Cameron faces Tory revolt over move to ease ban on hunting with hounds

From The Guardian March 23rd

Amendment to Hunting Act would allow up to 40 hounds to flush out a fox to face waiting guns

A growing number of Conservative MPs have warned David Cameron that he risks losing a vital Commons vote if he pushes ahead with what they believe is an attempt to weaken the ban on hunting to woo rural voters away from Ukip.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage shakes hands with huntsman Mark Bycroft of the Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent Hunt. Photograph: Luke Macgregor/Reuters

Ukip leader Nigel Farage shakes hands with huntsman Mark Bycroft of the Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent Hunt. Photograph: Luke Macgregor/Reuters

Environment officials are examining what they describe as a “viable amendment” to the Hunting Act, which would allow up to 40 hounds to flush out a fox to face waiting guns rather than two, a move that critics claim would effectively reintroduce hunting with hounds “through the back door”.

The Blue Fox, a group of anti-hunt Conservatives, said that 27 Tory MPs had contacted them to declare their disquiet over the developments, with another significant cohort yet to decide whether they will vote against the plans because of sizeable pro-hunt support in their constituencies.

The proposed amendment would be likely to use a parliamentary device known as a statutory instrument to amend the contentious 2004 act. Opponents of foxhunting predict that the move will be unveiled next month and it is has been claimed that the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, has tried to canvass support among MPs of all parties.

However, the plans will face sizeable opposition from within Paterson’s own party. Lorraine Platt of Blue Fox said more MPs were coming forward to voice their opposition, citing a statement forwarded to her by Mike Weatherley, MP for Hove and Portslade, which read: “My support for the Hunting Act remains completely unchanged and I will certainly vote against any attempts to weaken it.”

Anti-hunting groups believe that any attempt to amend existing legislation would be whipped, meaning that Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs would be told to vote with the government. Cameron promised last week that MPs will be handed a vote on whether to relax the hunting ban.

A letter from Glyn Davies, Tory MP for Montgomeryshire, to a fellow Conservative MP that has been seen by the Observer says that “all that has ever been discussed is a minor change which aligns the situation in England and Wales with that in Scotland”.

The devolved Scottish parliament passed its own hunting legislation in February 2002, making it the first part of the UK to ban traditional foxhunting, while still permitting hunts to use packs of hounds to flush out foxes to face guns.

In a letter dated 17 March, Davies writes: “Suggestions by LACS [League Against Cruel Sports] and others of ‘repeal by the back door’ are bizarre, as what is being proposed is a measure that they themselves support in Scotland.” The league, however, has accused the MP of “trying to mislead” and has released a statement denying that it supports hunting with a pack of hounds. It said: “We are strongly opposed to any amendment which would effectively allow traditional hunting with a full pack of hounds to openly take place in the countryside. The amendment being pushed would lead to this.”

Platt said her group believed that the amendment idea, put forward by Welsh hill farmers to defend their flocks from foxes, was a “device to bring back hunting with dogs through the back door”.

She added: “What it will do is allow a full pack of hounds to flush out a fox. It will almost be impossible to shoot that fox because you can’t control a pack of hounds in the same way you can control two dogs; you wouldn’t be able to hold off those packs of hounds. It’s not an acceptable amendment and we urge all Conservative MPs not to back it.”

Joe Duckworth, chief executive of the LACS, said: “We know that moves are afoot to weaken the Hunting Act through a back-door amendment. The government need to stop dancing the political ‘hokey cokey’ and come clean about their intentions on bringing this forward. If they have the courage of their convictions, they would fulfil their coalition agreement promise and hold a free vote on repealing the act and end this constant uncertainty about its future.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “A number of Welsh farmers have brought this issue to our attention and we are looking at it.”

Article

Badger culling banned on over 3,000 acres of the Malvern Hills!

“Badger culling banned tonight on over 3,000 acres of the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire following a petition signed by 2,300 local people. Another victory for the Badger Army and care & compassion over senseless slaughter of our wildlife” Dominic Dyer March 17th

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Otis Ferry to pay very substantial damages for attack on two female hunt monitors

POWA Press Release 17th March – Otis Ferry, ‘celebrity’ son of rock star Bryan, pro-hunt activist and Joint Master of the South Shropshire Hunt has, agreed to pay very substantial damages to two female hunt monitors, Mrs. Helen Ghalmi, who is a Protect Our Wild Animals [POWA] Associate, and Mrs. Susan Grima, after a 4 year legal battle by them. 

