, whilst we were left being introduced to a variety of coursing stalwarts. Eventually Lord Soulsby disappeared to see the coursing with one of the supporters and Lord Burns, Brian Caffarey, Ronnie Mills, Simon Hart and I went to see the coursing from the entry point where the dogs are first taken on to the field. Lord Burns asked to be taken into the shy to see the dogs being slipped. Ronnie Mills replied that he was happy to do so but only one of us at a time would be allowed into the shy. He took Lord Burns and I stayed with Brian Caffarey whilst Simon Hart went off elsewhere.
In bold text on the back of the coursing card is the following warning:-
PHOTOGRAPHY NOT ALLOWED WITHOUT PERMISSION
When a hare was driven into the coursing arena and the dogs were released I started to take film and photographs. The lady who was taking the details of the dogs, who I assume was the Slip Steward, asked if I had the authorisation to take photographs. I said that I was doing it as part of the Hunting Inquiry and that she should check the matter with Simon Hart if she had any problems. He of course was not about and nothing further was said. Quickly we saw a hare caught. The Picker-ups were not able to reach her and do their job as the dog with the hare returned to its handler. He was seen to dislocate her neck. Lord Burns returned from the shy. Once again the hare had been caught when he had taken up that position.
I suggested to Lord Burns and Brian Caffarey that it would be a good idea to walk up the path towards the incoming beaters to see the hares gathered in the beat funnel just off the coursing field. Ronnie Mills was quite happy to take us and we walked up the path.
On the way I had an encounter of note with a chap from the coursing fraternity who I had befriended way back in the early nineties. He of course did not know who I was, either then or now, and he was really friendly. I responded in kind but I was unwilling to linger long. I quickly walked off with Lord Burns and explained that such an experience was one of the unsavoury aspects of undercover work. By adopting such a role one inevitably befriends people who would probably really dislike you if they knew who you really were. When they are cruel ignorant thugs such deceit causes no qualms. When they are not, as with this chap, it does.
We walked forward as far as we could to the point where I had expected to see many hares milling about in the beat funnel. In fact there were surprisingly few. We chatted to one of the beaters stood at this point who by his appearance and demeanour had considerable experience of such a role. Lord Burns asked how they stopped too many hares being driven on to the coursing field at once. The beater pointed to a small stack of straw bales right in the middle of the funnel, in line with the slippers shy and told us that there was someone hiding there whose task was to jump up whenever one hare goes by and stop other hares following. Coursing at the Waterloo Cup is clearly a well oiled operation. Perhaps it has to be with the entry card costing £10 and the prize for the winner being £4,000 plus trophy.
On closer inspection of the beat funnel Lord Burns was able to see a number of hares moving about, unwittingly waiting their turn to enter the arena. We then returned to the main coursing crowd as Lord Burns was anxious to be present when the expected pro-hare demonstration arrived.
We called in at the Countryside Alliance tent and it was at about this time that I was tackled by Lord Soulsby who clearly felt that I had misled him regarding the movement of hares to the Waterloo Cup.
The previous day when driving him to the Thurlow Hunt visit I told him that they regularly shipped hares to the Waterloo Cup. I said that they needed a lot of hares for the Waterloo Cup (it is a 64 dog stake and there are two subsidiary competitions, the Waterloo Plate and the Waterloo Purse) and it could only happen because they had in the past netted hares in other parts of the country and moved them up. I was at pains to stress that they were not moving them up and releasing them from boxes on the day. I said that we had no proof as to exactly when they moved them up but there had been something in their rules to the effect that it should be no less than six months beforehand.
Lord Soulsby was under the impression that I had told him that hares were shipped up for that Waterloo Cup being run at that instant. Conversely he had spoken to one of our opponents who had denied that hares had been shipped up in her memory. There then followed a brief dispute between myself and a Countryside Alliance representative as to what the National Coursing Club rules on the topic were. I mentioned the six month rule but this was laughed at. When I invited her explanation as to what the current rules actually were regarding the movement of hares for coursing nothing was forthcoming.
This was farcical. They must surely know what their own rules are on a such a sensitive topic as the movement of live hares about the country by coursing enthusiasts. In desperation I looked round and saw Sir Mark Prescott, to whom we had been introduced earlier, standing nearby. Now we may stand on opposite sides of the ring when it comes to coursing but I knew him to be better informed than almost anyone on the running of the Waterloo Cup. He is also at times surprisingly candid.
I invited Sir Mark Prescott to come and explain to Lord Soulsby exactly what the situation was regarding the movement of hares to the Waterloo Cup. He was pleased to oblige. He said that the coursing had all but ended in the late seventies due to shortage of hares. In the early eighties they had shipped a lot into the area. I asked when was the most recent time that they had shipped hares into the area and he said that it was when the Waterloo Cup had been cancelled due to frost and snow in the early nineties. I asked him exactly how long ago this was and he said "Three to five years".
Most significantly the National Coursing Club Rules on the relocation of hares by coursing enthusiasts for coursing purposes appear to have changed over recent years.
For an area of land such as where the Waterloo Cup is staged there must be a natural carrying capacity for hares. That is dependent on the habitat, the food supply, the local topography, and not surprisingly the influences of man such as roads and the proximity to towns from whence people with lurchers might be expected to come to course them. In other words the natural population cannot be raised and sustained for any period of time above a certain level. The hare population can only be maintained above this natural level by the regular importation of hares.
At the Waterloo Cup, a 64-dog stake with two subsidiary competitions, a large number of hares are needed. If the natural population found on the local fields cannot provide enough for coursing at the end of February will shipping some in in March for coursing 11 months later really solve the problem? Clearly not as the hares will not stay there over and above the natural carrying capacity.
So how long might they be moved there in order to still be there when required for coursing 6 months? 3 months? or the week before? For years there has been a battle of wits fought out between our investigators trying to prove just how short a time before the Waterloo Cup the hares are moved and coursing authorities trying to ensure that we know as little as possible about their movement of hares. It would be fair to admit that with a few exceptions the coursers have won this battle. For a pastime that claims to fear nothing from close public inspection they are at times remarkably secretive.
However their evidence now submitted to the Hunting Inquiry more or less resolves the situation. It is the changes in time allowed that holds the key.
The Rules of the National Coursing Club, as revised April 1972, included the following regarding the movement of hares:-
"(S) Illegal Practices
(1) The Club will not under any circumstances countenance any of the following practices, namely :-
(a) The use of ground for coursing into which hares have been artificially moved or transported during the previous six months :
(b) The use of ground for coursing where the hares have not been at liberty during the previous six months :
(c) The use of ground for coursing which in the opinion of the Standing Committee is designed to restrict artificially the complete freedom and liberty of the hares.
(2) The Standing Committee may, if upon due enquiry it finds that any affiliated club has been guilty of any of the foregoing practices, order that such Club be expelled from affiliation and disqualified from becoming affiliated for five years."
This appears to have been changed at least once since 1972 because a more recent rule book of the Coursing Section of the Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club, that is based on National Coursing Club Rules, includes the following:-
"21. Illegal Practices
The Section will not under any circumstances countenance any of the following practices:
The use of running ground for coursing into which hares have been artificially moved or transported during the preceding three months.
The use of running ground for coursing where the hares have not been at liberty for the preceding three months and the use of ground which, in the opinion of the Committee, is designed to restrict, artificially the complete freedom and liberty of the hares."
Note how the six months rule has now been reduced to three months. It has been reduced further. The National Coursing Club submission to the Hunting Inquiry, that has been posted on the Internet, includes the following reference to this aspect of their rules:-
"(S) Illegal Practices
(1) The Club will not under any circumstances countenance any of the following practices. namely:-
(a) The use of ground for coursing which is designed to restrict artificially the freedom and liberty of the hares.
(b) The use of ground for coursing where the state of the going or the arrangements on the field hinder the escape of the hare.
(c) The use of ground for coursing of which the hares coursed have insufficient knowledge.
(2) The Standing Committee may, if upon due enquiry it finds that any affiliated club has been guilty of any of the foregoing practices, order that such Club be fined a maximum of (see appendix) and/or expelled from affiliation and disqualified from becoming affiliated for five years."
Six months to three months to "insufficient knowledge". Who is to judge when a hare that has been netted in one area, boxed up and transported to another for coursing has sufficient knowledge of her new locality? How can you tell? Is it a matter of allowing the hare one year, one month, one week or one day?
In early February 1997, in an anonymous phone call to the League Against Cruel Sports, it was alleged that hares were to be captured in nets, for transportation to Altcar for the Waterloo Cup, on Monday 10th at the Six Mile Bottom estate near Newmarket, Suffolk. In the company of LACS Executive Committee member Lawrie Payne I went to the venue and in the face of considerable intimidation and threat, including being barred from access to a public road, we were indeed able to film hares being captured in nets, transferred to cramped boxes and loaded into a Landrover. The supervisor of the whole operation was David R. Midwood, Chairman of the Waterloo Cup Committee. His role as current Chairman of the Waterloo Cup Committee is confirmed by the meet card given to members of the Inquiry team on their visit.
Mr Midwood and later the British Field Sports Society denied that the hares were going to Altcar and between them at various times gave the destinations of the hares as Dartmoor, North Wales, Shropshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Surrey. They claimed that the operation was conducted by The Hare Conservation Society - a little know organisation run by a Mr W.B.K. Steadman who is also a member of David Midwoods Waterloo Cup Committee as well as the British Field Sports Societys Coursing Committee.
Our video of the hare netting was handed to Professor Stephen Harris for comment. (It was Professor Harris who conducted the national hare survey for the Governments Joint Nature Conservation Committee)
In his report to the League Against Cruel Sports Professor Harris said:-
"The operations portrayed in the video were grim; they were likely to cause considerable stress to the animals and maximise the chance of injuries."
He added that the hares should have been covered and that noise should have been kept to an absolute minimum. He was particularly critical of the handling of a hare while it was being extracted from a net. The animal was held off the ground and the Professor said that if it had kicked it could have fractured or injured its spinal column due to the power with which hares can flex their backs using their hind legs. He also said that the boxes used were only suitable for holding hares for brief periods because there was no way the hares could be fed or watered.
He noticed that it was raining during the operation and he warned that putting wet hares into boxes in which they could not dry off would also pose risk of fatalities. He complained that the handling of the hares was "haphazard and showed no care for the animals", and that the stacking of the boxes on top of each other, (one on its side) was "disgraceful".
Finally, Professor Harris pointed out that the time of the hare capture (February 10th) coincides with the period that female hares were either heavily pregnant or already had dependent offspring. In his view: "Removing hares at this time of the year will lead to young dying of starvation and a great deal of trauma to pregnant does".
Coursing enthusiasts who do know about the regular movement of hares to Altcar in recent years and who are prepared to talk to us tell us that at the Waterloo Cup the hares that turn about and run back into the beat funnel or who run into the crowd are the hares that have been shipped in recently.
It is clear that whatever the Rules of the National Coursing Club back in 1997, and wherever those hares went, if a similar operation had been mounted this year with hares netted in early February for transportation to Altcar for release into the area ready for the Waterloo Cup starting on February 22nd there would have been no breach of the latest National Coursing Club Rules on this matter. Twelve days or more could clearly be argued by coursing fanatics to give the hares the sufficient knowledge required.
The Waterloo Cup has been dependent for some time for its running on the regular importation of hares. The Waterloo Cup Report and Annual Accounts 1981 includes the following reference to the movement of hares under the section Report of the Committee to the Waterloo Cup Nominators :-
"The Committee annex an Income and Expenditure Account for organising the 1981 event which reveals a serious deficit of nearly £2000. The Committee consider that there is limited scope for reducing expenditure and therefore they must concentrate effort on finding a way to increase income. It will be noted that no expenditure is included in this account for hare restocking for breeding purposes which the Committee are satisfied must in future be an annual necessity."
The accounts for the following year revealed a figure under "Sundry Expenses" of £363 paid for "Hare re-stocking".
How the hares are netted and how they are transported merits close scrutiny. One might also ask the very pertinent point if the hares need to be shipped up so regularly to Altcar what is the fate that awaits them?
It is interesting to reflect that the whole question of the movement of hares was considered by the Scott Henderson Committee. They give the following finding in paragraph 275 of their report published in 1951:-
"The allegation that hares are specially imported for coursing gives rise to the further suggestion that they may not be familiar with the ground over which they are coursed and may consequently be at a disadvantage. This objection is said to apply more to the large, organised meetings than to the smaller, local meetings, but as the movement of hares within six months of coursing is forbidden we think that hares are in fact sufficiently familiar with the ground over which they are coursed."
At the time the National Coursing Club had their "six month." rule in force. I wonder what the Scott Henderson Committee would have made of it being reduced to "three months" and then to the meaningless term "insufficient knowledge" as we have now? This was clearly a point of some concern to Lord Burns as he raised it with the following exchange during the Oral evidence session on Monday April 10th:-
[Here I quote from the evidence as posted on the Internet rather than from my own sources]
"THE CHAIRMAN [Lord Burns] : How do you know when a hare shows knowledge of its area and secondly typically how long do you think that gap is? There may not be a rule about the gap there should be, but do you have any indication that you can give as to what it typically would be?
MR BLANNING : We have no indication no, because when hares are moved they are given a considerable amount of time to get used to their new surroundings. The calendar, if you like, dictates this because hares are mainly moved in the late winter or early spring. That is when the hare shoots are usually going to take place and the hares are moved from estates where otherwise they would have been shot for control purposes. So what is happening is that the hares are being put down, often in late February, early March and then, of course, they are outside the coursing season. The coursing season does not start again until the following September.
THE CHAIRMAN: So that would be six months, effectively.
MR BLANNING : Yes"
Subsequent evidence reveals that if the Inquiry team are under the impression that hares are not moved for the Waterloo Cup less than six months before coursing they are being misled. Under current National Coursing Club rules they could be shipped into Altcar on a Sunday and coursed the following Tuesday. When a wild animal, such as a hare, is moved it needs to gather "sufficient knowledge" quickly or it is dead.
I understand that at some point in the morning Lord Soulsby went to have a turn of viewing the coursing from the slippers shy.
Lord Burns was keen to see the arrival of the march of people protesting at the cruelty of coursing and we moved to watch. He asked me to introduce him to someone on the march so that he could have a discussion with them. He had previously cleared this proposal with one of the senior police officers. I was pleased to help but to be honest with all the cacophony of noise I am not sure that much could be heard.
Lord Burns then expressed a keenness in seeing the coursing from the crowd stood on the bank side. Ronnie Mills was happy to oblige so he led Lord Burns, Brian Caffarey, Simon Hart and myself round to the bank side. Lord Soulsby did not join us. Instead he wandered off in the direction of the Countryside Alliance hospitality tent. He had earlier remarked to me how good their Game Soup was. We reached the bank and stood in the crowd. We watched some coursing. There was no kill. We left at about 12.45p.m. and returned to the Nominators enclosure. That was the last coursing that we saw at the Waterloo Cup.
Outside the Countryside Alliance tent I encountered Clarissa Dickson-Wright sounding off to a television camera about her love for coursing the hare. Amongst other quotes she offered the following:-
"If I were a hare I would rather die on a day like this, if I were to die, and as I said it was only 1% last year, you know with the crowds cheering and doing something I knew how to do than be run over by a car. Are we going to stop driving?"
Soon after this, at about 1.30p.m. Lord Burns and Lord Soulsby declared that they had seen enough and as they had a flight to catch they decided to call an end to this visit. They left and I was obliged to leave also. There was a break in the coursing for lunch but it then continued until 4.15p.m. In effect the Inquiry team had left the coursing rather like leaving a football match at half-time. Of more concern though was the fact that they had seen so little coursing.
The last course of the day ended in a kill at 4.15p.m. when the light coloured dog running in the red collar caught the hare. There were cheers and applause from the watching crowd. The black dog in the white collar grabbed the other end of the hare and both dogs tussled over her. A picker-up dived in and grabbed the white collared dog. The canine in the red collar ran off with the hare.
To accompany this there was the following commentary over the public address system:-
"Just to remind you Ladies and Gentlemen, after a really cracking days coursing - Im sure youll agree that the sixty four courses weve seen today have been as good as youll get, and er... everyones put a lot of effort and hard work into ..er..producing this coursing today - tomorrow of course were at the Lydiate."
The dog ran off with the hare past the flank line who made seemingly half-hearted attempts to stop her. The crowd walked away home, happy.
As well as myself with the Inquiry team the CPHA had monitors amongst the hare coursing crowd filming the event. Their evidence confirms that there was a clear difference between the coursing on show for the Inquiry team to observe and that which occurred after the latter had departed.
This is frustrating for those who are keen to see the full horror of coursing exposed but it is by no means unusual. The first part of the first day is always the time when television cameras and Fleet streets finest are in attendance. Once they have got their required images and are out of the way the coursers can get down to the real business.
The film acquired by these CPHA monitors, taken from amongst the crowd, showed some interesting attitudes that should have been heard by the Inquiry team.
