November brings the dark spectre of fox hunting season, and with it new enhanced monitoring
Every year November brings something else to the British countryside than just darker evenings, leaf-covered ground and an abundance of chestnuts.
If you are a fox in an area where illegal foxhunting may take place, it also brings the dark spectre of the “hunting season”.
It is not that foxes are safe before that, as the “cub hunting” season already started a few weeks earlier, allegedly to train young hounds to chase foxes, though hunts will deny that.
They will say that since the Hunting Act 2004 was enacted, cub hunting does not happen anymore, and that during the hunting season no foxes are hunted by any organised hunt… unless “accidents” happen.
There have been several successful convictions on Hunting Act offences (over 180 already), but the number of allegations of illegal hunting made by members of the public and experts on the subject are far more numerous.
We believe that not enough of these have been investigated, and not enough illegal hunters have been prosecuted.
This is why, in 2005, International Fund for Animal Welfare, together with other like-minded organisations, decided to monitor hunts’ activities and gather evidence to help prosecutions.
This was essential as hunts were clearly defying the new law of the land, and in fact continue to do so whilst also calling for its repeal.
We have been “hunt monitoring” ever since, but we have seen slow progress by prosecuting agencies in taking the available evidence to its final conclusion. In essence, we believe that the Hunting Act is not being enforced as it should.
Whether this is because neither the police nor the Crown Prosecution Service in the areas we operate are very enthusiastic about enforcing the Hunting Act, or for other reasons, the fact remains that whilst straightforward “monitoring” has had some success, we would like to see more and ultimately the eradication of illegal hunting.
This is why this season we decided to do something else: “Enhanced monitoring”.
By stepping up our hunt monitoring work, we are aiming to increase the number of prosecutions under the Hunting Act. This means getting the latest State of the Art equipment, more cameras, and more people to operate them.
We are improving the way we present the evidence to those that have to take the case forward and are developing better evidence gathering techniques. We are also diversifying our team of Wildlife Crime Investigators, (which now includes ex-police officers, electronic engineers, professional investigators, wildlife crime experts, etc.) and are developing new tactics and strengthening our methods.
We can already say that we have moved to the next level, and IFAW’s Enhanced Monitoring is a reality, not just an aspiration.
However, the logistics of our new team are far more complex and challenging and the whole operation is also more expensive.
We are having to work longer, and work harder, still under the same harsh conditions of the British winter and the hostile environment created by the hunts and their supporters.
This is what drives us: dedication, endurance, perseverance, and never forgetting who we are working for: for those foxes, deer and hares who are still chased and killed in the countryside, despite the fact that most of the nation has clearly decided that this should not happen anymore.