Tag Archive | tories

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 culls were ‘ineffective and failed humaneness test’

An independent scientific assessment of last year’s pilot badger culls in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset has concluded that they were not effective.

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Analysis commissioned by the government found the number of badgers killed fell well short of the target deemed necessary, the BBC understands.

And up to 18% of culled badgers took longer than five minutes to die, failing the test for humaneness.

The pilot culls were intended to limit the spread of TB in cattle.

They were carried out to demonstrate the ability to combat bovine TB though a controlled reduction in the population of local badgers.

“We have always stated that if the pilots were to fail on humaneness then BVA could not support the wider roll out of the method of controlled shooting”

Robin Hargreaves, President, British Veterinary Association

Contracted marksmen, paid for by farming groups, were employed to shoot the animals at night.

The Independent Expert Panel was appointed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to help ministers evaluate the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of the Gloucestershire and Somerset pilots.

Prof Rosie Woodroffe, a scientist at the Zoological Society of London, said that the panel’s “findings show unequivocally that the culls were not effective and that they failed to meet the humaneness criteria.

“I hope this will lead to the Secretary of State (Owen Paterson) to focus on other ways of eradicating TB in cattle,” she told BBC News.

Robin Hargreaves, president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said it was the BVA that had taken a lead in calling for the controlled shooting to be tested and critically evaluated before it was rolled out.

“We are unable to comment in detail on the findings of the IEP until we have seen the report,” he told the BBC. “But if these figures are true then they would certainly raise concerns about both the humaneness and efficacy of controlled shooting.

“We have always stated that if the pilots were to fail on humaneness then BVA could not support the wider roll out of the method of controlled shooting.”

The pilots were authorised by Defra and licensed by Natural England.

Link

A Victory for “People Power”

From the badger-killers website

“At lunchtime on the 29th of November a moment in history was created when the guardian released this story. Telling the world that finally the British government had been beaten into submission and called an early end to its wildlife massacre it called a “badger cull”.

The cull was always sold to the British public as a pilot to see if over a period of 6 weeks, badgers could be killed “effectively, safely & humanely”. Toward the end of those 6 weeks we the public were told that the original population studies had changed and the new population figures were actually much lower, they refused to credit us the sabs with destroying their Hair DNA population studies and instead decided to blame badgers for “moving the goalposts”. With massively reduced populations (strangely David Heath had been complaining along with many farmers of population “explosions”) the target to kill was made much easier for them to reach.

What they hadn’t planned on was the perseverance, tenacity, endurance & craftiness of those opposed to the cull. Many experienced hunt saboteurs walked the fields and woodlands of the cull zones night after night, as did many other people, these people just like sabs came from a wide variety of backgrounds, teachers, graphic designers, care workers, the very rich, the retired and yes even the unemployed and students.

A dedicated number of  these people before the culls started, going as far back as June last year had been sett surveying the entire area, one of them “Jo Badger” recently passed away, her passing has been a great loss to many of us. Their work was the foundation for all the defence of the badgers during the cull & it is these people who know how active setts are in certain areas, finding the Hair DNA traps was an easy task for them.

With a total of over 500 sq Km’s surveyed, protecting the badgers from free shooters was a question of team work, whilst some people working tirelessly within the law traversed hundreds of miles of footpaths and reported in any sightings, Sab groups and people prepared to break minor trespass laws got closer to shooters and often moved them on with noise. Several weeks into the cull a small fortune was spent on night vision equipment and the amount of shooters being stopped increased rapidly.

That equipment like the fuel in the tanks was generously donated by supporters from across the country, without their support the campaign would have struggled greatly and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped with fundraising to get people to the zones.

When the 6 week culls ended and it was announced in Somerset that they hadn’t achieved their targets we sighed with relief & prepared to focus just on Gloucestershire for the final week, to our dismay they announced extensions, in Somerset with the drastically reduced populations they announced that they had to kill another 165 badgers over a three week period. Having managed to kill over 100 a week during the 6 week cull people on the ground knew they had a lot of work to do to stop them reaching their targets.

