Because of the coronavirus pandemic, UK’s foxhunting elite, the Hunting Office – the executive body for more than 170 hunting packs in England, Scotland and Wales – were engaged in an online conference which was infiltrated by hunt saboteurs (the Hunt Saboteurs Association).
The saboteurs say that the foxhunters were discussing how to put up smokescreens to hide the fact that they were genuinely hunting foxes when they aren’t allowed to do it in the UK because it was banned in 2005 (hunting mammals using dogs, more specifically, was banned).
The saboteurs gained recordings of two webinars both of which, I understand, run for more than 2.5 hours. The Times newspaper has heard them and they say that they concern a discussion about how to provide evidence of legal trail hunting to the police and courts if anti-hunt activists are present. They also discuss how to deal with animal rights activism.
The saboteurs say that in one section one foxhunting elite member said (allegedly): “It’s a lot easier to create a smokescreen if you’ve got more than one trail layer operating and that is what it’s all about, trying to portray to the people watching that you’re going about your legitimate business“.
Hunt supporters say that the recording is an indication that the foxhunters were suggesting that the smokescreen was meant to fool the saboteurs to prevent them from disturbing a legal trail hunt rather than trying to circumvent the law.
In defence, a spokesperson for the Hunting Office said that the claims by the saboteurs are completely incorrect and that, “Such claims can only be made by taking a few individual, short comments completely out of context”. They argue that the webinars were about dealing with the operation and promotion of legal trail hunting and how to deal with animal rights activists.
You make up your mind on what the words mean. Whatever the outcome we hate foxhunting don’t we? All anial advocates do as it is patently cruel. How can people gain pleasure from being cruel to innocent animals?
UPDATE: the National Trust and another big landowner are both suspending all trail-hunting on their land because of the exposé that I referred to above. On Wednesday Forestry England apparently did the same. The police are investigating and in response to that investigation the trust thought they would pause trail hunting for the rest of the season. They said they do not have a date for when they will review the suspension. United Utilities which owns and manages 56,000 ha said that they would suspend trail hunting on its land until the police investigation had been completed. Natural Resources Wales said that they too were looking into the problem.
Chris Packham has described the actions of the National Trust as “significant and commendable”.