At 11.50a.m. the hare is caught and becomes the victim of a tug of war. The picker-up releases the hare and sets about trying to kill her. From one of the coursers near the camera there is the loud shout:-
"Kill the cunt!"
About fifteen minutes later another hare is caught. Once again the picker-up is required to dispatch the hare. This time there is the following clear shout of encouragement from the coursing supporters:-
"Go on.........wring its neck!"
Another quarter of an hour or so elapses and another hare is twisting and turning as she flees for her life. As she runs, her canine tormentors are encouraged thus:-
"Fucking have it!"
Eventually this hare escapes by heading back past the slippers shy towards the beat funnel.
The behaviour of these country sports fanatics matches their language. A pair of drunks wallow about in one of the ditches. One lad climbs on to the field before the coursing field and pulls his pants down to moon to the crowd.
A very strange event occurs at about 12.50a.m., just after the Inquiry team had vacated the bank side and headed back towards the Nominators enclosure. A hare is driven on to the coursing field. She is clearly weak as the dogs are not slipped. She is very weak as she simply flops over in a pathetic heap. She is then killed by one of the picker-ups.
What was the story behind the fate of this hare? Was she injured or diseased? Was she pregnant and exhausted through being driven forwards by the beaters? If the Inquiry team were to fulfil the role asked of them all the hares caught at this Waterloo Cup would have been subjected to post mortem examination. Out of all the hares that died this may well have been the most important to examine. At the time on the day the Inquiry team knew nothing of this incident even occurring.
One of the significant incidents occurred at 4.05p.m. on this first day. It involved a pair of dogs running in the second round that included "Duxbury". The nominator and owner of this dog was Len Elman who had earlier been introduced to the Inquiry team.
The sequence of events for the death of this hare was as follows:-
Gary Kelly slips the dogs.
19 seconds later the hare is caught by one of the dogs.
2 seconds later the hare escapes.
1 second later the hare is caught again. This time both dogs tussle over her.
8 seconds later one dog wins the tussle and runs off with the hare.
8 seconds later the hare escapes again and runs off.
1 second later the dog catches the hare again.
2 seconds later the hare escapes again.
1 second later the dog catches the hare again.
3 seconds later the hare is dropped and runs off again.
7 seconds later the dog catches the hare again.
9 seconds later the hare is dropped and runs off again, this time in a clearly injured state.
7 seconds later, with the dog clearly exhausted, the picker-up dives on the hare and she is killed soon after.
At least 49 seconds elapse from the moment when the hare was first caught to the point when she was killed. The hare escaped from the jaws of the dog(s) no fewer than five times. There were at least five men wearing the yellow arm-bands of a hare picker-up in close proximity whilst this coursing of a crippled hare took place.
This all appeared to greatly entertain the crowd. They had cheered when the hare was first caught and they both cheered and laughed when the picker-up eventually dived on the hare.
It is clear when reviewing undercover film taken by CPHA monitors on all three days at this years Waterloo Cup that time and time again the hares run back towards the slippers shy and the beat funnel to escape. The hare coursers assure us, and the Inquiry team, that certainly on the first and third days when the coursing is staged at The Withins if the hares have sufficient knowledge of their immediate environment they will run towards the rhododendron end purposely created for their escape. That so many hares did not do this suggests that they did not have "sufficient knowledge".
Finally, the last rule in the little green book supplied by the National Coursing Club used to be as follows:-
"47. Interference with a Course
No person shall interfere, by shouting, waving or in any way other way with the running of the hare or the dogs, or by seeking to influence or divert the hare in any way, or by holloaing a dog on."
This rule was simply ignored time and time again by the Waterloo Cup crowd.
Inquiry team : Lord Burns, Professor Winter (Brian Caffarey)
CPHA observer : Mike Huskisson
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
This hunt began as a pack of foxhounds about 200 years ago. They now hunt primarily hare and the occasional fox.
The rendezvous for the Inquiry team was Diss railway station at 10.00a.m. I arrived on time to find Professor Winter already there waiting. He had travelled to Diss the night before and stayed in a nearby village. I took full advantage of the opportunity to chat to Professor Winter about occurrences to date.
He chatted about the incident during their visit to the Old Berkeley Beagles on February 15th when the hounds had run into the wood owned by the Wildlife Trust (he had seen the sign). I also asked him about their visit to the Alresford Coursing Club on February 19th as I was particularly interested in what he had seen when he had run with the picker-up to where the second hare had been caught. He confirmed that when he reached the hare she was alive and screaming.
At about 10.15a.m. one of the Joint Masters of the hunt, John Ibbott, drove up in his car. We then had a short conversation before the London train pulled in carrying Lord Burns and Brian Caffarey. The latter came with me whilst Lord Burns and Professor Winter were driven by John Ibbott as we drove in convoy to the meet at the nearby village of Wingfield at 11.30a.m. Simon Hart was waiting at the meet.
This was the usual social event with all manner of people being introduced to the Inquiry team. I heard some farmer having a moan at Professor Winter about all the current ailments in the farming business. In due course I asked Professor Winter for his opinions about the book The Killing of the Countryside by Graham Harvey. This makes some very pertinent points about the (mis)management of the countryside as will be seen by the quotes from it I give following a later visit. I was delighted when Professor Winter told me that he had helped Graham Harvey in the production of this book by reading the manuscript and that whilst he regarded the facts in it as strongly phrased they were accurate.
The hunt had just 11½ couple of hounds out. When later I queried this small number used with Simon Hart he told me that they took few hounds out if there were a lot of hares about to avoid the pack splitting. He told me that he had once hunted with just 9 couple of hounds. Presumably that referred to his days as Master and Huntsman of the Royal Agricultural College beagles back in 1983-1985.
We left the meet with all of us seated in a four wheel drive driven by John Ibbott. We saw the hunt drawing across a field and the first field we were taken into was full of hares. Once again Lord Burns was the first of our team to see the fleeing quarry as he exclaimed that he could see the hunted hare. Quickly we piled out of our vehicle and into the field. The hounds came by in full cry, dashed across the field, swinging to the left and right and in no time at all we saw them clustered around what I took to be the kill. This seemed strange as it occurred so quickly.
The strangeness was emphasised by the absence of the usual horn blowing from the Huntsman to celebrate the kill. Furthermore he urged his hounds on. I viewed this as a sign that the hounds had killed not a hare but a myxomatosis rabbit. In the later stages of their disease such poor creatures hobbling about blind in the middle of the fields are temptations that few hounds can ignore. On several occasions when monitoring the nearby Dunston Harriers this season I have seen them kill just such rabbits. At first Simon Hart thought that they were scavenging long dead material but then later agreed with me that it was probably "a bunny".
The Inquiry team then spent a fair bit of time observing the hunt operating in and around this field. Hares and hounds seemed to be running in all directions and it was soon clear that mercifully the scent was not too good.
On one occasion whilst I was in the company of Professor Winter and Brian Caffarey we watched as Lord Burns and Simon Hart walked ahead of us into the middle of the field. Simon then beckoned us over silently and on approaching it was clear that the object of interest was a hare squatting down on her form just in front of them. I filmed as we approached. When we were near Simon strode forward to put her up and she ran off in safety. Lord Burns marvelled at how she had held her nerve by sitting so tight.
I was pleased that Lord Burns was beginning to sympathise with the hare. On two occasions I heard him expressing regret that he must be some kind of bad omen for the species as on both occasions when he had joined the slipper in the shy at a coursing meeting the hare had been killed. He said that if, as the coursers claimed, the average was for one hare to be killed out of every ten coursed then for him to see two out of two killed when he was in the shy was singularly unlucky.
A man who was perhaps the greatest expert on the pastime of hunting hares, Captain J. Otho Paget, would have warned him of the threat posed to his enjoyment of hare hunting by sympathising with the hare. In his book he cautioned:-
"In hunting, whether it be of fox or hare, every follower should identify himself with hounds aims and give his entire sympathy to them. If he allows himself to sympathise with the hare, his pleasure in the chase will be neutralised and he might as well go home at once." (The Art Of Beagling. Captain J. Otho Paget. Pub. H.F. & G. Witherby. 1931. Page 217)
On another occasion I was with Professor Winter and we were both stood behind Lord Burns who was with a cluster of supporters, including two young children, all watching the hunt in the distance. On hearing and seeing the dogs running one very young girl started chanting "Chase the hare! Chase the hare!" Professor Winter has two young children and I have three young children. We looked at each other and he said: "Well, at least it wasnt Kill the hare! Kill the hare!" A few moments later the girl in question expressed words to the effect that she hoped that they would kill the hare. Professor Winter and I again exchanged looks, this time of real sadness.
We were driven on and followed the hunt as they moved from location to location. At one point some chap came out to order us off his land. This caused some consternation to the Inquiry team but then John Ibbott came along and explained that we were there hunting with the permission of some Colonel whose name I did not catch. This clearly satisfied the chap as he allowed us on.
From the garden of this cottage we could hear the hounds in full cry followed by some irate shouting. I expressed the view that some person or some hound was misbehaving in some way. That the culprit had four legs rather than two was made clear when I saw a couple of deer coming away from the wood near the sounds of the hounds. The deer quickly disappeared behind some scrub and my opinion that the hounds were rioting was dismissed by the hunters standing near us. It might have remained that way but for the fact that the quarry came back into view, a fine pair of deer with a large number of hounds in full cry after them! The whole Inquiry team present that day saw this spectacle.
It must have really made his day for the Huntsman to look across the fields and see us all watching him as he struggled to retain control of his charges. Oblivious to his shouts the hounds chased the deer around the corner to our right and then appeared to scatter in all directions. Some possibly continued to chase these deer. Others appeared to run in every direction after the numerous hares that were running about. I was with Lord Burns and John Ibbott as we counted 5½ couple (one hound less than half the pack) chasing one hare but they lost her. Simon Hart who had been some way away from us told us that he had seen Fallow deer. John Ibbott identified the deer that his hounds had rioted after as Red Deer. Whatever, there certainly were deer about and these hounds were nowhere near as steady to their presence as their counterparts at the Thurlow Foxhounds had been two days previous.
It was made clear that the Inquiry team needed to catch the 3.17p.m. train from Diss in order for Lord Burns to make a speech at a meeting attended by Ken Clarke (with whom he told us he had been around the world twice). Accordingly, at about 2.20p.m. we left the hunt and returned to the meet. The hunt continued in our absence.
Lord Burns and Brian Caffarey were horrified to discover that the car in which John Ibbott had collected them from the station was not parked where they had left it at the meet but instead was being driven by Mrs Ibbott, who was it appears following the hunt. Their horror came from the fact that Lord Burns and Brian Caffarey had left a lot of their possessions, including papers in this car!
To locate his partner John Ibbott made frantic calls on a mobile phone borrowed from one of the Inquiry team. He then drove off at high speed to retrieve his car. All the boundless efforts made by the hunting fraternity the length and breadth of Britain to ingratiate themselves with this Inquiry team looked like going pear-shaped in this instant.
I waited as the Inquiry team kicked their heels in frustration in the farm courtyard, anxiously checking their watches. It was clear that they viewed this incident as fully conforming to much of what else they had seen this day.
In due course the missing car was found and then we split up. Professor Winter accompanied myself whilst Lord Burns and Brian Caffarey went with John Ibbott. We returned the team to Diss station which they reached in time for their train. On our departure we had to pull to one side of the road to allow the Huntsman and the hunt to pass. I called out to the Huntsman to query the nature of the first kill and he confirmed to me that it had indeed been a myxomatosis rabbit.
Whilst we were all with the hunt they did not kill a hare to our knowledge.
Points of note:-
I raised the question of what possible harm could be caused in the areas by hares. John Ibbott spoke about people nearby who were trying to grow oak trees not liking hares at all. Apart from that I heard nothing at all about hares being harmful. We have planted many fruit trees on our land and are well practised at providing the young trees with protection not just from hares but from rabbits as well. To discard such protection measures and rely instead on the local harrier pack to reduce the hare population would be, frankly, ludicrous.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the likes of the Waveney Harriers hunt hares for the sheer fun of doing so. It is not a pest control measure nor a hare preservation measure. It is first and foremost for the thrill and unpredictability of following the pursuit of a live quarry with hounds.
These hounds are entered to hunt the scent of both hare and fox. This confirms the adaptable nature of such hunting dogs and reinforces the opinion that there would be no insurmountable problems associated with converting hounds from hunting the live quarry to the humane alternative.
Inquiry team : Lord Burns (Brian Caffarey)
CPHA observer : Graham Sirl
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
This was an extra meet requested by Lord Burns as the hunt operates in the vicinity of his home. The meet was at 11.00a.m. In total there were 12 riders following and about 15 cars. The hunt and the supporters were in communication using CB radios.
The hunt found a fox and hunted it and then Simon Hart confirmed that the pack split. One portion of the pack marked their fox to ground on the side of a high escarpment. Brian Caffarey and Simon Hart went to see the dig whilst Lord Burns stayed with Graham Sirl.
About 45 minutes after the fox was marked to ground he was shot and the body shown to Brian Caffarey and Simon Hart. Brian Caffarey later told Lord Burns that the fox was in very poor condition with signs of mange. The terriermen buried the carcase in the earth. The fox had been marked to ground in an earth in some very rocky hard ground and it was reported that the terriermen had considerable difficulty digging around some of the boulders.
At no time was the landowner for the site where the fox was marked to ground identified nor were his views canvassed as to whether the fox should or should not be killed. It may be that the hunt already knew his or her views on this but if so they never made the fact known to the Inquiry team.
Further, no reason was put forward as to why this fox needed to be killed. No accusations of local fox damage attributable to it were made nor was it claimed that they knew it to be injured, in poor condition or mangy before it was killed.
The reason given to Brian Caffarey for burying the fox rather than taking it to show Lord Burns (the body was not heavy and the distance not far) was that the fox was in such a poor state. The burial of the body was very convenient for the hunt as it denied anyone else the opportunity to examine it closely at the time to see if it bore any injuries that may have resulted from any fighting below ground with the terriers. With the burial of the carcass potentially valuable evidence was lost to the Inquiry team. As far as Graham was aware the sex of the fox was not identified nor was any estimate made as to its age.
Regarding the potential threat to local agricultural activity by this fox there were fields of sheep around but clearly there were other threats to the well-being of these sheep besides the fox. Whilst Graham Sirl stood with Lord Burns waiting for the duration of the dig-out the body of a dead sheep lay nearby.
It was notable that with the fox marked to ground the hunt, with the hounds, did not linger to give the hounds the opportunity to eat the carcass of the dead fox. Instead they were taken on around the mountain to hunt elsewhere.
There was another hunt that was witnessed by the Inquiry team but that fox was lost. The time was about 3.30p.m. and Lords Burns said that he had seen enough for the day so the Inquiry team packed up. The hunt continued.
Points of note:-
This hunt operates in an area of country where it would be excellent to stage a drag hunt. According to Bailys Hunting Directory the Brecon & Talybont hunt country : "lies between the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons and Eppynt Hills, and is mainly permanent pasture and woodlands with large areas of open common." Given the open common land and the topography there are excellent view points to watch hounds work puzzling out a humane scent laid to simulate a fox hunt.
Inquiry team : Professor Winter, Dr Edwards, (Mark Sanderson)
CPHA observer : Mike Huskisson
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
The Plas Machynlleth was originally a pack of Foxhounds that was officially recognised by the Masters of Foxhounds Association. It was last listed in Bailys Hunting Directory in the 1971-72 issue. At that time the hunt had 12 couple of hounds and was described in the following terms: "This pack is owned by the farmers and run by them to keep down the foxes. Hunting is practically confined to foot." The same entry showed that the earliest Master was Lord Henry Vane-Tempest who was Master from 1894-1905.
The rendezvous for the Inquiry team was the cross in Machynnlleth at 9.00a.m. From there we drove in convoy to a point to the east near to the meet where we left our cars. We were then divided up into transport provided by the hunt. Unlike on previous visits there was no single large vehicle provided to accommodate all the Inquiry team. As a result I ended up in a car with Mark Sanderson, Simon Hart and his colleague from the Countryside Alliance, Adrian Simpson. Professor Winter was in another hunt vehicle and Dr Edwards in another. This had the effect of ensuring that I heard nothing of what was said to Professor Winter or Dr Edwards when they were being driven by the hunt followers. It was a small but irritating flaw in the set-up of the observation system for these visits.
When I broached the matter later with Mark Sanderson he told me that as always they did ask for a large vehicle to be provided to accommodate all the team but the hunt were simply unable to comply. Whether the inability of a small hunt to comply with such a request should have been allowed to compromise the effectiveness of the planned team observation effort is debatable.
We reached the meet which was at 10.00a.m. up some track in nearby forestry. Numerous men with shotguns were gathered there. In due course the hounds were driven up in a van. The Huntsman, Ken Markham, who is employed full time by the hunt told us that he had 17 hounds out that morning.
