Archive for February, 2010

Image of the Day – 99

Sorry to spoil your breakfast, but does this look like a “quick nip to the back of the neck” to you?

Why on earth some politicians want to bring this back is, quite frankly, beyond us. Help us to Keep Cruelty History.

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Update from Conservative Spring Forum

We’re having an interesting time at the Conservative Party Spring Forum in Brighton. Running today and tomorrow, it’s the final big event for the Party before the general election. We don’t have a stand at the event but we are using it as an opportunity to talk to Conservative MPs and PPCs about our campaign issues.

What’s interesting about the discussions we’ve been having so far is that whilst hunting is an issue on which there is a clear divide between the League’s position and their belief, there is a great deal of agreement between MPs and PPCs in their support for our other campaigns. The response we’re hearing on snaring, for example, is that they are barbaric traps and should be phased out. On greyhounds, they are saying that we are right to be disappointed with the government’s new regulations. We are being congratulated for turning our attention to dog fighting.

But even within the hunting issue, there is some agreement. Fox hunting is the key dividing issue, but a repeal of the Hunting Act would bring back hare hunting and coursing, and stag hunting too. It’s very evident that that’s the elephant in the room. Very few Conservatives we’ve been speaking to – even those who back repeal of fox hunting – are keen on the idea of repealing hare coursing and stag hunting.

The challenge for us is in persuading Conservative PPCs that public opinion is not on their side on this issue, and we’ll be back in there tomorrow doing just that.

PS: You can follow us on Twitter for more up to the minute updates.

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Leaked to the League…

Some kind soul has leaked the following article to us. It was written by a senior hunter, and submitted for publication but rejected. The arrogance is quite spectacular!

Many of us in the countryside can remember how, after the Hunting Act was implemented in February 2005, that particular season ended in some disarray. Some hunts, believing that they were unable to continue under the new and vindictive law, even curtailed their seasons by several months. It was only during the summer of 2005 that someone within our community conceived the concept of trail hunting. I don’t know the identity of this person but he should be knighted.

Of course we could not convert to straight drag hunting! That, as someone once accurately observed, is like kissing your sister. Our history and culture demanded that we keep as close as possible to the real thing. So it is that it has now become the norm for artificial fox scents to be deliberately laid in places where foxes were traditionally found. In the pursuit of realism, the huntsman must remain unaware of exactly where the trail has been laid and so, of necessity, perform exactly the same tasks as he did before the Act. Hounds are entered into scrubland and thickets and drawn along hedgerows. It’s interesting to record that when our four legged friends were trained in the new procedures during the Autumn of 2005, what a revelation it was to us all how frequently these wonderful creatures were able to distinguish between the artificial scent and the real thing!

Neither let us forget the role of the trail-layers in this ongoing saga of hunting determination and ingenuity. I cannot emphasis enough how important it is – again, for the maintenance of realism – for the huntsman to remain ignorant of the precise location of the trail. For this reason, our boys will set off on quadbike, with horse in tow for the more difficult terrains, before the crack of dawn. In addition, many hunting countries are so rugged that trail layers have to be fully qualified rock climbers. Neither should the difficulty of laying trails across difficult terrain in semi darkness be underestimated. Notwithstanding all of this, trail-layers, without exception, take great pride in not being observed as they go about their work. In fact, I believe I can say without fear of contradiction that, no working trail layer has been observed by anyone since December 2005 when, of course, preliminary PR work had to be done with newspaper and television people.

Sometimes we are asked to explain the role of the terrierman, who is still to be seen at hunts replete with terriers and spades. The answer is very simple. At the end of a trail hunt, the hounds will often mill around in puzzlement, exactly as they used to do when they ‘marked to ground’ after ‘Charlie’ had retreated to his underground refuge. Unfortunately in today’s world the hounds are forbidden by law to receive the natural fruits of the terrierman’s digging. But as with the hunt itself, an unsatisfactory alternative has been found.. Our man in camo gear will locate a nearby burrow, enter his terriers, dig down and retrieve a rabbit for the disappointed hounds.

