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.
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.”
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.
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POWA Press Released to all national press and relevant regional/local papers, plus national and relevant local broadcasters;-
Unborn fox cubs ripped from their mother’s body as she is torn apart by hounds – Cotswold Vale Farmers Hunt filmed at scene of bloody carnage
On Tuesday 6th March 2012, hunt monitors found the bodies of six fox cub foetuses strewn on the ground in a piece of land which had just been visited by the Cotswold Vale Farmers Hunt.
The monitors followed the hunt all day in the Gotherington area of Gloucestershire, and in the afternoon saw the hunt enter their hounds into a piece of wooded covert near Bozard’s Farm. The monitors heard a commotion within the covert, with hounds baying noisily, and then heard the hunting horn blown in a way which traditionally indicates a kill.
Certain that the hounds had killed a fox within this piece of land, the monitors entered the land after the hunt had left, and to their horror found not only blood and fox fur on the ground, but also the pathetic, bloody remains of six unborn cubs. They filmed the remains on the ground, and then gathered them up and took them to the Vale Wildlife rescue centre near Tewksbury. Here the dead cubs were identified as unborn fox cubs.
These were the Vale’s findings:
6 fox foetuses, 2 beheaded, one of whom had no body retrieved, some partially eviscerated, some with trauma to their bodies, tooth marks and bleeding, some placental tissue remained and one cub was still attached to it with the umbilical cord still present.
A small piece of liver
A small piece of lung tissue.
One of the monitors present said “The hunt went into the covert, and we heard the hounds begin to speak, and then a gruff grunting noise, and then a kill was blown. We ran towards where the hounds were obviously breaking up the fox within the c the overt. We saw a man and woman retrieving something from the covert, and the woman turned and gave a “thumbs up” sign to the hunt followers, as did the terrierman when he left the wood. We asked to see what was inside the metal box on his quad bike but he held it closed with his hand. A short while later we returned and found a scene of carnage.”
The filmed evidence has been examined by experts, but, due to the ineffectual framing of the Hunting Act, the evidence would not be adequate to secure a prosecution of the Hunt. Protect Our Wild Animals [POWA] has repeatedly stated that hunts are blatantly evading and breaking the law all around the country, and has campaigned consistently for a strengthening of the Hunting Act.
Penny Little of POWA said : “Hunts always insist that pregnant and lactating vixens are not chased or harmed by them. This is, and always has been, another of their downright lies, and we now see further evidence of the utter barbarity of hunting. Prime Minister David Cameron is strongly in favour of fox hunting, which he wants to re-legalise. It follows that he thinks it absolutely fine for gangs of people to take out killer dogs to chase. attack and tear apart pregnant foxes for ‘sport’. Indeed, he has recently made it clear he believes that hunting should be immune from the law*.”
The footage has been posted on You Tube.
The Cotswold Vale Farmers hunt is no stranger to trouble. Saboteurs have made several complaints of violent assaults by hunt staff and supporters in recent years and the Hunt have been filmed causing havoc on roads**. Earlier this season, their then Huntsman Alan Morgan was convicted of racially abusing a hunt saboteur and fined***.