The Inquiry team were assured that every single farmer within the operating area of the hunt supported the hunt. The hunt meets on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. But this was a Monday! When I queried this I was told that this day had been especially arranged for the Inquiry team visit. Whether it was a planned meet brought forward or a new meet arranged was never revealed.
It was clear that not all the people who were out hunting that day had attended the meet. We were told that some had already gone ahead to the high points, presumably to the strategic places. I asked them how many guns were out and the number 20 was offered. They were keen to stress that all involved that day were full time farmers.
It was clear that these people knew a lot about their local fox population. They knew where the earths were and the runs that the foxes would take. This arose when it came to discussing the positional placing of the guns. We were told of the foxes:-
"Its surprising how they will stick to paths.........they tend to run the same ways every time......so these boys know more or less where to go you know and they will stick there...."
"Foxes will mainly run the same paths, like we use the road they use certain paths."
The hounds are put into the forestry to seek out and hunt their quarry in the usual way. I made a point of asking if the hounds ever killed the foxes themselves and I and the Inquiry team were assured that they could, and did. The hunt also operated with a pair of terriers on a couple. We were told that these were to use if the fox went to ground. I asked if the terriers would kill the fox below ground but was told that that was not the idea. Rather, the aim was to bolt the foxes to the guns or dig to them and kill them.
It was a sunny morning, fairly warm in the sheltered hollows for late February. However there was snow on the higher ground and a biting wind was blasting over exposed areas. I expected to see slaughter.
With little of the usual meet ceremony the huntsman set off on foot with his hounds and we drove off in a convoy of hunt vehicles, mainly of four wheel drives, most of recent vintage. We had a good view of the tracts of forestry interspersed with tracks with hunt vehicles dotted at strategic sites. Figures dotted the high snow-covered skyline in a scene reminiscent of the film Zulu. That this was a more modern conflict was evidenced by the crackle of radios as the hunters exchanged information.
One of the Inquiry team asked about the nature of the cartridges in use that day. One of the hunt officials, I believe his name was Emyr Lewis, brought out and cut open a BB cartridge to show us all the size of pellets being used. A cartridge used for pheasant shooting was produced and cut open for comparison.
There was little sound of any activity on the first draw and in due course we were driven to a really high position amid the snow with a bitter freezing wind blasting over us. In the distance we could see one of the guns taking up a position of concealment in the snow. Other guns had equally cold positions dotted along the tracks in the forestry.
We lingered a while and then were driven up and down a snow covered track with individuals touting shotguns dotted along its length. One of our guides from the hunt would periodically stop to ask these individuals for information. His questions and their answers were often conducted in Welsh so I at least had no idea what was said.
We could hear the hounds giving cry as they ran but they appeared to have split. The Huntsman hardly ever blew his horn. The supporters who were in touch with radios appeared to know what was going on. No-one in our car had a radio with which to link in so it was all much of a mystery to us.
In time at one of the pauses we were told by Emyr Lewis that they had two foxes running. We then heard a couple of shots close together followed by a third shot some time later. We were driven down the track to the scene of this action. There was a pool of blood on the snow and a dead fox lying nearby. None of the Inquiry team had seen this fox shot.
Dr Edwards asked who had shot the fox. She then asked the chap who claimed responsibility to explain the circumstances. He said that when he had shot the fox it had gone down and he had given it a second shot to finish it off. We were guided to the site to see the fox. She was identified as a vixen and we were told that she was about two years old. It appeared that prior to death she was healthy and was carrying no old injuries. This had all happened at the opposite end of the forestry to where the chap was entrenched in his snow hole waiting to take a shot.
We were then taken away up a nearby track to look for the hunt. I lingered to exchange some tapes and then noticed in a field of sheep to my left the remains of some long dead sheep. It is often claimed that such casualties are left where they die because of the problems with removing them from the high fells. But these sheep were just a short throw from the farm track.
I recalled that earlier one of the hunters had informed us that within the local area in the last ten years the sheep population had doubled. Certainly on the drive to and from the venue the countryside had seemed to be full of sheep. Inevitably there will be casualties, for a variety of reasons. If they are simply left to rot in the fields where they lay is it any wonder that there are foxes about?
At the start of day Dr Edwards had expressed the hope that we could be away at about 3.00p.m. To this Emyr Lewis had responded that the hunt would usually finish at any time between 3.00p.m. and 7.00p.m. Perhaps mindful of Dr Edwards request at about 2.15p.m. we were led back to where the supporters had gathered by their vehicles, by the site where we had been shown the body of the first fox killed. Now there was the body of a second fox laid stretched out on the ground, on display. It was a young dog fox and it was a source of some considerable comment that he had a particularly resplendent brush.
We left the area at about 2.30p.m. and were driven back to collect our cars. The hunt continued in our absence. We then drove in convoy to the home of Emyr Lewis. He and his family made us very welcome and served a splendid tea in their splendid home in a splendid location. The walls were adorned with photographs including some of Emyr Lewis in the company of Prince Charles. This was the social side of hunting very much to the fore. I wondered how the chap was getting on in his snow hole.
Just before we left Emyr Lewis gave us all a package of information concerning the hunt. This made very interesting reading.
There was a list of hunt meets for the 1999/2000 season together with their tally of foxes killed at each meet. These revealed that in the 66 meets up to but not including that date they had killed 131 foxes. The most they had killed after any meet was 10 foxes. Conversely after 11 of the meets they had killed no foxes at all!
I thought of that fella who had sat in his snow hole for seemingly hours without having a shot. I wondered whether he was used to it.
At our meet we were told that there were 20 guns out and we were assured that on Saturdays there would be many more guns out. Even if there were just 20 averaged over the 66 meets that would amount to 1,320 man days. With a tally of 131 foxes it means that on average it takes just more than 10 man days to kill each fox. That is ten full farming days work for each fox killed and that only accounts for the guns. It includes no figure for the operation of the hunt itself, the hounds etc. Nor is there any cost allowance for the attendance of those who drive the guns or who simply follow.
It would perhaps be not unreasonable to estimate that the total cost to kill each fox is of the order of £1,000.
These economic factors are highly relevant when discussing gunpacks. Relevant for several reasons. The costs have to be set against the alternatives. Most lambs that are lost are lost to hypothermia or to poor nutrition. Their bodies are then scavenged by foxes. The £1000 freely spent year after year killing each fox might be better employed on providing remedies for hypothermia or for poor nutrition. Money spent on alleviating hypothermia, if invested in hardware, would be largely reusable from year to year. The ten full farming days devoted to killing each fox could, if directed elsewhere, go a long way to reducing the real threat to lambs.
Before any thought is given to the alternative means of killing foxes in the absence of hounds thought needs to be given to some cost-benefit analysis over the presence of foxes to start with. What about the benefits of foxes through predation on rabbits and the removal of carrion?
If after all that there is still a determination to kill foxes then several pertinent facts emerged from our day with this gunpack. Firstly there were no allegations of foxes causing damage within the forestry. Secondly the farmers knew the runs that the foxes would take when coming out of the forestry. That was abundantly clear both by what they said and by where they placed their guns. It would appear well within the scope of any competent professional to deal with any foxes coming out of the forestry in the usual manner that is employed for fox control throughout much of the UK.
My overall feeling from the day is that whatever such packs may say about their hunt being a matter of necessity rather than of sport they are glad that the foxes are there. They enjoyed their day, they never talk of wiping out the foxes and one feels that if there were no foxes in that part of Wales they would introduce them. This age old ambivalence between the hunter and his quarry whereby the threat is played up in order to justify the cruelty of the kill yet at the same time the quarry is nurtured and cared for for the sport he provides appears even in this remote area of west Wales. Within the information package provided by this hunt for the Inquiry team was a cutting from The Western Mail November 25th 1997. A piece largely supportive of the Plas Machynlleth includes the following statement:-
"It makes more sense for farmers to kill vixens when they are still carrying their young but, surprisingly, they leave them to give birth and allow the cubs to grow to an age where they start to become a nuisance to farmers like Will Lloyd."
(Will Lloyd was a local farmer who it is said had no fewer than 12 ducks stolen by a fox cub (sic). The Plas Machynnlleth foxhounds were called in together with about 15 guns but after a half hour search of the woodland where they judged the culprit to be they found nothing and gave up. True, they went on to kill two foxes elsewhere that day but there was no claim that either was responsible for the duck killing outrage.)
The comment from the reporter, Duncan Higgitt, is pertinent though. By their actions whatever else the hunters may have in their minds regarding the control of foxes it is clear that first and foremost is the need for the fun gained in that means of control.
Finally the statement from Emyr Lewis, copies of which were passed to the Inquiry team at this meet included the following comment under the section "Social and Cultural life of the countryside" and I include it exactly as printed:-
"Farmers on hill farms spend a tremendous proportion of their lives working in solitude. The state of agriculture during the last few years has added a considerable strain on every farmer. Mid Wales has, in recent years, caused alarm among experts who have discovered its high farming suicide rate and attributed it, among other reasons, to a lack of opportunity to meet with other people.
A day out hunting gives a farmer a break from the day to day solitude and the enjoyment of meeting and talking to other farmers is an absolute lifeline for many a depressed farmers."
Whether our wildlife should pay the price for alleviating farmers depression in such circumstances is debatable to say the least. In any case does sitting alone in a snow hole all day without having sight of a fox really alleviate depression?
The whole question of sheep farming in upland areas has been the cause of considerable debate. Graham Harvey in his book The Killing of the Countryside (1997) had much of relevance to say including the following:-
"Chapter 6 : The View From The Hills
Up here the damage is done by livestock subsidies; headage payments on the animals that browse the fellside grazings and mountain sheep-walks. The government and the EU put a price on the back of every ewe and suckler cow grazing what they prosaically call the less favoured areas. Not surprisingly the upland farmers stock their pastures with as many sheep and cattle as they can get away with. Whatever may be happening in the meat market they are guaranteed an income just for owning ruminant animals and running them on the hillside.
The result has been a livestock population explosion throughout the wild uplands of Britain. Everywhere cattle and, more particularly, sheep munch their way across remote heather moors and high mountain heathland.......
Subsidised sheep have steadily stripped the living mantle from the hills and hillsides of upland Wales, leaving a barren, lifeless desert..............
The curlew, a ground-nesting bird once common throughout Wales, is now reduced to just six pairs in the Preseli Mountains, with fewer than 20 pairs in the entire county of Gwent........
The diversity of life that once clothed these solitary hills has been replaced with the gaudy bright green of a closely cropped grass monoculture, with all the natural life of a snooker table baize.......
Even the wooded areas are dying. The sacred ovine, which now dominates this once-wild countryside, grazes the woodland floor so tightly that regeneration is impossible............Woodland ecosystems, like heather moorlands and the flower-rich meadows of the hillside, are victims of the killer sheep and of the even more deadly SAPS, the Sheep Annual Premium Scheme.........
This needless destruction of fragile upland ecosystems goes far beyond Wales. Throughout Britains remote and beautiful hill areas heather moorland is under constant assault from subsidised sheep.........Headage payments on sheep and cattle were worth £655 million to UK hill farmers in 1996. As a result the sheep population in the UK is fast catching up with the human population. Between 1981 and 1993 it rose by 37 per cent to reach nearly 44 million.........
A new study has examined the impact of subsidised sheep-keeping on a typical farm of the central Lake District, an area of poor grazing, extreme weather and considerable tourist appeal. The flock of Herdwick sheep is likely to be the farms most important enterprise. But while the Herdwick is well adapted to the harsh climate, its productivity is low. Only two lambs are weaned for every three ewes put to the ram, while a fourth, shearling ewe must be kept as a replacement. Thus the crop from every four adult ewes amounts to just two lambs reared.
Assuming equal numbers of males and females, the female gimmer is retained as a future replacement ewe while the wether lamb is sold to the store trade or onto the European market. The sale value of this lamb is £25, but it will have cost taxpayers £130 in sheep annual premium and HCLA payments. For the typical Lakeland flock of 1,000 ewes, the charge to the public purse adds up to £30,000 for producing a crop of just 250 lambs plus a few old draft ewes of little value.
Under the subsidy system the Lakeland farmers are paid for each breeding ewe they run on the fellside, no matter what its performance. There is no incentive to farm efficiently. So it is hardly surprising that they appear more concerned with flock size than with the number of lambs they sell each year. Most are in business to farm the subsidies, using the profits to expand their holdings, drive up land values and increase their eligibility for even more public support. In the process they destroy the very landscapes that subsidies are claimed to protect..........
However hard done by hill farmers may feel, they are entirely dependent on the taxpayer for their very existence. The UK taxpayers contribution to hill farmers incomes works out at around 140 per cent, a far higher proportion than the cost of set-aside and other payments to lowland farmers. In some parts of the country the level of hill farm support may be even higher. In a speech to European agricultural economists, Scottish Farm Minister Lord Lindsay reported that in Scotland aggregate farm income amounted to £612 million in 1995, of which no less than £400 million came as direct subsidy from the taxpayer. On the specialist Scottish sheep farms direct subsidies represented more than 200 per cent of income.
Every mountain ewe that munches its way across a heather-rich moorland represents not a public asset but a national liability. Livestock farming in the uplands makes no contribution to the UK economy. Indeed it acts as a drain on GNP..........
Farm support has been terminally damaging to the traditional hill farm. In encouraging the process of industrialisation in lowland agriculture - a process which led inexorably to the beef and butter mountains of the late 1970s and 80s - it destroyed the hill farmers chief outlets. As markets became awash with the products of intensive lowland farms, the more natural beef and lamb from the hills was made uncompetitive. Increasingly, hill farmers came to rely on their own subsidies, skewed though these were towards the easier land and the bigger producers. The traditional hill farmer found himself trapped between the big industrial-scale producer on the lowland and his neighbour lower down the hillside who was busy re-seeding old pastures and pushing up stock numbers.
Hill-farming subsidies made sustainable agriculture impossible. They squeezed out tens of thousands of small traditional farms and forced many more on to the same treadmill of intensification that had so damaged lowland Britain..........
Most of the sheep and cattle currently grazing hill pastures should be down on the lowlands, bringing fertility back to worked-out arable soils. Instead they make deserts of the high moors. The original justification for hill livestock subsidies was to compensate for the natural disadvantages of farming in an upland environment. One might equally well argue that Scottish fruit growers should be compensated for having less sunshine than the Isle of Wight."
Inquiry team : Lord Burns, Lord Soulsby, Professor Marsh, (Brian Caffarey)
CPHA observer : Graham Sirl
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
This is a pack of foxhounds listed in Bailys Hunting Directory and registered with the Masters of Foxhounds Association. The Bailys reference for this hunt includes the following:-
"The country lies in Powys and into Dyfed, and is approximately 20 miles long by 10 miles broad.........
The Hunt in its present form dates from 1909 when a Committee was formed and hounds of the old Welsh rough breed were obtained from Glamorganshire. The trencher-fed pack is maintained chiefly by subscription from farmers in the neighbourhood who are all keen sportsmen, and the foxes are stout, good runners, and take a lot of killing."
The rendezvous was at Port Talbot station at 9.30a.m. The Inquiry team were then taken in hunt transport to the meet between Myffai and Twynllanan where there were about 35-40 people together with 12½ couple of the hounds. Professor Marsh noted the poor condition of the hounds.
The Inquiry team spent about 15 minutes talking to the hunt officials before the hunt moved off in thick fog at around 11.30a.m. There were about 30 guns out.
The first draw was in dense conifer woodland. The combination of dense fog in places, 30 guns and public access to the woodlands caused Graham Sirl some concern. The Inquiry team moved in time to see the pack emerge from this woodland and head for another enclosure. As no shots had been fired it is assumed that the hounds had drawn the first woodland blank.
Lunch was taken and hounds were heard running on a line followed soon after by the sound of shots. Whether this was from guns out with the hunt or from a neighbouring army firing range was hard to say. The hounds moved on and the Inquiry team followed.
The hounds were put into a third conifer woodland. The Inquiry team heard at least two shots and were then taken around the track to find their first dead fox of the day. This was a dog fox about 3 years old. He had been shot cleanly through the chest and front leg at reasonably close range.
There were further holloas from hunt supporters and shots and the Inquiry team were taken further into the enclosure to find their second dead fox. This was identified as a very young vixen, not in cub or lactating, that had also been killed cleanly.
The Inquiry team were then told that the total tally so far, in 2½ hours hunting, had been 4 foxes shot and one killed by the hounds. Of the five dead they had been shown 2 carcasses.
After examining the body of the second fox shown to them the Inquiry team left at 2.30p.m. to go home. The hunt continued.
The Inquiry team had been told that the hunt used terriers to deal with any foxes that went to ground and that foxes injured by the guns were followed up by the hounds. It was the third visit this season by this hunt to these particular woods. The total tally of foxes killed during the 1999/2000 season to date was 146. The most foxes killed in one day was 14.
