Archive for October, 2009

“Autumn Hunting”

The lovely Octavia Pollock gushes about her lovely day out ‘Autumn Hunting’ with the Chiddingfold, Leconfield & Cowdray Hunt in a piece for the Country Life website.

terrierman with cub remains2 croppedLest anyone should have forgotten what ‘autumn hunting’ really is, let us remind you. It’s cub hunting. The hunting of fox cubs by hunts who want to train their young hounds how to kill. When the hunters realised how publicly unpalatable such awful activities are, they renamed it ‘hound training’, and then ‘autumn hunting’, presumably to invoke images of majestic horses trampling on conkers rather than baby foxes being torn apart.

The League is helping to promote a new film to be previewed at the House of Commons next month. It’s pretty hush hush for now, but in one very interesting scene, a man attending a party conference last month was asked why the hunters call it autumn hunting rather than cub hunting. He replied that it was called autumn hunting “to stop people like you [the film-maker] getting all upset about it”.

We’re not suggesting that the lovely Octavia or the CL&C have been engaged in illegal cub hunting, though. We assume – and we’re sure they’d be quick to confirm – that they hunt within the law; a fine example of the law working. We’re just reminding readers of cub hunting because it’s just another form of cruelty that would return following a repeal of the Hunting Act.

Keep Cruelty History.

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The truth about snaring

A former member of our press team, Marcus Papadopoulos, writes for Religious Intelligence:

Taking a stroll in the countryside with your partner, children and dogs is as relaxing as sitting down on a Saturday night with a glass of wine watching the latest movie blockbuster. Read on…

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Discrediting hunting

huntingactEvery day, our postbag includes various gems of intelligence sent to us by supporters up and down the country. Much of this is very helpful to our Operations Team, as it enables them to focus the work of our Hunt Observers much more effectively.

Today we’ve had a wonderful newsletter from a hunt in the north of England. Much of it is of no interest, save for this wonderful piece on repeal of the Hunting Act. It demonstrates how serf-like the hunting community is, gleefully swallowing the Countryside Alliance line that repeal of the Hunting Act is in their sights.

“There could well be efforts to discredit hunting.” You bet there will!

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From our archive

bloodsportsFollowing our head office move from central London to leafy Surrey just over a year ago, the League has begun the long process of creating electronic versions of archive material, some dating right back to the foundations of the League in 1924.

Some of this material continues to be useful, and there are plans for a high profile outing of some of the material as part of our Keep Cruelty History campaign in the run up to the general election. But some of it is just fascinating, such as this confidential 1947 letter from the British Field Sports Society (BFSS) to all Masters of Hounds.

In the letter, BFSS Secretary James W Fitzwilliam is complaining that the term ‘blood sports’ is becoming increasingly common, including amongst huntsmen themselves. He urges use of the terms ‘country sports’ and ‘field sports’ instead, to avoid “suggesting to townspeople … all sorts of unknown horrors”.

Those damn townspeople, eh. The arrogance with which hunters then – as now – claim hunting to be favoured by country people and attacked only by townies who don’t understand the issues is astonishing. The League has this year undertaken extensive research to find out more about the demographic make-up of our members, and we know that the vast majority of our members live and work in the countryside, and also visit it regularly. ‘Townspeople’ they are not. And we also know from the Ipsos-MORI poll last month that support for the ban on hunting remains over 70% even in rural communities.

It’s clear from the tone of the letter that the blood sports brigade was fearful even then of a public turning against them and their cruel ‘sport’. Then, just as now, the hunters wanted a veil of secrecy around their nefarious activities and then, as now, they had an organisation to help them out. Incidentally, the BFSS was later to become the Countryside Alliance, that well known champion of rural post offices.

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“Recreational primate killer”? Or idiotic prat?

Readers of The Independent aren’t used to the page three style of some other tabloid newspapers, and so they must have been shocked this morning to see an enormous tit on page three. But not of the female variety – the tit was, in fact, AA Gill, the restaurant critic, who’s just back from Tanzania after shooting a baboonThe Indy had picked up on Gill’s column in the Sunday Times Style Magazine in which he wrote about journeying to Tanzania to become a “recreational primate killer”.

