Not such a Glorious Twelfth: Should driven grouse-shooting be banned?

The season for red grouse-shooting is about to begin. But its driven form, where beaters flush birds towards the guns, is having a terrible impact on the environment and on other birdlife, to the cost of every nature-lover and taxpayer. Mark Avery, former conservation director of the RSPB, explains why this most unsporting sport should be banned

Monday 27 July 2015

With the imminent opening of the red grouse shooting season on the "Glorious Twelfth" of August we are likely to hear the usual voices saying that this peculiarly British activity is a traditional field sport. Yet, generally, it isn’t very traditional and it isn’t very sporting. Driven grouse shooting is coming under increasing scrutiny from both an economic and ecological point of view and from both policy makers and the general public. So how long can it continue?

The wild red grouse lives in the heather-clad hills of the British uplands – it is the UK variety of a species also known as the willow grouse or willow ptarmigan which lives in Scandinavia, Russia, Canada and the USA. It’s a hardy bird which lives in the hills all year round and in the UK eats a diet predominantly of heather shoots. This is the bird that adorns the label of Famous Grouse whisky and features in amusing television adverts in the run-up to Christmas.

In many parts of the world grouse are hunted – they represent sizeable packages of protein – and predominantly this hunting consists of walking across the hills and shooting at grouse that are flushed by your presence as they fly away. This form of shooting, walked-up shooting, often with trained dogs, pointers or setters, was the main way that grouse were shot until the invention of the breech-loading shotgun made reloading your firearm much easier, and bigger "bags" of grouse more feasible. Instead of going to the grouse in walked-up shooting, driven shooting requires the men with the guns to wait in a line of small shelters, called butts, for a distant line of "beaters" to walk across the moorland and flush the grouse towards them.

Those who oppose all field sports, in whose number I do not include myself, say that driven grouse shooting would only be sporting if the grouse were armed, too. However, a look back in time shows that this form of the sport wasn’t favoured by many keen adherents of field sports in its early years.

Traditionalists decried the unsporting nature of driven shooting, where the shooter was not remotely a hunter of grouse but a mere recipient of a mass of live targets provided by the sweat and activity of the beaters. Instead of the ability to walk over rough terrain, read the ground, train your dogs and then work with them to find and shoot down a few grouse in a day – maybe 20 birds but often many fewer for a day’s exercise in the hills – driven grouse shooting allowed someone who was merely a good shot, but who lacked the broader skills of understanding the habitat, to kill many more birds.

Those who do it describe driven grouse shooting as one of the greatest thrills available Those who do it describe driven grouse shooting as one of the greatest thrills available (Alamy) Driven grouse shooting probably developed independently on several estates, but Sir Walter Spencer-Stanhope, who owned moors in the Yorkshire part of the Peak District, is generally regarded as the first or an early adopter. He wrote that there were frequent criticisms of the practice in the newspapers of the time until the Dukes of Devonshire and Rutland also began driven grouse shooting. And when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert bought Balmoral as a shooting estate, the popularity of driven grouse shooting was assured.

Driven grouse shooting, at great expense, is now seen as the norm, and the activity has so much snob-value attached to it that it is now become the thing to do, and to be seen to be doing, among many of the moneyed classes. There are landowners who still prefer a day or two’s walked-up shooting each season – but, when they can sell a day’s driven grouse shooting for upwards of £30,000 to a party of six to eight "guns", it’s not really a luxury they can afford to indulge.

Those who do it describe driven grouse shooting as one of the greatest thrills available. As the grouse fly over the butts they are like arrows streaking through the sky, flying at high speed and capable of changing direction in an instant. There are birds everywhere, the sound of gunfire from other butts is exhilarating, and to down each bird requires some skill. It’s a few minutes of hectic activity, with the loaders and shooters working in harmony and then there is the calm after the storm when the dead grouse are retrieved, any injured birds dispatched and the totals are counted for that drive. Driven grouse shooting is said to be at its most exciting when the birds come thick and fast – and at the end of such a drive the body count can be enormous.