Inquiry team : Lord Burns, Professor Winter, Dr Edwards, (Brian Caffarey)
CPHA observer : Graham Sirl
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
The Inquiry team stayed in a nearby hotel the night before the meet. After dinner there was a discussion between the Inquiry team and officials from the hunt, with Graham Sirl present. Several facts about the organisation of this hunt came to light.
Roger Westmorland, a Master of the Hunt, stated that their hounds are returned to their puppy walkers during the summer months and that after six or seven seasons the majority of hounds are retired to the same puppy walkers to live out their lives as normal pet dogs. The closeness of hunter to hound at this pack dates back to its formation as according to Bailys Hunting Directory the pack was set up in 1825 "as a trencher fed pack to run fox, marten and hare."
It now costs £25,000 a year to run the hunt. Only £3,000 of this is raised by subscription.
To date this season the hunt has killed around 70 foxes. The Inquiry team were told that the number of kills had gone up and that all the other Fell packs were experiencing a similar increase. One quarter of the kills resulted from dig-outs.
The meet in the morning was held at a farm about ten minutes from the hotel. The Inquiry team arrived at the meet to be greeted by senior members of the hunt and a television crew from the BBC programme Country File.
The meet was a coffee morning event. Following this the hunt set off at around 10.00a.m. Professor Winter went off in the company of the Coniston Huntsman and Graham Sirl saw no more of him that day. He subsequently used his mobile phone to call Lord Burns at around 12.30p.m. to tell him that he was on top of a hill somewhere near the meet. It appears that he lost touch with the hunt though he may well have been observing what took place from the top of the Fells.
After the meet the Inquiry team went round the back of the farm from where they were able to observe the hounds drawing across the bottom of the Fell. Graham Sirl there met Barrie Wade from the National Working Terrier Federation. After some time the hounds progressed over the top of the Fell and out of sight.
The Inquiry team moved along the main road to take up another position opposite Holm Fell. They soon heard the hounds giving cry as they hunted a line. The hounds appeared and then disappeared over the top of the Fell, moving away from their official observers. The Inquiry team followed, on National Trust land.
After some time the Inquiry team ended up in a disused quarry in time to see the hounds running on a scent some distance away. The pack had split and small numbers of hounds were hunting independently across the valley bottom.
There were then a number of television interviews with Country File trying to follow both Lord Burns and the hounds. After some time the Huntsman appeared with the complete Coniston pack and Lord Burns stopped him to do a further television interview. This filming of interviews appeared to take a high priority.
After drawing again along the side of the Fell, in full view of the cameras, the hounds disappeared from sight and the Committee decided to call it a day. The time was 1.00p.m. The hunt continued. With the exception of Professor Winter, whose whereabouts was unknown, the remainder of the Inquiry team saw nothing further of the Coniston hunt in action that day.
As far as Graham Sirl was aware nothing was killed that day. Bad scent, was the reason given for this.
Graham was told that the hunt pay a licence fee to the Forestry Commission for their permission to hunt.
Inquiry team : Lord Burns, Professor Marsh, Professor Winter, Dr Edwards, (Brian Caffarey)
CPHA observer : Graham Sirl
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
It had been suggested by the CPHA that the Inquiry team should visit one of the "big" hunts such as the Duke of Beauforts or the Quorn. The choice of which hunt and date and venue was made by the Inquiry team and the Countryside Alliance.
The Duke of Beauforts Foxhounds operate over 760 square miles of country. The rendezvous for the Inquiry team visit was the hunt kennels in the grounds at Badminton at 10.00a.m. Graham Sirl arrived to find that a television crew from the BBC programme Country File were already there. A reporter from the Times newspaper had also made arrangements with the Inquiry team to attend but in the event did not turn up.
Numerous representatives from the hunt were present including, Chairman Antony Brassey, Joint Master and Huntsman Captain Ian Farquhar, and Lord Mancroft. In the hearing of Professor Winter and Professor Marsh several facts were elicited concerning the hunt. They have killed 80 brace (160) of foxes to date. Of these 15% (12) were killed by digging out. They viewed the fox population as "rising" and said that mange was more noticeable this season.
When asked if they had artificial earths Lord Mancroft said yes, "hundreds" most of which were built by the late Duke of Beaufort. He said that some of these artificial earths were in coverts on the Badminton estate. He was saddened because some of the artificial earths had been vandalised and the foxes in them killed by gangs coming out of Swindon and Bristol. Presumably these are gangs of country sports fanatics using certainly terriers and perhaps lurchers as well.
Captain Farquhar took the Inquiry team on a guided tour of the hunt kennels and stables. As the hunt has an annual budget of £400,000 these were impressive to say the least. They were then driven to the meet by hunt supporters in two vehicles, Graham Sirl travelling with Professor Winter, Dr Edwards and Brian Caffarey. At the meet Professor Winter made a point of going straight over to chat with one of the riders, well known hunting author Professor Roger Scruton with whom he was clearly on friendly terms. [I have been asked by the Hunting Inquiry to point out that Professor Winter had never met Professor Scruton before that day. I am happy to make this clear.]
There were about 60 riders plus a further 80 foot followers at the meet. The hunt moved off at around 12.30p.m. There were hunt monitors from the CPHA in attendance. The first draw was in woodland adjacent to the meet. This was drawn blank. Soon afterwards Lord Burns left the scene.
There followed some hunting towards the Hawkesbury Monument after which when driving along a farm track the Inquiry team came upon the Beaufort hunt stewards. Most unusually they were well off the road watching the hunt rather than following the CPHA monitors which is their usual custom. They kept well away from the members of the Inquiry team to the point that even when they had received a new hunt location over their radios they made no attempt to advise either the Inquiry team directly or their guides from the hunt.
There was then further hunting in the direction of the meet and Hawkesbury with the CPHA monitors present. Hounds were put into a small covert below the road and Graham saw the fox leaving the covert and running across the grass field. Unfortunately some of the Inquiry team had left the vehicle and missed this. Some hunting followed and then Captain Farquhar returned with his hounds.
When he did so he stopped to tell the Inquiry team that they had just killed a mangy fox. He added that they had killed another mangy fox earlier in the day. Graham asked their driver, and guide from the hunt, what had happened to the carcasses and he was told that they would have been buried on site. Soon after this the remainder of the Inquiry team decided to leave. The time was around 3.30p.m.
The CPHA monitors continued to follow the hunt. They agree that there was a marked
change in attitude from the hunt and in particular its stewards once the Inquiry team had left.
In the early stages with the Inquiry team present the hunt merely resembled a hack around the countryside. The area hunted was of a less popular nature being off the hills.
With the Inquiry team out of the way the hunt reverted to its usual hunting practice. The hunt stewards became very intimidating with some of the CPHA monitors. The hunt moved across the A46 to their preferred hunting country and visited Park Wood where there is an artificial earth. The hunting tempo increased considerably with the hounds at one stage racing across the A46 before being returned to the better hunting country. The hunt continued to around 6.00p.m. which means that in some 5½ hours hunting that afternoon the Inquiry team saw just over half (3 hours).
Points of note:-
Within four miles of the meet CPHA monitors know of five artificial earths. In Beaufort hunt country as a whole CPHA monitors know of 12 artificial earths. Food has been found dumped by hunt supporters at three of these artificial earths. At two of these the food was left near the artificial earth. At the third site the food was found dumped elsewhere in the wood.
Given the claim of Lord Mancroft, there must be many more artificial earths that we do not know of. Graham Sirl had asked from the very start of the day for the Inquiry team to be shown artificial earths. Dr Edwards had already seen one of these on her earlier visit to the Thurlow foxhounds with Lord Soulsby so perhaps her not seeing one in Beaufort hunt country was not so important. But for Lord Burns, Professor Marsh and Professor Winter this was an excellent opportunity missed to see at first hand one of the most criticised aspects of hunting.
With the Inquiry team the hunt followers were very jovial, full of good humour and bonhomie to all. That is not always the case.
The following are extracts from a letter published by a local paper on February 29th 1996:-
"Last Thursday, February 22, the Beaufort Hunt cornered a fox in the small residents car park opposite the houses where I live. There, in full view of children on half term holiday, it was killed by the hounds and taken away in a Landrover.
After this disgusting act had taken place I went to the car park to get my car and saw a small rather bloody mass in one corner. On closer inspection this turned out to be four embryo fox cubs just a few inches in length which must have either been aborted or ripped out of the animal. I almost parcelled them up and sent them to the Duke of Beaufort but that would be taking me down to their level.
This sort of behaviour is not my only grievance as the hunt and followers seem to think that they are above the laws of the land and common decency. When my path along the Maud Heath Causeway is blocked by horseboxes and cars Ive been told by them that theyll park where they want and I must walk in the road!
One gentleman last Thursday got off his horse and relieved himself in our car park - I wonder how hed like it if I did that in his garden."
Inquiry team : Lord Burns, Lord Soulsby, Professor Marsh, Dr Edwards, (Brian Caffarey)
CPHA observer : Mike Huskisson
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
The rendezvous place for the Inquiry team was Guildford railway station at 11.45a.m. I arrived in good time and met Lord Soulsby who was waiting there having caught an earlier than expected train from Waterloo. Yet again it was a lovely sunny day.
I beckoned Lord Soulsby over and invited him to sit in the quietness of my car. It was an excellent opportunity to discuss with him his impressions to date.
In time I noticed Dr Edwards drive up and when I went over to greet her I saw that the rest of the Inquiry team had assembled in the car park. Lord Burns and Professor Marsh had driven. Brian Caffarey and Simon Hart had let the train take the strain.
We met some of the people from the hunt and then decided to drive in convoy to the nearby meet at Suffield Farm, Puttenham, at 12.30p.m. Lord Soulsby stayed with me and we continued our discussions.
At the meet we were still somewhat early. The hunt Kennelman, Bryan Robinson, was introduced to us and he showed the team the drag and the scent that they were intending to use. Bryan was quizzed by the Inquiry team about how the hunt operated.
"Now and again for a bit of a change well do one of the lines backwards."
Asked about the riders he revealed:-
"Some of them go foxhunting. Some of them dont."
And about the hounds:-
"We use foxhounds.........we get given them by packs of hounds who um find that they either dont hunt foxes, or they are not quick enough, or they are too quick, or they misbehave in any way."
He told us that he expected 30 or 40 riders out on the day.
There was then a question from Dr Edwards:-
Dr Edwards : "Its sometimes said that it is too fast in terms of offering an alternative. Is there any way you can slow it down?"
Bryan Robinson : "There are ways you could slow it down by the means that you said by putting checks in the line."
He added later:-
"We have childrens versions but its done at the same speed. All we have is smaller jumps."
Lord Soulsby then asked a question.
Lord Soulsby : "What would the proportion be of er foxhunters to draghunters today?"
Bryan Robinson : "Of everybody here today I would say that a good 95% have foxhunted at some point."
Lord Soulsby : "During the year or at any time in their life?"
Bryan Robinson : "In the last two or three years?"
Professor Marsh confirmed the close link between foxhunting and draghunting locally:-
Professor Marsh : "Is foxhunting available in this area readily?"
Bryan Robinson : "Yea. The Surrey Union were over the jumps that were going to jump today, yesterday."
Soon after this Bryan had to depart to take the runner, a young lad, to lay the drag and a senior lady from the hunt, introduced to us as Pat, took up the description of how it all worked.
She cleared up a lot of the uncertainties concerning the sport.
"Do remember you cant go any quicker than hounds can hunt."
"Ive actually hunted draghounds for twenty years. In all those years Ive had foxes cross over the track.....um..between the runner running and then hounds..I mean literally you know not far ahead of them and really hounds have been far less likely to follow a fox than they have a deer."
"Ive had foxes cross galloping in front of me and hounds have been...theyve just carried straight on."
She was asked about what type of hound could be used for draghunting and replied:-
"Any scenting hound theoretically could be used to go draghunting."
Soon after she added the following concerning the link between this hunt and the army:-
"An awful lot, funnily enough, of past Foxhound Masters have come through the draghunt in their time in the army...........B. Fanshawe for one.......Simon Clarke for another."
This was a reference to the Brian Fanshawe who had set up these visits for the Inquiry team!
It was very noticeable that Simon Hart at this visit was somewhat withdrawn. He usually took a leading role at such times, ensuring that the Inquiry team were well briefed as to what the hunt intended. This occasion he stayed more in the background.
The meet was in the grounds of the farm. There were seven couple of hounds out. All were foxhounds taken in as drafts from nearby fox hunts. After a few words from the Master to the assembled supporters we set off to follow. Once again there was not a suitable four wheel drive to take us all so we divided up. I joined Professor Marsh in a four wheel drive driven by Karen Robinson with their two boys as company in the back. I was fascinated to learn that her husband, Bryan, had been the terrierman at the Sinnington Foxhounds when our old friend Adrian Dangar was there. I made a mental note to discuss this later. We were told that three lines were to be laid and that this would be their last hunt for the season.
We were driven to a point in a nearby field from where we could see the hounds and mounted field arrive. The hunt then set off round the three sides of a square around us. It was a nice feeling to see a lot of people having fun and to know that no animals were being tormented.
The hounds ran well but they gave evidence of the warmth in the air as they appeared to be labouring somewhat as they slogged up the grass slope near us. There was plenty of interest from the assembled supporters as they watched the riders negotiating an awkward looking jump to exit the field.
We were then driven on to another point at a really nice house. On parking it was noticed that the front offside tyre on Pats car was almost flat. She, and the members of the Inquiry team with her, transferred to another vehicle and her car was left to be repaired later. It crossed my mind that if it had been the more common animal hunt with opponents to such cruelty out the latter would have been wrongly given the blame for that "sabotage".
We were taken to the end of the second line and were able to see the mounted field galloping up over a long expanse of grass and taking some jumps. Most of these jumps could be simply ridden around if preferred. Neither of these drag lines appeared to be long and I found this hard to reconcile with the often made claim, from those seeking to retain foxhunting, that draghunting requires much more space.
At some point we ended up on a narrow track through a wood where the hounds were being held at a check. This was the opportunity for everyone to get their breath back and for the new drag line to be laid. Lord Burns strode up to take some photographs. I did likewise but then encountered the very rare occurrence of a jam in one of my cameras, the normally ultra reliable Nikon F3. Whilst I endeavoured to resolve this the hunt passed me by and I was left behind the long trail of riders. My transport kindly waited but as a consequence I delayed them.
We were then driven to the end of the last line. We arrived in good time to observe the young runner appear out of the wood, trailing his drag. He ran up the field, circled and ended up where Pat was waiting with a large bucket of biscuits, the "kill" for these hounds, as she later called out.
I was intrigued to see if the hounds would follow the exact line. They came out of the wood in cry and duly did so. To add to the interest we could have suggested to the runner that he take a particular route and he might well have done so. Had it been an animal hunt the quarry would probably have taken one look at us all stood in the open field and stayed in the wood.
Wagging sterns gave proof of the hounds pleasure at gaining their reward. The mounted field then appeared and it was clear that they had all enjoyed a good ride.
Bryan Robinson came over to chat to me and I took the opportunity to discuss with him his days at the Sinnington Foxhounds. Apparently he worked for 18 months at the Sinnington Foxhounds as terrierman. Having seen a pair of cubs incarcerated in an artificial earth, with a tiny cage on one end, in a wood owned by the Sinnington Foxhounds I was keen to ask him about the treatment of foxes and in particular the movement of cubs in that part of the country. The following conversation took place between Bryan Robinson (BR) and myself (MH):-
BR : There was a policy in Yorkshire with the keepers, rather than shoot all the foxes, because theyve obviously got to look after their pheasants,
MH : Right.
BR : What they do is theyll find a litter of cubs, theyll know for example in that wood there is a litter of cubs
MH : Right.
BR : So theyll go out and shoot the vixen,...Oh! thats bloody horrible,....theyve shot the....howll the poor cubs...
MH : Right.
BR : Then theyll go there every day and feed the cubs, they leave chickens and stuff out for them...
MH : Oh right.
BR : Cos they then...they can control then whereabouts on their patch the foxes are...
MH : Right.
BR : Yea?
MH : Right.
BR : So its a way of ensuring that theres foxes there for the people to hunt when they go hunting but also a way for the keeper being able to dictate where on his patch the foxes are.
MH : Right.
BR : Yea. Do you follow what Im saying?
MH : Yea.
BR : So its common practice. Theyll shoot them, shoot the mother once the cubs are big enough to be sort of on on solid flesh...
MH : Right.
BR : Shoot the mother and they will then to all intents and purposes rear the cubs.
MH : Right.
BR : But all they actually do is go and feed them.
MH : Right.
BR : And they are then able to keep track of where the foxes are on their patch which at the end of the day every good keeper wants to know where his foxes are, doesnt he?
Bryan Robinson is an experienced gamekeeper, terrierman and Huntsman. His description, for the Inquiry team, portrays the reality of how foxes are treated for sporting purposes. It makes a mockery of any claim that foxes are hunted in their wild and natural state. The relationship between a vixen and her cubs is intimate and vital. The vixen teaches her offspring how to hunt and how to survive in the wild. If, in the interest of the sport of men and women, she is killed and the cubs fed from the moment they are weaned by man (and on chickens!) what is the exact measure of harm caused to those cubs? They will find it hard indeed to fend for themselves in the wild and until they fall victim to the "sport" for which they were spared will doubtless fulfil the jaundiced view of some by being the very threat to human farming interests for which their species is damned.