Of course, accidents do happen; real foxes are sometimes found; a pursuit can take place. In these circumstances huntsmen are required by law to call off the hounds. They do this by galloping after our pursuing lovelies and by making appropriate horn and voice calls. Needless to say, there have been occasions when the wretched antis, rising from the undergrowth like damp phoenixes, and waiving their blasted video cameras have recorded such scenes in an attempt to prove that our people are in some way behaving illegally. Of course our wonderful police are not fooled so easily and have, quite rightly, given our unsavoury friends short shrift. But this situation is untenable in the long run. There is a lasting fear for the innocent master and huntsman of being successfully prosecuted. Quite simply, the associated stress is unacceptable.

For these reasons we cannot go on like this. A Conservative Government and a subsequent repeal cannot come soon enough. The antis of course will scream blue murder. But I tell you, they are so ignorant of countryside matters that after the deed is done they won’t be able to tell the difference!

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Image of the Day – 98

This became illegal five years ago last week. As we resume Image of the Day, please help us to keep it that way.

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The age of stupid

This week’s note from Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive

The fifth anniversary of the Hunting Act 2004 coming into effect was accompanied by a lot of media coverage. From press adverts through to blogs and television and radio interviews, the hunting issue reached an audience estimated at well over ten million people.

The new film now on our website showing celebrity reactions to film of traditional hunting has proved very popular. It has also been repeated on celebrity fan websites and is reaching a much wider audience.

The hunters have an ever increasing image problem. They like to look like country squires and gentle folk out for a good days hedge-hopping on horse back, but time and again they run into problems. ‘Accidents’ and incidents abound. Hounds on railways, in housing estates, on firing ranges while red flags are flying, and on trunk roads, are indicative of either an unwillingness or an inability to control their packs of hounds.

Some people in the hunting fraternity are playing a very dangerous game with their hounds, their supporters, and the general public alike. Where hunts are continuing to train hounds to chase fox and deer scents, and the hounds get onto the line of a live deer or fox, they run the risk of ending up on a road or a railway line. If to avoid accusations of hunting illegally the people in control of the hounds hold well back so that they can argue in court that they didn’t know about or intend the live quarry hunt, they also are unable to exercise proper control of their hounds. The result as we have seen all too often is hounds in places where they absolutely should not be.

In the last few weeks there have been several incidents where hounds have ended up on trunk roads and on railway lines, and have been killed. There is something terribly bloody minded about people who put their politics with regard to the campaign for repeal of the Hunting Act ahead of their duty of care for their hounds. Worse still is their willingness to risk the lives of others by recklessly allowing their hounds to get out of sight and out of control. Drivers on dual carriageways should not be faced with packs of hounds in full cry crossing and re-crossing major roads whilst they are driving at or near seventy miles per hour.

To allow a pack onto a Ministry of Defence firing range while the red flags are flying is an act of monumental stupidity. To lay or hunt a trail anywhere near a road or a railway is a further act of monumental stupidity. To allow a pack of hounds to get far ahead of the people responsible for them and for their welfare is the ultimate act of monumental stupidity.

Talking of stupidity, it’s interesting to note the responses we’ve received from hunts to a letter I recently wrote to all masters of hounds, informing them that the advice they had been given by the Countryside Alliance with regard to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act was at best incomplete and at worst misleading, and seeking their assurance that they would make it clear to hunt supporters that monitoring hunts was a lawful activity and not an illegal one as some have suggested. The result has been some interesting answer phone messages. One very grumpy hunt master called to tell us in no uncertain terms not to dare to write to him again. He didn’t leave his details unfortunately, so he will have to put up with further correspondence. Others have been marginally more polite, but have been equally clear that they do not want to hear from us.