In Victorian times, the bags were sometimes spectacular. A party of six guns shot more than 2,000 red grouse on Wemmergill Moor in Yorkshire on 20 August 1872, with the first shot fired at 8.20am and the last around 12 hours later. Sir Frederick Milbank was responsible for a good third of these birds himself. On 30 August 1888, Lord Walsingham had a remarkable day when he killed 1,070 grouse on Blubberhouses Moor in Yorkshire (at a kill-rate of 70 per cent kills to shots). He was the only shooter, using three guns and two loaders, and was further assisted by 40 beaters in two teams. They all got off to an early start at 5.12am, with the first of 20 drives of the moor, the last of which finished at 6.45pm. The most successful drive was the 16th of the day, when his lordship shot 94 grouse in 21 minutes – that’s one every 13 seconds – and there was no sign that he was tiring physically of the effort, nor emotionally at the level of killing. In fact, the last 14 kills were made on his walk home.

Abbeystead in Lancashire, now owned by the Duke of Westminster, still holds the record for the biggest grouse bag in a day – 2,929 birds, by eight guns, on 12 August 1915. And if the slaughter is now more modest – with most dead birds genuinely reaching the dining tables of hotels and restaurants, unlike the poor pheasants that sometimes end up as landfill – such large bags of birds are still only possible through intensive land management.

For the love of game: driven grouse shooting before the war For the love of game: driven grouse shooting before the war (Getty) Red grouse are not reared and released like many pheasants and partridge, but their hills are managed by teams of gamekeepers to maximise the number of birds available at the beginning of the shooting season. The heather is burned, on a rotation of perhaps a dozen years, in order to create a patchwork of old heather (good for shelter and nesting) and young heather (better to eat), wet areas are drained (as heather doesn’t do well in sodden soils) and natural predators are killed both legally (foxes, crows, stoats, etc) and too often, illegally (hen harriers, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, etc). The high densities of red grouse may make them more prone to disease, particularly from parasitic worms, and piles of medicated grit are left on the moors, every few hundred yards, for the birds to peck at to reduce such losses. By late July each shooting estate will have counted their grouse and know whether it is a good year or not, and will be planning their shooting days between 12 August and 10 December.

That, then, is the history of driven grouse shooting, an activity practiced by the rich and traditional in our hills for about 150 years. But now it is seeing something of a resurgence, with the widespread use of medicated grit reducing losses to disease and a supply of foreign hunters and moneyed City gents wanting to try their hand at it. It’s not how I would want to spend a day, and I don’t have the money to contemplate it; still, in the big scheme of things, we could write it off as a bizarre British pastime practiced by a few men in tweed up in the hills. However, it’s too much of a menace for that – and grouse shooting is under increasing pressure.

I first got involved in the debate over grouse shooting many years ago, when I worked for the RSPB. The illegal persecution of birds of prey on some shooting estates is a serious conservation problem in the UK. The hen harrier, a ground-nesting buzzard-like bird, is particularly affected as it lives on moors and does eat red grouse. Scientists have calculated that there is enough habitat in the UK for there to be 2,600 pairs (including over 300 in England), and yet there are only 600-800 (and four pairs last year in England). Golden eagles and peregrines are also known, from decent scientific studies, to be rare or absent from grouse-shooting areas of the country, to have low breeding success and to be persecuted too. Many of us look at the hills of northern England and south and east Scotland as an enormous extended wildlife crime scene.

When writing of the hen harrier in his 1958 book Grouse: Shooting and Moor Management, Richard Waddington, a grouse moor owner from Scotland, described the hen harrier as "a nasty bird of evil habits. It quarters the moor a few feet above the ground and pounces on grouse or chicks it catches unawares. It must be got rid of at all cost. Whenever I see a hen harrier I regret that pole traps have been made illegal." Such sentiments are rarely as honestly or forthrightly voiced these days, but there are many who practice grouse shooting who would nod in agreement when they read those words, and too many who still act in accordance with them.

Nature lovers, birdwatchers, ramblers and many others are losing patience with the failure of governments to tackle wildlife crime on shooting estates. Last year, a series of events were arranged on "Hen Harrier Day" where hundreds of people joined rallies to protest at wildlife crime. This year there are more planned, with the biggest rally likely to be in the Goyt Valley in Derbyshire on Sunday 9 August (yes, a few days ahead of the start of the grouse-shooting season) where television presenter, photographer and naturalist Chris Packham will address the crowds. A new organisation, Birders Against Wildlife Crime, has also emerged, focusing on just these issues.