It is relevant that in the Gamekeeper & Sporting Dog section of Countrymans Weekly May 5th 2000 under the Looking Back section taken from The Gamekeeper, 1913 there was the following:-
"Mistake of hand rearing a litter of fox cubs
Every gamekeeper who has foxes to contend with naturally does his best to prevent damage to his game, some following one system and others another, but it has always been my practice to interfere with the litters as little as possible.
However, I have recently determined to be still more careful in that particular owing to what has lately occurred. I found that the vixen belonging to a litter of cubs on my ground had somehow been destroyed, and I had to feed the youngsters regularly at their earth, or they must have died.
My lad used to take them dead rabbits, rooks, and anything we could procure every evening, and so carefully did we see to their wants that all survived and a healthier lot of cubs could not be found.
Nevertheless, they repaid us badly, for I never met such bold foxes as these finally became. They stole fowls and pheasants under our very noses, and all the devices which generally are so successful as scares were in their case of not the slightest use.
They simply ignored them, and the appearance of a scare only served to inform the cubs that something was to be had near it.
This boldness I attributed to feeding them continually on food which had been handled, and they thus got accustomed to the scent of man and associated it with food. In fact, they welcomed it, and were constantly to be seen about our haunts and where an ordinary fox would not have dared to venture.
As long as one remained unkilled by hounds we were made conscious of its presence by irritating losses, and were rather pleased than otherwise to find out that they were the first to succumb to the pack.
Plainly, hand-reared cubs are worthless both from a hunting and shooting point of view, and I would sooner have three wild-bred litters than one hand-fed.
The risks associated with treating foxes in this wholly unnatural manner have been plainly advertised, for many years. According to Bryan Robinson, a man who clearly knows, they have been ignored in the quest for "sport".
After this enlightenment we were driven in convoy back to the meet and invited in for very pleasant drinks and nibbles. This was one of the few occasions where the Inquiry team had stayed out for as long as the hounds.
I volunteered to drive Lord Soulsby, Brian Caffarey, and Simon Hart back to Guildford station for them to catch an early train. We left at 3.00p.m. and they caught, I believe the 3.18p.m. train.
Points of note:-
The first matter to bear in mind concerning draghunting is that whilst it is fortuitous that it does indeed offer a ready made and easy alternative to live quarry hunting the campaign to end the cruelty of the latter is in no way dependent on the existence of an alternative. If Parliament in its wisdom decides that a cruel pastime should be abolished there is clearly no onus on anyone to offer an alternative outlet to those who formally delighted in that cruelty.
Whilst draghunting is often derided by those involved in foxhunting it is worthy of note that in Bryan Robinson we have a former hunt terrierman who has gone on to take up a professional position in a drag hunt. Talking of the Sinnington Foxhounds recent changes there confirm that staff turnover and redundancies are far from uncommon in hunting circles already. A local paper in Sinnington country, the Gazette & Herald reported the following in 1990:-
"Last week the Sinnington announced similar staffing changes. A new Master is moving to the hunt from the south of England and bringing his huntsmen with him and two long-serving employees have been made redundant".
Draghunting can take many forms as was shown by E.W. Martin in his book The Case Against Hunting published way back in 1959 when he quoted a "great authority on hunting, Lady Florence Dixie" as follows:-
"Drags can be run fast or slow, according to the way they are laid. My husband owned a pack of harriers and a pack of beagles, and I was able to get him often to hunt them on drags, and have often ridden with the harriers and run with the beagles. When a very fast, non-hunting run was wanted with the harriers, the drag was laid straight and continuously, and hounds ran fast, and riding was like a steeplechase, without a pause, except when any of us came a cropper! When a hunting run was required, we laid a catchy drag, twisting here and there, lifting the scent copying as near as possible the wily ways of Reynard. With the beagles we imitated a hare, who is a ringing, not straight-running, animal, lifting the scent, doubling back, and so on, and, in fact, we brought thus two competitors into the sport, i.e. the drag layer versus the huntsman, and pitted their wiles and their cunning against each other. I may be accepted as an authority, as few have perhaps ridden in harder-fought hunting runs than I - fox, stag, harrier, guanaco, ostrich, and suchlike - and I have had considerable experience with beagles as well, on foot."
Inquiry team : Lord Burns, Professor Marsh, (Mark Sanderson)
CPHA observer : Mike Huskisson
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
This hunt was visited at the request of the CPHA who took the view that it was about time that the Inquiry team met some of the local people who experience problems with hunting.
The rendezvous place for the Inquiry team was the railway station at Ingatestone at 10.00a.m. I arrived on time to find the car park full with vehicles left by commuters making their daily trek to London for work. I found Professor Marsh already there waiting in his trusty Volvo. It was another lovely sunny morning.
We waited and waited. Trains came and went but there was no sign of our colleagues expected from London. Professor Marsh turned on his mobile phone to find that there was a message waiting from Mark Sanderson informing him that the rest of our team had missed their scheduled train, were on a later one to Shenfield, and they would be driven on to meet us.
In due course they turned up in a Range Rover driven by a hunt supporter. It turned out that Simon Hart had inadvertently caused the delay. Under the belief that he could buy a ticket on the train, as is common in rural areas, he had tried to board it without a ticket, found that the barrier system at Liverpool Street prevented him and whilst he purchased his ticket they all missed the train.
We arrived at the meet at 10.50a.m. and parked in the crowded pub car park. It was astonishing to see how many of these hunt followers did not have to join the commuting rush to work. Lord Burns and the Inquiry team were then introduced to the usual succession of hunt supporters. The team were then squeezed into the packed pub and offered all manner of alcoholic beverage. They took only coffee.
When we first arrived I noticed my LACS colleague Lawrie Payne, on time off from his Fire Service profession, waiting with some people who I took to be those keen to talk to Lord Burns and his colleagues. In the pub I tipped Mark Sanderson off that there were some people outside who I was sure the Inquiry team would benefit from speaking to. In due course, and with no little difficulty, we were able to disengage Lord Burns from all the hunt followers who were keen to catch his ear and take him and Professor Marsh out to meet our side.
I left them to converse in comparative peace. Choosing instead to stand to one side chatting with Simon Hart about the shortly expected arrival of his first child and wishing he and his partner Abigail well. I took the opportunity to raise with him information that was being swapped around on the Internet containing allegations as to what I had said, or not said, to Lord Soulsby concerning the movement of hares for the Waterloo Cup. This Internet gossip appeared to source the information to a Countryside Alliance newsletter, and beyond that to himself as the original information source. As we had all agreed that we would publicise nothing about what we had seen heard or done at these visits until they were over this caused him some embarrassment. He denied ever telling anyone about what I said to Lord Soulsby and he was right as he had not been party to our conversation. He made an urgent call to his colleagues at Countryside Alliance Headquarters and then told me that in his opinion the source of their leak was a Press Officer who has now conveniently left their organisation. I am sure he was right but the incident and the hyperbole surrounding it highlights the difficulty we have had in ensuring that it is the facts about hunting with dogs that are passed to the Inquiry team.
To their undoubted chagrin the hunt had their meet with the hounds in the vicinity of the pub and departed whilst Lord Burns and Professor Marsh were engaged in discussions with local people who were far from happy with their behaviour. Some were from the local Badger Group there to report the difficulties they experience with sett blocking by hunt supporters. Another was from a local village there to talk about efforts made to keep the hunt out of her village.
I have sought information from the local Badger Group, the North East Essex Badger Group, about the problems with sett stopping that they encounter. Below are extracts from their report to me:-
"The sett at South Woodham Ferrers is located in the path of one of the Essex Farmers and Union hunt venues. The main sett is located within 30 metres of a hunt jump and is in a small thicket next to a pond. We refer to it as Radar Hill Sett A. An outlier sett about 300 metres away up the hill and currently two holes, is also close to a hunt jump and is referred to as Radar Hill B. We know of other outlier and subsidiary setts within a very close proximity to Radar Hill A and this is not typical of badger ecology. We have to surmise that they have created refuges in at least three areas, close to the main sett because of the constant disturbance from the activities of the hunt.
We have been involved with this sett for a number of years and in each hunt season we have had to unblock the sett some days after a hunt has gone through. The method of blocking is always the same except for two recorded occasions when straw was used."
I was told that three offences are commonly committed:-
a. The sett is blocked with material that is hard packed into the hole.
b. The perpetrator(s) seldom unblock the sett. The Badger Group has unblocked the sett anything up to a week following the hunt.
c. The material used to block is commonly not ejusdem generis with the material specified in the Badger Act.
I asked about events on the actual day of the Inquiry team visit and was sent the following response:-
"22-3-2000 the day of the Burns Inquiry visit. Setts at Radar Hill A found stopped but to our surprise some of the holes had been re-opened by badgers. Radar Hill B also found hard stopped. Police and RSPCA informed."
Undoubtedly the Inquiry team heard all about this but equally they saw little of the hard evidence. Lord Burns was in a rush to leave to return to London and did so shortly after the hounds set off to find their quarry.
On his departure we were in the hands of whatever Professor Marsh decided to do. At first it seemed that he was going to leave straight away also. Then that he would follow the hunt for a short while before leaving. The hunt were keen for him to do this and had the transport waiting. In the end one of the lady Joint Masters offered to buy us all a coffee to drink in the pleasantly laid out pub garden. Professor Marsh decided on that option and we joined him.
We had an amicable discussion, saw precisely zero of the hunt in progress, and left at about 12.15p.m. Professor Marsh gave Mark Sanderson and Simon Hart a lift back to the station. It was all eminently civilised but I felt that it was hardly what we were there to do.
Inquiry team : Professor Marsh, (Mark Sanderson)
CPHA observer : Graham Sirl
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
Graham Sirl travelled up the day before and stayed at the Horse & Farrier Inn. At a meeting the night before the meet attended by the Inquiry team, Graham Sirl, Simon Hart and hunt officials, the following facts were revealed:-
The hunt has 1000 subscribers and an annual budget of £30,000. On average they kill around 70 foxes a season. Thus their budget is rather more than £425 per fox killed out of the hunt budget alone! The considerable sum of money spent by the supporters in attending the meets should be added to this making the cost per fox killed very high indeed.
Contrary to what was said by the Coniston officials the Blencathra have experienced no increase in fox numbers this year. No mention was made of mange in foxes.
Curiously the hunting fraternity expressed the opinion that the foxes in their area were becoming more tame! They put this down to the increase in visitors to the Fells and the foxes becoming more used to seeing people.
In the morning the Inquiry team were introduced to Jim Bennett, a Joint Master of the hunt, and taken to the kennels where they met the Huntsman, Barry Todhunter. There followed a half hour guided tour of the kennels. Afterwards the Inquiry team were taken to the meet at the Swinside Inn, Newlands.
There was coffee and biscuits at the meet. Including the hunt staff there were about 60 people present including Masters from neighbouring packs. This high turnout was a source of some comment amongst the supporters themselves.
At the meet a farmer appeared carrying a plastic sack from which he pulled out a decapitated lamb. Graham Sirl heard this farmer tell Professor Marsh that the lamb had been killed by a fox the previous night. Graham asked the farmer whether the lamb had been dead or alive when it had been attacked by the fox. (No-one denies that the fox is a scavenger of carrion including dead lambs, what is disputed is the frequency with which foxes actually kill healthy lambs) In reply the farmer gave a lot of stuttering and stammering but no definite answer to this pertinent question.
The hunt moved off between 10.30 and 11.00a.m. to draw the woodland behind the hotel. The aim apparently was that they would return to draw in front of the hotel where the supporters were gathered. A lot of the supporters set off with Barry Todhunter.
Some time passed and then a supporter returned with the news, that caused some concern to the assembled Masters, that the fox and hounds had just gone through the village. The sound of horn and hounds was then heard in the valley behind the hotel.
Graham Sirl returned to the Hotel car park. The hounds, in the distance at first, came nearer and nearer. Soon there was an influx of supporters who were greatly excited at catching sight of the fleeing fox.
This fox was turned at the road and headed across the fields in front of the car park from left to right. It was fully obvious to any onlooker that the fox was totally exhausted. The hounds were well on the line of their victim and it seemed that the lead hounds were coursing him rather than hunting by scent.
The fox tried to head for the sanctuary of the woodland where he had originally been found but was headed by hunt supporters stood on the road. He performed a complete U-turn, back towards the hounds, and ran into the tail end of the pack. He was caught and killed by the hounds to the great excitement of the watching supporters. Even clapping was heard. Commenting on this later in the day Professor Marsh said that in his view he compared their reaction to that of the crowd when a goal is scored in a football match.
Commenting on the events Simon Hart said: "Text book hunt I would say." As for the clear and obvious exhausted condition of the quarry he said: "There must have been something wrong with the fox."
The Inquiry team then retired to the hotel for coffee as Professor Marsh was feeling the cold. Professor Marsh commented on the speed of the kill at the end. After about twenty minutes the hunt returned to the area of the hotel and then moved off to draw near the fell.
The Inquiry team left the hunt at about 12.00 noon and were driven back to Penrith by Simon Hart. The hunt continued in their absence.
On the train journey back to Preston Graham Sirl was able to discuss their impressions of the day with Professor Marsh. The latter revealed that the Blencathra Huntsman, Barry Todhunter, had claimed to him that the fox that they had seen killed had been the very same rogue fox that had attacked sheep the previous night. Professor Marsh appeared none too convinced over this claim.
Points to note:-
The Blencathra Foxhounds have in their hunting country the largest artificial earth that CPHA monitors know of. The existence of this was revealed by the following report of a meet of the Blencathra Foxhounds in Hounds magazine:-
"Barry drew again down Lansdale Fell, found, and hunted over to Mill Beck, marking to ground in "Porters Parlour".
Now I would have attempted the short climb to where they were digging, but a very interesting Mr John Gregg came and spoke to me and told me the history of "Porters Parlour". It is the largest man-made borran ever known, built about 30 years ago by Ronnie Porter. A maze of pipes and entrances exists..........The fox in Porters Parlour was accounted for, making a total of four foxes that day. On returning to the kennels, they were a terrier short, so went back to Porters Parlour, where a terrier was heard baying. It was then dug to, and the fifth fox of the day was added to the tally" (Article by The Gaffer, "Spring Hunting In the Cumbrian Fells" Hounds magazine. Vol. 10 No. 1. November 1993. Page 28.)
Inquiry team : Lord Soulsby
CPHA observer : None
Countryside Alliance observer : None
It was agreed that as this was essentially a repeat visit of that made the previous Friday neither the Countryside Alliance nor the CPHA would send an observer. The hunting fraternity of course still had plenty of people present to make their views known to Lord Soulsby.
As to what Lord Soulsby saw Hounds magazine (April 2000) includes the following report under the Fell Hunting News section:-
"On the following Tuesday, Lord Soulsby visited a meet at the Mary Mount Hotel, Borrowdale and was able to see terrier work and a fox bolted from a rocky boran before eventually being overtaken by hounds."
Inquiry team : Lord Burns, Dr Edwards, (Brian Caffarey and Mark Sanderson)
CPHA observer : Graham Sirl
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart until around 1.30p.m. and then Richard Walton from around 2.00p.m.
The day started at 6.00a.m. with a trip out to see the deer being harboured. In attendance for this were Lord Burns, Dr Edwards, Brian Caffarey, Mark Sanderson, Graham Sirl, Simon Hart, Tom Yandle and the harbourer for the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, Martin Lock. Tom Yandle explained that the latter is one of three, all paid by the hunt.
The Inquiry team were taken to Anstey Common to await the dawn. All were in one vehicle with Tom Yandle taking the role of chauffeur. It was extremely foggy and it was all but impossible to see across the valley. In the growing light about a dozen deer were picked out some 5 miles away across the valley but it was impossible to tell their age or even their sex.
Another group of deer were spotted near Anstey Gate amongst which was what appeared to be the quarry, a Spring stag. It was explained to the Inquiry team that the hunt were looking for a stag about 3, 4, or even 5 years old with antlers, Brow, Bay, Two a-top. Martin Lock explained that they could get closer due to the fact that the deer would be used to vehicles driving to the nearby farm.
When close enough for a clear view Martin Lock declared that there wasnt a suitable deer to hunt in the group. He explained that he was looking for a poor stag unsuitable for breeding. He said that he looked for antler formation and body condition.
The Inquiry team were then taken to West Molland Barton farm to see the farmer about a group of stags recently seen on his farm. They were driven into a coniferous plantation owned by the Molland Estate and shot over by the Holland & Holland shoot. There were feed bins and 6ft high pheasant enclosures everywhere prompting the aside from Tom Yandle that he didnt know how they could justify this shoot that releases over 60,000 birds.
