An exciting day for the future of Britain’s mammals
As milestones go this week saw one of the most exciting in recent years in the anti-hunt campaign, as a hunt faced corporate charges of hunting a wild fox with dogs.
Following dramatic developments on the first day of the trial, the Heythrop Hunt and two of its members pleaded guilty to offences under the Hunting Act 2004.
The case, taken by the RSPCA, was based on evidence gathered by hunt monitors of POWA (Protect Our Wild Animals) and was heard at Oxford Magistrates' Court on Monday 17 December.
The Heythrop Hunt Ltd, based in Oxfordshire, pleaded guilty to four counts of unlawfully hunting a wild fox with dogs, which is the first time that an entire hunt has faced corporate charges and been found guilty of illegal hunting.
Two retired members of the hunt also pleaded guilty to four separate counts of unlawfully hunting a wild fox with dogs.
Fox hunting, in which foxes are pursued by packs of hounds and mounted riders, is banned under the 2004 Hunting Act.
Although there have been some successful prosecutions taken against individual hunters, the hunts have always claimed that those undertaking illegal activities are just rogue individuals acting of their own accord and not under the supervision of the official hunt meeting.
However, as we have said all along, entire organised hunts are breaking the law by chasing and killing Britain’s wildlife in the name of so-called sport.
Gladly this court case shows that it is possible to prosecute and convict an entire hunt on corporate grounds, something that has never been achieved before.
Needless to say, there was much rejoicing amongst our staff, anti-hunt supporters and animal welfare organisations across the land following this landmark victory in the fight against wildlife crime.
Another interesting point to note about this case is that it was taken against a hunt which has several high profile supporters, including the Prime Minister David Cameron.
This ruling is a good indication that no matter how many powerful people you know, no-one is above the law.
We hope that this conviction will now send out a clear message, that both individuals and organised hunts, who engage in illegal activities, which involve the cruel pursuit of animals for sport can and will be successfully prosecuted.
We also commend the RSPCA and POWA for achieving this successful prosecution and hope that this will pave the way for more hunts and individuals who are flouting the laws of the land to be brought to justice.
Throughout the season our professional hunt monitors are scouring the countryside gathering evidence of illegal hunting, such as was shown in this case.
Their skills, dedication and professionalism is second to none and will help us bring about more prosecutions and show hunters that they need to be looking over their shoulder as sooner or later their actions will catch up with them.
For more information on ending the hunting of wild foxes with dogs, visit our campaing page.