For the masters to be refusing to accept good legal advice is quite shocking. Talk about turning a blind eye and a deaf ear! Their line seems to be, “don’t trouble me with facts”!

On the wider field of public and political opinion, the hunting issue is getting more and more profile. Not because the vast majority think that it is a key election issue, far from it; only around 4% of the public believe repeal should be a government priority. What appears to be happening is that the hunters and in part the Countryside Alliance have decidedly over egged their pudding. Their claims, of repeal being an early priority for an incoming Conservative government, and having overwhelming support amongst candidates are beginning to unravel because they are not based on the facts.

Politicians have a pretty good finger on the pulse of public opinion and well know that the Hunting Act has the support of more than 75% of the public. They also know that repeal is not what the vast majority of the public actually want. All this talking up of the prospects of an early repeal may encourage the hunters, but it is fast becoming a major political embarrassment for the very politicians whose support they will need if and when it actually comes to a free vote on the hunting issue.

It is already quite clear that while some politicians are prepared to say in private to the hunters that they will support repeal, they are not nearly so keen to say so publicly to the vast majority of their potential electors who do not want repeal. This is leading to some significant confusion about where individual candidates actually stand on the hunting issue. At present almost 1,000 have said or made it clear where they stand on the hunting issue. A large number have tried to dodge the question by saying that they will only decide when they see what actual question is put to them in parliament.

The best way through to the politicians and candidates who are sitting on the fence is to ask them some direct questions. Do they support the return of hare coursing with dogs? Do they support the return of stag hunting with dogs for sport? Do they support the return of hare hunting with dogs for sport? Do they support the return of fox hunting with dogs for sport? A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will do. Ask the question in a public meeting if you can, or in the local paper or on the radio or television if you call in to a chat program. Do they think that repeal of the Act is a priority for an incoming government? Yes or no? Some politicians will be quite forthright in their replies, others will be less so. Given that politicians of all parties agree that hunting is a free vote issue in parliament, you are well within your rights to ask the questions and to seek an answer on the issues that concern you.

Finally it is worth sparing a thought for our wildlife with all the bad weather we have had recently. Unusual amounts of snow and rain affect our wildlife in all sorts of ways. Food is harder to find, particularly if it has to be dug for under the snow. Wet coats lead to rapid heat loss. Animals tend to do all that they can to conserve heat and energy and to minimise the use of body reserves to ensure their survival until spring comes. If the hunters really cared about wildlife, they would call an early end to their bloodsports and minimise the disturbance they cause which in turn causes unnecessary suffering. But, no they don’t stop, they just go on with their bloodsports regardless of the suffering being caused.

Please do all you can to help us Keep Cruelty History.

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Today’s Celebrity, Shocked by the Hunt: Gemma Atkinson

See the full Celebrity Shock film on our website. This is the final instalment; Image of the Day returns tomorrow.

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Hare coursing not a conservation method

The League Against Cruel Sports has criticised new research published by Queen’s University for failing to adequately consider vital issues of concern in regards to the ‘conservation’ supposedly offered by hare coursing.

The Irish hare can suffer from injuries and fatality at all stages of the coursing process including capture, handling, transportation captivity, during the coursing event and also after release.

Of particular concern is the impact of a stress based syndrome ‘capture myopathy’. The syndrome leads to a compromise in the immune system and consequently death to hares which have appeared to initially survived a coursing event. This syndrome is thought to vastly increase the number of mortalities by the ‘sport’ and its effects on the local population are unknown.

A key report made to the EU Commission (2008), which rated the conservation status of the Irish hare as POOR also highlighted concern on the effects coursing has on the ‘the impact on local population demographics of hare removal and return.

Northern Ireland Campaigner, Mary Friel said: “Coursing is not a conservation measure, when the numbers of Irish hare fell, Northern Ireland coursing clubs had great difficulty finding hares, even in the areas where their ‘conservation efforts’ were being made. The negative impact coursing has on the welfare of hares far outweighs any perceived benefits to conservation.”

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