Sport / 7 November, 2010

Hunt season begins: Tally Ho!

Popular bloodsport galvanises locals

The first of November saw the beginning of the fox hunting season all across the UK.  Some 176 fox hunts in England and Wales saddled up on Saturday 6 November to celebrate the first full hunt of the season, donning smart red  coats, drinking port  and catching up with old friends.

However, for some local Hackney residents the beginning of the fox hunting season is no reason to celebrate. After years of campaigning by Labour MPs and animal rights groups, hunting with dogs was finally banned in 2004 for cruelty reasons.  However, according to local resident Shirley White, hunts systematically break the law on a weekly basis.

Shirley is a member of a local group based in Hackney which is dedicated to monitoring  fox hunts in Essex,  Suffolk, Norfolk and Hertfordshire.  The voluntary group known as North and East London Hunt Sabs (NELS) has been established for 18 years and is part of the national Hunt Saboteurs Association.  Daniel  Parker, a longstanding member of the group, claims: “Fox hunting is an extremely savage and unnecessary activity. The majority of public don’t agree with fox hunting, but the police never reprimand the hunt for breaking the law.”

Armed with maps, compasses, citronella spray (to mask foxes’ scent) GPS and cameras, the Hackney hunt saboteurs leave the busy city, early every Saturday morning, in a beaten up,  twenty-year-old  land rover and  head out to greener pastures.

“The aim of the game is to keep on top of the hunt”, says Shirley White, “that way you are ready to intervene in case they pick up a fox, you can always keep a watchful camera on them as well.  They hate cameras.”

Fox hunts and hunt saboteurs go hand in hand.  Hunt sabotage has been around since 1964 and any established hunt would not be complete without its own set of “antis”.  Both sides go out in all weather come rain or shine.

“Although utterly exhausting”, says Daniel Parker, “it’s a really rewarding day out.  You know that if you weren’t there the hunt could have killed up to five innocent foxes that day.”

The Conservative party adamantly opposed the 2004 hunting ban, and in their recent election manifesto they  said they would give a free vote to MPs to bring back fox hunting. Shirley White says: “If the hunting ban were repealed society would be regressing.  There is no need for such needless killing in the name of fun.”

The debate goes on. So the next time you are in a pub and someone dressed in tatty old combats comes in muddy, wet and tired, buy them a pint, because it’s likely they’ve been out running around the countryside trying to save our bushy-tailed furry friends.

/ 7 November, 2010
  • kris

    oh ffs.

    If these hackney sabs are so concerned about fox welfare, perhaps they’ll consider the plight of our own Hackney foxes who’ve recently been vilified in the press.

    People are killing foxes here in Hackney, Shirley.

    But I suppose helping Hackney foxes doesn’t have the allure of travelling out to a hunt and endangering human lives.

  • mhayworth

    Nice change to see such a positive article on foxes.

    Apart from the obvious cruelty of the hunt, these people create artificial earths across this country in order to breed their prey – so their pest control stance is ludicrous. They also claim to take out the old and infirm but of course they salivate over cubbing season every year. Lets face it – if it weren’t about the thrill of the kill, then these thugs would be totally satisfied with drag hunting. Sadly not.

  • Norman Bryant

    It’s the thrill of the chase not the thrill of the kill, the fox needs controlling as do urban foxes now, talk about buying one of these sab thugs a drink after they have frightend horses and hounds, sprayed foul stuff over hounds, verbally abuse children and adults, I certainly wouldn’t be buying one of these idiots a drink, let them go out to work so they can buy their own drink, they know nothing about rural life and just want to inflivt their own town views in the countryside

  • Norman Bryant-If Sabs are really thugs then please provide the evidence, because I have only ever seen evidence of hunts being aggressive. I have personal experience with hunt thugs and they are the worst sorts of people-they are vagrantly breaking the law so its no wonder they think nothing of beating up hunt monitors.
    I think you will also find that there are a lot of rural saboteur groups and a large population of rural communities despise hunting.
    Finally, you say it is the thrill of the chase and not the kill-so why does a kill even have to take place? why are terriermen enjoy their jobs so much? Why do supporters whoop and jump about when a fox is killed? It is cruel and barbaric. And for the record, I am Devon; born and bred.

  • Matt Woods

    It’s so amusing to listen to all the Shoreditch trendies and Hoxton Hoorays getting their knickers in a twist over a country pursuit. Perhaps these people should concentrate on some of the cruelty happening on their own doorstep; neglected children, crime, runaway public debt, vandalism and litter, rather than twiddling their handlebar moustaches and crying their middle class tears into their organic soya-lattes.

  • Jim K

    hi matt I thought your comment was amusing but I’m a sab and I know the countryside and I care about all of the above and whether hoxton hoorays and shoreditch trendies get their artfully distressed minging by design undergarments in a twist about anything serious like the fear of the powerful elite in the countryside is a bigger joke than yours at their expense. I sab to save foxes and stop them scaring and harming other wildlife and local peoples domestic pets in the process. I also get to tell them what liars and hypocrites they are. The powerful landed in our society who in general because of their support tor corrupt late neo-con capitalism are more comprehensively responsible for all our ills. So don’t impute we don’t care by linking us in with people we see as an irrelevance. Seriously I care about the things you mentioned and without needing to side with or hide behind the state. I hope you gain a better understanding now the link between town and countryside

  • Claire B

    How are foxes being harmed in Hackney? I’m sure the hunt saboteurs wld really like to know and try to do something if they could.

    I am from the countryside but now live in London. Unfortunately I grew up with the hunt around me, and they are the ones who harm the horses and the hounds, I’ve seen them whip poor horses who don’t want to jump fences viciously until they jump and fall. One stupid woman tried 3 times to make her horse do a jump it clearly didn’t want to. Furiously she kept whipping it and whipping it. Each time it went to do it, it bottled it. Eventually it done the jump, fell, landed on her and killed her! True storey! The hunt are backward idiots. I’ve had to pull out their hounds from bog lands where they’ve been sinking, because the huntsmaster was too concerned with the “thrill of the chase” than the welfare of his dogs.


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