With little or no holiday time left to claim many people took unpaid leave from work, relationships were strained and many people were suffering with extreme fatigue. Still they did not give up, with the weight of knowing that the culls would be rolled out if these succeeded, people buckled down to the work knowing that tens of thousands of badgers lives were in the balance. At the end of the 3 week extension 90 badgers had been killed, making the Somerset cull and extension a failure.

The shooters having failed at free shooting early on had gone over heavily to cage trapping as a tried and tested method of killing large numbers of badgers, when we knew this for sure, our efforts accordingly varied and we focussed as much resources as possible at finding cage traps and “neutralising” them.

In Somerset we never found more than 3 cages on one sett. Meanwhile in Gloucestershire the figures on the total killed came out, it was shockingly low at only 30% of the revised pop. figure, Natural England issued an extension for 8 weeks with a target of just 58% to achieve “disease control” the NFU didn’t mess about and promptly put down hundreds of traps.

Protest culture has for some years attributed minor criminal damage done at night to “pixies”. Some people find this word annoying, just as other people don’t identify with the word “sab”. Semantics to one side, the cage traps were destroyed as fast as they went down, for the most part by very normal people doing extraordinary work, through the day traps were found then by night they were destroyed, each one costing approx £150.

In just over 4 weeks nearly 400 of these traps had been made useless. With “free shooting” being proven to be a methodology that didn’t work, cage trapping was undertaken to kill as many badgers as possible. We the British public just weren’t having it.

Whilst we celebrate the failure of these badger culls and the part we played in their downfall, we mourn the loss of all the badgers that have been needlessly killed during this cull. We would ask anyone who thinks that killing badgers to stop the spread of bTB to spend a few minutes watching this video filmed just before the culls started.

We will continue with our campaign, filming farm conditions, sabbing pheasant shoots, organising boycotts, all the time building our numbers and reach on social media. The culls may continue, but so will we.

As has been proven today, if you ignore the will of the people, the people will fight back, we are organised, we have built teams of people who rely on each other, our supporters know the methods we use and are comfortable knowing that we behave honourably, we know how to disrupt culls, we are strong and we are many, and we will never leave our badgers undefended to be attacked by brutes and thugs.

NEVER”

David Cameron’s local hunt convicted after RSPCA prosecution (Guardian 17.12.12)

Prime minister has ridden with Heythrop Hunt, which admitted intentionally hunting a fox with dogs

Heythrop Hunt

Members of the Heythrop Hunt in the Cotswolds. Photograph: Tim Graham/Getty Images

Members of the David Cameron‘s local Oxfordshire hunt have been convicted of hunting foxes illegally in a prosecution brought by the RSPCA.

Richard Sumner, 68, and Julian Barnfield, 49, of the 176-year-old Heythrop Hunt with which Cameron has previously ridden, each pleaded guilty at Oxford magistrates court to four charges of unlawfully hunting a wild fox with dogs. The hunt, Heythrop Hunt Limited, also pleaded guilty to the same four charges of intentionally hunting a fox with dogs on land in the Cotswolds.

Outside court, Barnfield, a former huntsman with the Heythrop, claimed the prosecution had been politically motivated because of its links with Cameron’s Witney constituency. He said he believed the animal charity was trying to put pressure on Cameron “not to give a free vote” in parliament in any future debate on the Hunting Act, and to embarrass the prime minister.

Members of the so-called Chipping Norton set – an influential group of MPs and media professionals who live in the area – who have links to the Heythrop include the prominent supporter and racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, husband of the former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks. Their neighbour Jeremy Clarkson, the Top Gear presenter, has reportedly allowed the hunt to use his land and is among locals photographed at the Heythrop’s country fair. The prime minister is understood to have ridden with the hunt on six occasions before the legislation came into force.

The prosecution followed footage taken by anti-hunt monitors over four days during the 2011-12 season.