Ferry’s last-minute offers of settlement were made and accepted immediately before trial in civil court.  Mrs. Ghalmi is to be paid £8,000 by Ferry and Mrs. Grima a similar amount.

Otis Ferry

Otis Ferry

Ferry and his co-defendant, a Heythrop rider named John Deutsch, had already been convicted in Crown Court, on 22-5-09, for attacking the two ladies in November 2007. Both men pleaded guilty to a public order offence. 

They had originally been charged with robbery and assault, but the former charges were dropped after a claim that it was intended to return the items removed.  However, a video camera which Ferry was accused of having taken has not been returned.

The ladies, however, felt that the sentences – Discharges and £350 fines – which the Judge ordered paid to them as compensation – were nowhere near adequate to reflect the gravity of the offences against them and the terror and trauma they had suffered. They consequently launched civil claims against both Ferry and Deutsch, which have only recently been concluded.

Mrs. Ghalmi and Mrs. Grima were monitoring the Heythrop Fox Hounds on 21-11-07 near Lower Swell, Gloucs, in order to collect evidence of any illegal hunting.

They stated that their car was overtaken and blocked in by a vehicle being driven by Deutsch in a country lane. Deutsch then stormed towards their vehicle shouting abuse at them and violently ripped out the passenger side-window, right next to Ms. Grima, causing the glass to explode into tiny fragments. 

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Otis Ferry, who was a guest-rider with the Heythrop that day, then arrived and, also shouting, joined in the attack on the ladies.

Mrs.Ghalmi says that he tried to pull her out of the car, snatched her video-camera and then wrested her keys from her hand, during which her arm and fingers were injured.

Ferry then made off with the camera on horseback and admits he later wiped the film. Police arrived soon after, by when both attackers had made off.  They later found the car keys discarded by Ferry. Both ladies were terrified for their safety throughout the joint attack by Ferry and Deutsch.

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Ferry’s last-minute settlement offer meant he did not have to attend Court, but Deutsch continued to contest the ladies’ claims.  Delivering his judgement at Brentford County Court on 5-3-14, Circuit Judge H.H.J.Powles, QC said he found Deutsch’s evidence wholly incredible.  

He stated that this was ‘an angry attack by a man who trapped them and made them fear for their safety’, noted his ‘indifference and lack of concern’ and concluded he had ‘deliberately lied to the Court’.  He further stated of Ferry and Deutsch that ‘they acted together’ and ‘each is liable as much as the other.’

The ladies’ counsel, David Rivers of Old Square Chambers, has published a digest of the case online. They were also represented by Howe & Co, Solicitors, of Brentford.

Speaking of the attack and its aftermath Mrs. Ghalmi [right, talking to police] said:- “I am so relieved it is finally over. The judge has listened to the evidence and rightly concluded that this was a vicious attack carried out solely because we were monitoring the Heythrop Hunt and these two individuals took it upon themselves to try and get rid of us.

To be trapped in a confined space in the middle of no where while two men attacked us was a terrifying and distressing ordeal to say the least.  It was a nasty cowardly act by these two men and they should be ashamed of themselves. 

I just hope this sends out a clear message to all Hunts that we won’t tolerate this kind of aggression towards monitors anymore. It’s been an extremely long drawn out process but its been worth it to have it recognised at last just how awful an ordeal this was and that when you cause harm to another it is only right and just that you should be held accountable.  On that day we experienced a real taste of what the poor foxes go through.”

Mrs. Grima said:-“I’m just relieved that its now finally over and I can try and move on with my life. As a result of the attack I have been left with severe migraines and they show no sign of stopping, for all I know I may suffer with them for the rest of my life. 

I was left with PTSD and this got to the point where it prevented me from wanting to leave my home, I couldn’t even bring myself to go and visit my mother when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  What these men did was vicious and yet even after pleading guilty they chose to prolong the suffering by dragging this case on for so long, thankfully the judge saw right through the lies.”

Alan Kirby, POWA spokesman, added:- “This is very far from the first time that pro-hunting fanatic Otis Ferry has been in trouble with the law and/or has had serious accusations made against him and his Hunt.  It is gratifying to see he and his companion being made to pay for this vicious attack on two defenceless women in an isolated location. 

This was just one of many such attacks, some even more violent and terrifying, by hunters and hunt supporters on anti-hunt activists which occur with disturbing regularity and which the authorities rarely treat with the seriousness they deserve.”