It is certainly the case that birds of prey eat grouse, and a long-term scientific study at Langholm in the Scottish Borders in the 1990s established, beyond any doubt, that hen harriers in particular can be sufficiently unsporting that they eat enough grouse during the summer to make big bags of grouse economically unviable in the shooting season. The conflict between conserving top predators such as eagles, and a day’s grouse shooting, is a real one.

But while discussions over how to square this circle – how can shooting continue if it depends on killing protected wildlife? – have gone on for years, the circle has not and cannot be squared. It’s ecology banging up against economic interests, and the grouse shooters have been unwilling to give an inch.

Still, things are moving on. Although wildlife crime will always be a very serious charge, one that grouse shooting as an industry will have to answer, the wider sustainability of the sport is now under scrutiny. The intensive management that is needed for large grouse bags is now known to damage protected habitats such as blanket bogs, increase greenhouse gas emissions, pollute water supplies and possibly lead to increased flood risks downstream of the hills. In a recent report, the Committee on Climate Change wrote: "The damaging practice of burning peat to increase grouse yields continues, including on internationally protected sites," which is just the type of attention that an industry does not need.

I’ve come to the view that the faults and ills of driven grouse shooting are systemic. They can’t be remedied by a bit of tinkering, because they are so integral to the system. A sport which is all about killing large numbers of gamebirds cannot tolerate natural predation, which is why legal predator control is unremitting on shooting estates and why birds of prey are still too often shot, poisoned or trapped – despite having full legal protection for more than 60 years. That’s one circle that can’t be squared.

What’s more, the intensive habitat management that is required so that the few can shoot lots of grouse for sport puts up the water bills, increases home insurance costs and adds to the problems of climate change for the many who never go shooting and have never seen a red grouse. Policy makers will not tolerate an unsustainable land use which damages ecosystem services and delivers very little economic benefit to the country.

And economic benefit has been a card overplayed by the shooting industry as a whole. Industry figures suggest that all shooting including target shooting is worth £2bn per annum to the economy – but these figures have been challenged by economists working with the League Against Cruel Sports who think that the figures are exaggerated about fourfold. Grouse shooting will be a small proportion of the total shooting income, and in any case these figures don’t take into account the costs of ecosystem damage that are borne by the taxpayer and water consumer. And they don’t take into account the loss of natural beauty when many of our hills are devoid of hen harriers and other protected wildlife species that are the victims of wildlife crime.

As a self-confessed wishy-washy liberal, it has taken me years of trying to find a compromise to the conflicts intrinsic to the unsustainable and anti-social nature of driven grouse shooting before I came to my present view – that we should simply ban it.

Driven grouse shooting is a worthless, pointless so-called sport which could be tolerated if only it weren’t so environmentally damaging. The wider economic and ecological damage caused by intensive management of the hills for the sake of shooting a few grouse (or a lot of grouse) are intrinsic to the system. They can’t be fixed so let’s just put an end to a non-traditional, non-sporting traditional field sport. We should ban driven grouse shooting. And, if we must, walk on.

Mark Avery is an author and blogger and is a former conservation director of the RSPB. His latest book, ‘Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands’, is published by Bloomsbury on 30 July.

Mark Avery’s e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting can be found at
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Landowner denies claims he ran over hunt hound

July 22, 2015

An angry landowner ran over some harrier hounds in a lane and reversed at speed at some of the hunt’s horse riders, a court has been told.

Jonathon Wright-Watson also attacked a foot follower grabbing him by his neck and pulling him down an embankment, a jury was told.

But he claimed the hounds had run amok and trespassed on his land and that the riders were in a frenzy and attacking his vehicle with their riding crops.

Mr Edward Bailey, prosecuting, said the Dart Vale and South Pool harriers were on a Saturday morning hunt at Rolster Bridge near Harberton. Totnes two weeks before last Christmas.

He said 35 hounds, 20 horse riders and some 40 foot followers were involved in the hunt following a pre laid scented trail around surrounding countryside near Harberton in Devon.

