Human wrongs, not human rights

This week’s note from Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive; his final for 2009.

At this time of festive good cheer, I want to be able to give you all some good news. Goodness knows you must be fed up hearing the endless mantra that the hunters keep trotting out about the Hunting Act being on the way out. “The last Boxing Day under the Hunting Act 2004” they say. Dream on, we say.

In the last two weeks we have presented three very detailed and well investigated cases to the police. All three police forces are now very firmly on the hunters’ cases. I can’t give you any detail, but be in no doubt that the hunters in question are not going to be happy when they are called in for interview.

I don’t know whether the hunters yet know that the officers of the law are on their trail, but they will soon find out. Ever since ACPO published their new investigators manual for the police officers investigating Hunting Act offences, there has been a step change in police work on Hunting Act cases.

The other issue that the hunters haven’t really got their heads round is that cases are not necessarily based on single events and single offenders. Evidence of a pattern of behaviour by a group of people can be very persuasive and we have on file a lot of film of hunting both before and after the ban.

The Crown Prosecution Service have also changed their guidance to the police and have made it very clear that they expect cases to be investigated and suspects interviewed before the file is formally passed to the CPS for a decision on charging. There is also now a general presumption in place that it is in the public interest to charge the suspect if the evidence passes the evidential tests.

It has taken a long time for all these changes to come into effect, but at long last the hunters are feeling the force of the law. They don’t know when they go out whether or not there are investigators lying in wait for them. They do know that if they get called in for interview, they are going to need to be very well and no doubt expensively represented by lawyers unless of course they opt to plead guilty.

What we have learnt over the last five years is that there is the world of difference between filming to get evidence to campaign with and filming to get evidence that can be used in a prosecution. We have now learnt those lessons the hard way and it has been a steep learning curve. But all of our investigators now have a much better understanding of the problems that the police face every day when they are trying to deal with criminals and bring the perpetrators of crimes to court. It isn’t easy and it can be tempting to say that the police should do better. But working with them as we now do, suddenly we are on their side in the enforcement of the law and there is a lot more mutual respect as a result of that.

A person’s history has a way of catching up with them eventually. Some of the hunters who were all too willing to flaunt their working practices before the ban will rue the day when they end up in court. The hunters who insist that their horn calls now mean the reverse of what they meant before the ban are going to struggle to explain our film of how the same call has changed meaning since hunting for sport was banned.

One of the biggest problems that we have faced is proving to the courts that illegal hunting is an organised activity, and not just a single person crime. Criminal conspiracy is hard to prove, but nonetheless it is quite clear on the basis of the evidence that we already have, that some hunting people are involved in a concerted criminal conspiracy to break the law. It isn’t just the hunt master who may be in the frame, it is also the farmer who follows the illegal hunt on his or her own land and the rider who seeks to alter the course of the hunt by hollering.

Finally there are the terriermen. Their presence is becoming increasingly difficult for the hunt to explain when the purpose of the day is allegedly hound exercise or trail hunting. Their actions are difficult to explain in court if a dig follows on from every trail hunt. The terrier men have become like the proverbial ambulance chasers who work for some of the American legal firms. Their expectation of an ‘accident’ that will provide an excuse to work a dig out raises a whole raft of awkward questions for the hunt they are following. The close working association between hunts and their terriermen destroys the claim that what happens time and time again is an ‘accident’.

The hunters have claimed that the Hunting Act is about to be repealed. You will see in the pro-hunt press, article after article suggesting that the Hunting Act is about to be repealed, yet the political reality is far from that. Like the vast majority of the general public, no serious politician puts action on hunting anywhere near the top of the political agenda post the election. Even with a government made up of candidates of their choice the hunters are still a very long way from repeal.

The hunters assertion that repeal is imminent assumes an election result that provides a clear and substantial majority of candidates who will actually vote for repeal of the Hunting Act. Second, it assumes that the incoming Government will actually bring forward legislation which would repeal the Hunting Act, when the clear political signals emerging from a lot of politicians seeking election are that they are only committed to a free vote on whether there is a parliamentary will to repeal the Act. That is a long way short of what the Countryside Alliance are claiming.