POWAperson adds:-  Otis Ferry’s brushes with the law and trouble he and his Hunt have got into include the following:-

– In 2002, Ferry was arrested while trying to creep into PM Tony Blair’s constituency home garden in darkness at 4 a.m.and was cautioned by police.
– In 2004, whilst pro-hunt demonstators were rioting in Parliament Square, he led an invasion of the  chamber of the House of Commons and was convicted of Disorderly Conduct.
– In 2006, Ferry admitted drink-driving and was heavily fined, but escaped a driving ban when a friend claimed that he had ‘spiked’ Ferry’s drinks.
– In 2007, Ferry was reportedly cautioned by police after spending the night in the cells following a scuffle with a photographer..
– In 2008 he was cleared of two counts of criminal damage against photographers’ cars.  
– In 2008, he was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice while awaiting trail for robbery and assault against the hunt monitors. He spent four months on remand. The CPS eventually dropped the ‘witness-nobbling’ charges in mysterious circumstances. 
– In 2009, he gave an interview to the Sunday Times replete with foul language, in which he insulted non-white immigrants and called a female Labour MP a ‘bitch’.
– In 2010 a landowner claimed that Ferry’s hounds killed a fox on her land, terrified a cat and horses and that hunters laughed at and abused her. Ferry claimed they’d lost control while ‘trail hunting’, but didn’t apologise.
– Also in 2010, Ferry joined a Radio 5 phone-in under a false name, but was unmasked on air. Presenter Nicky Campbell accused Ferry of assaulting him at a Countryside Alliance rally.
– Also in 2010, a Shropshire village resident published an article on the internet. The woman claimed that Ferry had launched a prolonged campaign of persecution against she and her husband after they reported seeing him beat a terrier to death in his garden.
– In 2011, Ferry appeared in Court charged with failing to give the identity of a driver who’d allegedly committed an offence [outcome unknown]. 
– In January 2012, Ferry had to apologise after his hounds run amok in a village, caused traffic chaos on a main road and spooked a resident’s horses, endangering them.
– In February 2012, Ferry was the Senior Master when the Hunt called police to a meet at a village pub after anti-hunt protesters turned up. Police took one female into custody, who has recently been paid substantial damages by them for assault and wrongful arrest. Two weeks later, hunt saboteurs say they were attacked by a mob of supporters of Ferry’s Hunt. The same female was targeted and hospitalised with a broken nose and cheekbone [see here 24-2-14].
– Later in 2012, Ferry was convicted of failing to provide a specimen after arrest on suspicion of drink-driving. He was fined and disqualified from driving for 3 years.

Sab report March 15th – Ross Harriers

As a couple of Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs headed over to Stratford for the anti-cull demo, a car-load of us headed out to the Cotswold Vale Farmers’ Hunt who were meeting at the Red Hart Inn in Blaisdon.

With no sign of hounds in the area, it looked like the rumours had been true and they were only going out for a “happy hack”. Luckily we had news of a Ross Harriers meet in nearby Drybrook, so decided to pay them a visit.

We found them drawing a covert in the sun and, with the scenting conditions not being great, it was no surprise that the hounds failed to pick up on a scent. It wasn’t long before we were spotted by Lee Peters himself who stopped for a long chat (while we’re chatting, he’s not hunting) before calling in his “boys”, getting a couple of riders to move their horses in the way of our car while he moved off.

One pair of foot-sabs got out of the car, following him on foot for some time. With the sun still strong and conditions not the best for scent to “stick”, the hounds drew a blank in most coverts Lee put them in.

Foot-sabs and car split up to cover both sides of a large piece of woodland on a hill in order to keep tabs on the hunt in the Deepdean area. As we were about to meet up, hounds started speaking in a large woodland by a valley, so two of us carried on inland, the others covering the road.

Both groups noticed (an attempt at) a holloa and pointing, followed by the group on the road radioing through that a fox was heading straight for the others. We were in a perfect position to act as the fox ran past, spraying citronella and rating the hounds, giving the tired fox valuable seconds to get away.

Mr Peters did not look best pleased when he next saw us, especially after we followed him into the land near to Home Farm (where the Cotswold Vale met a couple of weeks ago). Instead of having the police called on us (despite being on footpaths) like last time, we had a nice, short conversation with two of the people from the area who told us that the hunt “weren’t even supposed to be here” and said we were welcome to walk across the land as long as we didn’t damage anything. The hounds were soon gathered up and taken back to the road… where they picked up on another scent, losing it as one sab informed the others and they were able to get in the way of the hounds.

A short chat and a long hover by the junction of the road later and the hunt moved off again, all the boys (Luke, Danny, James and the other one) and, of course, Nick Hodges (terrierman from the Cotswold Vale) in tow. And Lee is always full of surprises – having made many phonecalls and had lots of little conflabs with his pals, a couple of the support vehicles blocking in our car repeatedly and a little bit of very-slightly-aggressive-but-not-that-scary riding at foot-sabs, the hunt headed back to the kennels earlier than anticipated.