Mr Bailey told Plymouth Crown Court: “Mr Wright-Watson exercised his right, which he is perfectly entitled to do so, to say that this local hunt would not have any permission to hunt over his land.”

The defendant said that any hounds or riders would be trespassing if they went on his land or property.

But, said the prosecutor: “This is exactly what appears to have happened during the course of that morning.”

Wright-Watson told police in interviews that he was at home with a female friend, some children and pets when he saw hounds on his land and ‘running amok’.

Mr Bailey said the defendant told police: “He was cross about this to say the least.”

One hound did not leave his property and he grabbed it and put it into the back of his Mitsubishi pick up vehicle and he drove off to find its owner.

Mr Bailey said: “He set off in a bad mood. He had been angered by this trespass. He was driving at speed.”

The jury heard one foot follower was Stanley Wreyford who was watching the hunt in the valley below when he heard a vehicle driving at speed towards him.

The jury heard he quickly clambered up a hedge as the vehicle came to an abrupt halt and Wright-Watson ‘grabbed him by the scruff of the neck around his shirt and jumper’.

Wright-Watson, 55, of Old Mill Leat, Harberton, Devon, then drove off .

Three hounds were in the middle of the lane – and the jury heard the defendant made no attempt to stop ‘and hit them and ran over one of the hounds’.

Bounty, a bitch, suffered a broken pelvis and hock ankle wound .

Shortly afterwards Wright-Watson got out of the pick up and grabbed the hound still in his boot. Mr Bailey said he held it by the ‘scruff of its neck, shook it and threw it to the ground’.

He then reversed at a group of riders in the lane – a scene caught on a follower’s mobile phone.

In police interview Wright-Watson said he was annoyed that the hounds had trespassed on his land.

But he said he drove down the lanes in first gear at 15mph and that Mr Wreyford slipped down the bank and he had put his arm out to prevent him falling over.

Mr Bailey said he ‘emphatically denied that he had run over the hounds or hit any of the hounds at all’.

He claimed that the riders were ‘in a frenzy and were hitting his vehicle with their riding crops’ and opening his boot to look inside.

He denies dangerous driving and assaulting Mr Wreyford by beating.

The trial continues.

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94% of Welsh cattle free from TB, chief vet says – BBC News


Various measures against the spread of TB in cattle are starting to show results, according to the chief veterinary officer for Wales.

But Prof Christianne Glossop said it was too early to determine the impact of the badger vaccination programmes in Pembrokeshire.

Speaking at the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, Powys, she said incidents of TB have fallen by 28%.

She added a 45% cut in animals being culled had left 94% of herds TB free.

‘TB is expensive’

The five-year vaccination programme has one year remaining, with results not expected for another two years.

Prof Glossop said that the cost of vaccination could be reduced by providing grants to farmers and landowners to carry out some of the labour work themselves.

She said: "TB is expensive. This year we’re spending £25m in Wales on cattle testing, on compensation to farmers, on breakdown management, on a new programme we’re rolling out to get private vets more involved in supporting their clients.

"So against that backdrop the notion that vaccinating badgers is expensive, it’s just one piece of the whole programme."

Prof Glossop added the most expensive part of vaccinating was labour – walking fields, finding the badgers and catching them.

"If the farmer could put in some of the labour, or the landowner, then actually some of that cost gets chopped away," she said.
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York man fined for trapping wild goldfinches

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Police in North Yorkshire have warned that the trapping of wild finches is a “a widespread problem in the UK” after catching a man using cage traps to capture protected birds.

Alan Smith, 59, of Clifton Caravan Site, Water Lane, York, has been fined after admitting eight wildlife offences at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court.

He was handed a six-month community order with a 10-day rehabilitation activity requirement, £100 fine, £85 costs, £60 victim surcharge and £150 criminal court charge.

According to North Yorkshire Police, Smith was caught out after Pc Graham Bilton, a wildlife crime officer, spotted a small twin-chambered wire cage trap at Gate Hemsley, near York.

The trap had been placed on top of a hedge and was actively set, and in one of the chambers was a male goldfinch.

