Hunt Profile: South Herefordshire Hunt

Latest update re: animal cruelty case. Trial has concluded, June 2019. The following is a timeline of events that led to this point.

Background

The trial of three members of the South Herefordshire Hunt has just been concluded in Birmingham Magistrates Court. Two others previously pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to an animal after covert footage was obtained in spring 2016 of hunt members with caged fox cubs at the kennels. Two mauled bodies of fox cubs were retrieved from the kennel bins and taken for post mortem.

2014

We began to pay attention to the South Herefordshire Hunt in November 2014 – other groups had sabbed them years before but their meets hadn’t been attended in some time. Mal Williams was huntsman at the time. It was clear during a number of meets that they were hunting without any adherance to the Hunting Act (contrary to what has recently been said in court) and we regard the story of hounds ‘being trained to hunt an aniseed trail since 2005’ as absolute nonsense; we have never seen a trail being laid.

In March 2014 we had met the South Herefordshire Hunt when the Cotswold Vale Farmers’ Hunt held a joint meet with them. Earlier in the season the SHH were rumoured to have run riot in a field of sheep with hounds mauling and killing several of the ewes before being driven at by hunt staff and supporters in order to stop them.

2015

New Year’s Day… during the meet we called hounds off a fox who then escaped. Hounds went on to chase another fox into a badger sett at Caradoc, Major Patrick Darling’s (then Master) estate. Sabs were there to pull hounds out and were promptly assaulted and thrown down a bank by hunt staff and supporters.

On 3rd January the hunt met with the Carmarthenshire Hunt for a joint meet. A fox was dug out of a badger sett and hounds were encouraged on to that fox – when a sab went to investigate she was injured after being assaulted next to a barbed wire fence. Paul Reece (who recently pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to an animal) was present in the group who assaulted her. Lance King was also present and since moved to the Ledbury Hunt as a terrierman. After the sab was assaulted, hounds were then called off the fox by Mal.

Paul Oliver came to the hunt on 1st May as huntsman. Just prior to his arrival one of our sabs was approached by a pro-hunt person in our area who said they had information about the hunt. Initial information was minor with time being taken to build trust with the source as they wanted to ensure that we were not violent, wouldn’t harass anyone and would keep their identity secret. As the hunting season began after the summer, we obtained details of various hunt meets from this person (alongside information from other sources). As we have known some of the hunt supporters for many years due to living in the area, we often have brief conversations with them; we were watching hounds pass through a field of sheep during a meet when one supporter nudged us and said “don’t worry, the ‘sheep problem’ is apparently being dealt with”… rumours are that this is when the hounds started to be ‘trained more intensely’ on killing foxes.

On 12th December the South Herefordshire Hunt had a joint meet with the Crawley and Horsham Hunt and Paul Oliver made a speech to welcome the visiting hunt with Paul Reece and Nathan Parry standing beside him. Having been tipped off about the meet from a source, we attended alongside friends from other sab groups. Hounds marked a fox to ground at a badger sett but sabs intervened and the hunt moved off. The hounds went on to chase another fox down a drain and after a stand off between sabs and terriermen from both hunts (including Paul Reece and Nathan Parry) the terriermen backed off. Shortly afterwards our car was blocked and the quads rushed past. The hounds were clearly hunting – on entering the land Paul Reece was observed and filmed walking away from us, shoving a bag up his coat – other sabs saw a fox running away from the area and heard whistles being blown (used instead of holloas to signal a fox breaking cover). The fox had his head up and his fur was bristling, signs that he may not have known where he was – a suspected bagged fox released for the hounds to chase. They hunted until it was pitch black that day…

2016

On 16th January at Kentchurch Estate the hounds were stopped from hunting by our sabs. Paul Oliver encouraged the hounds on past sabs and you can distinctly hear him holloaing on the footage. This holloa and encouragement is, in our opinion, the same as can be heard on the footage filmed by HIT as Paul takes cubs to the flesh house. When sabs intervened again he started to become aggressive but soon calmed down and gave up the chase.

On 12th February they had a children’s meet at Courtfield. No one was on point at the top of the covert being drawn and so there was no one from the hunt to stop the pack as they chased two herds of deer around the area and terrified the sheep. One fox ran past a sab’ and another ran towards Courtfield itself – Paul Oliver hunted this fox and again you can hear him holloaing on the footage. He was challenged on the fact that hounds rioted and endangered the lives of the deer and sheep to which he replied that the sab’ was spinning a story.