We think that shooting animals for ‘fun’ is wrong. It’s an affront to decent humane behaviour. Gill ought to be ashamed of himself.

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The new ‘hunting season’

hhHorse & Hound magazine can always be relied upon for detailed – though certainly not balanced – coverage of hunting. For example, they’re always quick to report on hunting prosecutions that fail, but never those that succeed and certainly not cases where a hunt supporter is charged with assault or some other violent office.

This week, at the start of the ‘hunting season’ (despite the fact that the last ‘hunting season’ ended on 18th February 2005 when the Hunting Act came into force), Horse & Hound devotes over twenty pages to hunting, and why the ‘sport’ is “stronger than ever”.

As you’d expect, champion whinger Otis Ferry makes a full page photographic appearance next to an article in which he condemns the ‘inhumane, unjust law” which prevents him killing for fun. But poor Otis aside, some of this is actually quite interesting.

The Countryside Alliance have sent a survey to all hunts in order to establish the current levels of hunt support and staffing around the country, and the results appear on page four of the magazine. Choice extracts include:

  • 81% of respondents hunt the same number of days [as before the ban]
  • 86% have the same number of employees or more
  • 93% have as many or more subscribers than they did pre-Hunting Act

These are interesting for several reasons, with two being particularly instructive. Firstly, it demonstrates that the arguments put forward by the hunters and the Countryside Alliance when the ban was being debated in parliament – namely that jobs and the rural economy would suffer – were patently false, as we said they were. We actually said at the time that, if the cruelty was removed from hunting, more people would take part, and that’s exactly what’s happening. The Alliance scaremongering that 16,000 jobs would be at risk if hunting was banned turned out to be nothing more than bluster.

The second point is a question for the Alliance and their friends, and really gets to the crux of the matter. If hunting is more popular now than ever before, why on earth repeal the Hunting Act?

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“David, you’re mad”, MORI Chairman tells BBC

DailyPoliticsOn the Daily Politics show this lunchtime, the chairman of Ipsos-MORI, the esteemed Sir Robert Worcester, gave a message to David Cameron that he is “mad” to consider repealing the Hunting Act when 62% of his supporters back the ban, and only 33% want to see it repealed.

The figures quoted by Sir Bob are from the poll commissioned last month by the League and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Of course, the opposition were quick to rubbish the results by making some spurious claim about polling being reliant on ‘asking the right question’. Surely “Do you think hunting should be made legal again” is pretty straightforward?

Watch the programme here, and read the full poll results here.

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Parliamentary Charity Awards 2009

We were delighted to learn this morning that we have been nominated for the ‘Best Animal Welfare Charity’ award at the annual Parliamentary Charity Awards 2009. The ceremony takes place in parliament on 16th November.

May the best animal welfare charity win!

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This week’s note from Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive.

As a Chief Executive I like to keep a eye on what the opposition are up to. Their recent actions have been particularly instructive.

The Nick Herbert saga is a case in point. On the one hand he takes money from supporters in the pro-bloodsports lobby and with the other hand appears to offer a change of party policy from what he is reported to have said the week before.

Last week we were told that the Conservative Party is considering how to handle any possible repeal of the Act and whether or not time should be given to a Private Members Bill, and whether it should leave the ban on hare coursing in place. This week the story changed to an assurance that there had been no change and there would be a ‘government bill in government time’.

Then, gently floating through the ether, came a message for the pro-hunting faithful from Conservative Chairman Eric Pickles. He was reported as having given assurances to the supporters of Vote-OK, that the Conservatives would indeed do their best to give parliament a chance to repeal the Act. Interestingly the assurance was rapidly deleted from the bulletin boards on which it had appeared. Now you see and hear the reassurance, now you don’t.

And it’s becoming increasingly clear that the hare coursers are being frozen out of the hopes and aspirations for repeal. We hear that the proposed hunt Regulatory Authority will be asked to leave the hare coursers out of ‘nice’ hunting by making it clear that organised competitions like the Waterloo Cup are considered cruel and must not be held. That of course will leave the police and farmers powerless to deal with all the trespassers coursing on their land.