Mr Bilton, who is also a Scarborough Police rural beat manager, said: “The purpose of the trap and bird is to attract other wild birds of the same species drawn by the visual presence and singing of the ‘call bird’ inside.

“Any other wild bird approaching then activates the trap door which springs shut.”

Officers seized the trap and bird, which was later identified as a recently-caught wild goldfinch. No-one was present at the site at the time but a note was made of the registration numbers of the vehicles present.

A few days later, on July 6, Mr Bilton visited another encampment in Scagglethorpe and recognised the same vehicles. He saw a cage trap of a similar design, was set on top of a hedge and containing another recently-caught wild male goldfinch. Both goldfinches were released back into the wild.

Smith, who was at the site, was arrested on suspicion of committing wildlife offences and charged with a total of eight offences, including possessing a wild bird, taking a wild bird, using a decoy to take a wild bird and using a trap to take a wild bird.

Mr Bilton said: “It is important that those responsible for committing wildlife crimes are brought to justice. This type of crime can have a dramatic effect on local fauna and flora, yet often go unreported and are difficult to investigate.

“The trapping, possession and sale of wild finches are all offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, but still remain a widespread problem in the UK.”

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Following an appeal by the US animal breeding company B&K Universal, the Planning Inspectorate, headed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Rt. Hon Greg Clark MP, has overridden the local council refusal for planning permission and has allowed the expansion of a beagle and ferret laboratory breeding facility in Grimston, East Yorkshire.

2,000 beagles can, and undoubtedly will, be bred and housed in huge sheds in Grimston, the majority will die in a laboratory.

B&K Universal is owned by US multinational animal supplier, Marshall BioResource, which also owns Green Hill – a now-closed laboratory animal breeding facility in Italy.

In 2012, 3,000 beagles were seized from Green Hill in Italy following a massive campaign led by Fermare Green Hill. In January 2015, 2 managers from Green Hill and the company’s vet were convicted for the crimes of illegal killing of beagle puppies and adult dogs, as well as for animal abuse. Ghislaine Rondot, until June 30th 2015, was the European Executive Manager and Director of B&K Universal UK and Yorkshire Evergreen, she was sentenced to one year six months in jail for the illegal killing of animals and animal abuse. Her professional activities were also suspended for two years in Italy.

Her sudden replacement was clearly a move to try and sweep under the carpet the abuses that occurred at Green Hill under her management. The conviction of managers and a vet is the conviction of a company. A company whose care towards animals in their Green Hill facility according to Italian magistrates was "inadequate, untimely, ineffective and short-lived.

Animal Justice Project is outraged that despite government policy of reducing the number of animals used in experiments thousands of dogs and other animals will be bred in Grimston and sold to laboratories to meet their deaths.

Animal Justice project is shocked that the government hasn’t listened to people and has put big business profit and animal exploitation before public and local council opposition to the expansion. Over 100,000 people have signed petitions opposing it and 1,000s officially objected to the planning proposals. Celebrities and personalities such as Brian May, Ricky Gervais, Mark Radcliff, Peter Tatchell and Peter Egan have spoken out against the expansion of this beagle breeding farm.

During 2013 in the UK 3,554 dogs were used in experiments. This is an increase of 10% from the previous year. The majority of whom were beagles.

#REACT and send this mail to Rt. Hon Greg Clark MP demanding that he responds to his department’s decision that will result in death for thousands of animals.

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Please sign this petition

See previous email for more info


Confiscate Alan Hills dogs under the Animal Welfare Act

Today the media celebrates the success of the Hunting act, as 3 Herefordshire men are prosecuted for illegally hunting. However this is not the full story, and unfortunately justice has still not been served. In the early evening of Wednesday 29th October 2014, local police pulled over a car towing a trailer carrying a quad bike for a routine traffic offence. However things escalated when one of the men, Alan Hill, grabbed a bag from the vehicle and ran across a field with it. After the police gave chase Hill was caught and the police found a live fox inside the bag, which promptly escaped into the wilderness.

