On October 24th 2016 the North Cotswold Hunt met close to Honeybourne at 9am for a cubhunting meet, attended by two of our sabs and another friend. At around midday we found the hunt in a small wood in the Broad Marston area. We thought hounds were marking to ground (where hounds indicate that fox had escaped below ground) based on the noises they were making and the fact that huntsman, Nigel Peel, was on foot with the pack. As the hunt moved off from the area, two of us went into the covert where they had been, having spotted two quadbikes parked on the treeline, one of which was the terrierman’s quad. With his mates running off through the woods, we then found terrierman Will Haines on his own, crouching down by three spades covered by a jacket, a freshly dug hole a few metres from him and entrances to the nearby badger sett freshly blocked with earth. We called the police. The sett is believed to be within the Gloucestershire badger culling area.
The other two guys returned once Haines had been caught and they took the spades, carrying on to follow the hunt – hounds were in full cry again in nearby woods. Despite the best efforts of the “sab bashers” (Molly’s own words) Tabitha and Molly Rogers whose role it is to stalk sabs whilst we’re out at the hunt* and who were playing loud music, a sab thought she could hear a muffled barking from the sett. When they had left the area and we were waiting for the police, a terrier with a locator device on her collar came out of the sett and we called her out of the covert, picking her up to give to the police as evidence. With a suspected bite to her chin (she had blood on her chin and neck and a fresh hole under her chin) and no hunt staff in sight, two of us took her to find a vet whilst the other sab waited for police while guarding the sett from further interference.
*our stalkers make a lot of noise (like singing ‘Frozen’ songs and having loud conversations with each other) in order to stop us from hearing the hunt and to stop any foxes from running in our direction. They also keep the hunt updated as to our location
With confusion as to which police force covered the area (the 999 call went through to Warwickshire, West Mercia first turned up then realised it was Gloucestershire police jurisdiction) police took almost two hours to arrive at the scene. Just minutes before their arrival huntsman Nigel Peel, terriermen Will Haines and friends, Molly and a local woman accused the sab at the scene of stealing the terrier. With police wanting to speak to sabs about the alleged theft, the other sab left terrier with trusted friends to get her to a vet and came back to talk to the officers. When she was later arrested for theft as officers were not interested in the offences committed by the hunt and terriermen and who were intending to give the terrier straight back to them*, these friends moved the terrier to a safe house due to suspected abuse. If the case ends up in court, a vet report will be submitted as part of our evidence.
*we suggested that the RSPCA or similar organisation take her whilst the investigation took place, but they were not interested and would not seize her as evidence / for her own safety themselves
We’re concerned that someone can claim that their terrier is a much loved family pet and then abandon her in an active badger sett with a panicked fox who was seeking shelter. It took them two hours to accuse us of theft despite the fact one sab had not left the area. No responsible person would enter a terrier into an area to face off with a frightened fox, never mind in an active sett where any number of badgers could be resting during the day, never mind then leaving her for almost two hours. If Haines had been brave enough to admit having put her into the sett in the first place, sabs would have told him to call her out and backed away whilst he did so – we let Ledbury terrierman Oscar Bates call his terrier Nel out of a drain in Tirley. Whilst we no longer know the location of the terrier as she has been passed down a chain of trusted people, we know she is now safe and settling in fine at her new home due to messages passed back up the chain.
A terrier was found in the West Midlands recently with serious damage to her face who was suspected to have been used in badger baiting – see this article in the Express. Even if this is the case, a terrier could just as easily be injured by a badger whilst being entered into a sett to find a fox taking shelter within.
On Wednesday 28th December, our sabs split up to attend two hunt meets – the Ledbury Hunt in Castlemorton (who went on to assault members of Bristol Hunt Saboteurs and whose terriermen were then stopped at a dig-out by a Three Counties Sab… who they also threatened) and the North Cotswold Hunt who were back in the Broad Marston area. Due to regular early-morning sett-blocking suspected to be done by hunt terriermen and supporters, we were up early to check setts in the area, finding fresh blocking on land adjacent to Norton Hall which the hunt later hunted on. Entrances were unblocked in order to give foxes a chance to escape from the hounds.