Third the Countryside Alliance is still talking of a wholesale repeal of the Act, when the talk of the Westminster corridors is not about that at all. The political reality is that hare hunting, stag hunting and hare coursing are all already regarded as political no-hopers because way over 80% of voters support the bans and oppose repeal.

Worst of all from the hunters perspective, no serious politician is talking about bringing back hunting for sport. That too is seen as being socially unacceptable in a modern and civilised society. The debate has moved on and the argument is now about civil liberties and whether or not the Hunting Act is an enforceable law.

When it comes to the civil liberties argument, the hunters are on an absolute looser as the European Court of Human Rights has affirmed this week. The general public just cannot see the hunters as they would like to be seen, as an oppressed and abused minority. Their claim is so risible that most people think that they have simply lost the plot. To claim that they are an abused minority, when their bloodsport is all about ritualised and serial acts of animal abuse for sport is just not credible with most people or the courts. There is something ludicrous about the idea of a red coat on a horse claiming to the press and the public that he is a member of an abused minority, but the hunters just don’t get it. Watch them on Boxing Day and you will see exactly what I mean.

Many will remember the human rights cases the hunters brought in Scotland, in the High Court and to the House of Lords, claiming that the Hunting Act and its equivalent in Scotland were a breach of their human rights. Now just before Christmas and the Boxing Day meets, the hunters case has been comprehensively dismissed by the European Court of Human Rights.

In the Court’s judgement the hunters arguments were found wanting. The Court ruled that the Acts did not negatively affect the hunters’ right to private and family life. Further, they said that the hunting community could not be regarded as an ethnic or national minority or that the hunting lifestyle was indispensible for a persons identity.

The Court also ruled that the concept of home did not include the land over which the hunters allowed people to hunt or hunted themselves. In essence hunting is a public activity and not a private one. The Court ruled that the hunters did not have a valid claim for compensation and that the bans did not restrict the hunters right to free assembly.

My favourite part of the ECHR ruling was this: “the bans had been designed to eliminate the hunting and killing of animals for sport in a manner causing suffering and being morally objectionable”. That is precisely what we have always said and it is nice to have the highest court in Europe affirm that view. The hunters will no longer be able to claim that their civil liberties have been infringed by the ban or that they have some legal freedom to be cruel for sport. That Court says they do not!

The other legal reality that is eating away at the hunters week by week is the steady stream of cases and convictions. Week by week more hunters are being added to the list of convicted criminals. More hunters are getting a criminal record and are suffering the consequences of that. Visa refusals, insurance problems, and professional problems, particularly for lawyers who must obey the law. Even magistrates who used to ride to hounds now find that they cannot safely do that with a great number of hunts.

In the last week more than ten people have been convicted under the Hunting Act. Remember this is the Act that the hunters say isn’t working and is unenforceable. There is no doubt that week by week it is costing the hunters dear to defend themselves against the Act that they say isn’t working.

What is actually being talked about in the Westminster corridors is the political impossibility of putting repeal onto the political agenda at a time of economic crisis and hardship.

But – you might say – some politicians have said they will do it and David Cameron has made his personal position on the issue clear! Yes of course they have said that and probably more to the hunters whose votes and leaflet delivery services they dearly want. And yes there is a real risk that too many promises have been made to too many volunteers and donors for the pro-hunt MPs and candidates to renege on their pre-election promises, and because of that we will have to be very vigilant. But – and it is a very big but – the will of the general public is increasingly against repeal and for enforcement of the Act. That is a political reality that cannot be denied by any hunter or sympathetic politician.

The trouble for the hunters and those politicians who support them, is that as far as the public are concerned, if it looks like a hunt, sounds like a hunt, and acts like a hunt, you can’t convince the public that it is really a civil liberties issue or a silly law to have on the Statue Book. On Boxing Day hunters supporting putting a pack of dogs onto an animal for sport just doesn’t look like an essential civil liberty no matter how many quangos they dress it up in. Tolerant the British public may be, but they cannot be persuaded that it is a good idea to create a freedom to be cruel to animals for sport.

