Is the ban working?
"The assault was the worst that I've suffered during my twenty years of monitoring, but it did not deter me from doing my job. I hope that that verdict and sentence will send a message to hunt supporters that acts of intimidation and violence will not be tolerated. Hunts claim to be obeying the Hunting Act - if this is true then their supporters should have no objection to their activities being observed by hunt monitors."
- Kevin Hill, IFAW hunt monitor
IFAW has been working with police forces throughout the UK since the ban and has expanded its team of hunt monitors. There have been successful prosecutions for illegal hunting (for more information go to the prosecutions section) and others are pending, including several based on evidence obtained by our WCIs.
IFAW's hunt monitors follow hunts as closely as possible on foot and in vehicles using public land, roads, footpaths and bridleways. They peacefully observe and document their activities, working without any form of intervention. Unfortunately they are often targeted by hunt members and followers: they have received verbal abuse, threats of violence, real violence and damage to their vehicles. The reluctance of some hunters to be filmed inevitably raises suspicions as to the legality of their activities.
The harassment and intimidation endured by hunt monitors in England and Wales has increased dramatically following successful prosecutions for illegal hunting, which show the law indeed has teeth.
IFAW has a number of specific concerns that are currently being pursued with the enforcement authorities. Too many hunts are claiming 'accidental' kills of foxes while trail hunting, a form of hunting in which the scent of a dead fox or fox urine is used to lay a route for the dogs. Out-of-control dogs have also chased and attacked pets and livestock and even invaded homes and gardens. This would not happen if hunts were to adopt drag hunting, in which an artificial (ie. non-fox) scent is followed.
IFAW has advised police that they should be suspicious if hunts try to defend themselves from allegations of illegal hunting by saying that their dogs were out of control. For centuries hunters have prided themselves on their ability to control their packs. If, for some sudden and inexplicable reason, they are now unable to reliable exert control they should not be out with their dogs.
Regrettably it seems that some hunters have replaced the thrill of the chase with the thrill of trying to get round the law. As convictions for illegal hunting mount it will be interesting to see how long the thrill will last.