Rapping with Wiltshire Hunt Sabs, about new rules, the possible return of hunting, and their battle against badger culls….
After a rant in the week, concerning Danny Kruger’s either forgetful or mediocre disregard to the facemask rule extended to an all-purpose bleat questioning the true motives of many of these everchanging Covid19 regulations, I bought up this exemption for hunting and shooting wildlife from the rule of six. For seems to me to be symbolic of this notion they’re using Covid19 as an excuse to return us to an era of yore; tally ho! Let’s go butchering innocent wildlife again what what.
Exemption depends solely on Boris’s personal preference, and he loves to shoot a grouse or three.
With the Mendip Hunt Sabs reporting a demonstrator was seriously assaulted just yesterday, when rocks were thrown at vehicles, surely, it’s advisable campaigning against cruel sports is best done by safety in numbers. Ergo, the rule of six makes protesting the hunting either illegal or risky for the individual, so I contacted Wiltshire Hunt Sabs and we had a nice chat. They agreed; “along the lines of exempting hunts from illegally gathering, so they can carry on illegally hunting,” they replied. “So, effectively turning the law banning hunting on its head. Which is what the conservatives have wanted for ages.” Bingo.
It took a few days to touch base with the sabs, as it’s badger culling season, and they were out. They excused my ignorance on the matter, explaining while grouse shooting is the news, it doesn’t happen in Wiltshire. “Grouse shooting normally happens on moors, they shoot red grouse,” they told me, “grouse aren’t reared, they live on moorlands. Loads of pheasant shoots around here, though. Pheasants are bred and reared for purpose.”
But pheasant doesn’t cause agriculture a problem, I’m going to find an angle on this tricky disco, as they shoot them for food, and I’m far from vegan; love a bacon butty, me! “With pheasants,” they explained, “despite what they claim, huge swathes of them end up in stink pits, they kill far more than they can possibly eat. I’ve seen one with my own eyes.”
Yep, my suspicions check out; bloodthirsty carnage dressed up as an obligatory pageant, the lot of it. Still, I’m in the dark about the Hunt Sabs’ priorities, and how they go about their operations. The concentration of our chat centred on the badger cull, a practise which can be avoided if funds were available for vaccination; like yeah, magic money tree you might cry. The Wildlife Trust reports the tax payer coughed up £16.8 million on the culling of 2,476 badgers between 2012 and 2014, equating to £6,785 per badger. By contrast, in the same time period, vaccination would cost just £293 per badger.
It also goes onto say cattle-to-cattle transmission remains the primary cause of outbreaks of bTB in cattle, and culling badgers’ risks making the problem even worse. “The Government has undermined the scientific credibility of its own research,” the Wildlife Trust explain, “by repeatedly changing targets and methods. As a result, no definitive scientific conclusions can be drawn from the pilot culls, as the scientific evidence used to justify them is highly selective.” The badger cull does not have the support of scientists, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) or the public; so how to go about protecting our wildlife?
“The cull is licenced by Natural England,” the Sabs tell me. “The licences last four years, although they are only authorised to shoot between certain dates; usually a 6-8-week period which begins in September. There are groups who protest and groups who take direct action. Obviously as sabs we take direct action, but will also undertake other forms of protest too.”
And the direct action is to what, get in their way or disrupt the shoot, I asked. “Well usually it involves looking for cages as well,” they enlighten me, “there are people who deal with them. Shooters can be dealt with by protestors too, simply being present on a footpath in a field they intend shooting in is enough to stop them.”
I plead they excuse my ignorance, not knowing they used traps. It must piss the cullers off, protesters wandering the footpath. I wondered if they ever get violent as we’ve seen the fox hunters do. “Not really,” came the reply, “they are generally better behaved because they have firearms. Any aggressive behaviour on their part would lose them their licence.” Being the only justifiable reason for killing a badger, I can see, is a trigger-happy obsession akin to a redneck with a Biden supporter on his dude ranch, I can see taking away their toys might be a preventative. Unless of course, you can rationalise otherwise, given the Wildlife Trust’s evidence?
Technically then, with a badger cull here in relative placate Wiltshire, the good news is, at least, they don’t need “safety in numbers” and could abide by the rule of six. “We usually work in twos or threes as we can get more ground covered,” the Sabs say.
How can people help? You could buy Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs a coffee, see here. But what if you found a cage on a walk? Should you damage it, or take it home to trash? The sabs advise against this. “I personally wouldn’t recommend just asking people to trash cages,” they instruct. “They aren’t easy to trash, and it’s a criminal offence. Better that people contact the page if they find one and take a 10-figure grid reference or what3words.”
Badgers are nocturnal, like me; they’re my work buddies. Traps, I cry, lightweights. If it is a sport, as they claim, it should therefore be a fair challenge and they should drag their malicious and over-privileged arses out of their beds in the wee hours to chase them, rather than have a pop at them during their bedtime. That’s like the ref allowing Arsenal to wait for Tottenham to get back on their coach before aiming for top bins!
Save badger culls though, wildlife protectors still have the legal upper hand, and police will attend and arrest those flouting the law. Wiltshire Police made an arrest during an operation into bird of prey persecution in Beckhampton and Pewsey on Wednesday, for example. PC Marc Jackson of Wiltshire Police Rural Crime Team, said, “following an extensive search of both locations, we have recovered the remains of a number of birds of prey, including red kites and buzzards. The recovery of these remains presented a number of complex challenges and we are grateful for the support from other agencies. If anybody has any information that they think could support our investigation, please contact us on 101.”
Inspector Liz Coles, Tactical Lead for Rural Crime in Wiltshire, said: “Today’s warrant shows that we take all aspects of rural crime seriously and we will proactively work with partners to protect wildlife and our rural communities. Last week saw the introduction of the new dedicated rural crime officers to the team, and this is a prime example of how they will help us moving forward. We continue to develop more intelligence-led policing in relation to prevention, detecting criminal activity and proactive operations.”
While it might not look good for Natural England’s preposterous project to reintroduce hen harriers to southern England, the struggle to uphold our preservation and protection for wildlife against a government which appears to warrant a return of fox hunting and blood sports sadly continues. And if other’s concern for animal welfare enrages you enough to throw your toys out of the pram, sadly social distancing measures will follow.