If your local candidates haven’t made it clear where they stand on the hunting issue, be sure to ask them and to let us know what they say they plan to do with their free vote.

So what do I expect to happen over hunting as we head for the Boxing Day meets? I think that the hunting issue will rear its head yet again in the media but in a different way to the usual Boxing Day stories. The hunters will make their predictable demands for repeal on civil liberties and supposedly bad law grounds. But this year I think there will be politicians of all parties turning out to make it clear where they stand on the hunting issue and that won’t be on the side of morally objectionable hunting for sport. Suddenly the Keep Cruelty History website will be the place to be.

Thank you for your support this year. From everyone here at the League, have a peaceful and relaxing Christmas and New Year.

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14 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    gilesbradshaw said,

    I completely disagree with this law and will be using my dogs to flush out and chase deer on my farm right through the xmas break.

    What i do is NOT inhumane and it is NOT cruel.

    You have my address Douglas you are very welcome to report me to the police or come and monitor but I doubt you will because you like me know that the law as it applies to me is absurd.

    The only thing you could make me do by prosecuting me is to make me use only two dogs and take steps to shoot the deer and the simple fact is that that would cause the deer massive suffering whereas simply flushing them out and chasing them with my dogs as I do now does not.

    It is totally ridiculous to claim that shooting deer is a more humane means of wildlife management than the one I practice.

  2. 2

    gilesbradshaw said,

    BTW a happy Christmas to you to Douglas and everyone at the League!

  3. 3

    Giles

    We realise that you are using various different accounts to have a debate with yourself. We have found three email addresses with the same IP address as yours placing comments on the blog.

    Post as yourself, please. If you don’t, we’ll block you.

    Merry Christmas.

    Thanks

  4. 4

    gilesbradshaw said,

    League Against Cruel Sports –

    do you think it would cause the deer I flush out more or less suffering if I then shot them?

    Surely you accept that what I do is far less cruel than killing animals.

    I am actually passionately against my killing deer don’t you understand that? Although I do support others right to.

    ps it is a big office here

  5. 5

    gilesbradshaw said,

    maybe you could explain why it is that inspite of the fact you are fully aware that I use my dogs to chase deer you do nothing to prevent it.

    You haven’t ever even reported me to the police.

    If you think this law is so well drafted and what i do is so wrong then why don’t you?

    Surely you accept that flushing a deer out and chasing it with three dogs is far far more humane than flushing it out with two and then gunning it down.

    I have written to Jim Fitzpatrick about this exemption. Why don’t we campaign on it together. It’s absurd that there is a condition in the law for animals to be killed. It makes no sense at all.

  6. 6

    gilesbradshaw said,

    Just sent your Joshua Kaile an email it would be good if you could reproduce it here:

    I really don’t get why the League does not accept that my method of managing deer is less cruel than shooting them.

    What seems especially ironic is that it is precisely the flushing out exemption which I campaign on which is used by the Hunts to carry on killing animals.

    Can’t you see that?

    Fair enough I am pro and you are anti but why don’t we appeal together to get the Government to recognise flaws in the law.

    I am being completely honest when I say I have never killed a deer. I genuinely love the animals on my land. They are truly beautiful creatures.

    It’s just plain wrong for the Hunting Act to contain a condition that animals are shot dead. And it’s wrong that the law is framed so it can be openly broken.

    I am sure that you accept this.

    best wishes for xmas.

    BTW I am sure we could debate this in an open manner as we both clearly care a lot about the issues.

  7. 7

    gilesbradshaw said,

    I call on the League Against Cruel Sports in the spirit of the festive season to acknowledge the simple fact that my flushing out a deer in a wood with my three collies and chasing it off is massively LESS cruel than someone doing the same with two staghounds and then gunning the fleeing animal down.

    If you are against killing animals then surely you can acknowledge that and we can work to get the law reformed.

