This week I attempted, unsuccessfully, to support a motion to persuade Cherwell District Council in Oxfordshire to pledge to ban hunts from ‘trail’ hunting on council land. Here’s what I had to say to Cherwell councillors in support of Green councillor Ian Middleton and, in fact, to other councillors in England and Wales:

Fox hunting is a minority blood sport. Although hunting foxes with hound was banned in 2004, it is no surprise that foxes are still hunted and killed throughout the hunting season. The leaked video from a hunt masters’ training session already confirms what we already know – that so-called ‘trail’ hunting is, in their own words, a ‘smokescreen’ for continuing to hunt foxes as usual.

“Our local badger group reports that hunts continue to block badger setts on hunting days, and failing to remove the blockages afterwards, thus interfering with a protected species. If hounds were following trails, why should foxes be stopped from entering badger setts?

“You may be aware of a number of recent incidents involving our two local hunts. In October, hounds from the Heythrop Hunt chased a group of five roe deer onto a busy A-Road, resulting in the deaths of two deer, the crashing of a car, and danger and distress to road users. And you may know that two members of the Heythrop Hunt have in the past been convicted of animal cruelty, in a successful prosecution by the RSPCA.

“Here’s a series of recent incidents involving the Warwickshire Hunt. Several of these were reported in the Banbury Guardian.

  • In October 2019, Warwickshire Hunt was filmed trespassing on Ministry of Defence land.
  • In December 2019, hounds swarmed through private gardens in the village of Horley.
  • In December 2019, hounds streamed through a graveyard in Idlicote. A witness said that hunt staff were nowhere to be seen.
  • On New Year’s Day 2020, hounds trespassed on the railway line, between Banbury and Leamington, in pursuit of a fox. One hound was killed. Warwickshire Hunt was fined £13,000.
  • In January 2020, hounds pursued a fox through the village of Hornton, distressing small children coming out of the primary school, and waiting parents. One parent described the hounds as ‘bloodied’.
  • February 2020, hounds chased and killed a fox in front of witnesses, in Tysoe. And these are only the recorded incidents.

“Surely, if hunts are trespassing onto roads and railway lines, they are endangering human lives. Looking at this catalogue of chaos, can we have any confidence that hounds follow trails? The most charitable view we could take is that the hunt is incapable of controlling hounds, which should be reason enough for a ban. But clearly, they are hunting and killing as usual, and all they need say to avoid prosecution is that the hounds killed a fox by accident.

“If any individual took a pack of dogs into the countryside, and was found to be terrorising and killing wildlife, they would face prosecution for wildlife crime. Why should hunts be treated differently when they are breaking the law?

“Please councillors, take this chance to join the other councils and national bodies who have already banned hunting from their land. Please speak and vote on behalf of those of us who want to enjoy, appreciate, and protect wildlife, rather than kill it for sport.

“Please lay down a marker and make it known to hunts that their lies, their evasions of the law, their cruelty and their callous disregard for wildlife will not be tolerated.”

 Linda Newbery