As we write this, we are informed that the ever-charming Lee has been spotted outside of a well-known sab’s house, taking pictures of her… he had promised to do this (to “get his own back”) but not until summer. You’re a bit premature Lee! But at least we know he didn’t go back out after we left. Anyway, all in all a good day and not long left before even the Ross Harriers will pack up for the season.

If you can help us out in the last couple of weeks before they finish, share our reports and our gofundme (or paypal address if you’d prefer us to get more money!)

http://www.gofundme.com/7epn3g

Police kept badger cullers informed of protester movements, court hears

From The Guardian

Animal rights groups criticise police after marksman reveals officers kept him informed about the location of protesters

Photograph: Mike Kemp/ Mike Kemp/ /In Pictures/Corbis

Photograph: Mike Kemp/ Mike Kemp/ /In Pictures/Corbis

Animal rights campaigners have criticised police after a marksman involved in the badger cull said officers kept him informed of the location of protesters.

The claim was made during a court hearing involving David McIntosh, who was taken to court for crashing a van full of dead badgers into a bus stop during a cull in Gloucestershire.

McIntosh, 28, who played Tornado on TV show Gladiators and dated the model and television presenter Kelly Brook, told Stroud magistrates the crash was caused when a radio he used to receive messages from police fell under his foot pedals.

He said: “I was carrying badger carcasses to the furnace as I was involved in the cull. The radio was always kept in the vehicle on the dashboard so we could easily hear and keep up with police as to where the protesters were.

“It was blocking the clutch and the brake. Before I retrieved it I was heading off the road. I started to brake but it was too late.”

Gloucestershire police promised throughout the cull to deal with both protesters and cullers fairly, showing neither group favouritism.

He admitted driving without due care and attention and was fined £91.

On McIntosh’s claims, a police spokeswoman said: “At no point did Gloucestershire constabulary co-ordinate the resources of the company carrying out the badger cull.

“Our role before, during and after the pilot badger cull was to maintain operational independence and ensure the safety of the public.” The court was told that the accident happened in Gloucester city centre just before 1am on 29 September.

Anti-cull protesters demonstrated outside the court and questioned why the cullers had apparently been in direct contact with the police.

Jude Walker, of Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting, said: “It certainly goes against what we have always been told about the police being even handed.”

Article

 

March 4th sab report

A car-load (almost) of Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs turned up to the church in Weston-under-Penyard today to see the Cotswold Vale Farmers’ Hunt and the South Hereford who were having a joint meet.

The day began with a lovely opening speech which included the vicar not blessing the hounds… and an unexpected visit from Lee Peters (Ross Harriers) and some of his chums (hi James, Danny and the other one!)

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There’s a bit of a turf war going on between certain hunts (namely the Cotswold Vale and the Ross Harriers and the South Hereford and the Ross Harriers) and it would appear Lee only turned up to “piss off” the others. Having been introduced as “the antis” by the ever-charming Jason Warner, we took an opportunity to introduce Lee and his friends which ended with a lady confronting Mr. Peters about his “supporting the antis” and telling him how much she was disgusted by him and that he should not be in control of a pack of hounds.

Throughout the day the hunt drew a blank in pretty much every covert and woodland they went into, sabs staying with them until near the end. To be fair to the hunt, they did whip and call the hounds back when they noticed sabs running into a field to try and catch a lamb which had become separated from the rest of the flock (who were on the other side of a road in another field). But, then again, it wouldn’t be great publicity to have your hounds terrorise or kill livestock, so they probably wouldn’t want to run the risk. Plus they hadn’t told the landowner they were coming through, so…

After a bit of a chase and trying to herd this little'un away from the Cotswold Vale hounds (who had been called back away from the area) we finally got hold and lamby was returned to mummy

After a bit of a chase and trying to herd this little’un away from the Cotswold Vale hounds (who had been called back away from the area) we finally got hold and lamby was returned to mummy

Sabs were treated to a bit of on-the-spot farriery (not the sabs themselves!) and a nice bit of sunshine, so all in all, it was a pretty good day with no kills that we know of. Peters and co. however left earlier in the afternoon implying they were off to dig up some of our black and white friends, so who knows what’s going on in the countryside while we’re not looking.

Anyway, only a couple of weeks left until the end of season and, with a couple of the hunts in our area packing up weeks before they had been planning to, we’re still feeling pretty positive.