Fox hunting with dogs is illegal in the UK, but still takes place across the country. Recent statistics show that during the 2022/23 hunting season, monitors reported 526 cases of suspected illegal hunting. Even when they do find themselves in court, they use loopholes in the law to be found not guilty.
Since the introduction of the Hunting Act in 2005, hunts have used the excuse that their dogs are trail hunting – that is, that they are following an artificially-laid trail, rather than the scent of a fox – to get away with murder. But hunt saboteurs and monitors on the ground expose and film hunts tearing up foxes week in, week out.
A number of land owners, such as the National Trust, have banned or suspended trail hunting on their land. But one of the biggest land owners – the Ministry of Defence (MoD) – refuses to follow in their footsteps.
Fox hunting protected by the state
The MoD continues to ignore endless footage, spanning almost 20 years, showing foxes being terrorised on its land. No-one has ever been prosecuted for hunting on MoD land. Hunt staff committing crimes seem to have a special immunity from the law.
This immunity extends to the Royal Artillery Hunt, which hunts foxes on Salisbury Plain, owned by the MoD. Monitors and saboteurs have caught the the Royal Artillery illegally hunting numerous times. Despite this, defence secretary Ben Wallace gives the hunt special protection.
In December 2022, Wallace made it more difficult for activists to monitor the hunt on MoD land when he terminated a memorandum of understanding between the MoD and the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS). Under the memorandum, the MOD informed LACS where hunts were operating on Salisbury Plain.
Seemingly, it doesn’t matter to Wallace that his hunting friends are murdering foxes. He would rather focus on criticising the “masked and camouflaged” hunt saboteurs who catch them doing it. However, this doesn’t come as a surprise if you know that Wallace wants the Hunting Act repealed, anyway.
Hunters never prosecuted
Wallace’s actions came after the Royal Artillery Hunt’s Charles Carter narrowly missed being prosecuted for illegal hunting. The case was dropped due to the incompetence of the MoD Police, which failed to submit the correct papers in time. If the case had gone to court, it would have been the first time in history that a hunt would have been prosecuted for illegal hunting on MoD land.
The Canary spoke to Rachel from Salisbury Plain Monitors, who observes the Royal Artillery Hunt in action. She said:
The prosecution only stopped due to an admin error of the late filing of papers to court. [The Royal Artillery Hunt] admitted killing a fox… Meanwhile, [MoD] emails state, through FOI responses, that ‘any other unit would be banned for this behaviour’, referencing the Royal Artillery Hunt’s actions, such as threatening tone and no respect for frontline staff.
Rachel went on to outline different actions that the MoD Police have taken against the Royal Artillery Hunt during the 2022/3 season. She said:
This past season, the MoD police have issued:
1. An official warning to huntsman Charles Carter and kennelman Guy Loader for the breach of a Salisbury Plain byelaw for out of control dogs who were chasing deer including across roads;
2. A caution to trail layer Georgina Price under the Public Order Act for threatening behaviour;
3. A Community Resolution Order to Charles Carter for damage to a monitor’s car.
Indeed, hunt saboteurs have witnessed huntsman Carter losing his rag a number of times. They have even filmed him running down two saboteurs with his car. The police took no against Carter for this incident.
Despite all this, as well as the huge number of recorded incidents showing illegal hunting, the MoD police has failed to take meaningful action against the hunt itself.
Military officers are hunters
It is little wonder that the MoD stands firm in its stance on hunting on its land: after all, the military has strong links with the Royal Artillery Hunt. Indeed, the Hunt Saboteurs Association outlined these links clearly when it said:
There have been longstanding relationships between some hunts and military regiments, with officers taking up positions as masters in a number of hunts, including the Royal Artillery Hunt and the Wiltshire & Infantry Beagles. These are two of approximately twenty hunts across the UK that apply for licences to hunt on MoD land.
Put the pressure on the MoD
Campaigners all over the country are stepping up the campaign to pressure the MoD and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) – the estate expert for defence – to stop issuing hunting licenses, and to ban hunting for good.
The Canary spoke to Protect The Wild’s Rob Pownall about the campaign. He said:
Just imagine this. It’s 2023 and fox hunting is still a thing. And do you know what’s even worse? Our taxpayer money is being used to prop it up too.
Thankfully almost every major landowner has now ended so-called ‘trail hunting’ on their land but the Ministry of Defence are remaining stubborn in the face of so much evidence.
Trail hunting is a sham. It’s a cover-up for illegal fox hunting and it’s about time the MoD stands up against the criminal gangs using their (our) land to chase and kill animals. It has to stop and we’re not going anywhere until all trail hunt licences are scrapped.
Protect The Wild is asking for everyone to send a letter to the DIO to call on it to:
stop supporting hunts and to permanently stop issuing so-called ‘trail-hunting’ licences for MoD land.
More than 20,000 people have taken action so far. You can join them by signing the letter here.
Featured image via Salisbury Plain Monitors
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