Ignorance is no defence in law

This week’s note from Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive

There are times when even the most enthusiastic hunter should pause to reflect upon the wisdom of his or her actions. When the fields are covered in snow and the roads near to impassable most would choose not to go out, but some are so determined to go out even if they can’t ride, they plan to exercise and or run their hounds around the countryside.

I am told that hounds in kennels become difficult to manage if they don’t get out and about. So the braver – or the more desperate – souls in the hunting community want to take their little dogs out for a spot of exercise and recreation for their own good.

Forgive me, but pull the other one; it’s got bells on.

Clearly several issues immediately come to mind. First of all, if the conditions in the kennels are such that the hounds are not freely able to exercise the five freedoms, there is a serious animal welfare problem that needs to be addressed. The fact that it is necessary to take them out as a pack and not as most people do on leads, suggests that the environment in which they are kept is not ideal and that a period of release into an exercise and safe play area is required at regular intervals. Any such exercise environment should of course come complete with play things for the dogs, and I don’t mean by that wild mammals or other people’s pets and livestock.

When it comes to setting up a hound exercise or trail hunt in the snow there are even more issues. The hounds and the huntsman will clearly be able to see where any trail has been laid. The foot or hoof prints will be visible. Where the hounds latch onto a fox or hare trail the marks in the snow will also make that very clear. It will be difficult for the huntsman, master or whipper-in to plead ignorance of what the hounds are up to when the marks in the snow are there for all to see.

If, on that alleged trail or hound exercise, the hounds run across roads or a railway line, it must be clear to all concerned that it is not an artificial scent that they are following. No-one in their right mind would lay a trail across a main road or a railway line. To have done so would have been an act of criminal stupidity.

There is a risk that some of what we have heard reported lately in terms of hunt havoc, is the inevitable consequence of many hunts failure to train their hounds to follow non-animal based scents. Bored dogs let out of confinement are notoriously difficult to control, and they will riot onto a live animal if they ‘accidentally’ come across the scent of one.

With hunts hoping for repeal of the Act there is a strong temptation for them not to change and to move with the times to lawful activities. There is a collective denial of responsibility in the hunting community. If someone takes a pack of dogs to a place and then release them knowing that they are trained to follow quarry animal scents, they cannot be surprised when they are held responsible for what their dogs do.

If the dogs then follow a scent, they will make it very clear by their noises that they are on to what they believe to be their quarry. The huntsman, master and whipper-in will know this too, as do the followers and supporters in the field. If hunt officials and supporters are determined to stay within the law, they will of course take a great interest in what the hounds are up to and where they are headed, lest a crime be about to be committed.

What is of particular concern is that the latest tactic by those involved seems to be to stay so far back that they can claim that they didn’t know what the hounds were up to and that whatever happened was a tragic accident to the fox, hare, or even the hound killed on the road or railway line.

In my mind if you take your dog out, you are responsible for its welfare. It is up to you to exercise sufficient care and control of it to ensure that it and or other animals and people are not endangered or injured or killed. For hunts and their hounds to be on railway lines, roads, or trespassing on private property is inexcusable.

Accidents do happen, but often there is a finger to be pointed with regard to why the accident may have happened and to establish who was responsible.

It is to be hoped that those responsible in all hunts will learn from the recent spate of incidents of hounds seemingly out of control rioting through places they should not be in and in several cases being killed or injured as a result.

Finally I think it is worthwhile dusting off the human rights arguments. Despite getting a drubbing in the Courts, both here in the UK and in Europe, the hunters seem to be taking a keen interest in human rights.

The hunters’ new interest in human rights legislation is somewhat selective in its interpretation of the law. There is no such thing in human rights law as a freedom to be cruel, to man or beast whether in private or in public.

It is not an infringement of someone’s civil liberties to film them engaged in an act in a public place. The right to privacy in the countryside certainly does not confer on anyone a freedom to commit a crime in those hills and vales of the countryside even if they also own those hills and vales. Public access can be restricted to footpaths, but that does not make your or anyone else’s action on that land private in the legal sense of the word. What the hunters choose to do in the countryside with their friends and their staff is not a private act and if criminal is none the less of a crime.

It is fairly clear now that some in the bloodsports lobby believe that while the Hunting Act should not apply to them, other laws should apply to anyone with temerity to get in their way. One law or rather no law for them it seems, and lots of law for anyone who opposes hunting and wants to help uphold the law of the land.

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7 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    mhayworth said,

    All dogs that have been trained to kill in any manner, should be muzzled when out of an enclosure. This would be the perfect solution to avoid so called ‘accidents’ during drag hunts or other excerise activities and would make policing of the hunts much easier. Going forward, it should be illegal to train young hounds to follow anything other than an artificial scent – otherwise the hunts will never take the concept of drag hunting seriously.

    If only those who train and manage the hounds would realise there is ample work for them in a drag hunting industry. Sadly, they fight for repeal because their masters are the ones who really can’t let go of the kill.

  2. 2

    “Sadly, they fight for repeal because their masters are the ones who really can’t let go of the kill.”

    You’ve got it in one, mhayworth, and I’d feel sorry for them if they were not so vile. A bit like the S.S. guards at Buchenwald (in ‘The White Rabbit,’ the true story of the late Wing Commander F.F.E. Yeo-Thomas) who sang ‘Silent Nacht’ on Christmas Day in 1944 and beat some of their charges to death the next day.

    Buggers, the lot of them!

  3. 3

    […] Grasping at Straws!! I felt I really had to share this article because it is hilarious. LACS have now told us that exercising hunt hounds in the snow is […]

  4. 4

    richardb98 said,


    Ok i will remember this for next winter LACS. Next time I see the little old lady living next door taking her Terrier out for a walk in the snow. oh heaven forbid the monstrous woman, never realised she was so bitterly cruel to animals. I will be sure to ring you straight away to report her for animal abuse!!!

  5. 5

    mhayworth said,

    Well we can dispose of the class warfare argument again. Surely the upper classes don’t write their posts in text phone messaging terms such as ‘Lol’. The writing style fits in well with the level of maturity though, given the topic up for discussion. If you are not able to determine the difference between an old lady walking a terrier and a group of people on horseback letting their hounds die needlessly on a railway track, cruelty might be the least of your problems.

  6. 6

    richardb98 said,

    Well as I was posting that comment from a mobile phone I think I can be allowed one abbreviation to show my amusement at at the thought of exercising hounds in snow as an act of cruelty.

    But if you wish, and as I am now at a computer I will make sure my spelling and punctuation impeccable. And by which means you can bring up the oh so very old class argument.

    And as far as the railway tracks comment goes I would like to state that accidents do happen. But yes some can be prevented, but not all.

    All hunts that I have followed, all hunt within the law. I am not naive enough to say there are’s some out there that bend the law to their interests. But the hunts I know, I have the greatest respect for, and have some of the best cared for hounds that I have ever come across.

    That been said I do truly believe that the LACS truly are clutching at straws now.

  7. 7

    mhayworth said,

    Considering the number of hunts that now go out with a bird of prey, you might say they were hunting within the law but anyone with common sense would say they are still hunting live quarry with intent. The CA reminds us constantly how 50,000 hunters signed a pledge to ignore the law so you can probably see where we are coming from.

    I followed the news of all the Boxing Day and New Years Day hunts across the country and in all but one of the articles I read, the hunts were celebrating an upcoming repeal. These people literally can’t wait to get back to terrifying and killing animals again. It is clear that most never had any intention of carrying on with drag hunting. Little wonder we see so much violence in children these days. What sort of role models do they have to look up to when politicians support this form of barbarity?

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