As an ex police detective I have worked alongside sex offenders, prosecuted armed robbers and interviewed murderers, yet over a year into my role gathering intelligence on wildlife criminals I am still amazed at their treatment of other living creatures.The recent prosecution of the Meynall and South Staffordshire Hunt has reminded me what humans are capable of.
Members of this hunt were convicted of "cub hunting" or "autumn hunting" as those that perpetrate it would rather it be known as.
August is the month that foxes cubs get their first taste of what it's like to have real enemies. So far their life has been dedicated to playing, eating and warm sunshine but this last month something changed.
Around five months old, the fox cub is considered fair sport for the hunter. This is an opportunity to train the young hounds to kill and presumably an opportunity for the hunter to show off some macho sadism to those around him.
Up to half of the foxes killed by registered hunts will be killed by cub hunting.
The cubs will normally feel safe with their mother in the wood in the early hours of that August morning, with the dew heavy on the fields. They don't realise that the men that come and stand around clapping and hollering are there to kill them. Their mother may try and distract the hunters but in the end there will be a smell of death to accompany that of the moss, trees and damp earth.
As an ex detective, regrettably, the site of death is no longer shocking, but the devastated body of a small animal, ripped up by another animal still affects me. When the mind adds the fact that this has been deliberately caused by another human it is difficult not to feel numb. If you add that this is considered to be "sport" the first word that comes to mind is "sick".
Like all crimes, it can be stopped.
We and the police need to know who is doing it, and when. We need to know when you see men in tweed (rat catcher) jackets on or off horses surrounding a heavily wooded area. We need to know if a partner or relative of yours is cub hunting. These events are usually secretive. They don't want to be caught. Perhaps in some part of their mind they realise what they are doing is morally indefensible.
Please call our Wildlife Crimewatch line on 01483361108 if you know of someone who is cub hunting. This call will be in complete confidence and together we may prevent some young cubs' death.