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Out on the streets, we usually hear the same questions from the public. When you are new to AAF, you might be worried that you won’t know the answers. In the recording below, you can hear Pip answering the commonest questions. it is followed by a transcript. This was a radio interview on Frome FM with Jaye Mason, September 2019.

Why the hunts are still able to kill

 

Chickens

 

Tradition

 

Muzzling hounds?

 

Danger to domestic animals

 

excuses the hunts use

 

Strengthening the Hunting Act

 

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

Why are the hunts still able to kill?

JM
Some of our listeners might be saying “now hold on fox hunting has been illegal for 15 odd years now surely, so why an action group for it?”

PD
When it was made illegal in 2004 and brought in 2005, the hunts did say they weren’t going to pay any attention to the law and they weren’t going to stop. From what we have seen since, they didn’t, they are carrying on.

JM
So how did you personally get involved with this?

PD
Three years ago I moved to the West Country and I was renovating my cottage. I was painting a window and I saw the hunt going past. I saw red coats on horses, I saw the hounds. It was a horrible day, pouring with rain. I thought I had gone back in time because it was something I had only ever seen pre ban, I thought it didn’t happen. I didn’t know how many times they went out a week, I wasn’t 100% sure that they were killing foxes, but once you start looking at it you realise it’s awful and the more you look, the more awful you realise it is. And they are killing foxes.

Chickens

JM
Now before we go any further Pip, we are in a rural area here, There might be farmers listening out there, people who keep chickens who might be saying “Well why all this fuss about foxes? I mean they’re vermin aren’t they? If you had seen chickens torn apart by a fox you wouldn’t be so keen to defend them.” How do you respond to that?

PD
Firstly, the word ‘vermin’ is just a word with a dictionary definition, there has never been any official categorising of foxes as vermin. If somebody uses the word “vermin” to describe a fox, that is their opinion. Nobody can say fox is classified as vermin. That just isn’t the case, it’s just a word.

As for chickens that is a question we get when we do our stalls. Fox hunting won’t make any difference whatsoever to chickens. There are several reasons, One is that there are 982 million chickens killed in the UK by people every year, 95% of them live inside and are never at threat of foxes 5% live outside and out of them 2% are ever going to be at threat of foxes, so the actual economic loss to a farmer from foxes getting chickens is very small indeed. It actually works out to be 0.1%.

Tradition

JM
Now what would you say to somebody who has been hunting all his life, maybe he grew up with it, and he says “Well this is part of my heritage, this is part of our countryside heritage, I’ve done this for years, it’s my sport.” How would you try to influence him against it?

PD
Tradition, that is not an excuse for animal cruelty. This is recreational animal cruelty. We were just talking about women being empowered and enterprising. 100 year ago that was virtually impossible. It was tradition to keep women where they wanted them to be and things change, and things have changed. I think it’s time they moved on with the rest of us and realise you can’t treat the environment and animals as they always have – as a sort of play thing.

JM
Let’s say the person makes this statement. Now he has been caught illegally hunting a fox along the lines you have described. He was in a public place with a pack of 30 to 40 dogs trained to kill other animals, and he says he lost control of the dogs who tore an animal to pieces while it was still alive which he said he was powerless to do anything about because he had no control over the dogs, Now is he going to be prosecuted?

PD
The chances are he would be up for prosecution, but equally so, he’s going to use that as an excuse. The hunting act 2004 has got the most appalling loopholes in it. It was written to please both sides at the time, and it turned out that it was very very weak. You have to prove ‘intent’ before you can convict a huntsman. It is practically impossible to film what is going on in someone’s head. But, one of the ways of trying to get them convicted is to listen to the horn calls. There are call that are ‘Sending the hounds on’ and there are calls that are ‘Calling the hounds off’. If there is a fox running for its life in front of the hounds and the huntsman is giving the wrong calls, it’s clear ‘intent’ as far as we are concerned, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference. They are very rarely prosecuted or convicted because they say it was all an accident and they didn’t mean to kill a fox. In my view if they do lose control of their hounds and they tear a fox to pieces, that is as bad as having the ‘intent’.