As the 2015 – 16 season started to wind down the source who had been speaking with our sab told her that fox cubs were being obtained by the hunt. There had been rumours of this happening before. Other information was put together regarding identities of those potentially involved, etc and the Hunt Investigation Team, who had recently set themselves up, were fully briefed on the situation. Our initial information suggested that the cubs were being kept to release as bagged foxes at hunt meets, something we strongly believed was happening on many occasions, but what was filmed showed a different story.

Late spring saw the footage being obtained, the police being handed the evidence and the hunt’s kennels being raided – a supporter from another hunt told us later that Paul Oliver was enjoying himself at the Ledbury Hunt ball when this happened and had to return to be arrested at the kennels.

Ledbury Hunt

We have been sabbing the Ledbury Hunt for many years and in the 2017 – 18 and 2018 – 19 seasons they have had what is described as a ‘marriage’ with what is left of the South Herefordshire Hunt. When the activities of the South Herefordshire were initially published in the media, the Ledbury Hunt were the only hunt we know of to publicly speak out against the “alleged activities” by sending out letters to their supporters explaining their stance. As the South Herefordshire were suspended from hunting by the MFHA (Masters of Fox Hounds Association) and the kennels were closed, the Ledbury were brought in to hunt their country. The former masters of the SHH are often out riding with them.

The Ledbury Hunt do not follow a trail and later this week we will post specifically about what they have been up to. It is rumoured that what is left of the SHH pack of hounds are at the Ledbury kennels now. As hounds are innocent victims of the hunt, it was sad to hear of Paul Oliver’s breeding programme which meant that there were four litters of puppies on site when the hunt were suspended. The bitch who Paul Oliver claimed had picked up the fox cubs after he had killed them had 11 puppies. Hannah Rose described hand-rearing three other puppies and there were two more litters on site. Where are they all now? What was their fate?

Prior to trial 2016 – 2019

It took three years for the defendants to be brought to trial. Some of this time was understandably taken up putting together evidence, obtaining statements from sabs, HIT operatives and the defendants themselves and getting the case ready for court. The rest of the time was taken up by West Mercia Police investigating one of their own officers based on two separate allegations. The first allegation began with an allegation made (by an anonymous farmer, according to the media) that a police officer involved in the investigation was having an affair with a local sab. Letters were received by our sab and sources tipped us off that lies were being told. When it became clear that others were involved in filming and evidence-gathering the allegation evolved to claim that the officer was also having an affair with one of the HIT operatives. The claims were that police were aware that tracking devices and covert cameras were being used (which would be regulated under certain legislation concerning police investigatory powers) and that the officer had leaked information to our group and HIT. Neither claim was found to have any standing but it had stalled the investigation into the killing of the cubs by about two years…

Spring 2018 saw the five defendants finally charged.

South Herefordshire Hunt trial 2019

From the trial itself, held in Birmingham, we have 8000 words of notes – we will put these together in a readable form and post on our website. A brief summary of the trial follows…

Thursday 30th May: Julie Elmore and Paul Reece pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal. Paul Oliver, Hannah Rose and Nathan Parry pleaded not guilty and went to trial.

Friday 31st May: HIT operatives gave evidence regarding placing cameras at the kennels after tracking Nathan Parry’s vehicle. The defence were ridiculous enough to suggest that the police had been involved in some way prior to the evidence being obtained.

Prosecution witnesses gave evidence from week commencing Monday 3rd May.

PC Richard Barradale-Smith:

When presented with the video evidence and dead fox cub bodies PC Barradale-Smith went to the kennels with RSPCA Inspector Hogwood and arrested Hannah Rose who was there. They looked at the cage, the horses and hounds. Paul Oliver went to Hereford police station later that night and was arrested and the others were arrested separately. The defence tried to imply that PC Barradale-Smith had behaved inappropriately in the case by having a relationship with a local hunt monitor and that he was involved prior to the evidence being obtained despite both of these claims having been investigated by West Mercia Police and no evidence being found.

John Buttery:

John is a gamekeeper at the Mynde Estate and he knew Julie Elmore because she had done some beating for him before (as part of pheasant shooting). He, Julie Elmore and Nathan Parry had all met at a South Herefordshire Hunt meet at the Mynde. Nathan Parry was supposed to kill a fox at the estate – John Buttery was adamant that any fox found by the hunt should be killed and he understood that they had dug out and killed one.

Martin Williams:

Martin is a gamekeeper at the Hall Estate at Pencoyd. In May 2016 he wanted foxes killed and so he called Nathan Parry as they had met at a hunt meet earlier in the year. He took him to the earth where the ‘problem fox’ was thought to be. They had dug down with Paul Reece and Julie Elmore also present. One cub was brought out. He admitted that there was no discussion about what to do but he thought that the cub would be shot there and then, that any fox would not be “leaving here alive” as he did not want them coming back to the estate.

