As a sab group we operate across what are now 3 badger cull zones which includes the whole of the Gloucestershire zone, the whole of the North Cotswolds zone and the southermost part of the Herefordshire zone. The packs we sab also extend into other possible future zones including West Herefordshire, Worcestershire and parts of Oxfordshire. We also assist Cirencester Illegal Hunt Watch across the Cotswolds. Along with other groups and individuals we are well placed to bear witness to the fact that hunts continue to hunt foxes in areas where badgers are being culled. In the same fields, woods and maize crops where traps are laid, hunts continue to hunt. The badger culls are in progress at the same time as hunts are cub hunting. In fact traps have been found set to catch badgers during cub hunts as sabs are following hounds.
All reasons why we think that fox hunts should be suspended from hunting until this matter is fully investigated…
Firstly hounds are fed fallen stock and slaughterhouse bye products none of which is tested. In fact meat from animals with btb has even been found in food fed to humans so it is hardly suprising that BTB infected meat is fed to fox hounds (and probably pets). Hounds “empty” themselves where and when they want and no one really cleans it up. They also run direct over farmland and through herds of cattle and sheep, through fields spread with slurry and have even been rescued from slurry pits before running on. Horses and quads can turn fields into quagmires when there are wet conditions and potentially carry infection from one farm to another.
Secondly in discussion with the late Clifford Pellow ( a former huntsman who became opposed to it) he confirmed these fears and described hunts as being one of the worst things for spreading disease. Thirdly old hunting books are a very good source of information about things that no hunting person will admit to these days. David Brock MFH wrote (we believe in the 1930s) of the factors which would impinge on fox hunting. BTB was one of them;
“A more real danger has not yet been realised by hunting people. There is in this country a great move on foot for the establishment of more and more Tuberculin Tested herds. To establish such a herd is an expensive and troublesome affair and, once he has established it, the farmer is not going to risk incurring infection from outside. It is at present believed that this infection can be carried on the boots of human beings and on the feet of animals. What more likely than that it will be carried from an infected farm to a pure one by hounds and horses?”
Furthermore hunts cross over one another’s borders and it is certainly not unknown for neighbouring packs to run into one another or cross the same area in one day or within a few days of one another. For example in December 2016 the Heythrop met Saturday 3rd December 2017 and blocked a particular sett in the North Cotswold zone in the rough area of Turkdean. 7 days later the Cotswold met in the same area and blocked the same sett. On 7th March 2017 the Heythrop hunted around Turkdean (North Cotswold zone) on Tuesday, the Dummer beagles were in the same fields on the Wednesday and the Cotswold were in the same coverts and fields on the Saturday! It is not uncommon to see the North Cotswold in one field and the Heythrop in the next. In fact Ronnie Wallace describes in the book “Great Days” (Baileys) such a hunt on 27th February 1971 in an area which is now the North Cotswold cull zone. The Heythrop after hunting a fox towards Broad Campden came across the North Cotswold Hunt who;
“brought a fox out of Northwick into the same field as the Heythrop and the combined pack, beautifully handled by Steve Andrews, hunted uphill to the Five Mile Drive before turning right-handed towards Westington Hill and an earth in Shernals. The fox was afterwards killed.”
And so if one pack is carrying tb, plenty of opportunity for it to spread in the field, at hound shows, as hounds are drafted from pack to pack etc.
Fourthly, foxes and badgers cohabit. IF badgers are a source of infection then are not foxes too? Badger setts are blocked by hunts to stop foxes escaping down them and spoiling the chase. Foxes are dug out of badger setts and setts are routinely blocked but there is no disinfection of equipment, boots, vehicles and so forth. So why are vaccinators required by law to do so? Hunts also build and maintain artificial earths and if not “badger proofed” badgers can colonise them as well, it is of concern that with it being so easy to build an AE that only a fox can get in that so many are built that can also accommodate badgers…..See the Belvoir Weaver article in pictures.
Fox hunting and sett blocking in badger cull zones and potential badger cull zones this season 2016-17.
