Eyewitness accounts suggest suspicious behaviour of hunts in the South West
A recent video filmed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org) reveals its suspicions about the activities of hunts operating in the South West.
Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, recently observed the behaviour of people normally associated with hunting activities which suggested that the hunt may have something to hide. In the video, Mr Marsland explains what he experienced during a day out with IFAW’s Wildlife Crime Investigators, where it appears that they had the path of their vehicles obstructed and were filmed by people who were following them for hours.
Hunts often claim that they are trail hunting (i.e. following a laid scent rather than chasing a live fox which is illegal under the Hunting Act 2004). They often say that they are not pursuing wild animals for sport and that any animal fatalities have been the result of an accident. However, IFAW’s professional Wildlife Crime Investigators, who are out in the countryside observing hunts to ensure that they are complying with the law, are regularly followed, intimidated and sometimes even assaulted by people associated with the hunts they are investigating.
In this and other recorded instances, suspicious people, sometimes wearing balaclavas, seem to be going to great lengths to gather information on IFAW’s monitoring team and to stop them from witnessing the activities of the hunt more closely.
IFAW welcomes genuine drag hunts, which lay non-fox-based trails away from land where they have been asked not to trespass, but are wary of individuals who are behaving in an intimidating way against those who are peacefully and quietly observing hunts from authorised land, as it suggests that the hunt may have something to hide.
IFAW is calling on the police to monitor hunts claiming to be conducting trail hunting and yet behaving in such a suspicious manner, and to carefully consider claims of accidental fox kills by ‘out of control’ dogs.
Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “From what I saw whilst monitoring, I have grave concerns about the safety of IFAW’s Wildlife Crime Investigators who are being subjected to intimidating tactics by individuals who seem to be hunt supporters.
“I am also concerned that some hunts which claim to be trail hunting are running amok across the countryside and may be breaking the law by chasing and killing foxes. I strongly urge forces in Dorset, where I saw this worrying behaviour, to take action.”
Following his experience, Mr Marsland immediately wrote to the newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner for the area and met with the Assistant Chief Police Officer of Dorset Constabulary to express his concerns and urge them to take action.
IFAW is committed to ensuring that the Hunting Act continues to be enforced across the country. Its hunt monitors will continue to work tirelessly to document the illegal activities of a minority of individuals who are breaking the law.
Notes to Editors:
The video is available on Youtube and can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/Qrwafab7yjk
Please note: IFAW has no evidence that the activities seen in the video were approved by the leadership of the hunt being investigated.
Drag hunting involves riders pursuing a pack of dogs along a trail of artificial scent laid down minutes earlier, usually taking the riders over jumps including fences, walls, hedges and ditches.
Trail hunting uses a fox-based scent and its aim appears to be to replicate many of the aspects of live quarry hunting.
If hunts are exercising their hounds or following a scent, and the hounds follow a fox, then the hunts must call the hounds back. The control of hounds is a crucial point. The whippers-in, the hunt master and others are responsible for the hounds and they must be controlled either by whip, horn, or voice command. Hunts that allow their hounds to follow a fox are breaking the law.
About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.