In late May we were informed that investigations into illegal cubhunting by the Cotswold Vale Farmers’ Hunt and an assault on one of our sabs* at a cubhunting meet in October 2018 were dropped following a CPS decision.
*which led to her suffering whiplash for several days
On 23rd October 2018, the Cotswold Vale Farmers’ Hunt met in the area of Norton, Gloucestershire and hunted around land owned by Master of the hunt, Mike Smith. Three saboteurs from Three Counties Sabs were present on the day, two inland on foot and another in the vehicle.
Towards the end of the meet the two sabs inland could hear hounds speaking (an excited baying which indicates that they have picked up a scent and are following it) and noticed hounds and hunt riders in the field the sabs were heading towards. Huntsman Gary Williams could clearly be heard encouraging hounds on from the opposite side of the hedge that hounds were interested in and was using voice commands and horn calls consistent with ‘traditional’ fox hunting. From their position, the saboteurs present could only monitor as any noise or attempt to distract hounds could have ‘headed’ a hunted fox back into the pack. It was shortly evident that the hounds had killed, Williams heard ‘blowing the kill’ (a horn call not often heard since the Hunting Act 2004 came into force as it shows that huntsman is aware of a kill taking place and is informing the remainder of the hunt riders and the hounds of it). He was heard praising the hounds and telling them to “break him up, break him up” which means to eat the remains of the fox.
In interview we have been told that Williams, huntsman of the hunt at the time of the incident but since ‘let go’ by the hunt, said that hounds had gone off on a trail (of which no evidence was provided) and that he realised that they were spending time within the hedge. He claims to have realised that there was a fox in the hedge but that it was obvious that it had been dead for several days so he allowed them to have it and encouraged hounds to tear the body up.
Saboteurs involved on the day state that their issues with his story are as follows:
- Gary Williams handed the remains of the fox in a plastic sack (minus intestines which were found by sabs) to another hunt rider who rode off with the bag away from sabs. This hid any evidence that would prove if the fox was several days dead or recently killed – a post-mortem could have been carried out at sabs’ expense if necessary to prove cause and time of death
- a fox that was several days old at time of being ripped apart would not bleed and the intestines found by sabs were bloody and fresh, still hot and smelled of dead fox. When police arrived later the intestines had been removed but fresh and still wet blood was left where they had been along with splashes of blood on various blades of grass around the area of the kill – all evidenced by Gloucestershire police officers
- a sab was assaulted whilst trying to get to the site of the kill, the perpetrator being Hunt Master Mike Smith of Prior’s Norton. Having first ridden repeatedly at her and her colleague, he then jumped off his horse and tackled her to the floor. With him distracted, the second sab made it to the kill site at which point the hunt riders moved off – if the assault occurred because sabs were trespassing, why did the trespass matter less once evidence of the kill had been found and recorded? Why assault the sab if the hunt had done nothing wrong?
- if the fox had indeed been dead for several days – a ‘fact’ not accepted by sabs or police – cause of death would not have been known by the hunt. If the fox had been poisoned, remnants of the poison may still have been present in their system, putting hounds’ lives and health at risk. This wouldn’t be a massive surprise though considering the lack of care taken to protect hounds by this hunt – sabs state that the hunt are notorious for losing control of hounds, have had hounds killed on the nearby A38 in the past and have been reported by members of the public for losing stray hounds on roads and in private gardens on numerous occasions
- hounds are generally not interested in dead foxes
- cubhunting is the initial stage of the hunting season, running from around the end of August until the beginning of November. One of the purposes of cubhunting is to train new hounds, new hounds learning from those with experience as to what they should do when they pick up on a scent of a fox. It is a time when hounds will learn the taste, smell and sight of a fox and will learn also from the huntsman who will praise or tell them off based on their actions. Even if the fox were already dead, the huntsman’s actions in praising the hounds, telling them to “break him up” (a reward for the hounds after a successful hunt) and ‘blowing the kill’ will have taught them that ripping up a fox gets them praise, teaching them that they have done something right. Which is precisely what traditional cubhunting would achieve and set them up to do once the main hunting season arrives: chase and rip apart foxes
Gary Williams has since lost his job with the Cotswold Vale Farmers’ Hunt and is rumoured to be moving over to the Ross Harriers Hunt (who operate closer to Ross-on-Wye and share some of the same hunting country as the CVFH). In the remainder of the hunting season Gary was filmed encouraging hounds on to a fox scent by another member of Three Counties Sabs and was also suspected to be involved in the blocking of badger setts in the hunt’s country – a tactic used to prevent foxes being able to escape underground during a hunt, in contravention of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992
See also this article written in The Canary