Author Archive for Lee Skevington

23
Dec
09

On Hunting’s Front Line

I was somewhat skeptical when I was first invited to follow the Cattistock hunt with hunt monitors from my prospective constituency. I didn’t know what the monitors were doing out there or what to expect from either side. However at this point I had already established myself via the local media as vehemently anti-hunt and, as any good Labour PPC, I was quite willing to take the fight directly to the hunters.

At 10am prompt, despite the poor weather, I met with Helen Weeks a local anti hunt monitor and then moved on to meet with other activists. These are the people who go out week after week to monitor and record illegal hunt activity at considerable risk to themselves. Where there is evidence of violations of the Hunting Act 2004 they report it to the local police with the necessary video footage and evidence to back it up. It is perhaps surprising that their efforts result in few prosecutions despite solid evidence of hunting.

I have seen today with my own eyes at this hunt that the Police seem lacking in their duty to enforce the ban. We made sure the police were informed that an illegal fox hunt was taking place and that we were going out but despite this there was no police presence. I am told that the police never turn up. Why? It seems the Police have an attitude problem in arresting hunters. I am sure many an excuse will be given but that is the point they are just excuses.

We arrived shortly after the hunters began their meet and we waited outside the gates of the estate for them to appear. They soon rode out with their hounds and come a little too close to us for comfort; forcing us into the hedges to avoid being trampled. It was undoubtedly their intention to intimidate. Most of all by the intimidating hunters and their very overt policy of intimidation towards peaceful anti-hunt activists who only wish to record the hunt. The anti-hunt activists I met and spent the day with were a small group of four and all equipped with cameras to record the hunt; yet also importantly for personal safety. I was perhaps surprised

It was soon obvious that they didn’t appreciate the camera upon them. Yet if the hunters were, as they claim, only trail hunting why did they so object to being filmed? Surely video footage of the hunt would only vindicate them from suspicion and everyone could go home happy? It was undoubtedly the case that they were fox hunting, not trail hunting, and out for blood. We seen the fox on many occasions running ahead of the hounds however riders and followers ensured we could never get too close. Everything felt so surreal and in many ways like a precision military operation which simply could not fail. 

I was surprised by the arrogance of the hunters and their lack of care for the fox they were hunting down. At one point they were challenged over the illegal nature of their activity to which a man of no more than 30 told us with an astoning laissez-faire attitude that they were all only out “walking their dogs”. 

Hunting with hounds is extremely inefficient so it’s hard to say how many foxes went through cruelty today. We heard a few times the horn sounding to declare a kill. The hunters will continue to do as they wish and as they have done for hundreds of years until we do something to forcibly shut them down. The obvious reality is the hunting ban can work when the Police do their job and enforce it. It was clear the Police for this hunt had not generated any fear of prosecution. The Police have to do more and the excuses for inaction are not justified on the grounds of resources or reasons. 

I know I will go out again with these bold activists, the anti-hunt vanguard, who do not sit around and wait for policy decisions; but instead gather evidence and where possible force the hunters before the courts. I would encourage any MP’s and PPC’s to take a leap and to head out to the front and see things as they are. For me it has been an invaluable experience and re-ignited my desire and steadfast determination to shut these illegal hunts down. 

The hunters who decide to break the law gain a wider arrogance due to Police inaction. So when I hear the claim that the hunting ban is not working I think back to what I have witnessed. It comes across loud and clear that the hunt I observed would not have had such arrogance if the Police enforced this animal cruelty law.

Lee is the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Yeovil




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