Make no mistake, there’s a civil war under our noses, which comes to an apex when blood-thirsty predators triumphantly parade their wrongdoing on a day when most of us struggle out of bed to reach the fridge. Judge for yourselves who’s the goodies and who’s the baddies here, but pray tell me you’re not party to this obnoxious pageant? I mean, hardly “Christmassy,” is it, unless of course, Santa puts a bullet in the head of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for not keeping up with the herd?
Posing a question in a headline, I’ve learned, attracts hits. Usual method is for me to then waffle endlessly, circling the question but never really answering it, until, only sometimes, at the conclusion. I’m gonna swap, answer it now, get it out in the open. Can we stop Boxing Day hunts across Wiltshire?
Don’t be disillusioned, and apologises for bursting any bubbles; the answer is no, not a chance, pal.
Despite good news last week that the Wilton Hunt Ball has been postponed due to the omicron outbreak, we all know pandemic restrictions last year didn’t bother them, and with reference to breaking news of government Christmas parties, flaunting the law for the most powerful in society doesn’t need investigating, according to police.
I mean, whatever did happen to the inquiry as to how hunting organisations pushed for a drink-driving Avon Huntsmaster to stand as Wiltshire PCC, costing the taxpayer over £3million for a re-election? The carpet is looking lumpy, how much more can be brushed under it?
Every avenue I explore on this subject gets blocked, no one in any position of power to help wants to address the issue. That is a total and utter disgrace and they should, quite frankly, hold their heads in shame.
Make no mistake, Boxing Day Hunts aren’t the bee-all-and-end-all of hunting, but they’re the most important hunt on the annual calendar, because the audience it attracts. The Countryside Alliance will try convince you droves arrive in support. True, Boxing Day hunts aim to condone and promote the tenet, crucial in their campaign to turn the Hunting Act 2004 on its head. Though many onlookers remain oblivious to the cruel realities, while others will be lobbying against it.
If all is not lost, councils of both county, town and parish levels can take action, if they wanted, ban it on their land, or at least refuse to accept invitations to, and disallow council land to be used to meet, thus reducing the celebration of blood sports and gradually eradicating the archaic and brutal custom.
In a heartfelt campaign, non-profit organisation, Keep the Ban, urge concerned folk to contact their councillors, celebrating success when Keswick Town Council in Cumbria decided to revoke their invitation to the John Peel Hunt. Locally, the wonderful Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs informed me Bradford-on-Avon Town Council “have banned both hunting and culling on their land at town council level” but reckoned, “it’s mostly symbolic, although there are definitely council owned farms (tenant farmers of WCC) that do cull, so a wider wildlife protection policy is probably going to be more use.”
However, fresh from a meeting, Alison Kent, Clerk to Pewsey Parish Council replied yesterday, “the decision was to allow the Tedworth Hunt to meet in the car park on Monday 27th.” A local hunt which the Wiltshire Hunt Sabs claim “weaponised their horses against sabs.” Why would they do this, without anything to hide?
My first port of call is Wiltshire Councillor Laura Mayes, who despite as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills, this is not her area of expertise, it must be said, is always willing to humour me and answer my endless questions on any random subject, and I thank her for her help. Although, her answer was unswerving; “I have done some digging and asked Cabinet colleagues and we all agreed that WC has no power to take any action, re trail-hunting as it is currently a legal activity. Any illegal activity would be a police matter.”
Wiltshire Council may convince themselves nothing illegal is happening, yet I argue, like a speeding driver, for them, the thrill of the activity outweighs the carnage it might cause. I’m no prude, I can understand it must be exhilarating to ride across the hillsides in pursuit of a target, addictive even, given hunting is ingrained in their psyche, passed down through generations. If an arsonist wandered into a fireworks factory with a lighter, would WC turn a blind eye, safe in the knowledge setting it alight would be illegal, therefore the arsonist would resist the temptation of their own obsession?
Countryside Alliance website outrightly states they oppose the hunting Act 2004, claiming it’s “bad for rural communities,” even, and, get your head around this brazen irony, “bad for animal welfare,” and a “waste of police resources.” If they feel like this, and nothing is done to prevent them, how on God’s earth can you expect them to not pursue a wild animal if it was to be caught in heat of the moment on this supposed fake trail?