The court heard hounds had been encouraged to chase foxes, which is banned under legislation which came into force in 2005.

Barnfield and Sumner, a former hunt master, have since retired from their positions.

Jeremy Carter-Manning QC, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said the hunt was filmed on several occasions in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire during November last year and in February and March this year by members of the Protect Our Wild Animals group. Footage was passed to the RSPCA. It is believed to be the first prosecution of a hunt itself under the legislation, which abolished the hunting of foxes with hounds in almost all circumstances and, in particular, traditional fox hunting.

Footage shown to the court of an incident on 29 February showed evidence of “prolonged and deliberate unlawful hunting”, said Carter-Manning.

After a fox ran past hunt monitors, who were recording footage from a road nearby, Barnfield drew up on horseback. “Two route-followers indicated to Mr Barnfield the direction in which the fox had run. He immediately blows the hunting horn and enters the field as directed,” said Carter-Manning. Barnfield and another man then gave vocal encouragement to the remainder of the pack, shouting “tally ho” and “forrard”.

In a subsequent piece of film, recorded 40 minutes later, monitors are heard shouting: ‘There’s a kill, there’s a kill,” and: “Call the police.”

Describing the events, Carter-Manning said: “The hounds converge into semi-circles and the screaming [of the hounds] reaches a crescendo. The hounds are making a kill.”

On another occasion, in March, footage shot by a volunteer shows hounds beginning to squeal as they try to flush out a fox from dense cover, “and then almost immediately afterwards a double horn”.

Further footage captures the hounds pursuing a fox and cries of “on, on, on” from the mounted hunt. Barnfield was “filmed quite clearly amongst the pursuing hounds shouting ‘on, on, on’ in obvious encouragement”, said Carter-Manning.

Philip Mott QC, mitigating, said the charges related to four occasions within the full hunting season between November 2011 and March this year. During that period there would have been around 100 hunts, each lasting some five hours. “What you have here is unlawful hunting, shown and admitted, of no more than 15 minutes in total,” he said.

“It is our case that the rest of the time this hunt was operating trail hunting.”

Barnfield, of Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, was fined £250 for each charge, totalling £1,000, and ordered to pay costs of £2,000. Sumner, of Salperton, Gloucestershire, was fined a total of £1,800 with costs of £2,500. The Heythrop Hunt Limited was fined a total of £4000 with £15,000 costs. All three were ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge.

Following the hearing, the RSPCA’s chief executive, Gavin Grant, said: “These defendants were well aware that they were breaking the law in that their actions would lead to a fox being torn apart by dogs.

“No doubt the hunt will say that those involved have now left and they have no knowledge of this crime,” he added. “The truth is this hunt believed that they were above the law – they were wrong.”

The anti-hunt monitors who shot the footage thanked the RSPCA for having the “foresight and courage to take on the prosecution”.

Outside court, Barnfield said he had only pleaded guilty because he could not afford to fight the £327,000 case the RSPCA had mounted.

“We conceded because the money wasn’t there to defend ourselves. I would like to stand there and defend it but there was no way it was possible.

“I am staggered by it all. The fact that a charitable body can take on this political thing and spend so much money which other people have given them for another thing is stunning.”

Attributing political motivation to the animal charity, he added: “They could have picked on any other hunt but they picked on Heythrop because we are in David Cameron’s constituency.

“I think they are trying to put pressure on him not to give a free vote like he said he would, to embarrass him in some way.”

Since 1835 the Heythrop Hunt, one of the most high-profile in the country, has been an intrinsic part of the Chipping Norton community. Huge Boxing Day crowds gather to see it in Chipping Norton Square as one of the market town’s Christmas traditions. In 2003, Cameron, recalled a day out with the Heythrop, saying: “Nothing had prepared me for the sheer terror of a day’s hunting. I battled in vain to control my powerful steed and careered through trees and bushes – completely out of control.”

Original article

Video “Fox killed by Cameron’s hunt” (Guardian link)