Even deeper in the bloodsports underworld violence and vandalism are rearing their ugly heads. Lush cosmetic shops have suddenly become a target for vandals who daub pro-bloodsports messages on their property. Shop staff have been threatened with violence. The bloodsports lobby contains some people who just do not recognise the rule of law, and the management of the hunts seem prepared to turn a blind eye to such thuggery. Even worse, some hunt masters seem to revel in it.

One monitor reported to me that her colleague had had lost her camera from her car and had her tyres slashed. The very next week the master said to her, “new tyres and new camera I see”, making it very clear that he knew exactly what had gone on. He could only have got that knowledge from someone who either committed the office or at least knew what had been done and by whom!

There is a loss of moral perspective among the passionate pro-bloodsports supporters that is deeply worrying. Not only do they see no wrong in being violent to animals for sport, they also fail to draw the line at violence to the person and to property as well.

Hunting animals with dogs for sport is corrupting the moral sensibilities of those who engage in it. They get very uncomfortable when we say that, but nonetheless, the violence, thuggery and abuse associated with hunting live animals for sport is cause for serious concern. It is naïve in the extreme for the hunts to believe that when they employ, contract, or allow the thugs to tag along for the days hunting, that the thugs will restrict their abuse to wild animals and that they will obey the law.

What is particularly worrying about the pro-bloodsports lobby is the hold that they seem to have over some politicians. Despite popular opinion being resolutely against the cruel sports of hunting and coursing, some politicians appear determined to spend yet more time in parliament trying to turn the clock back to legitimising cruelty to wild animals for sport. In a one person, one vote democracy, the support for repeal is demonstrably not on the basis of public opinion. Day by day more and more evidence appears to support the belief that the political support for repeal may have been bought with donations to politicians from the pro bloodsports lobby.

In democracies from Afghanistan to the UK, the votes are supposed to be free and fair. If votes to repeal the Hunting Act are being bought for cash then that is a scandal and an abuse of our political process. For this reason I have written to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner raising the issue of the donations to Nick Herbert MP which appear to have occasioned a change of policy.

There is something really frightening about the way in which repeal is now being promoted. The hunters accept that they have lost the public argument and have now switched to making it very clear that they feel that they have the power to do what they want, even if the vast majority of the public do not agree with them. They claim that the Hunting Act was passed by politicians prejudiced against them, and this supposedly makes it acceptable for them overturn an Act which made it a crime to set dogs onto animals for sport.

The bit that the hunters and the politicians who currently support them in wanting to repeal the Act don’t get, is that making it a crime to abuse and be cruel to animals is not unreasonable or prejudiced, it is the morally and ethically respectable opinion of the majority.

It is quite frankly amazing that in a General Election being held five years after parliament made hunting a crime, the hunting issue is once more back on the political agenda, especially given the other pressing issues of the day.

The late Tony Banks always said that hunting was a totemic issue. At the base of the hunting debate is the very simple issue of whether or not it is reasonable for someone to be cruel to an animal for their own entertainment or for the entertainment of others? The issue for all of us is that simple. Cruelty to animals for sport is and should be a crime. Let’s work together to Keep Cruelty History and help us make sure that voters know which candidates will vote for cruelty and which will vote against it.

Your vote is both secret and free. While the pro hunt thugs and bullies may seek to dominate the countryside and intimidate and harass those who oppose them, and the pro bloodsports political lobby can throw their money around, you can use your secret ballot to keep cruelty a crime. Cruelty for sport is a crime; let’s keep it that way.

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And the winner is…

Love Spain, Hate Bullfighting

Tonight, at simultaneous events in Barcelona and London, we announced the winner of our Love Spain, Hate Bullfighting street art competition. This follows on from our t-shirt design competition help this time last year.

The winning design appears above. We’ll blog next week with full details and images from the events, together with the designs from runners’ up. In the meantime, to find out more about our bullfighting campaign, click here.

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