A court convicted two members of a prestigious hunt of animal cruelty charges. It followed undercover footage from an anti-hunting group filmed on New Year’s Day 2019. And it reveals one of the hunting’s most disturbing practices.
“Deliberate and pre-meditated”
On 30 October, district judge Kamlesh Rana convicted two members of the Kimblewick Hunt at Oxford Magistrates’ Court. Rana found Mark Vincent and Ian Parkinson guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to a fox after releasing the animal from an artificial earth on 1 January. It was during the Kimblewick Hunt’s New Year’s Day meet in Moreton, Oxfordshire.
According to the BBC, the judge described Vincent and Parkinson’s actions as “deliberate and pre-meditated”. Furthermore, she stated that the pair’s actions could land them with a prison sentence. Vincent and Parkinson denied the charges but didn’t give evidence during the trial. Sentencing is on 26 November.
Other hunts must offer their condemnation
Following the conviction, Lee Moon, spokesperson for the Hunt Saboteurs Association, said:
We’re pleased that justice has been done and look forward to Vincent and Parkinson receiving the prison sentence their actions deserve. …
We also expect the Countryside Alliance to condemn this hunt and for the Masters of Foxhounds Association to kick them out of the association. Anything less will be tacit approval of animal cruelty and illegal hunting.
The Canary contacted the Countryside Alliance and Kimblewick Hunt for comment on the conviction but received no response at the time of publishing. However, the Countryside Alliance previously told The Canary that:
All hunts should be operating within the law. There are exemptions to the Hunting Act, and other legal options, which can be used to cull foxes and most hunts still offer a fox control service. However unjustified the Hunting Act is it should be adhered to.
Artificial earths are created by hunts for the long-term housing and controlled release of foxes during hunting. Hunts install them to provide foxes a location to rest and breed, and over which the hunt has full control. People associated with the hunt such as terriermen will then force foxes from an artificial earth on hunt days to ensure the hounds can prey on and kill them.
The Covert Film Unit used hidden cameras to catch Vincent and Parkinson do exactly this during the Kimblewick Hunt’s meet. In the footage, the pair can clearly be heard communicating with the huntsman about when to release the fox. It also shows the men using draining rods to push the fox before struggling to pull it from the ‘earth’ then throwing it into the woodland by the tail.
As a result, Moon said:
What we also want to see is further prosecutions against the huntsman, Hunt masters and the Kimblewick Hunt itself. This was clearly a criminal conspiracy between the two defendants and the rest of the hunt to release a captive fox to be illegally hunted and all those involved should be punished.
A special kind of cruelty
Artificial earths completely undermine any suggestion that a hunt follows a trail or serves a function such as ‘pest control‘. Although this is the first case of an artificial earth being at the centre of a court case, it’s by no means the only example of such an installation. As the Animal Cruelty Investigation Group (ACIG) points out, hunting literature from the 1990s states there are artificial earths in “almost every hunting country in England”. ACIG also says:
Artificial earths are NOT relics of the past. Some have been built very recently indeed. Other[s] are renovated and repaired by hunt supporters and this has continued even after the Hunting Ban took effect in 2005.
Artificial earths are a form of fox farming for the hunting community, and represent a cruelty that runs even deeper than chasing and killing a fox. This court case highlights just the tip of the iceberg.
Featured image via skawashers/YouTube