Let’s take the last part of the CA’s stance; on Boxing Day police resources will be stretched, on a day they’d rather be peaceful I’d wager, because they’ll need to be present across the country where the crowds gather to observe this pretentiously parade of their unforgiving activity as a magnificent pageant. I have to wonder how much police time is spent keeping an eye on the hunters against policing the meetings. I also emailed Wiltshire Police to ask how they would actually patrol a hunt, horseback I’d imagine being the only effective method.
I also wished to enquire what their relationship with the hunt sabs was like, if they supported the portfolio sabs are building to suggest unlawful acts are indeed taking place. Only this week, they posted a video to their Facebook page clearly showing The Royal Artillery Hunt rioting on two deer in an SSSI area on Salisbury Plain Training Area on Saturday 4th December, and Huntsman, Charles Carter, did nothing to call them off; something the Daily Mail suggested put the sabs “at war” with the Army.
A spokesperson for the sabs told me, “If something is being used as a smokescreen for a crime then either it’s an illegal activity or the law needs addressing!” Face it, Western Huntsman John Sampson in Penzance, was only found guilty of being in charge of dogs which killed a cat caught in the hunt on a Cornish housing estate, because a neighbour filmed him from their window, shamelessly lobbing the cat’s dead body into a nearby garden. If it wasn’t filmed, there would be no evidence. A clear indication hunters need monitoring, but while my press office contact with Wiltshire Police is usually responsive, they felt the matter needed to be addressed by the Rural Crime Unit, and passing my queries onto them was the end of our communication.
Should the police wish to respond, I can amend this appropriately, but time is pushing forward to Boxing Day, and my only line of information comes from The Wiltshire Hunt Sabs themselves. Far from a Batman-Chief Commissioner Gordan relationship, where Gordan doesn’t necessarily like the vigilante but compromises on the grounds they share the same goal, the Hunt Sabs were keen to criticise Police.
“I can show you a clip of an officer blocking a byway,” the sabs expressed, “when challenged he demanded evidence that they were illegally hunting, which the sab asked ‘well if you stop blocking the public right of way, I can get you some.’ He refused.” Whatever happened to inspector’s hunch aside, if investigation isn’t gathered by official resources, someone has to, furthermore, isn’t the officer acting unlawfully in blocking the byway, it’s a public right of way?
“Yeah,” the sabs replied, “accessing the byway was first a small section of ORPA (other routes of public access) so even though he had no idea what the public access rights where, he still chose to block it, even after offering to show him on an OS Map.”
Playing devil’s advocate, I supposed, his defence would be they were potentially there to “start trouble” when the hunters were doing nothing illegal. But how can he tell if the police don’t even follow the hunt? Have the Sabs ever seen police patrolling a hunt, keeping up with it to insure nothing illegal occurs?
“There’s no history of us starting trouble,” they replied. “The hunts always claim that but we don’t. We’re just there to make sure they don’t kill. Wilts Police have never to my knowledge ever patrolled a hunt. Any time they are there it is to ‘keep the peace,’ which in reality means blocking us from stopping them killing. The police don’t even know the law; on one hunt recently, two officers turned up and had to Google it on the way. I had to explain to them everything that was happening, and to be fair they listened, but initially they were too quick to take the hunt’s word that they were legally hunting. They have no training on this, I personally have emailed the rural crime team and asked, they’re not interested.”
I gulp at this, as while Wiltshire rural crime unit certainly isn’t responsive, the sabs said Gloucestershire Police now have “operation hunt,” and have said they will go out to hunts. But the real hard pill to swallow was my contact with The Wiltshire Hunt Sabs felt contacting the authorities was futile, adding in their understandable frustrations, “I can’t see them doing much, I personally have given up bothering with them.”
Still, all they ask for doing the tasks the police you pay for should be, is the price of a coffee to help their campaign funding, and they ask you sound your objection to Pewsey Parish Council for allowing the Tedworth Hunt to meet in their carpark, or contacting your MP and councillors in general, as Boxing Day Hunts go further than simply potentially bludgeoning a fox or any other animal which might accidently stumble into the crossfire, to death, but also act as a celebration and promotion of such cruelty.
I wish the season of goodwill to all men could extend to all life, all god’s creatures great and small, and I’m a realist who cannot accept nothing unlawful is happening here, when photograph and video evidence is there for all to see that clearly it is, and I thank the sabs for their time when others in power barely gave theirs, and for the difficult and arduous task they take on.
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