Mar 16, 2014 22:00
By David Collins
Footage shows more than 100 being killed on a sprawling country estate, with one marksmen seen trying to beat a hare to death with his bare hands.
A hare shoot organised by actor Ralph Fiennes’ brother Jacob is being probed by police amid claims the animals were left “dying in agony”.
Footage shows more than 100 hares being killed on a sprawling country estate and the scenes have sparked complaints of animal cruelty.
In the video, one of the marksmen is seen trying to beat a hare to death with his bare hands after it was wounded with gunfire.
The animal seems to writhe in pain for minutes and looks to be alive when the man approaches it and starts hitting it around the head, before unsuccessfully trying to snap its neck.
Other hares are seen lying in a muddy field shot and wounded, but are apparently not finished off straight away.
During the footage several upset protesters are heard shouting: “Put it out of its misery now!” and “stop its suffering”.
Campaigners allege animal rights laws were breached by causing unnecessary suffering.
Joe Langram, 67, witnessed the shoot and handed the video over to police. He said: “It’s been going on for years this hare shoot.
“What I witnessed was a group of extremely amateurish marksmen unleashing on wild hares, supposedly hunting them for food.
“Many of these hares were wounded without being properly killed afterwards. We watched them die in agony. There’s even one man who starts punching and chopping one of the wounded hares.
“It lay there in the worst pain imaginable for minutes before being picked up and punched, and this supposed hunter still couldn’t kill it.
“He picked it up and carried it, and its legs were wiggling around after being shot and enduring a vicious assault.”
He went on: “If these animals have to be hunted, it should be done humanely, with proper marksmen using high powered rifles who can pick off the hares one by one and kill them instantly.
“It’s not right to cause an animal this much suffering before it dies.”
Around 50 marksmen were taking part in the annual hunt last month on the grounds of the Raveningham Estate in Norfolk, owned by Sir Nicholas Bacon. The event has previously been investigated by police, but no evidence of animal cruelty was uncovered.
At the end of the latest shoot, dozens of bloodied hares could be seen piled up in a trailer.
Estate manager Jacob – Harry Potter star Ralph’s younger brother – also turned up in a four wheel drive where he appeared to be taking photographs of the protesters.
Jacob, 43, defended the shoot. Asked about the video of the man who appears to be trying to beat the wounded hare to death, he said: “Often when animals are killed they can still appear to be alive, but it’s just their central nervous system still active, causing them to still react.”
He added that the shot animals were taken home by the marksmen for food.
Jacob insisted the hunt fell within the law and that the hares had to be culled on the sprawling estate to protect the crop.
“We have a vast population of hares that need to be culled. They damage crops and their numbers can get out of control. We kill the hares as cleanly as possible. All the shooters are given a 20-minute pep talk beforehand on how to kill the hares,” he said.
“We have had problems in the past with hunt saboteurs. I have not been made aware of any police inquiry at this stage.”
Jacob is also twins with actor Joseph Fiennes, who starred in the Hollywood hit Shakespeare in Love.
Joseph once gushed about his brother in an interview: “He’s a brilliant conservationist. He has done astounding work with endangered species.
“He’s all about reclaiming the land and bringing back the natural habitat. So species like the English partridge, which is becoming extinct, can be preserved.
“He’s won an award equivalent to an Oscar for conservation.”
And previously Jacob admitted: “I am very different from the rest of my family. I’m a country boy at heart and I like the quiet life.”
Police are now investigating whether the hunt was in breach of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which states that a person has committed an offence if “the suffering is unnecessary”.
The group of local campaigners, who have rallied against the event for five years, claim they have gathered evidence to show the hunt broke The UK Code of Good Shooting Practice.
The handbook sets out all the rules for hunts and also says: “Guns and pickers-up must ensure that they despatch any wounded quarry in a swift and humane manner.”
The Raveningham Estate is the residence of Sir Nicholas Bacon the 14th and 15th Baronet and his family.
Its website reads: “There is a strong emphasis on conservation, creating new habitats whilst improving and enhancing existing ones.”
A spokeswoman for Norfolk Police confirmed a complaint had been received and that officers were investigating the campaigners’ allegations.
An RSPCA spokesman said the charity would be “happy to assist the police”.
North West Hunt Saboteurs Association
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ManchesterHuntSabs
Direct Action Against All Forms of bloodsports