South Herefordshire Hunt masters:

A written joint statement from the other South Herefordshire Hunt masters was made by Paul Haile. Although HIT had trespassed onto SHH property, a statement that he had signed on behalf of all the masters stated that they were glad that someone had filmed what had happened and that permission would have been granted in light of what had been uncovered. “The South Herefordshire Hunt are not seeking to question this trespass”.

Here in Three Counties Sabs we’re wondering whether the remainder of the hunt were actually well aware of what was going on / if someone else was ‘calling the shots’. What the defendants did and what they are a part of was and is horrendous but it certainly looks as though they are being scapegoated by others, made to look like they’re just a few bad apples. Are the hunt trying to save their mane? Do they want to be re-registered with the MFHA and carry on as a hunt like before?

Jeremy Wargeant:

A dairy farmer near St Weonards, Jeremy claims to have told Nathan Parry that he could put foxes on his land – “if you’ve got a couple of cubs you can drop them down at my place” – as they wouldn’t cause any trouble there.

Dr Richard Blundell:

Dr Blundell conducted Post Mortems on the two cubs whose broken bodies were retrieved from the kennel bin by HIT operatives. He stated that one would have been able to feel pain and the cardiovascular system was still intact. Multiple lung lacerations meant that the lungs would have filled with blood and chest cavity filled with air, leading to severe breathing difficulty and ultimately death. The overall conclusion was that injuries happened whilst alive and death happened shortly after injuries. Fox 1 weighed 2kg. Fox 2 weighed 1.5kg.

Wednesday 5th June: Following the prosecution case the defendants then made submissions of ‘no case to answer’ which means they claimed that the prosecution hadn’t given an argument that needed defending. This is fairly standard procedure in trials. Judge decides that there is a case to answer for all three defendants.

Thursday 6th June: defence witnesses give evidence

Paul Steven Oliver:

Huntsman and Master of the hunt at the time of the offence, Paul told the court that the hounds follow an aniseed based trail. He said that he was not asked to take the cubs but didn’t mind that they were on site. There was to be a DEFRA inspection of the kennels and, because the cubs were too young to be released, he decided to kill them. He claimed that the first fox was struck on the back of the head, that he held him by the scruff of the neck and hit him with the flesh house axe, which is an ancient builder’s axe, using the flat side to kill the fox. “In my opinion it was dead”.

He went on to claim that he put the body on the floor and went to the office; when he came back to the flesh house, a bitch was there and she had the cub in her mouth. He said she dropped the fox and he threw it into the disposal bin. When questioned about this explanation Paul told the court that she was a bitch with puppies and that when he is in kennels he gives bitches with pups free reign to feed themselves from the flesh hounds and she was the only one with whelps. He then did the same with the second fox, the fox going limp in his hands before he went to the office. Again he came back and found the bitch there with this second fox in her mouth – she dropped it and he threw the body into a disposal bin with the other cub. He sprayed them in the bin with dye as per the legislation. He claimed that he had a 38 calibre pistol for horses and cattle which would be too powerful to use on cubs so he killed them with the axe and made the decision alone to kill them, that he never discussed killing foxes with Nathan Parry or Hannah Rose.

Paul admitted that he had seen the area where the foxes were ‘released’ on hunting days. Mr Davis, the CPS prosecutor, asked about the fox injuries as one had multiple fractured ribs but no head injury – either he hit it with an axe or “something more sinister occurred”. Paul Oliver said that the bitch “probably gave it a bite” but said that no hounds in kennels knew what a fox was and he had no problem with the hound grabbing a dead fox. Mr Davis then asked about the noise made when the hounds were speaking which he said sounded like someone encouraging the hounds on (which we strongly believe to be Paul encouraging and holloaing) to which Paul said he didn’t know what that noise was but onlookers in court state that he went pale and looked anxious when asked. Mr Davis said that Paul Oliver’s defence was “inconsistent with reality”.

Nathan Parry:

Terrierman. Claims that when he was at Pencoyd Julie Elmore had asked why the hunt were not relocating rather than killing the foxes. In interview he said that since Christmas he had dug out 20 foxes and dispatched all of these on site. “It’s not all about killing things”. On 25th May 2016 he dug out foxes and delivered them as Paul Oliver persuaded him to keep them alive, that he would relocate them – he told him that he had taken them to Jeremy’s.