    A condition that animals are killed when there is no need has NO place in the Hunting Act.

  8. 8

    Martin James said,

    Giles Bradshaw you are clearly a pain in the ### but also so right!

  9. 9

    gilesbradshaw said,

    Indeed I am Martin.

  10. 10

    Martin James said,

    There is something very wrong with a law which people can just openly flout in this manner. It’s quite clear that neither the LACS, the police nor the Government want to make you kill the deer.

    What a total farce!

    I have to say though it is quite funny too! I just wish the hunts had the gumption to break the law as you do Giles. Best of luck with your deer flushing exploits my good man!

  11. 12

    “I completely disagree with this law and will be using my dogs to flush out and chase deer on my farm right through the xmas break.”

    Why don’t you leave the poor b****s alone – just for Christmas, eh?

    BTW, I don’t know your address nor do I want to know it but you are more than welcome to mine. It’s easy enough to find in South East Cambridgeshire.

    Geoffrey Woollard.

  12. 13

    Sorry. I left too few ***s in that posting. The word should have read b*****s. The singular is B****r, but I suppose you know that already.

  13. 14

    gilesbradshaw said,

    Dear Douglas,

    Thank you for your letter. I contacted the RSPCA regarding flushing out
    the deer recently and a Mr John Pollock responded with a message in my
    voicemail. He is the RSPCA officer at West Hatch.

    He said that because the law is ambiguous he had had to get advice from
    his legal team. Interesting in itself as you claim the law is clear.

    He went on to say that he has no problem with me flushing out deer with
    dogs as it (and I quote) ‘seems like an ideal way to move the deer
    through the wood.’ The current advice from the RSPCA to me is that I
    can flush but with only two dogs as long as I don’t chase the deer.

    Not actually what the law says of course!

    I have also been writing via my MP to Jim Fitzpatrick the farming
    minister. As you know defra have given varying advice on the legality
    of flushing out. At first they said as it involved ‘chasing away’ it
    was legal, then they said it is illegal, now Mr Fitzpatrick in his
    letters has said the legality of my activities is ‘uncertain’, when
    pushed he has said that flushing out is ‘probably’ not hunting as
    defined in the Act.

    Personally I don’t think the man has a clue what he is talking about.

    You say that I refuse to accept that flushing out and chasing the deer
    is hunting. Not so, I have always argued that it is illegal under the
    hunting act.

    Interestingly of course the law does not actually make it clear if the
    definition of hunting under the Act requires an intention to catch the
    animal or not. We know it does not include all the ordinary English
    meanings of the word following the Tony Wright case where the judge
    found that ‘searching’ was not illegal.

    Yes I am deliberately using my dogs to chase deer.

    I recently had a number of emails from your Joshua Kaile threatening to
    send some LACS monitors down to observe me intentionally using my dogs
    to hunt deer. I made it very clear to Joshua that the monitors were
    welcome and I would do my best to ensure they got plenty of footage of
    any chase that occured and a signed statement from me that I was
    deliberately using my dogs to hunt the deer.

    Needless to say the monitors did not turn up which was a shame as I got
    up at dawn on the Saturday as I often do and the dogs found some deer in
    the woods which they chased.

    I am not the slightest bit ashamed of what I do as you probably realise.
    I am afraid I do regard the hunting Act as it applies to me as a bit of
    a joke.

    The fact is Douglas as you perfectly well know you will not lift a
    finger to prevent me breaking the Hunting Act. Inspite of your alleged
    support for what i do being illegal you have never taken any action
    whatsoever to prevent me breaking the hunting Act. You’ve not even
    reported me to the police.

    I discussed the flushing out exemption with your Joshua Kaile and put a
    direct question to him as to whether he supported it. His answer was
    quite clear. ‘No’.

    LACS claim that shooting flushed out deer is a humane alternative to
    illegal hunting. I’m sorry but in my case it is not. It is completely
    ridiculous for you to suggest that me taking a few dogs into a wood and
    flushing a deer out is less humane than gunning the animal down as it is
    fleeing from hounds.