Now under suspicion of animal welfare offences, the 3 men: Alan Hill, James Smith and Jack Hudd, were taken into police custody. A search of the vehicle revealed 3 small terrier dogs contained in 2 small crates attached to the quad bike. The dogs were dirty and wet but also obviously bleeding from facial injuries and so veterinary assistance was called for, and the dogs were taken for a thorough examination. The condition of the female was even more shocking. She had obtained a previous injury resulting in her lower lip under her bottom jaw being completely ripped off, leaving only hairless scar tissue to much of the underside of her face. To accompany this were multiple fresh wounds to her upper lip and muzzle, including one very close to her left eye, and another resulting in a large swelling of her upper lip. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the female was also heavily pregnant….

However, the fate of the female now affectionately named Poppet, her 5 puppies, and the 2 males she was found with now hangs in the balance. Although the 3 men, Alan Hill, Jack Hudd and James Smith, were found GUILTY of hunting with dogs, and also GUILTY of not meeting the welfare needs of the fox found in the bag, they were found NOT GUILTY of not meeting the welfare needs of the 3 dogs. Their sentence included a fine and a criminal record but DID NOT include the confiscation of the dogs or a ban from keeping animals.

Section 9 of the Animal Welfare act, for which they were charged, states that: “1) A person commits an offence if he does not take such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal for which he is responsible are met to the extent required by good practice. (2) For the purposes of this Act, an animal’s needs shall be taken to include— (a) its need for a suitable environment, (b) its need for a suitable diet, (c) its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns, (d) any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals, and (e) its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.” Because these men were found NOT GUILTY, all 8 dogs will now be returned to them, and they will likely be forced to return to the “work” that these men made them do which resulted in their permanent disfigurements, pain and suffering. Please sign this petition and join us in calling for the dogs to be confiscated as Alan Hill is not fit to own animals

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More hunt lies

Three ‘hunt terriermen’ fined after police find them with live fox in a bag in Herefordshire

By TristanCork | Posted: July 15, 2015

Three men allegedly connected to a West hunt have been convicted of illegal hunting after being caught driving through the countryside in the middle of the night with scarred terriers and a live fox in a bag.

One of the three who were found guilty and fined is a serving soldier in Wiltshire, and now faces disciplinary action from his superiors. The hunt said they were ‘adamant’ the trio were not connected with them.

Magistrates in Hereford heard that police stopped a vehicle being driven through the Herefordshire countryside in the middle of the night in October last year because the trailer it was pulling had no lights working.

They were suspicious when Alan Hill, 54, got out of the vehicle, grabbed a bag from the trailer and ran off into the night.

A police officer gave chase, caught Hill, who is known as Dylan Hill, and was astonished to discover the bag contained a live fox. Back in the trailer, and the vehicle, there were three dogs with facial scarring, that animal welfare campaigners said were consistent with being previously involved in attacking foxes.

Two younger men were with Hill at the time: James Smith, 22, and 21-year-old Jack Hudd, a soldier based in Wiltshire.

The three were arrested and when questioned claimed they had written permission to do what they were doing but did not have it with them at the time.

"This piece of information was to be the key to their successful prosecution as the Hunting Act 2004 states that those legally hunting in such circumstances must have written permission on their person," said a spokesman for the RSPCA.

"The fox, which was still very much alive, had a very lucky escape as police released the animal back into the wild that evening. It is still not known what Mr Hill was intending on doing with the live fox once they had reached their destination," he added.

A spokesman for the army confirmed that Private Hudd is a serving soldier with the Royal Logistics Corps, based at Buckley Barracks in Hullavington, near Chippenham in Wiltshire.

He said the army was not prepared to comment on the case or release ‘personal information’ about him. But a spokesman did say: "All those who are found to fall short of the Army’s high standards or who are found to have committed an offence under the Armed Forces Act are dealt with administratively (up to and including dismissal) or through the disciplinary process, as applicable."

The case, which was handed by police to the RSPCA to bring as a private prosecution, last night sparked a furious row between hunt campaigners and anti-hunt activists over who the men were and what they were doing.

While the RSPCA did not link the three to any organised hunt, the Hunt Saboteurs Association published evidence in the form of Facebook posts and pictures by and of the men themselves, which apparently showed they were linked to the Ross Harriers Hunt, which operates in south Herefordshire, Monmouthshire and the edge of Gloucestershire.

