The return of baiting

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

One of the key issues in the seemingly never ending debate about the Hunting Act, is the balance to be drawn between a law restricting the actions of bloodsports enthusiasts and the wider public view that such bloodsports are cruel and barbaric and have no place in a modern society.

As a charity the League has a duty to spend its charitable funds in line with its charitable objects and for a charitable purpose. Because people find cruelty to animals distressing, actions which reduce animal suffering are regarded as being charitable.

The hunters are clearly conscious of the animal welfare issues that their bloodsports raise, and that is why they have long tried to argue that hunting with dogs is not cruel despite the evidence not being on their side. Post mortems of hunted animals have shown that death was as a result of bite wounds and or disembowelment. For larger animals death was usually as a result of a knife wound or shot at close range delivered only after a prolonged chase that significantly distressed the animal involved.

In a civilised society there is a natural tendency towards tolerance and an instinctive dislike of the ‘nanny state’ exercising too much control over individual citizens. The bloodsports enthusiasts feel that while others may not like their activity that does not give them the right to proscribe their bloodsports by law.

The question for those of us who argue that bloodsports should be proscribed by law, is why should we restrict the freedom of others to do things that we do not like? What is it that gives us that right?

It is an argument that the hunters and shooters hate, but it is nonetheless a very important one. Namely that people who abuse or are cruel to animals are themselves damaged and their sensitivities are coarsened by that cruelty and abuse. The actor Tony Robinson and our Vice-President Bill Oddie make precisely that point in our new film, launched yesterday. People who abuse do not always just limit their abuse to animals; they can also go on to abuse people and sometimes those closest to them. A culture of abuse and violence develops and becomes all embracing.

The hunting fraternity are in deep denial about the nature of the abuse that goes on within and around their bloodsport. The evidence is there for all to see if only they would look. The history of violence to those who oppose them, the assaults, the threats, the dumping of dead animals on doorsteps and all the rest of it are ample evidence of the abusive culture underlying hunting.

The abuse within hunting comes in many forms. Some of it is verbal, some of it is bullying and some of it is physical. There is a collective ‘groupthink’ about their rights to hunt that simply doesn’t see what is played out between the Masters and the Servants and the field and followers and the hunted animals. The ‘huntthink’ becomes a joint enterprise in denying the cruelty of their abuse between all participants. The only flaw they can see in the enterprise is the dead and bloodied bodies of their victims, and hence the oft made claim that they are only out for the ride, the kill isn’t really their thing and anyway they never see it, it is all over before they get there.

The hunts have a very odd relationship with the ‘terriermen’. Wearing camouflage, riding quad bikes carrying terriers in boxes, the terriermen now accompany most fox hunts. Apparently the supposedly nice and allegedly law abiding people who hunt don’t want to be directly associated with the actual activity of fox baiting that is the reality of terrierwork.

In a weird way it is as if the cruelty of the chase and the kill above ground are not troublesome to them as long as the field don’t get to the front and see it happening. It is like children who think that they are hiding by covering their eyes. If they don’t see it, it isn’t really happening.

The terriermen are both a problem and a problem solver for the hunts. Farmers traditionally let the hunts onto their land on the clear understanding that foxes would be killed. The hunts were always very inefficient killers of foxes and following the passage of the Hunting Act chasing and killing for sport is a crime so they really can’t offer an efficient fox killing service without putting forward the terriermen for that work.

The terriermen are people who get pleasure from pitting their dogs against foxes and badgers below ground. That is baiting. The fact that the vast majority of hunts have terriermen in tow says a lot about them. Interestingly, the terriermen usually do their work after the hunt and followers have left the scene. It is as if the hunt know what they might see if they stayed and they don’t want to see it.

The terriermen put their dogs into holes in the ground, with locator collars attached, in the sure and certain knowledge that the terriers will not back off if they find a fox or a badger in residence or simply in hiding from the hunt. The terriers are supposed to bark when they find but not to engage with the fox or badger. One look at a lot of the terriers will tell you that underground, ‘engagement’ is the reality of what often happens.

Anyone who has seen a Jack Russell meet other dogs knows what will happen and how difficult it can be to control them. Most postmen will tell you that their size does not deter the average terrier. The idea that below ground in the dark, the fox and terrier are just going to look at each other and bark is fanciful. The idea that a badger is just gong to turn tail when a terrier comes calling is just ridiculous. Terrierwork is fox and badger baiting for bloodsport and hunts are using it as the price to gain entry to land for their ‘sport’.

The fox and badger baiters are using the hunts as their entry ticket to land so that they can engage in their bloodsport of fox and badger baiting under the cover given to them by the hunts. The farmers, land owners and agents who allow the terrierwork are signing up to fox and badger baiting on their land.

Anyone who has seen the results of fox and badger baiting for both the fox or badger and the terriers would be horrified. The cruelty of dog fighting for sport was recognised and banned by law 175 years ago, yet dog on fox fights is the reality of modern fox hunting. Fox baiting for sport is animal abuse, it is that simple. Any hunt associated with fox baiting for sport, is involved in criminal abuse of dogs for bloodsport. The public in my view have every right and even a duty to proscribe such cruelty and abuse of animals for sport. Please do all you can to help the League to Keep Cruelty History.

Finally, this week saw the launch of our new website. Please take a look at and do let us have your feedback.


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