    I simply do not believe that you think this is the case.

    I am copying this letter to Stephen Otter my Chief Constable. As you
    know the police are well aware of my activities and some time ago the
    force legal advisor Rober Glass wrote to me to assure me it was unlikely
    that I would face prosecution as it would not be in the public interest.

    I fully support the police’s position on this and so should you.

    At the end of the day no one is prepared to take any action whatsoever
    to prevent me from breaking the Hunting Act. Not you, not the RSPCA and
    not the police. This is due to one simple fact. By not shooting the
    flushed out deer I am not hurting them. If I obeyed the law and took
    reasonable steps to shoot the deer after they are flushed out I would be
    causing them massive trauma and pain.

    A condition to shoot animals dead where there is no sensible argument
    for it has no place in the Hunting Act. You know this, the Government
    know this and the police know this. It is simply a bizzare and stupid
    piece of legislation. There is a fundamental principle here and that is
    that people have a perfect right to break absurd laws where the
    Government is unable to enforce them. I have fought hard for the right
    to break the Hunting Act and I have won it.

    There is a proud heritage of breaking unjust and ridiculous laws in this
    country.

    Please understand that although i copy James Barrington my actions are
    entirely off my own bat and not sanctioned by MWG, CA etc.

    I am also posting this onto your website.

    I am very proud to do just that.

    Best wishes to you and your family over Christmas.

    Giles

    cc james Barrington
    Stephen Otter
    Jim Fitzpatrick MP
    Joshua Kaile
    Louise Robertson
    John Pollock c/o west hatch

    On Fri, 2009-12-18 at 15:49 +0000, Douglas Batchelor wrote:
    > Dear Giles,
    >
    > I am glad to hear that you have never killed a deer.
    >
    > The bit that you persistently refuse to accept is that setting your dogs
    > onto deer is every bit as much hunting as killing them would be. The
    > chase is an unnecessary and deliberate disturbance organised by you
    > using your dogs, and that in law appears to me to be hunting with dogs
    > as defined in the Act.
    >
    > Surely if you have the best interests of the deer at heart, you would be
    > allowing them appropriate shelter on your land from the activities of
    > any hunts and hunters you mention who may wish them harm. You can of
    > course legally use appropriate fencing to keep the deer out of any areas
    > where they might cause damage to crops or trees.
    >
    > Yours,
    >
    >
    > Douglas
    >
    >
    >
    > —–Original Message—–
    > From: Giles Bradshaw
    > Sent: 18 December 2009 10:54
    > To: Douglas Batchelor
    > Subject: letter
    >
    >
    > I sent this to Joshua Louise and Steve too:
    >
    > I really don’t get why the League does not accept that my method of
    > managing deer is less cruel than shooting them.
    >
    > What seems especially ironic is that it is precisely the flushing out
    > exemption which I campaign on which is used by the Hunts to carry on
    > killing animals.
    >
    > Can’t you see that?
    >
    > Fair enough I am pro and you are anti but why don’t we appeal together
    > to get the Government to recognise flaws in the law. From your point of
    > view you could use this to try and get the exemption in the law under
    > which the hunts are killing animals removed. Obviously I feel that
    > where there is no chance of the deer being hurt then what I do should be
    > legal but that could be debated.
    >
    > I am being completely honest when I say I have never killed a deer. I
    > genuinely love the animals on my land. They are truly beautiful
    > creatures. I am standing up for a humane and non lethal way of managing
    > them.
    >
    > Do you not realise how much worse it would be for a fleeing deer to be
    > mown down by bullets? It’s ridiculous to argue that that is more
    > ‘humane’.
    >
    > It’s just plain wrong for the Hunting Act to contain a condition that
    > animals are shot dead. And it’s wrong that the law is framed so it can
    > be openly broken.
    >
    > I am sure that you accept this.
    >
    > best wishes for xmas.
    >
    > BTW I am sure we could debate this in an open manner as we all clearly
    > care a lot about the issues.
    >
    >
    >
    >


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