Animal rights campaigners will feel hugely sceptical as they read the new announcement that hunts will be subject to unannounced inspections. This is, after all, a PR exercise to try to regain the trust of major landowners like the National Trust and its trustees, and of the wider public, who have seen the hunting world in its true colours.
According to the Telegraph,
“The constitutional changes will be ratified at the June AGM of organisations affiliated to the Hunting Office - the MFHA, Masters of Draghounds Association, Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles and Masters of Bloodhounds Association.”
So, essentially, the hunts have announced that they’re inspecting themselves. This will hardly fill the public with confidence, and should be treated with extreme caution by the landowners that have banned trail hunting on their land.
The news comes after the Hunting Office announced in April that there will be a new Governing Body that will be responsible for setting standards and rules that hunts have to follow. There will also be a separate Regulatory Body, which will administer disciplinary matters.
But the Hunting Office admitted that public perception was a driving force when announcing the changes. It emphasised the importance of:
“successfully correcting the perception of hunting and creating more opportunities to promote hunting”.
It continued, saying that the changes would correct “the misconceptions that exist surrounding our lawful activities.”
Quite how the Hunting Office believes that the public has “misconceptions” is astounding. Rather, through various big news stories, the public has been exposed to the brutal realities of hunting. The past year has been particularly damning for the hunting world, as hunts across the country find themselves struggling to wriggle out of evidence stacked against them.
Over the year, there have been countless examples of hunts and prominent hunting figures breaking the law. Of course, the most well-known example is the court case of Mark Hankinson, director of the Masters of Fox Hounds Association, who was found guilty of encouraging others to illegally hunt foxes in October 2021.
And then there was the police raid on Dwyryd Hunt in November 2021 which made ITV News. Dogs, which were being kept in inhumane conditions, were removed during the raid. Dwyryd’s hunt master, David Thomas, had previously been convicted of badger baiting.
And then there’s been the national news coverage of Avon Vale Hunt’s thugs assaulting protesters on their annual Boxing Day meet in December 2021.
Another case that has recently caught the public eye is that of hunt master John Sampson, who lost his appeal in Truro Crown Court in April 2022 over the killing of Mini the cat. Mini, a 14-year-old rescue cat, was mauled to death by Western Hunt’s fox-hunting hounds next to her home in Cornwall in March 2021.
On top of all this, hunt saboteurs have captured countless footage of hunts across the country hunting and killing foxes over the past year. November 2021 alone was a particularly brutal month. Footage from Weymouth Animal Rights on 13 November showed a fox being ripped up by hounds, while another fox was torn in two. Activists said that they managed to save two more foxes that day. Meanwhile, Devon County Hunt Saboteurs published a different video of a fox being torn up by hounds, while their activists on the ground filmed another incident of a dead fox’s body being carried to a quad bike to be used as a trail for hounds to follow.
The Hunting Office is desperately trying to convince the public and landowners that it takes upholding the law seriously. But the reality is that rather than caring about the law, the hunting community will go to any lengths to ensure that the facade of trail hunting can continue as normal.
Rob Pownall, founder of Keep The Ban, said:
“The proposed plans to conduct inspections of hunts is the next phase in the hunting lobby's PR machine. It will offer up little more than a tick box exercise. The reality is, these so-called 'trail hunts' don't care about the well-being of wildlife or the animals that are used as tools in killing wild animals.”
“Hounds are still being abused across the country. If we are to see real and meaningful progress when it comes to hunts being held accountable then there should at least be logs kept of hound numbers and regular unannounced visits by trained animal welfare specialists to kennels. However, I predict it will be a long time before measures even close to these are put in place. In the meantime we shall wait and see whether this is just yet another attempt by hunts to convince the public that they can be trusted to act within the law.”
The Hunting Office insists that its supposed shake-up will give us faith in the hunts. It says:
“Only those operating to the appropriate high standards will be accredited, upholding our mantra that ‘nothing less than excellent is acceptable’ at all times.”
If it is to keep to its word, then we should expect the majority of hunts, which use trail hunting as a smokescreen to illegal murder foxes, to lose their accreditation. Somehow we won’t hold our breaths.
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