A small group of hinds were seen but no stags. The Inquiry team then returned and met a farmer coming out from the field above the woodland. He informed Martin Lock that there had been a big group of deer there earlier that morning but that he had frightened them away when feeding.
The Inquiry team went back into the woods and took a higher track. They soon came upon the stags that were nearly all warrantable. The deer moved off and the Inquiry team moved back along the road. After a short journey they stopped and looked out across the fields to see 27 stags coming along the field about half a mile away. Amongst these stags was one with a broken antler. Martin Lock told the Inquiry team however that it was very unlikely that they would hunt one of these deer this day as there was a meet scheduled for the farm the following Tuesday. Tom Yandle confirmed that it was always left to the harbourer to decide which deer to hunt.
The Inquiry team left and returned to Dulverton at 9.00a.m. It was unclear at the time whether any of the deer they had seen would be the one they would be hunting. It turned out that the hunted deer was eventually selected from the bunch seen at West Molland Barton.
They reassembled at Dulverton at 10.30a.m. Professor Marsh had made the trip down and had been expected to take part in this visit but sadly owing to illness he remained in the hotel. The Inquiry team were taken to the meet and arrived to be greeted by the spectacle of the hunt assembled on one side of the road with the local Support Group of the League Against Cruel Sports on the other side of the road making clear their feelings for the deer. Once again a television crew from the BBC programme Country File were present and filmed Lord Burns as he left the Landrover. Adding to the media line up were reporters from the Western Morning News. The hunting fraternity had also arranged for people from their Horse & Hound and Shooting Times to be present.
Lord Burns and the Inquiry team then spoke to a number of representatives from both sides of the debate.
The hounds were gathered at the back of the boxes. Lord Burns moved over and spoke to Diana Scott, a Joint Master of this hunt. Graham Sirl noticed the harbourer from the morning, Martin Lock, talking to the Huntsman, Donald Summersgill.
Without any introductions or speeches the hounds were taken off, followed by the hound van. Graham Sirl quickly realised that they were moving some distance away to draw for the stag. The Inquiry team trailed behind in the hunt Landrover and were driven into a field to overlook West Molland Barton.
Graham Sirl deduced that the quarry for the day would be the stag with the broken antler that had been seen earlier that morning. For about half an hour the Inquiry team observed as the hounds pushed a bunch of stags around the three fields in their view. In time the hounds took off, moving towards East Anstey. The Inquiry team followed.
The following hunt report for the day in the local West Somerset Free Press details what occurred:-
"Fog cleared on cue, and tufters were taken to West Molland Laurels, where a one horned stag, with a fine herd of other stags, was harboured. After a circuit of Park Hill the right stag, with one other, came away over Higher Hill to Veyseys, and crossed into Kings Wood. Re-crossing the road to Veyseys on the right stag now, they ran back to West Molland Laurels, and across to Natty Cleave. Having worked up to their stag at the top end of Redlands, it was down to Natty Cleave once more, across to West Molland Wood, and, after a brief check with fresh stags, in through The Rookery and up Gatcombe. The hunted stag climbed up over the event course to lie up beside the Cuzzicombe fence, and, having been stopped off more fresh stags, hounds were taken there and fresh found. Now it was back down Gatcombe to Redlands, down as far as Natty Cleave, and up Redlands again, to just touch Barton, before sinking to the water below Barton Bridge, to take their stag under The Rookery at around 3.30p.m."
That was the view for an informed and experienced hunting correspondent. For the Inquiry team it was somewhat different.
They caught up with the hunt when the hounds were stopped and taken back to the area of the meet to draw again. They were not informed as to why. After about half an hour they were driven back to their previous observation point and parked up. In the face of all the excitement Lord Burns promptly fell asleep.
At around 2.15p.m. the Inquiry team were able to observe the hunted stag, mixed up in a much larger bunch of deer, crossing below them heading towards Twitchen. The team were driven in pursuit but their progress was hindered by the volume of traffic and riders. Graham Sirl estimated that there were at least 100 riders out together with about 80/90 vehicles of followers.
The Inquiry team broke off from following the hunt to head for the local offices of the League Against Cruel Sports at St Nicholas Priory and a meeting with CPHA people that had been arranged earlier. As a consequence no-one from the Inquiry team saw the deer killed. Of course whether any deer would have been killed in the direct view of Lord Burns and his team is highly debatable.
For an idea as to what really can happen at a stag hunt the Inquiry team should consider the outcome of the days hunting for the Devon and Somerset Staghounds on the corresponding Saturday the previous year. That was April 3rd 1999.
On that day numerous monitors were out and all who were witnesses describe the shocking and horrific scenes as the deer was killed at Marsh Bridge. I take up the account of one as follows:-
"We went to Marsh Bridge where a number of hunt supporters in vehicles and on horseback were gathering. The stag, with hounds close behind, appeared on the bank opposite us and was confronted by a great press of people and vehicles. He turned to face the hounds and as he defended himself with his antlers the hounds attacked him. While this was going on and we were filming the riders did their best to block our view, Ken and Daphne were assaulted by hunt supporters and we heard later that Kevin, Grant and Peter were all attacked severely enough by hunt supporters to stop them filming. None of these supporters did anything to stop the hounds attacking the deer. Some men wrestled the deer down while the hounds were still attacking him and then there was a shot. The riders and supporters did not seem shocked or upset by events."
I am sure that if the hunt had allowed Lord Burns to witness an incident such as that he would not have fallen asleep.
Inquiry team : Lord Burns, Dr Edwards, (Brian Caffarey)
CPHA observer : RSPCA
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
I have no information available about this day.
Inquiry team : Dr Edwards (Brian Caffarey)
CPHA observer : Mike Huskisson
Countryside Alliance observer : Mal Treharne
The rendezvous for the Inquiry team was at the venue at 10.00a.m. I arrived on time. There had been heavy rain during the previous few days, making the ground very wet, but this day dawned lovely and bright and was forecast to be very warm.
On the advice of Mark Sanderson (when I spoke to him previously to learn the arrangements) I left my car outside the venue as the ground was very wet. This was good advice. It turned out that they had a tractor on hand that was put to frequent use to rescue bogged vehicles.
First brace was due in slips at 10.30a.m. I noticed a chap wandering about with a Countryside Alliance badge on. There was no sign of Simon Hart and I wondered whether this chap was his replacement. Simons wife, Abigail, has just given birth and I knew all too well myself the toll that sleepless nights with young babies can impose.
An aristocratic looking chap turned up in a K-registered white Range Rover and my Countryside Alliance man seemed to know him so I assumed that one or other was the observer from our opposition.
I introduced myself to the organiser Bob Tovey. He said to buy an entry card and I went to find the chap selling these. At this type of coursing venue I was happy to pay the fee, that was only £3.
At about 10.15a.m. I saw Dr Edwards drive up with Brian Caffarey and another chap who turned out to be Dr Edwards husband, Rick. He was sporting a very sophisticated Sony videocamera. I took them to find Bob Tovey. This involved some searching and waiting as, understandably, he was fully occupied with the organisation of the event.
When we all assembled and were introduced the chap I had first noticed wearing the Countryside Alliance badge turned out to be none other than Mal Treharne, their local bigwig. His colleague in the white Range Rover was revealed to be Keith Gardner the Chairman of a local coursing club called the South Marsh. I commented to him that this was not a club I had seen listed as part of the National Coursing Club events and he told me that the South Marsh was a club for any breed of sight hound, not just greyhound. They apparently operate on the Somerset levels. It was quickly clear that Bob Tovey had no great affection for him.
Bob Tovey explained the outline of what his Drag Coursing Club was about and how they operated. He said that he had been organising such drag coursing since 1992. It is nothing to do with lure coursing. There are no seasons for drag coursing, it is only stopped by bad weather. He gave Dr Edwards and Brian Caffarey each a set of the National Drag Coursing Club rules. Dr Edwards asked if it would be alright for Rick to take video of the event. She explained that she was the only member of the Committee of Inquiry able to attend that day and she would like to have some film to show to her colleagues so that they would see something of what took place. Bob Tovey said there was no problem at all and that we could take as much film and photographs as we liked. Bob Tovey told us that he also runs a live hare coursing club (he is Secretary of the Yeovil & Sherborne Coursing Club, as listed on the National Coursing Club fixtures list 1999/2000). He was unable to speak to us for long as he soon had to leave to carry on with making the arrangements for the day.
The basic lay out was that we were on a large grass rectangular field with a steep slope at one end. On the long side of the field away from the entrance gate was the coursing area. At the low end, near one corner, was the slippers shy. This was an exact copy of the sort of shy used at a live hare coursing event. There was a camouflaged screen. In addition, in a style reminiscent of the Park Hare Coursing events that I have witnessed in the Republic of Ireland, there was a post at each side of the shy with a red disc on one side and a white disc on the other. This indicated the corresponding colour of collar of the dog in the slips. The running ground was a straight line up the hill. On the brow of the hill were a couple of posts to mark the finishing line and beyond them some bales of straw and the catch-up area for the drag. There was a car parked on the brow of the hill at right-angles to the running ground. This car had its front elevated on a jack and the front offside wheel had been removed and replaced with a drum. The whole set up being a very effective improvisation for a winch.
The object that was being dragged was cleverly designed for the maximum effect of enticing the dogs. There was what looked a commercial fishing float with a ball of some material that looked like hessian or rag. Most ingenious was a squeaker that emitted squeals as the object was dragged. It was, I pointed out to the Inquiry team, almost an exact mimic of the sounds emitted by the hare when she is caught.
A chap came over and introduced himself to the Inquiry team. He turned out to be the slipper Brian Pether. I asked him if he had slipped at live hare coursing events and he told us that he had, at several of the live hare coursing clubs. He told us that he has been slipping at live hare coursing events since 1967.
There were six eight-dog stakes listed on the card. With each stake involving seven courses to run off there were 42 courses scheduled. There were also plans to run some whippet coursing and some trials. It was clear that we were in for a busy day.
Proceedings started on time at 10.30a.m. To start with we were gathered near the finishing post.
A pair of greyhounds were called forward and put in the slips in the usual manner. Bob Tovey used a motor bike to carry the drag down to a point some yards behind the slippers shy. A chap sited it correctly and then waved a green flag to indicate to the car driver that all was ready.
The latter engaged gear, let the clutch out and started the winch spinning. The drag whizzed past the slippers shy causing his two charges to strain at the slips. He gave the drag a start of some 50 yards and then slipped the dogs. They came bounding up the field towards us. As the slope took effect it was clear that the dogs were having to work hard for their lead. I took some video film of the approaching contest and then the drag reached a cover sited in front of the bales of straw and the dogs pounced on their squealing quarry. It was all over, but with no pain. A red or white flag was raised to indicate which dog, which colour collar, had crossed the finishing line first. Watching supporters marked their cards just as they do at live hare coursing.
Bob Tovey rode up to retrieve the drag. He set off with it back towards the start. The pulling line was paid out and the dogs for the next course were called forward by the slipper. This was the rhythm for the rest of the day. Some of the dogs were muzzled, some were not.
After a period spent observing from the finishing area we moved down to see the view from the slippers shy. The slipper told us that the only improvement that he felt could be made to the organisation of the event was by having stricter authority over the bringing forward of the dogs to the slip steward. This should happen crisply and quickly instead of there being any delay. Owners and trainers being somewhat lethargic at bringing their dogs forward is clearly a problem that is common to all forms of coursing!
The Inquiry team were able to have a short conversation with Bob Tovey concerning his experiences at netting and moving hares. We then moved back up the slope towards the bulk of the crowd. At about this time I counted 35 vehicles in the parking area. The Inquiry team, with Rick as cameraman, moved off to conduct a set of improvised interviews with Dr Edwards admirably fulfilling the role of interviewer. In one of these she asked one of the crowd whether he thought the proceedings were as enjoyable as hare coursing and he answered "Yes". She also had an interview with the farmer who owned the field that was being used. He said that the club met there about three times a year. That the field was used for other purposes, including microlights. He also said that there was no live hare coursing on it.
Lunch was scheduled to be taken at 1.00p.m. at about which time there was planned to be a natural break in the running of the event. For whatever reason this was delayed somewhat. At about 1.55p.m. the winch line broke. As the drag was some yards short of the finishing post this caused a degree of consternation. Would the dogs be put back in the slips for the course to run again which would impose the penalty on the winning dog of in effect having to run virtually an extra course compared to the dog it would encounter in the next stage? The problem was solved by a diplomatic withdrawal.
Soon after this one of the dogs was noticed running "unsighted". This was because it had lost sight of the drag, possibly after being distracted by something to the side of the running field. It is fairly common in live hare coursing for one or both of the dogs to run "unsighted".
There was betting taking place at the event. As we stood watching from the high point of the field we could hear the odds being called out on the dogs.
Soon after 2.00p.m. we were able to get a better chance to talk to Bob Tovey about his knowledge of the movement of hares. After that the Inquiry team, and Mal Treharne, left and at about 2.30p.m. there was a break of some thirty minutes for lunch. Usually when the Inquiry team go I go also. But this was a different occasion, a different venue, and I had paid for my entry card so I was happy to stay to see the finals and the presentation of the cups.
The finals were run. There was some coursing for whippets and some trials were run. I then took some film and photographs as the trophies were presented and at about 4.30p.m. I left.
Here is a video of the drag coursing:-
Points of note:-
This type of coursing offers several distinct advantages over the coursing of live hares. They are:-
a). For the hares
i) There is no kill.
ii) There is no coursing, no being forced to flee in terror.
iii) There is no being driven from field to field by lines of beaters before being driven on to the appointed coursing field.
iv) There is no netting and transportation in small boxes, sometimes over large distances, in order to sustain coursing.
b). For the dogs
i) There is no running on ground that can cause injury such as short stubble or where there is an abundance of flints.
ii) There is no running over or through areas that can cause injury. These include over ditches (such as caused the injury seen by the Inquiry team at the Kimberley and Wymondham visit) or through hedges where perhaps barbed wire lurks.
iii) Because the course is limited to the running field there is no risk of injury caused by over exertion through chasing the departing hare as she flees over the surrounding fields.
iv) There is no wait for the hares to be driven into the coursing field so there is no opportunity for the dogs to become cold whilst waiting in the slips. At the Waterloo Cup, particularly the second day at Lydiate, it is not uncommon for the dogs to be forced to wait in the slips for many minutes in freezing winds for a hare to appear.
c). For the supporters
i) There is the satisfaction that comes from knowing that no animal is suffering to provide their amusement.
ii) They know that if they enter their dogs into the competition they will get a run on the day, weather providing. There is no question of shortage of hares causing parts of the day to be abandoned.
In the opinion of the enthusiasts for live hare coursing there is claimed to be one big disadvantage with this humane coursing. This is that there is no twisting and turning. This is a straight line course up the running field.
Whilst this is manifestly true what is the effect? In live hare coursing the dog that is first up to turn the hare usually wins the course. In fact it is very rare indeed for the dog that is second to the hare to win. This is because the points advantage gained by the first dog is very hard for the other dog to overcome. That being the case drag coursing, in which victory is awarded to the dog that is first up to the winning post, is an almost perfect simulation given the reality of the scoring in live hare coursing.
Perhaps in some ways drag coursing is actually a better test of the merits of the dogs. In live hare coursing, particularly when the dogs are slipped on a weak hare, one dog can bound up, catch the hare, and the course is all over. This cannot happen in drag coursing and indeed the lead can change over the course of the running field particularly one such as at this venue when the slope takes effect.
Then there is the effect of any crowd present to consider. A wild hare fleeing for her life will tend to veer away from any crowd present. This will favour the dog that is in the slips on the side that she will veer to. In drag coursing the drag is obviously unaffected by any sounds from the crowd and is pulled in a manner that cannot favour either dog.
Bob Tovey, a man with 50 years experience of coursing, was asked by the Inquiry team about the netting and movement of hares, in particular for the Waterloo Cup:-
Kevin Hill : "What about like the Waterloo Cup. Have you put them down there?"
Bob Tovey : "I have put them down, yea."
Kevin Hill : "What, what sort of space of time before?"
Bob Tovey : "I put them down a few days before, a week before."
Brian Caffarey : "That was quite a time ago though, wasnt it?"
Bob Tovey : "I havent done any netting since nineteen ninety...not for the Waterloo Cup Id never do any again...since nineteen ninety three. But it still goes on. It still...every year."
He spoke of hares that suffered from syphilis being moved by others for coursing.
He said that he has moved hares for coursing, for beagling and for conservation purposes. He now only moves hares for conservation purposes.
He described petty squabbles between coursing clubs when he told the Inquiry team : "One coursing club will even shoot another coursing clubs hares so that they dont have a successful meeting, they are that stupid."
He ended up by telling the Inquiry team that people doing drag coursing have been intimidated and threatened by the supporters of live hare coursing. He was at pains to point out that he was not opposed to live hare coursing. He was merely keen to see drag coursing flourish irrespective of what happened to live hare coursing.
