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John Twyford: Charity right to chase huntsmen all way to court

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: December 31, 2012

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I'M planning to give a donation to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals following its sterling work in successfully prosecuting the Heythrop hunt.

I think we've all suspected that many hunts across England have been defying the ban on hunting with dogs. Some may have benefited from the fact that the law was badly drawn up and open to interpretation, while others may simply have defied the law because they did not believe there would be any consequences.

From the outset of this law, in 2005, the police have appeared disinterested in enforcing it, and it has become one of those rules which seem to be laws in name only, like speeding.

There have been hardly any prosecutions; only a handful of individuals have been taken to court in the seven years since the law was made. But I believe this recent case was the first in which a hunt itself has been convicted.

Two former members of this group of Oxfordshire hunters, as well as the Heythrop hunt itself, pleaded guilty earlier this month to unlawfully hunting a wild fox with dogs.

The only reason the prosecution got so far was because the RSPCA brought it, at considerable cost. I understand the Crown Prosecution Service had earlier been handed alleged evidence of earlier law-breaking by this hunt, but had declined to pursue it.

The conviction of the hunt, and two of its former members, was greeted with howls of outrage by such as the Countryside Alliance, which accused the RSPCA of targeting the Heythrop simply because it was David Cameron's local hunt and he had once ridden with it. Even the judge criticised the RSPCA for spending more than £325,000 of the money given to it by the public on the prosecution.

But why shouldn't it? It was important for the RSPCA to bring a prosecution against a high-profile hunt, because it wanted to show all such hunts that there is a law and it should not be broken, and high profile equals much publicity.

And, as I wrote recently in response to MP Neil Parish's attack on the animal protection charity, the RSPCA was set up to prevent cruelty to animals, so why shouldn't it use its funds to campaign against foxes being torn apart by hounds, as much as against the intended slaughter of thousands of badgers in a misguided attempt to prevent the spread of TB among cattle?

What supporters of hunting fail to realise is they are very much in the minority, even in the countryside.

A poll for the Guardian newspaper earlier this month found that 76 per cent of the public were opposed to any repeal of the ban on fox-hunting. The figures were even higher for deer-hunting and hare-coursing.

And last week a Government minister appeared to rule out in the near future a free vote in Parliament on repealing the ban on hunting with hounds, which was promised by the Conservatives. I suspect Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was not the only member of the Government to realise that such a vote would almost certainly be lost. So it's not been a good month for the fox-hunters and their dwindling number of supporters, despite the claimed high turnouts for the Boxing Day meets.

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  • Kindanimal  |  January 02 2013, 5:59PM

    GilesB - to be absolutely frank - I can't even be bothered to think about the same old stuff you've been imposing on and boring everybody with, making a nuisence of yourself wasting their time. You are quite ridiculous in the belief that because people don't comment on what you do, they agree with you. Your arrogance in thinking that all the world are interested in you and what you do for years on end, is beyond normal and someone close to you should have a serious word with you. This page is not about you in any way, it's about the article that John Twyford has written which bears no relation whatsoever with what you do or have said.

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  • GilesB  |  January 02 2013, 5:56PM

    Here's Labour MP Tom Harris's recent take on it " If you're pursuing any mammal for pest control purposes, you must kill it. They're pests, you see. Quite simple." Well I am sorry but I refuse to do this.

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  • GilesB  |  January 02 2013, 5:23PM

    I've just had a suggestion from an anti that I chase wild deer myself rather than using dogs!!! I have never heard anything so ridiculous in all my life!!! Dogs are FAR better at chasing deer than people! It never fails to amaze me how ignorant some of these people are.

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  • GilesB  |  January 02 2013, 5:17PM

    Hi eyeopener, I've made it clear to LACs that if they want to come and video my activities then they can do so by prior appointment. I would phone them when there are deer present and they could station themselves in an ideal spot to film me chasing them with the dogs. I really do think that I have nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of. In fact am proud of what I do. In my opinion everyone with a dog who disagrees with the Hunting Act should break it.

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  • eyeopener  |  January 02 2013, 5:11PM

    @ GilesB Who knows what you get up to on your farm? We only have your word for it and to be honest the chances of either the police or the RSPCA turning up to deal with you is unlikely when there are organised hunts to deal with. Organised hunts have to be publicised too and this makes evidence gathering not just more practicable, but more cost effective as well. Are we seriously expecting the police and the RSPCA to wait around on the off chance that yu and your dogs will be passing that day? Inspector Nevin Hunter from Devon and Cornwall Police said: "We need to know the interpretation of the courts to give us some indication of what is actually required and this very much depends on the quality of evidence we can gather when cases are reported."

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  • GilesB  |  January 02 2013, 4:36PM

    Kindanimal - but surely you too agree with me that I should not be prosecuted for pursuing wild deer with my dogs? It's fine for me to carry on - isn't that what you are saying?

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  • Kindanimal  |  January 02 2013, 3:06PM

    Stanislaw - I think you too suffer from illusions as well as Giles. The only person who agrees with him is YOU. Nobody else can be bothered to answer him because we've all seen this for years, all over the country nationally and locally, and the man is TAKING IT OUT OF CONTEXT. Is that clear enough for you to understand I wonder. End of.

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  • Stanislaw  |  January 02 2013, 1:14PM

    Furthermore I would point out that everyone here does seem to agree that Mr Bradshaw should not be prosecuted in spite of the fact that he uses his dogs to chase wild mammals. That's the precise point he is making is it not?

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  • Stanislaw  |  January 02 2013, 12:56PM

    I've followed Giles Bradshaw's various comments on the Hunting Act with interest over the years and although it does seem clear that he is breaking the law I do think that he has a point. Kindanimal's riposte to him does not seem to hold water. If this man is breaking the Hunting Act as he almost certainly is then why is no action taken against him? I would suggest that the reason for this is that he is quite obviously right in what he says. It is indeed highly absurd that he should have to shoot the deer that he chases in order to prevent them being chased. From the point of view of animal welfare to shoot these deer would clearly risk causing them to suffer. As for his statements having nothing to do with this article I am not sure that is the case. Here we have a man who is openly and deliberately flouting the law and making a very good case as to why the RSPCA should not prosecute him. I am quite sure that he has managed to persuade both the police and the RSPCA to allow him to continue chasing deer and to that extent one could correctly speak about a 'deal' albeit an unspoken one having been done. In my opinion Giles is right to carry on with what he is doing. Where the law is ridiculous as it plainly is here it should not be enforced and people should be allowed to break it. Pro and anti hunters should support Giles' one man crusade against this law.

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  • Kindanimal  |  January 02 2013, 8:47AM

    Charlesbashir - the RSPCA has every right to bring a prosecution against illegal hunting by the Heythrop Hunt. This is part of its remit and forms part of its Mission Statement which I suggest you read. Perhaps you are also not aware that a group of pro hunting MPs have already made a complaint to the Charity Commission in an attempt to discredit the RSPCA and it has, like myself, commented that the prosecution is well within its remit as agreed with its Trustees. The RSPCA has a specific operational unit to do exactly what it has done in this case, as well as in other instances of animal cruelty such as dog fighting, neglect and cruelty to all types of animals including domestic pets, farm animals and wild animals. I further add that as a life-long supporter of the RSPCA, I am extremely happy, as I know others are, that one of the leading hunts that chooses to ignore the rule of law has been prosecuted and I look forward to more prosecutions of hunts that deliberately go out to hunt illegally in the future. Well done to the RSPCA - I have increased my annual subscription.

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