A brief look through this season’s badger cull and hunting log shows the following amount of setts blocked and/or dug out. Only setts found freshly blocked i.e on the day or within 48 hours of a hunt meeting in the area are included. This is only the very tip of a very large iceberg and only include what we have been present at ourselves and the groups/individuals we were working with on the day. For this season only. Signs of historical blocking is found at most setts in these areas as are eerie mounds where setts once existed and there are no signs that any badger escaped. NB cub hunting begins (in this area) in late August, fox hunting proper ends in mid March/early April, that’s 7 months worth of sett blocking!
– Sett blocking diminished after 4 years of the badger cull and lots of people in the field sett checking, however we recorded the following;
– 21st August 2016, badger diggers apprehended by sabs (NOT hunt related). Near Red Marley.
– 16th December 2016, Ledbury hunt, 1 blocked sett.
– 6th January 2017 Ledbury hunt, 1 blocked sett.
– 3rd February 2017, Ledbury hunt, 1 blocked sett.
North Cotswolds Zone:
– 24th October 2016, North Cotswold Hunt, dig out at badger sett.
– 19th November 2016, North Cotswold Hunt, 2 blocked setts.
– 3rd December, Heythrop, 5 blocked setts.
– 8th December 2016, Cotswold Hunt, 1 blocked sett.
– 10th December 2016, Cotswold Hunt, 2 blocked setts.
– 28th December 2016, North Cotswold Hunt, 1 blocked sett.
– 2nd January 2017, North Cotswold Hunt, 2 blocked setts.
– 2nd January 2017, Heythrop, 3 blocked setts.
– 14th January 2017, Cotswold Hunt, 2 blocked setts.
– 18th January 2017, Cotswold Hunt, 3 blocked setts.
– 26th January 2017, North Cotswold Hunt, sett blocked and dug out. Blood and fox remains found around the sett.
– 7th March 2017, Heythrop, 7 blocked setts. (3 different pack of hounds in Turkdean within 5 days).
– 11th March 2017, Cotswold Hunt, 3 blocked setts.
– 15th March 2017, Heythrop, 9 blocked setts.
– 23rd January 2017, Ledbury, sett dug out.
Worcestershire (may be an upcoming cull zone):
– 17th September 2016, Ledbury, dug out sett.
– 11th December 2016, dug out sett, very recent (NOT thought to be Ledbury as no meets that recent).
– 28th December 2016, Ledbury, dug out sett.
– 20th January 2017, Ledbury, 4 blocked setts.
– 29th January 2017, Ledbury, 2 blocked setts.
– 10th February 2017, Ledbury, 2 blocked setts.
– 6th March 2017, Ledbury, 2 blocked setts.
– 10th March 2017, Ledbury, 1 blocked sett.
– Boxing Day 2016, Heythrop, 7 blocked setts.
– 18th January 2017, Heythrop, 3 blocked setts.
Considering that the offcials, staff, supporters and landowners associated with hunts are often the same people who are involved in killing badgers it is incredible that they are not more biosecurity conscious. Or is it that btb is not the reason badgers are being culled??
This is really only a snapshot of what is happening to badger setts and their inhabitants around the country. We need to ask the following questions;
– The NFU and Natural England profess that badgers spread btb, if this is the case then why are hunts still crossing high risk areas, frequenting badger setts and not cleaning up hound excrement?
– What measures are going to be put in place to stop hunts spreading infection?
– What research is going to be done regarding possible spread of btb by humans, canines, horses and vehicles?
– Why has the criminal persecution of badgers been ignored when targets for culling are set?
– What research is being done on the impact of sett blocking/digging on badger populations and perturbation?
– We need to protect badgers all year round and collect/collate more evidence on breaches of the 1992 Badger Act. Badger protection is an all year round task and protecting badgers and foxes from sett blocking is just as important as fighting the cull. Sabbing cub hunting and sabbing the cull can be done simultaneously. Data needs to be collated regarding sett blocking across the UK.
See also for previous seasons: our article Hunts vs Badgers
And on facebook, Stop Badger Sett Blocking