One of England’s most notorious hunts has just chosen to “cease hunting activities”. It comes after an aggressive six-year campaign of hunt saboteurs targeting the fox-hound pack. And it means that large swathes of the English countryside will be hunt-free for the first time since the 19th century.
On 8 October, West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs declared: “Victory! Atherstone Hunt finished!”. It celebrated the end of the ‘notorious’ Atherstone Hunt, which has decided to stop hunting altogether. The hunt saboteur group claimed it played a pivotal role in the end of the Atherstone, saying:
For six years the Atherstone Hunt have been completely sabotaged and as a result they have now folded.
Consequently, it estimated that a “908 km² area of West Leicestershire and North Warwickshire are completely hunt free” as a result.
The hunt itself said it made the decision at a committee meeting on 7 October. A Facebook post explained that “hunting activities for the 2019/20 season” would stop “with immediate effect”. It further said that the future of the Atherstone Hunt will lie in “amalgamation” with another pack or the “sharing of kennels”. It provided no reason for the decision.
The Canary also contacted the Countryside Alliance for comment but had received no response at the time of publication.
West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs said that, during the past six years, its members had:
faced harassment, extreme provocation and regular violence from those associated with the Atherstone Hunt. We’ve received death threats, had our tyres slashed, cars burnt out and have been hospitalized.
The group also claimed it had experienced pro-hunt policing of its activities. Despite this, it “persevered and never backed down”.
The Canary has previously reported on the conflict between West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs and the Atherstone Hunt. In October 2017, audio leaked from an Atherstone Hunt meeting revealed that overwhelming criminal acts by its followers had left the hunt uninsured. These included a farmer riding a quad into a member of West Midland Hunt Saboteurs, one man slashing the tyre on the group’s vehicle, and two men throwing manure at anti-hunt protesters.
“You’ve just got to keep going”
Speaking to The Canary, a spokesperson for West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs claimed that serious problems within the Atherstone Hunt had been showing for some time:
They’d only been out three times this season. Then everything started to get cancelled and rumours were emerging that there was an issue – that the huntsman walked out. There were obviously clear issues.
And they explained that the group’s non-violent “persistence” took advantage of these problems:
We informed the public about what we did and we showed the public what they were doing as well. That just ground them down, I think, to the point where we started seeing numbers drop. Every season was a new huntsman and [whipper in]. They haven’t had a countryman [terrierman] for the last two years. Numbers were dropping. Hunt masters were dropping. Staff weren’t staying. Turnover was high. You could see they were feeling demoralised. That’s when [we] really kept going.
The Canary previously reported that social media played an important role in West Midlands Hunt Sabs’ campaign.
West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs said it believes this wide-ranging non-violent approach ultimately paid off:
You’ve just got to keep going. That’s all you’ve got to do – you’ve just got to keep going … trying to help [prevent] some of the suffering that goes on. But it’s also making a statement that this is not acceptable and people are going to stand up to you. [Hunting] is a dying ‘sport’.
Heart and persistence
Lee Moon, spokesperson for the Hunt Saboteurs Association, said the end of the Atherstone Hunt was a “fantastic achievement” by West Midlands Hunt Sabs. Meanwhile, conservationist and wildlife campaigner Chris Packham said “good riddance” to the hunt.
This is just one hunt among hundreds. But it’s a fantastic example of what small groups of people can achieve with faith and persistence. As West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs’ spokesperson told The Canary:
It shows what groups of dedicated people can do. We’re all volunteers, so it all comes from the heart and the belief that bloodsports and hunting is morally wrong. Whether it’s illegal or legal is irrelevant.
The Hunting Act has been ineffective at ending hunting. So the fact that hunt saboteurs are still out in the fields is something we should all be thankful for.
Featured image via West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?