We are delighted that Peterborough City Council has banned hunts from their lands. We are also very pleased that a number of major landowners have suspended trail hunt licences pending the results of the police investigation into the leaked webinars. However, the police investigation is NOT into whether illegal hunting has taken place but into whether any laws were broken in the webinars themselves. Obviously we will be delighted if the investigation finds this to be the case and prosecutions result but we fear that it will be very difficult for the police to make anything ‘stick’ in this respect.
The hunts will then gleefully try to make political capital out of this and try to claim they have been exonerated but we cannot let the public lose site of the main issue here – namely that the webinar presenters confirmed what we have been saying since the ban was introduced, that trail hunting is a cover for illegal hunting. We cannot let the fact that an investigation is taking place detract from this key point.
Now that the hunts themselves have confirmed that trail hunting is a smokescreen for illegal hunting, landowners have no excuse and must now permanently ban the hunts from their land.
Please feel free to share this open letter far and wide – let’s spread it as far as possible to let the landowners know in no uncertain terms that if they continue to allow trail-hunting on their land they will be complicit in illegal hunting. They can no longer claim ignorance and hid behind platitudes.
Open letter to all landowners and managers who allow “trail hunting” to take place on the land.
In the light of the recent leaked webinars from the Hunting Office we are writing to you to urge you to ban trail hunting from your land permanently.
We are delighted that so many landowners have already suspended or cancelled trail hunt licences pending the police investigation into the leaked Hunting Office webinars. However, the outcome of the police investigation is not really the issue here. In fact it is something of a red herring. The police investigation is NOT going to be whether any laws have been broken during hunts. It is merely going to be looking at whether any laws were broken in the webinars themselves, e.g. inciting people to break the law or perverting the course of justice. Perverting the course of justice, for example, can only apply if it is in relation to a current investigation.
As stated, the investigation is not the key issue – the key issue here is that the presenters themselves confirmed what anti-hunting groups have been telling the public and landowners for the last 15 years, namely that trail hunting is a lie, a device to enable fox-hunting to continue unhindered. It is used by fox hunts to allow them to blatantly flout the law. Anti-hunting groups have repeatedly told you this and have offered plenty of evidence in the form of videos and photos but landowners have always simply replied to say that evidence of illegal fox-hunting should be passed to the police (which it is) and have continued to allow the hunts to use their land – simply ‘passing the buck.’
Now, from the hunts’ own mouths, you have definitive confirmation that ‘trail-hunting’ is a ‘smokescreen’. Landowners have been ‘played’ for 15 years and we find it incomprehensible that there are still some landowners that continue to stick their heads in the sand and ignore this issue. Irrespective of the outcome of the police investigation into whether laws were broken in the leaked webinars themselves, the hunts themselves confirmed in them that they are using ‘trail-hunting’ to hide their evil, barbaric, illegal activities. Please bear in mind that according to the Hunting Act a landowner is breaking the law if they knowingly allow illegal hunting to take place on their land. Thanks to the content of the webinars landowners can now no longer use the excuse that they don’t know – the hunts themselves have confirmed in these webinars that they routinely break the law. This means that landowners would now find themselves in a very precarious position if a hunt was seen to chase a fox on their land. They can no longer play the ’ignorance’ card.
We read statements from some landowners that “It is our statutory responsibility to care for the National Park and in doing so to balance the interests of all those who live here, work here and visit. To the best of our ability we base our decisions on what’s lawful and do not discriminate or consider it our role to otherwise ban an activity.” This begs the question as to how far they will go – for example if a paedophile ring had come up with a legal-looking activity (eg nature rambles) and wanted to use the area, then according to these criteria the landowner would continue to grant the access even if they were warned what was taking place. They have been repeatedly told that the licensed activity is a cover and now they have confirmation from the perpetrators themselves but they STILL hide behind their bland platitudes. What more confirmation do they need to finally take a stand against animal abuse on their property?
Should the presenters in the webinars somehow be found not to have broken any laws then we can see the hunts gleefully claiming to be fully exonerated, seeking to make political capital from it and expecting landowners to re-issue licences. We urge you not to forget the content of the webinars which advised hunts how to use trail hunting as a smokescreen, how to make their activities appear legal, and how to hide evidence of their illegal activity (eg by using different phones and cameras). We urge you not to forget the real issue is that these webinars confirmed that you, as landowners, have been played, misled and lied to. THIS is the key point to come out of the webinar – that hunts break the law week in, week out – and you have been complicit in this.
We urge you, as custodians of the countryside, not to abdicate your responsibility to the wildlife, to finally recognise that the hunts have been pulling the wool over your eyes and take the right decision to protect the wildlife that so urgently needs your help.
Action Against Foxhunting