Inquiry team : Professor Marsh, Professor Winter, Dr. Edwards, (Brian Caffarey)
CPHA observer : Mike Huskisson
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
The Inquiry team were originally scheduled to attend two meets of the Ytene Minkhounds. The first on April 8th and the second on April 22nd. Neither visit in fact took place. These visits were cancelled, we were told, because the waters were too cold.
Then in May we were informed that a visit had been set up for May 13th or May 20th and it turned out that the latter date was selected.
The rendezvous for the Inquiry team was at Manor Farm, Langton Long Blandford at 11.00a.m. I arrived about ten minutes early to find Professor Winter there waiting, parked outside the farm. As I drew up Professor Marsh and Brian Caffarey pulled up, coming from the opposite direction.
There had been some discussion between my colleagues at the LACS and Brian Caffarey concerning the content of the submission regarding these visits that I had sent to the Inquiry Committee on May 11th. I was told that my submission had not been put up on their web site as the Inquiry were unhappy about some of its contents. My report revealed that I was using recording devices to prove who said what to whom. Accordingly I was somewhat apprehensive as to the welcome I would receive. I was prepared to be barred from the event, by the hunt if no-one else.
As it turned out there was no problem at all in this regard. There was a real problem though in finding the hunt. We stood waiting in the early summer sunshine with no sign of any minkhunters. After a while Dr Edwards drove up. I asked whether Lord Burns and Lord Soulsby would be attending. I was told that Lord Burns had hoped to but couldnt. Lord Soulsby had intended to but, as he had to be back at his home near Cambridge by 4.00p.m., and he didnt drive, it was simply impractical.
A farm tractor came and went. Some cars carrying people who looked to be minkhunters drove by. When a Landrover with terriers in a box went by Brian Caffarey suggested that one of us should drive and see if we could find the hunt meeting nearby. I volunteered but there was no sign in adjacent fields, nor on our side of Langton Long Blandford. I returned to the waiting members of the Committee. Dr Edwards went to ask at the farm and a vehicle drove by that we stopped and, between the two sources, we ascertained that if we drove back to Langton Long Blandford and turned down the track on the left, past the church, we would find the hunt. We did so and saw Simon Hart waiting on the road by the track.
We drove in and parked on the grass amongst numerous supporters vehicles. I prepared my cameras and walked to join in the introductions. The meet was at 11.30a.m. It was a few minutes before and the hounds were still held in their vehicle. Simon Hart introduced the Inquiry team to the key figures in the hunt. Rose Whitcomb and Bob Tucker who are Joint Masters and Tony Smart who is Huntsman as well as Joint Master. We were also introduced to the landowner for the meet.
After some brief chats and a short speech from Bob Tucker we set off on foot along the northern bank of the River Stour. We had been warned to expect to do a bit of wading if we wished to keep up with the hounds.
There were 10½ couple of hounds out. These are a mixture of pure otterhound, cross-bred otterhounds and retrained foxhounds. In addition there were numerous terriers in attendance. Most of these were held on couples or leads but some were running free. I estimated the number of foot followers trailing along behind the hounds as about 50. Of these I recognised Desmond Hobson who had given oral evidence to the Inquiry Committee at one of the hearings and was now proudly wearing a Ytene Mink Hunt sweatshirt.
We had not gone far before there was a need to wade. It was a short stretch of knee deep water. The greatest difficulty appeared to be caused at the entry point into the water. Professor Winter, Professor Marsh, Dr Edwards, and Brian Caffarey gamely took this on. Of the quartet Professor Marsh paid the greatest price as the sole of his boot came adrift and had to be pulled clear. The Inquiry team had been baptised into the pastime of minkhunting.
Simon Hart and I also waded across as did the bulk of the minkhunters. This all generated a great deal of amusement amongst the assembled throng. The hounds waited appearing somewhat baffled as to the delay. As for the mink, there was no sign.
Some of the supporters were on the southern bank of the river. The hounds crossed to and fro with little interest shown. On the other side of the river from us I could see the village of Charlton Marshall and the houses lining the busy A350. I wondered if any of the residents had noticed our progress. We seemed to be in a strange time-warp as there was precious little sign of other people about.
One could almost transfer back rather more than a quarter of a century ago to the time when this river was hunted for otters by the Bucks and Courtenay Tracy Otterhounds. I took the opportunity to ask our guide for the day, Bob Tucker, about those days and it was clear that they held fond memories for him. Otterhunting, that I saw in my youth, holds no fond memories for me.
There is a U-bend in the River Stour across from Charlton Marshall. We by-passed that as the hounds were taken out of the water and we marched in procession across the fields. The hounds were put in again just across from Manor Dairy Farm. There is an island in the river here. We had another wade, this time longer and deeper. Perhaps wisely in view of the state of his footwear Professor Marsh declined this opportunity for a dip. On this island the hounds spoke for the first time. No-one saw a mink but the hounds spoke and supporters reckoned that they had detected the drag of a mink. Nothing came of it though and I later heard Tony Smart mention that that was the first time he had seen a deer in that area. We carried on.
The supporters enthused over how nice it was to walk in such beautiful countryside and it was pointed out that with no footpaths along the riverbank in this area they would not normally be allowed such access.
Heading south along the river we reached an area where it appeared to divide up. There was some more wading and Brian Caffarey and I agreed that it was the fourth time we had been wading so far. Then the hounds spoke with the urgency and enthusiasm that suggested there might be a mink in the immediate vicinity. I think it was an old mill race. The hounds piled into some dense undergrowth reaching down to the river and I kept a close watch on the water surface fully expecting to see the fleeing mink. Instead there was a squawk of indignation and a moorhen dashed out and took flight.
The hounds were still excited and Tony Smart cast them up and down and on both sides of the river. The supporters stood in midstream as did Professor Winter and Dr Edwards.
I noticed supporters scouring the heights of the trees lining the river looking for any mink that might be taking refuge. I heard one supporter telling another about a previous day when they had fortunately had a follower able to run up the trees "like a monkey" to dislodge any mink seeking sanctuary at altitude. It was made to sound like wonderful entertainment.
I have seen many a minkhunt in operation in many different locations and in my opinion this hunt on this day appeared distinctly reticent in their pursuit. True enough the hounds were cast hither and thither and the supporters stomped about on the vegetation with some enthusiasm but..... No-one actually saw the mink. There was a shout of "There he is!" which brought an enthusiastic response. A supporter described seeing the mink leave the water by a tree on the riverbank but when the hounds were taken to the exact spot a matter of moments later they showed not the least interest. The eyewitness to this "mink" somewhat shamefacedly then conceded that it might well have been another moorhen that he saw. If there had have been a mink in that area this distraction probably saved its life.
There was some more casting about, a bit more speaking from some hounds, some unwarranted suspicion that the quarry was up a particular tree and then it was decided to move on. I asked Tony Smart what he thought had happened and it appears that the "mink" had gone up a small brook toward the houses and the busy main road and they had decided not to press after it.
The hounds were then taken on a short excursion up the River Tarant but as soon as we reached the road we headed back towards the River Stour. At this point we parted company with Professor Marsh and Brian Caffarey as the former needed to be away. We then carried on to hunt another mile of riverbank. Again there were supporters on both sides and the hounds were encouraged to cross and hunt both sides.
After another mile of footslogging we reached Crawford Bridge at about 4.00p.m. The hounds had shown no further interest and it was decided to call it a day. Professor Winter and Dr Edwards had accompanied the hunt from start to finish. We were told that the hunt had kindly arranged for transport to return us to our vehicles at the meet.
This "transport" turned out to be a small van used to transport the hounds. Rose Whitcomb helpfully told us that it had bedding down and that as far as she knew the dogs had not wet it. Professor Winter and Dr Edwards clambered in. Simon Hart and I followed and two hunt supporters squeezed in afterwards. We sat or squatted on the floor. I went to kneel but rapidly changed my mind when I found it to be very wet with hound knows what!
We bumped our way back to the meet and then went our separate ways. On the drive home I listened to the second half of the Cup Final.
Points of note:-
Minkhunting poses a very real threat to the otter. The entry for the Ytene Minkhounds in the current Bailys Hunting Directory (1999-2000) tells us that the hunt "was formed in 1978 to hunt mink in the country of the former Courtenay Tracy Otter Hounds."
The habitat that the Ytene Minkhounds operate in is often good otter country.
Of the threat to the otter posed on this particular day Peter Irvine, the North Dorset Area Co-ordinator of the Dorset Otter Group, tells me:-
"The Stour and its tributaries have traditionally been a stronghold for the otter and they are now playing a particularly important part in the gradual but still only partial recovery of the otter population.
The mink hunt which took place on Saturday 20th May from Langton Long Blandford to Crawford Bridge covered a stretch of the Stour which provides a particularly rich habitat for the otter. Positive habitat factors include the following:
A good fish supply
A rural environment which is normally not disturbed by dogs or humans and certainly not in large numbers.
Areas of dense bankside vegetation which provide plenty of cover and opportunities for lying up during the day. The stretch of the river near Keynston Mill is a particularly good example with very good cover and the added benefit of the mill pond and other water features which attract otters...............
An adult otter accompanied by a young otter was recently sighted on the Stour near Charlton Marshall. Female otters can have a territory covering several miles and overlapping territories can mean that an otter with her young could be found at a wide number of different locations."
A lot of people are working very hard for the re-introduction of the otter to its former haunts. If they succeed, as we hope they do, how safe will the otter then be from the hunting fraternity?
An indication of the attitude that some of this fraternity may take comes from the following extract from the entry for the Courtenay Tracy Otter Hounds Club in Bailys Hunting Directory (1980-81) :-
"The club was formed in March 1978 following the cessation of the Courtenay Tracy Otter Hounds as an active pack. Its aims are (a) to retain control over the waters of the former Courtenay Tracy Otter Hounds, pending a possible resumption of otter hunting;....."
The Hon. Sec. of the Courtenay Tracy Otter Hounds Club at the time was a Mr R.O. Tucker. The same Mr R.O. Tucker who was then, and is still now, a Joint Master of the Ytene Mink Hunt.
Inquiry team : Lord Burns, Lord Soulsby, Professor Marsh, (Mark Sanderson)
CPHA observer : Graham Sirl
Countryside Alliance observer : Simon Hart
This was a visit that had been repeatedly cancelled. Whilst lamping continued unabated elsewhere all manner of excuses were offered as to why the plans for a visit by the Inquiry team had to be put off. Eventually it took place.
The rendezvous for the Inquiry team was Conholt Park, near Vernham Dean, to the north of Andover at 9.30p.m. Graham Sirl arrived there and met Professor Marsh, a well known fox expert David Macdonald, the gamekeeper and two assistants. Simon Hart arrived at this venue soon afterwards.
They then went on to meet the rest of the team, Lord Burns, Lord Soulsby and Mark Sanderson at the gamekeepers cottage at Conholt Cottages at 10.30p.m.
The landowner for the estate is a Dutchman with a difficult name that Graham noted as Van Villison. He owns 3,500 acres here of woodland and grassland that is used as a private shoot. Graham was told that they put down (release) 20,000 birds each year, pheasants and partridges.
The first event to occur was that the gamekeeper, Chris, showed Lord Burns how to set a snare and in particular the measures taken to ensure that deer do not get their legs caught in it. He told the Inquiry team that he sets about 80 snares on the estate and that he checks these twice daily. He estimated that he killed 20-30 foxes a season (year) by snaring. He told the Inquiry team that in all they killed about 200 foxes a year with the rest, apart from snaring, being killed by lamping or fox drives. (Where the foxes are driven by beaters, not dogs, to guns) The Inquiry team learned that the local hunt, the Tedworth Foxhounds, visit the estate a couple of times a year and take a couple of brace (4 foxes). It was stated that on the land between Conholt Park and Andover there was no "vermin" control other than the hunt.
Chris was proud of his prowess at killing other animals that threaten "his" pheasants and partridges. He gave the following annual tally of creatures killed by his tunnel traps:- 68 stoats, 32 weasels, and 6 polecats. He declared that he did not control rabbits or hares. He specifically left the rabbits in the hope and expectation that the foxes would take the rabbits for food and leave his reared birds alone.
In due course, between 11 and 11.30p.m., they all set off in two vehicles. Graham was allocated to one along with Mark Sanderson, Simon Hart and David Macdonald. At some time the gamekeeper picked up his son.
Graham noted that most of the fences and gates on the estate had been taken down, presumably to allow easy access. They had been travelling for about 20 minutes with Graham observing an occupant of the vehicle in front of his using a light with a red filter on to sweep across the land. The eyes of a fox were picked out in this eerie light and the vehicles stopped. A person in the lamping vehicle was then heard calling the fox by a squeaking sound. (These are special devices, man-made or even a blade of grass, used to mimic the sounds of a rabbit or hare in distress. The idea being that the fox will be drawn closer by the prospect of an easy meal). The unwitting fox approached the vehicle and a loud, unsilenced shot rang out. The gun was described as a .2250 rifle. Graham and the remainder of the Inquiry team were driven up to where the body of the fox lay. It had been shot cleanly and killed instantly. It was described as a 4-5 months old cub. Chris, the gamekeeper, told Graham that they had killed the vixen earlier and that they knew that her cubs were still in the area. Now there was one cub less.
The cub had been shot at a range of about 100 yards. The chap who shot the cub was asked how often the quarry ended up injured when he fired. He told the Inquiry team that in his experience the fox was killed cleanly on 99.9% of the occasions. He was also asked at what sort of range he could shoot a fox. Shining his light in the direction of some trees to indicate the distance he estimated that he could shoot a fox at up to 200 yards away.
After the cub was shot and examined the Inquiry team were asked what they wanted to do next, whether they wished to carry on and see some more. Lord Soulsby expressed the view that they had witnessed what they came to see and that they could now leave. So they did.
They drove back to the gamekeepers cottages at about midnight and then all went their separate ways.
At the Coventry meeting on April 10th between the Committee of Inquiry and the Countryside Alliance Robin Page made the following plea:-
"As a farmer and countryman then my visits to hunting areas have left me totally depressed because I find the farming situation is absolutely desperate. I have seen people in the Lake District burning wool. I have seen piles of day old calves in the kennels of Edmund Porter in the Lakes because the farmers cannot afford to keep them.
Eight miles away from me a farmers wife has blown her brains out in the kitchen because farming is desperate and farming people and country people are desperate at the moment.
And what hunting is actually doing is its holding people together. It is binding communities together and it is actually giving traditional country people something to live for.
And I do not hunt. And I do not shoot. And I do not fish but I regard them as my people and I worry about them and I hope that for Gods sake that our politicians will soon wake up to the fact that there is a crisis in the countryside and many country people regard an attack on hunting as the final straw. It is a final straw driving people to desperation. They are despairing. They are bewildered. They feel victimised and they are angry. And they are very angry, some people.
I was at the Ludlow Point-to-Point yesterday and because of my column in the Daily Telegraph I was approached by one person after another saying:
"We are desperate. Thank you for writing about us."
One man said: "I leave my farm next week. I am bankrupt. The only thing which stops me killing myself is my hunt work."
His wife stood by him and his child was by his wife and the child was in tears. That is the real state of the countryside which our people cocooned in London do not see and do not want to see. Every week I get letters saying the same thing. Saying:
"We are desperate. Thank you for writing about our plight because that is what it is."
The Committee of Inquiry appeared to be wholly moved by this plea. However I would ask for the following to be considered.
Robin Page is an intelligent man with a wealth of contacts amongst the hunting fraternity. He was invited to speak to the Committee of Inquiry (indeed I had on one of the early hunting visits heard members of the Inquiry team saying that Robin Page and Roger Scruton were two people they should certainly have in for interview). Robin Page knew that with a stenographer present taking notes of every word spoken, what he said was very much "on the record". All that considered can there ever have been a more succinct expression of the selfishness that is inherent in the hunting fraternity? What lasting harm might have been done to this child by hearing their father threaten to kill himself? Hunting fanatics put their own personal pleasure first and foremost at all times. They will certainly put their personal pleasure ahead of the well-being of our wildlife and if their fun is foremost, as it clearly is, will they ever abide by any regulations that might be drafted to curb the wilder excesses of their pastimes?
They say "Yes!" And claim that they are sensible reasonable people that would abide by any new rules. Here at this meeting their leading speaker tells the Committee of Inquiry that one individual, representative of many, if he is forced to end his "hunt work" will make his wife a widow and his child an orphan. He cannot have much regard for either.
Some people have survived the most horrific injuries through accident or ill-fortune yet they battle on to give their partner the companionship they need and their offspring the parental guidance they crave. Conversely these selfish individuals that constitute much of the hunting fraternity threaten to kill themselves, and some already have, simply because they are denied the pastime of killing small furry animals for fun. This, in my view, marks them down as fanatical extremists who are wholly unsuitable to have charge of our wildlife. Those who will so willingly orphan their own children will clearly see nothing wrong in the hunting regime that the Inquiry has already heard about that dictates that fox cubs should be orphaned in the interests of foxhunting fun.