"These three were the hunt’s terriermen," claimed a spokesman for the HSA. "They were arrested in October, and continued to work for the hunt for the rest of this last season. We have photographs of them with the hunt, and they posted pictures themselves of them with the hunt. They also posted pictures of them with dead foxes and dogs on Facebook."

The HSA claimed the men, when caught last October, would have been training their terriers to kill foxes using live foxes – which is how their dogs got their injuries.

A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance dismissed claims of formal links between the three men and the Ross Harriers. "The Ross are adamant these three have nothing to do with them," said campaigns director Tim Bonner. "The hunt was not mentioned at all in the court case, they are not hunt members or employees and this incident happened in the middle of the night. This was nothing to do with the Ross Harriers who, before the hunt ban, hunted hares."

All three defendants were convicted of one offence of hunting contrary to the Hunting Act 2004. Hill was also convicted under animal welfare laws of one offence of failing to take reasonable steps to protect the fox which he had captured and had kept in a rucksack.

The three were fined £165 each for the hunting offence, while Hill was fined the same amount for having the fox in a bag. All three were also ordered to pay £500 towards prosecution costs.

RSPCA director David Bowles said the successful prosecution showed the Hunting Act did work – but pointed out that the trio were convicted because they did not have written permission from a landowner, and because they had three dogs – both requirements that would have been swept away by the Government’s proposed amendments that were not put to a vote this week.

If they had a letter, or only two dogs with them, they would have not broken the law. "The Hunting Act in its current form clearly does work as we successfully prosecuted three men in Herefordshire for breaking the law," he said.

"This is not just about red coat hunting. The Hunting Act as it is stands is there to protect Britain’s wildlife – foxes, deers, hares and so much more – from all different types of illegal hunting practices."

"If the law is changed including removing the requirement for hunters to have written permission then it is sadly going to be a near impossible job to prove that individuals like these terrier men have broken the law. It will be a devastating blow to animal welfare in this country," he added.

Another row erupted this week following the conviction of the three. The RSPCA also prosecuted the three on animal welfare charges relating to the scar injuries previously suffered by the dogs they had. But the prosecution failed, so no order was made to keep or destroy the three dogs that were seized. They are understood to be due to be returned today (THU) to the men.

An online petition demanding the dogs – who now number eight after one of the three had puppies while it was being cared for by a local vet – has already garnered thousands of signatures, and the RSPCA is considering an appeal to prevent the return.

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GUILTY – Ross Harriers Hunt terriermen (BEWARE HORRIBLE PICS ATTACHED)

‘The current Hunting Act works’ says RSPCA after three hunters prosecuted for illegal activity
Posted on 13/07/2015 by Laura Quinn

Last Friday saw the successful prosecution of three men who were found to be illegally hunting in Herefordshire. Alan Hill (D.O.B. 06.12.60), James Smith (D.O.B. 02. 04.93) and Jack Hudd (D.O.B. 18.05.94) were stopped by the police last year in the middle of the night whilst driving a car with a trailer which had no lights on. What started as a standard police enquiry into a traffic offence however soon turned into an animal welfare investigation when 54-year-old Hill went round to the trailer, pulled out a sack and ran off into the darkness with it. Police chased Hill and tackled him to the ground only to find what Hill had been trying to keep hidden – a sack containing a live fox. Terrier dogs with scarring around their faces, injuries usually sustained as a result of hunting wild animals, were also found in the vehicle.

The fox, which was still very much alive, had a very lucky escape as police released the animal back into the wild that evening. It is still not known what Mr Hill was intending on doing with the live fox once they had reached their destination.

When later questioned, the three men admitted to hunting but said that they were doing it legally as they had written permission to do so but did not have the paperwork on them. This piece of information was to be the key to their successful prosecution as the Hunting Act 2004 states that those legally hunting in such circumstances must have written permission on their person.

It is this part of the Hunting Act 2004 – schedule one – which will be under threat on Wednesday and that will make prosecuting hunters in cases such as this near impossible.

David Bowles, assistant director of public affairs for the RSPCA, said: “The Hunting Act in its current form clearly does work as only on Friday have we successfully prosecuted three men in Herefordshire for breaking the law.