As the hunt moved off from their meet, terrierman Will Haines and two passengers rode their quadbike at two sabs from behind as they walked up a track to check on the sett where the attempted dig-out took place in October. Haines and falconer Calvin Crossman, who also attends North Cotswold Hunt meets as part of the hunt, both angrily accused one of these women of being a dog thief.
Towards the end of the day a fox was spotted running through a garden by sabs. Huntsman Nigel Peel took hounds across the road and they picked up on the scent again, hounds racing into a small wood a couple of fields from the road. Sabs believed hounds to be marking to ground again, but with terriermen running towards the covert we suspected that hounds had instead killed a fox, hunt staff running in to get rid of the evidence. We ran in to try and gather footage and were on a footpath when Calvin Crossman (who had earlier swerved his quadbike towards one sab on a live railway crossing where hounds had been hunting) rode up on his quadbike (one-handed as he always has his eagle on his arm). He started to shove one sab around, yelling “thief” in her face, covering her in spit, before attempting to knee her in the groin and hit her in the throat.
As another sab arrived, she attempted to move around Mr Crossman and says she believes he threw himself intentionally backwards, pulling her down on top of him. As they hit the floor, he pushed her off him and hit her in the left side of the jaw, shoving her head hard on to the ground. Sabs carried on towards the wood when a second quadbike appeared with three masked men on it, driving at speed at us. Mr Haines soon reappeared on his quadbike and tried to incite his mates into further violence by telling them that we had stolen the terrier.
We made the choice to back away at that point as if the hunt had killed there was nothing we could do about it at that time without the situation escalating into a full-blown fight. A third sab, who was looking after the car, heard a woman – the same local who had accused us of stealing the terrier – saying that someone would get killed and that it is a shame that “it won’t be one of them [sabs] as it’s long overdue” to her friends. Once hunt members had left the area, we went back into the area to look for evidence of a kill, but were only able to find a single drop of blood on a leaf. With the hunt still hunting elsewhere we think the real reason for the hunt freaking out was the three artificial earths we then found in the small wood…
One sab went to A&E in Gloucester to be checked over for concussion and to have her shoulder and jaw x-rayed. Police are investigating the alleged theft of dog, which we have given statements about, the attempted dig-out in October and the assaults as well as the sett-blocking which is a very regular occurrence in hunt countries in the Cotswolds.
Last month the terrierman of the Heythrop Hunt told one of our sabs that he would “do a twenty-stretch” for her because of the “dog theft”. All four of her tyres were slashed just a couple of weeks ago at another Heythrop meet. Calvin Crossman has more recently commented on a pro-hunting facebook page about our group which looks like he’s trying to cause us serious problems across all the hunts we attend.
1. ‘marking to ground’ is a term which describes the noise hounds make to indicate that the hunted fox has taken shelter in an earth, badger sett, drain or other hole where hounds can not enter. At this point terriermen may enter a terrier to flush a fox out of the area or block other entrances and enter a terrier to keep the fox at bay until they dig down to the dog and fox
2. a dig-out / the blocking of entrances at a badger sett is an offence under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992
3. interference at a sett could increase the risk of perturbation, meaning that potentially infected badgers may leave the sett due to the persecution and move elsewhere, which could help spread the disease. Hounds, huntsmen, horses and quadbikes would also potentially spread soil from the area on to other farmland
4. locator collars are used by terriermen to locate their terriers once they are underground. A device is attached to a plastic collar on the dog and another device is used by the men so that they know the location of the dog and the fox in order to dig down to them more efficiently. Mr Haines had the counterpart device in his pocket when he accused sabs of theft
5. setts are blocked early morning before a hunt meet in order to stop foxes having areas to escape into once hunting begins as hunts prefer long chases by hounds to the digging-out of a fox by terriermen. We wrote an article named “Hunts vs Badgers” relating to sett-blocking and other interference by hunts. More information on terrierwork can be found in this article