I have three children myself and I find such awesome selfishness as given an airing by Robin Page impossible to comprehend. But there again I also find it impossible to comprehend how anyone could regard it as sport to cripple a fox with a terrier, place it in a sack and tip it out in front of hounds. And I have seen well respected hunting people do that.
At the Coventry meeting another well-known speaker from the world of hunting, Ian Coghill, was particularly scathing of the Bateson report:-
"Ill just very briefly turn to the Bateson evidence which is very important I think in the context. Professor Bateson...if you look at Batesons report you will find that it is extremely biased in terms of evidence. There is a great deal of time spent on observing staghunting, a great deal put into the biochemistry that went on and all the evidence about stalking is anecdotal, it was taken from the texts of a few people.............
The final conclusion is the weakest part of the lot. It is alleged that because a stag is a sedentary animal after its run three miles and certainly after its run twelve in three hours it is in a worse condition than if it had been hit by a high velocity bullet and not killed. If the evidence showed that an animal like a stag is in a worse condition after its run twelve miles than after its been shot by a high velocity bullet the science is nonsense. And if anybody doesnt believe it, anybody here can be shot by a high velocity bullet and Ill run twelve miles in three hours and well see whos the fitter in the morning."
The response was a great deal of laughter from the audience and from the Committee of Inquiry. There was even clapping from the audience.
From my perspective I have for years respected Ian Coghill as a worthy opponent. Back in the early 1980s I spent some time infiltrating his hunt as an undercover observer. He is a funny man and as he once saved me from a good hiding at the hands of his followers I guess both our sides owe him a debt. However I have seen him in action with his hounds an it is not always a pleasant sight as the following extract from my book Outfoxed confirms:-
"At the end of that week, Saturday September 4th, I was back with the Three Counties meeting at Ketford Bridge on the River Leadon. This was the most significant day in all my mink hunt observations. As usual, Ian Coghill took charge.........
Just when it seemed the mink had won, the hounds marked him to ground. Bolted from his sanctuary, he swam downstream, ducking and weaving amid the rushes with the pack only yards behind. In their wake, the followers whooped and holloaed with ecstasy at this turn of events. Crossing the river, the quarry just made it to the safety of a hole with the lead hounds only inches from his tail. The pack bayed at the spot frantically.
One of the whippers-in, Peter May, who also does the terrier work for the Croome and West Warwickshire Foxhunt, and is a close friend of Ian Coghills reached the scene. He put a terrier into the hole.
Hissing and growling ensued as canine and mustelid fought. Ian Coghill waded across the stream and stood with a small group of whippers-in and terriermen immediately above the hole, holding the hounds in check.
Peering into the hole, Peter said that he could pull the terrier out and , on Ians advice, did so. As the foes had locked jaws when the terrier was dragged out by his hind feet he drew the mink out with him. Peter thrust the pair underwater to force them to break their grip.
Grabbing the mink immediately behind its head with his right hand, he held it triumphantly aloft for all to see. Struggle as it might, the victim could neither escape nor twist sufficiently to bite the hand that held it. The hounds bayed with feverish excitement on the bank.
Peter called "Its still alive Ian, what shall I do?"
To which Ian replied "Throw it up on the bank behind the hounds."
Peter complied with these instructions, hurling the mink up in a high arc to land on the grass behind the pack. Despite hitting the ground hard, the mink was up and running for its life but the hounds caught it before it had travelled five yards. It was torn limb from limb, and Ian blew the kill triumphantly."
That all occurred in September 1982 when Ian Coghill, as well as his hunting roles, was Conservation Officer for the British Field Sports Society, the forerunner of the Countryside Alliance. Some time later, when the hunting fraternity suspected who I really was, and knew that I had film of this incident they held an inquiry into the events that day and the terrierman was disciplined.
For all his humorous nature I wonder what the audience at Coventry would have made of seeing Ian Coghill involved in such an occurrence at close hand?
The Leeds meeting between the Hunting Inquiry and the Countryside Alliance was at Armley Mills Museum on Friday May 5th. Present from the Inquiry Committee were Lord Burns and Professor Marsh.
One of the speakers was Peter Hole, a former Master (for 19 years) of the Colne Valley Beagles. He told the Inquiry :-
"I love the hunting of the hare."
He described how he had attended the Waterloo Cup this year. He was gain to emphasise the strength of feeling for hunting:-
"I certainly, a former bank manager, would be willing to submit to imprisonment to defend my sport."
In foxhunting the hunting fraternity appear scornful of "out of date" evidence detailing the conflict between terrier and fox during terrier work. It seems that they view "out of date" as being more than twenty years ago. They praise the implementation of the National Working Terrier Federation Code of Conduct in 1994 and the Masters of Foxhounds Associations present rules.
I was keen to see the latest version of both these and I contacted the Hunting Inquiry. They kindly faxed me the whole or relevant extracts from the versions supplied to them by the relevant bodies. I am pleased to reproduce extracts below:-
B. CONDUCT OF HUNTING
5. Foxhunting as a sport is the Hunting of the fox in his wild and natural state with a
pack of Hounds. No pack of Hounds, of which the Master or Representative is a
member of the M.F.H.A., shall be allowed to hunt a fox in any way that is
inconsistent with this precept.
6. The Hunting of a country is the sole responsibility of the Master or Masters. They are
responsible for the actions of the Hunt Staff and the discipline of the Field. In the
absence of the Master, whether in the field or otherwise, a person must be appointed
to act for him. That person will then for the time being carry the full authority and
responsibility of the Master.
7. It is the duty of the Master, Acting Master or Representative of the Hunt to make sure
that the Hunt Staff, or amateurs acting as such, are fully conversant with this section
B of the Rules and, in particular, Rule 5.
"Built-up" areas and associated matters
8. Every effort must be made to prevent Hounds Hunting a fox into a "built-up" area.
9. Should a fox enter an inhabited dwelling, or a building adjacent thereto, every effort
must be made to stop Hounds. They must be taken away and the fox not hunted
At the same time, the owner or occupier, or his representative, shall, if possible, be
consulted as to how he or she would like the fox dealt with.
10. Hounds by law are not allowed on a motorway. Therefore, they must be stopped
when there is any possibility of their getting onto a motorway. No person is allowed
to trespass on railways.
11. Hounds may hunt their fox over the boundary of their country until they account for
or lose him. They may not be held on into fresh foxes. Should a fox be run to
ground in a neighbouring country, no attempt should be made to get him out except
under mutual arrangements previously made with neighbouring Masters.
Terrier work and associated matters
12 (1) When a fox is run to ground, digging is allowed only at the request of the
Landowner, Farmer, or Shooting Tenant. This may be verbal and may be received
before the hunting season. The decision on whether to dig remains with the Master.
If the decision is that the fox be killed, it must be humanely destroyed.
(2) When a hunted fox is run to ground in a natural earth, there shall be no digging
other than for the purpose of humanely destroying the fox.
(3) A fox that has been handled must be humanely destroyed immediately or left, but
under no circumstances hunted.
(4) Nets may be used for fox control only. Rule 12 (3) above applies to netted foxes.
(5) The practice of bolting a fresh fox is permitted.
(6) The practice of bolting a hunted fox is permitted if, and only if, it has taken refuge
(a) any man-made structure, such as drains, stick-heaps, straw bales, banks and the
(b) rocks or places where digging is impossible.
13. (1) The Master in charge, or someone of authority personally appointed by him,
must supervise any digging or bolting operation.
(2) In any bolting operation:
(a) hounds must first be taken out of sight and out of hearing;
(b) the fox when bolted must be given a fair chance of escape before hounds
are laid on.
(3) One or two persons only should accompany the Terrierman on any digging or
bolting operation. If on occasions more are needed these should be kept to a
(4) Wherever possible, only one terrier should be used at a time when digging or
(5) Terrier work which will involve delays to traffic on roads should not be
14. Badgers are protected by law. Every Master must be conversant with that
(1) Those who are employed as Terriermen, or who act as such, whether
professional or amateur, must be regarded as Hunt Staff and the Master in
charge will be responsible for their actions.
(2) Every Terrierman acting for a Hunt must:
(a) be on the Register of Terriermen kept by the M.F.H.A.; and
(b) have a current Licence from the M.F.H.A.
(3) Every Terrierman on the Register must be issued with the card produced by
the M.F.H.A. for Terriermen. The Master must confirm that this has been done
when naming the Terrierman for the Register.
(4) A Terrierman who disregards the Rules and Instructions on that card will be
liable to be struck off the Register.
(5) Any Terrierman who handles a firearm must have the appropriate
(6) The Committee may from time to time require Terriermen who wish their
Licences to be renewed to attend Seminars on the proper conduct of Terrier
16. Every Earthstopper must be issued with the "Card for Earthstoppers" produced by
17. Masters must keep a register of those people authorised to stop earths.
18. All carcasses of dead foxes, whether caught by hounds or dug out, should be picked
up and disposed of. Dead foxes which have been dug out must not be brought on to
be broken up by hounds.
(1) If the Master, or person acting as such, deems it necessary due to the proximity
of roads, railways or built-up areas, or for farming or fox-control reasons, he
may appoint specific mounted and/or foot followers to discourage a fox from
leaving covert ("holding-up").
(2) "Holding-up" may only be carried out by recognised means, namely by the use
of the voice and tapping with a stick or whip.
(3) No persons other than those appointed by the Master should be allowed to help
20. All Masters and Representatives of Hunts must ensure that they are familiar with,
and comply with, and legislation which affects the running or operations of their
National Working Terrier Federation
1. The prime objectives of properly conducted terrier work is to provide a pest control
service which is humane, efficient and selective.
2. The conduct of those engaged in terrier work should at all times reflect the above
3. Particular care should always be taken to minimise any risk of injury to either the
quarry or the terrier.
NOTE: The terriers role is to locate its quarry underground, to bark at it
continuously, to either cause it to leave the earth or alternatively to indicate
where in the earth the quarry is located in order that it can be dug to and
The greatest risk of injury to either animal is normally at the end of a dig, this
can be minimised by either digging to the quarry, removing the terrier and
despatching the quarry in the hole, or by bolting the quarry into a net for
subsequent removal or despatch, or by bolting the quarry to standing Guns.
It is recommended, wherever possible and practical, that only one terrier is
entered to ground at a time.
4. Terrier work must always be conducted with the permission of the landowner/agent,
whose wishes and property should be respected at all times.
NOTE: Should a terrier be injured while terrier work is being conducted on
ground where permission has not been granted, then the owner is liable for
prosecution under Section 1 subsection 1(a) of The Protection of Animal Act 1911
for causing unnecessary suffering, the penalties for which are quite severe.
5. Quarry should at all times be treated with respect and despatched in a humane and
NOTE: For foxes the recommended method is either a shotgun or a firearm,
6. In locations where it is not practicable to despatch the quarry or it is the expressed
wish of the landowner/agent that the quarry is taken alive, transported elsewhere and
subsequently despatched or released, due regard should be paid to the general
welfare, safety and comfort of the quarry.
NOTE: Familiarity with "The Protection of Animals Act 1911" is considered
essential, as a wild animal can become "captive" if restrained in any way and
would then be subject to the 1911 Act.
7. Any quarry which is injured should NOT be released, but should always be
despatched at the very earliest opportunity.
8. Quarry must only be released on land with the permission of the landowner/agent.
9. Upon completion of digging operations, all excavations should be backfilled, the
earth and surrounding area reinstated to as close as possible its original condition,
particular attention should be paid to the safety of livestock etc. and the earths
10. Membership of a terrier club which offers a rescue/insurance service and which is a
member of the NWTF is strongly recommended.
11. The use of locator collars to assist in quickly locating the quarry and reducing any
likelihood of terriers becoming trapped underground is strongly recommended.
12. Terrier work must be confined to legal quarry species only and must at all times be
conducted in a proper legal manner.
NOTE: Familiarisation with The Protection of Badgers Act (1992) and the "Five
Rules for the Terrierman" are considered essential, as is the ability to recognise
the signs (as outlined in the "Five Rules for the Terrierman") which badgers
leave around an active sett.
IF IN DOUBT - KEEP YOUR TERRIER OUT.
13. The NWTF and its member clubs reserve the right to withdraw membership from
any individual or organisation deemed by the relevant committee(s) to have brought
terrier work into disrepute.
14. Any individual convicted of any offence under the Protection of Badgers Act (1992)
or the Protection of Animals Act 1911 will be brought before the relevant
committee(s) in accordance with (13).
15. The NWTF, its member clubs, affiliated organisations and individual members,
recognise and endorse the above code of conduct and understand that this is a
condition of membership.
16. The British Field Sports Society recognises and endorses the above code of conduct.
The goal from the outset for this Committee of Inquiry was to see something of what really happens in the world of hunting and coursing. Unfortunately they saw very little from the world of hunting and whilst more was certainly open to view in coursing there must also be the lingering doubt that a lot of the true cruelty remained concealed. When a coursing club secretary with some 50 years experience of the pastime talks of hares being netted and moved not just for coursing but for beagling as well anyone with an interest in hare welfare must be concerned. That concern is surely exacerbated many fold when the same chap talks of coursing clubs shooting each others hares to foul up their meetings and of sick hares being moved about the countryside.
For all its diligence and hard work, for all the miles journeyed and for all the sleepless nights it is sadly clear that the field visits aspect of this Committee of Inquiry has barely scratched the surface of the shield that conceals from public view the cruelty inherent in the pastime of hunting our wildlife with dogs.
It may now be agreed that the videos taken by undercover operators that show the cruelty as it occurs are the best means available of educating people as to what really happens in the hunting field.
The types of hunting that the Committee missed by virtue of the season in which their visits were made should never be forgotten. This included cubhunting, and Autumn staghunting. It is on giving some thought to the former that I shall close this submission. Cubhunting is usually damned as cruel for the shouting that goes on. The holding-up, the guaranteeing of a kill, many kills of fox cubs. But there is another side of cubhunting that gives cause for considerable distaste. This is the notion that it is the forcing of foxhound puppies to kill fox cubs when if nature were allowed to take its course the encounter could be resolved without killing. The following letter in a magazine aimed at hunting fanatics caught my eye:-
"Memorable Day With Hounds
Sir, Two years ago we went cub hunting in Northumberland with the West Percy Foxhounds. It was, by nine oclock, a beautiful sunny morning, about a dozen of us were standing on a road, leaning against a wall, looking over a grass field towards a covert where hounds were.
Suddenly out of the covert we saw a fox cub coming towards us at a steady trot, and heard a rather feeble cry, which emanated from a young puppy ~ who resolutely followed the cub. We all stood motionless. The puppy came within a yard of the cub ~ who turned round ~ snarled and raised a foot. The puppy sat down and scratched his ear and the cub resumed its trot towards us and the wall. Following the cub for several yards, the puppy stopped and looked back where he had come. He seemed undecided whether to hunt on or return to the pack. He looked again at the retreating cub and then galloped back to the covert.
We shall never forget the lovely sight of these two young animals eyeing each other with curiosity. The cub, on reaching the wall ran along it until he came to a gate through which he passed, crossed the road and entered another cover."
(Readers letter. Hounds magazine. Volume 5, No. 1. November 1988. Page 37)
This goes to the heart of the conflict over the hunting of wildlife with dogs. During a quiet period in our visit to the Kimberley & Wymondham Coursing Club on February 13th Brian Caffarey commented to me on something that interested him a great deal.
He was puzzled as to how a person like myself who had spent so many years observing all forms of hunting wildlife, in every part of the UK and the Republic of Ireland, could at the end of it come to completely the opposite view to those who delighted in such pastimes.
The answer is summed up by the responses of either side to the letter above. For the hunting author it was a "lovely sight" one they would doubtless like to see again. For myself and others on our side it sounds to be pitiful and shameful. That said as I explained to Brian we are not true opposites from the hunting side. We do not oppose hunting as such but we do oppose the hunting of wild animals. Remove the wild animal from the game and it is fine by me. The animal should be removed because to keep it in is bullying of the worst kind.
An early draft of this report was sent, as a submission of evidence, by e-mail to the Hunting Inquiry at 5.00p.m. on the deadline day that I was given, May 11th. I received confirmation from the Inquiry of its safe receipt. Because of parts of its content it was not put on the Hunting Inquiry web site.
The Burns Inquiry report was published on June 12th. It highlights a lot of the cruelty inherent in the pastime of hunting wildlife with dogs. In the course of their visits the members of the Committee were allowed the merest glimpse of the true cruelty that occurs in the hunting and coursing fields. Given that salient fact one can only guess at how much stronger their condemnation of this cruelty would have been had they been allowed to witness it in all its gory detail.
I end by expressing my thanks to those at Deadline 2000 who have given Graham and I every support in our endeavours. I would also like to thank the members of the Inquiry Committee and their support staff in the Home Office for the undoubted efforts that they made to uncover the truth. If only the media would put in one tenth of the effort to look beyond the glamorous facade...................!