“This is not just about red coat hunting. The Hunting Act as it stands is there to protect Britain’s wildlife – foxes, deers, hares and so much more – from all different types of illegal hunting practices.

“It is also true that the very people the Government is claiming to try and help by making these unnecessary amendments will also suffer at the hands of any changes as farmers themselves will fall victim to more people trespassing on their land and causing disruption and harm to wildlife – including those valued by farmers as well as those seen as ‘pests’.

“If the law is changed including removing the requirement for hunters to have written permission then it is sadly going to be a near impossible job to prove that individuals like these terrier men have broken the law. It will be a devastating blow to animal welfare in this country.”

The three men were found guilty of committing offences against the Hunting Act 2004 and Mr Hill was found guilty of an offence against section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. They were all fined and made to contribute towards costs for the prosecution.

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Some good news!!!

Fox-hunting: SNP forces Cameron to delay planned Commons vote

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has told David Cameron he is "not master of all he surveys" after her party forced a delay in a planned fox-hunting vote.

Ministers shelved Wednesday’s vote on relaxing hunting laws in England and Wales after the SNP said it would vote against the changes.

The party had previously said it would not vote on issues affecting England and Wales only.

Mr Cameron said the SNP’s position was "entirely opportunistic".

Downing Street said it was "disappointing" that the vote had to be postponed, and said new proposals on the Hunting Act would be introduced "in due course".

‘Slender majority’

The government now plans to tighten up restrictions on Scottish MPs voting on matters in England and Wales before holding a vote on hunting regulations.

Ms Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, said the decision to delay the hunting vote showed "David Cameron can’t carry his own parliamentary group", and that he only had a "slender and fragile" majority.

She said he had also been forced to pull his English votes for English laws plans, showing that he was "not master of all he surveys in the House of Commons".

She said if he "had any sense", he would come back with proposals based on "fairness and reasonableness" that "work in both directions".

Earlier she had explained her party’s decision to take part in the hunting vote, saying there had been "overwhelming demand" from people in England.

Another reason, she said, was because David Cameron was making Scottish MPs "second-class citizens" in the House of Commons.

‘Interesting politics’

With two strategic retreats in the space of a week, the intersection of Hunting and English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) is generating some really interesting politics.

Last week, the government paused its attempt to bring in EVEL, replacing a vote on Wednesday with a consultative debate.

Today another "turn your back and run away, and live to fight another day" moment on the proposed changes to the Hunting Act.

The government plans to change Commons rules to allow English, or English and Welsh, MPs a "decisive say" on legislation only applying there.

However, the current proposals would not prevent SNP MPs from voting against the changes.

This is because the statutory instrument ministers want to use to change the law would require the support of the whole of the House of Commons.

The government’s decision to reschedule the vote came as anti-hunting protesters gathered at the Houses of Parliament to protest against changing the law.

The changes would have brought the Hunting Act in line with Scotland, where an unlimited number of dogs can be used to "flush out" a fox to be shot, compared to just two in England and Wales.

It’s been a rollercoaster week for the old, bitter enemies on each side of this debate.

Last Wednesday – Budget day – there was quiet jubilation in hunts in England and Wales at the prospect of the loathed Hunting Act being relaxed.

Dignity would be restored: they could hunt without their every move being filmed. Animal welfare groups were devastated: it was a sneaky step, hunting would be back, and they only had a week to mobilise.

Now with the abandonment of the vote, their fortunes have apparently been reversed.

But this isn’t a tale of victory and defeat. Both sides now know the government’s desire to change the Hunting Act.

They are digging in for a much more protracted fight that could – believe it or not – become even more bitter.

But the 56 SNP MPs, plus Labour and some Conservative MPs opposed to hunting, meant the government’s change stood little chance of being approved in Wednesday’s free vote.

The SNP says it will now consider tightening the law in Scotland to match England and Wales.

Maria Eagle, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, said: "David Cameron is now running scared because he knew he was going to lose the vote on fox-hunting."

Meanwhile, a poll for the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show has suggested almost three in four British adults are against making fox hunting legal.

The poll, conducted by ComRes, asked 1,005 people if the practice "should or should not be made legal again?".

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