JM
Yes, and it sounds like a highly questionable practice, out with a pack of 30 to 40 dogs and you acknowledge that you can’t control them it hardly seems like a very desirable situation.

PD
Well it’s fine, they get off with that.

Muzzling hounds

JM
Now surely one answer would be to muzzle the dogs wouldn’t it? When they are in a public place, they’re off the leash, muzzle the dogs, everyone could have their enjoyment, the horses and the dogs could be exercised and the riders could enjoy what they do with their legal kind of drag hunting and the animals and foxes would not be in any danger. So why is this not being done?

PD
I don’t know, there has been a petition going around for a long while, asking for hounds to be muzzled. Some people have said that the hounds actually do suffer enough; they are not happy hounds; they’re not kept in comfortable conditions, We don’t know an awful lot about it because the hounds and the huntsman they do tend to operate in secret. But muzzling the hounds would be quite difficult and it might put the hounds at risk of being caught up on brambles etc. That said, it would solve it.

Danger to Domestic Animals

JM
Now I understand there are a high rate of fox hounds attacking domestic pets, Is that right?

PD
Yes that’s true, If your cat is around and the hunt is coming, keep your cat in. I know someone whose cat was killed on her door step by hounds. She watched her cat being killed and there was nothing she could do, She texted me and said “All I could do was crawl away and put my head in my hands while I heard my cat being killed. It was awful.”

JM
The cat was torn apart by fox hounds?

PD
Yes, killed

JM
And was there a prosecution for that?

PD
No, No

JM
No prosecution for that?

JM
Well if my dog got loose and attacked somebodies pet and killed it, I mean, I most likely would be prosecuted. So why wasn’t he?

PD
Good question. What happens is the master of the hounds pops round, knocks the door and says “I’m ever so sorry”, That’s it, that’s all that happens, It’s happening all over the place.
There was a cat sanctuary I think in Hastings where the hounds tore through there and sent the rescued cats in various directions.
There were some Alpacas recently hurt.

There was a woman not far away from here where the hounds were only exercising. They weren’t actually hunting, but she still found herself and her two tiny dogs surrounded by the hounds. She picked them up in both her arms, one dog in one arm and one in the other while the hounds surrounded her. And if she hadn’t been there, goodness knows what would have happened to her dogs.

JM
Good heavens, I’m sure people don’t realise this.

PD
The huntsman was nowhere in view, or the kennel man or whoever was walking them.

Strengthening the Hunting Act

JM
And they also reap havoc on private property I believe? PD Yes they do, they do.
JM
So what should be done about this, what action ought to be taken?

PD
Well firstly we need to strengthen the ‘Hunting Act’, My view, and it has always been my view and people say “well that’s a bit impractical”, is to stop them going out altogether. They have had 14 years to show that they can be trusted and they haven’t shown that. If anyone wants to see nationwide, how much havoc and pain and agony they cause, (because it is not just foxes, it’s badgers as well – they block up the badger setts so the fox can’t go to earth) they just have to look online and see the overwhelming amount of evidence.

The answer, I think, is in probably a change in government, which we may have. If that’s the happens, the hunting act needs to be strengthened with a great deal of care because we don’t want another 14 years of people getting away with it because the hunting act hasn’t been written properly.

JM
And if our listeners are outraged at this, and they would like to do something. What can they do?

PD
They can join ‘Action Against Foxhunting’. It costs nothing, we are nationwide. There’s a Facebook page called Action Against Foxhunting. We also have a closed Facebook page for active volunteers which you can join. We do scrutinise people very carefully before they join as we have to make absolutely certain they are who they say they are. Or you can just support us by liking our main AAF Facebook page.

What AAF actually does is this. We go out into the streets and we talk to the public as an awful lot of ordinary people think that because foxhunting is banned, it doesn’t happen. We are making sure that they know that it does happen regularly. 300 hunts go out 2 to 3 times a week in season, that’s a lot. 11 000 outings a year. When I moved to the West Country, I thought they probably went out a couple of times a year. What an idiot! They don’t. It’s a business, they go out regularly all the time. You see them all the time; they block up the roads; the hunt support are abusive and unpleasant to anybody that tries to get in their way; they block up badger setts and they annoy locals.

They actually do whatever they like.