Hannah Rose:

In short her evidence was that she was a hunt servant and in hunt service it is ‘tradition’ to be deferential and so she called Paul Oliver (her partner of 7 years) “Mr Oliver” while in kennels and “Paul” in the house and did not question him. As we understand it this is nonsense as many kennels are run by couples and this is not normal behaviour in the UK, whether in hunt service or not. She did not question him carrying the cubs to the kennels as it was not her job and she thought he was rehoming them…

Friday 6th June: Mr Davis finished with the prosecution closing speech, complementary of HIT’s decisions and actions. “The explanation [given by the defendants] flies in the face of common sense and reality”, and stated that it could be (if it was not so serious) a comedy or a sick joke. The first fox had no physical evidence of head injury but massive injuries to chest. The second had head and chest injuries, blunt trauma to head which both experts said a hammer could have caused but may also have been a dog bite. The injuries are consistent with cub being mauled by hounds and head hitting wall/floor. All thirteen ribs on the left side were fractured and ten ribs on the right side and the spine was “shattered into fragments” none of which is consistent with someone dropping the cub, or the bitch holding the cub in her mouth.

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Article from 3C Sabs on 23rd 2016 after arrests were made for animal cruelty

We’ve had the pleasure this last season of working very closely with the fantastic North Shropshire Sabs for about 10 of the hunt’s meets this season – thank you to North Shrops for helping us focus a lot more attention on them. In recent weeks hunt staff have been arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty. Footage appears to show fox cubs being kept in a cage at the kennels and taken into where the hounds are kept before being brought back out dead and thrown into a bin.

During these last two hunting seasons we’ve been building up a picture of a number of hunts in the three counties which we have previously spent less time with, as well as increasing our knowledge of hunts we regularly sab and monitor. For example, building on information gained during the badger culls in Gloucestershire, we’ve put a lot of energy into checking badger setts and gathering intelligence on hunts blocking setts to prevent foxes from seeking shelter in them on hunting days.

We’ve spent more time over the last two years looking at the Ross Harriers and the South Herefordshire hunts and trying to find out more about them. Both hunts have blatantly hunted foxes (and hares, in the case of the Harriers) in front of sabs and have not been too hesitant in trying to start physical confrontations. Two seasons back the Harriers, with Lee Peters as huntsman and master, repeatedly tried to provoke sabs into fights on different occasions and we caught them marking to ground at a number of badger setts.

Towards the start of 2015 when a couple of sabs turned up at a meet, the South Herefordshire Hunt terriermen assaulted one sab when she believed a dig-out was in progress after hounds had marked to ground in an area. Huntsman at the time, Mal Williams, to his credit on that day specifically, intervened to stop the assault from escalating and the police were informed about the incident.

Whilst the huntsman has since changed (Paul Oliver Esq. has now taken on the role from Mal) and one of the men involved in the assault (pictured masked up in the assault pictures and unmasked on his own above) is now a terriermen for the Ledbury Hunt, the attitudes of the hunt and their terriermen do not seem to have changed much, the illegal activities we suspect that they were involved in are suspected to have continued.

The hunt were known for not even being sure of what their excuse was on a day-by-day basis for going out hunting, as can be seen in this video…

Supporter and terrierman Paul Standen (also connected to the Ross Harriers, in particular their ex-huntsman Lee Peters and ex-terriermen) was convicted in 2012 of assaulting a sab and was recently cleared of assaulting another sab during a separate incident. He can be seen in this video (watch this space – back online soon) pointing out to the hunt where a fox has run, along with Jack Gwillam, who is known for throwing engine oil over the windscreen of a 3C vehicle whilst we were driving along at the end of March 2014 while out with the Harriers.

This recent exposé of the hunt was released publicly on 23rd June 2016 by the independent group the Hunt Investigation Team.

BBC article by Tom Symonds – “Fox cubs filmed ‘being taken into hounds’ kennels'”

Hereford Times article

The Ecologist

The news had picked up on the situation a couple of weeks earlier, but details had not been released then.

Unfortunately it hasn’t come as a massive surprise to find out that this was what the hunt are up to. The Ross Harriers terriermen convicted of having a live fox in a bag during 2015 were once terriermen for the South Herefordshire before moving on to the Harriers. It is strongly believed that such incidents are not exclusive to the Harriers and that the men involved were not new to such activities.

We also suspected that the South were using bagged foxes (foxes caught or kept for releasing to the hounds on a hunt) based on their behaviour at a couple of meets during the season, including this one when they held a joint meet with the Crawley and Horsham Hunt in December 2015.

On this day, 3C sabs had split into 2 separate groups. Bristol, Bath and South Wales sabs had come over from a cancelled meet of the Ross Harriers to help us out and we were keeping an eye on various groups of hunt supporters, the hunt itself and the terriermen. The 3C driver radio’d through to a team on foot that she suspected the terriermen were up to no good as they had clearly asked hunt supporters in a vehicle to slow down the sab car on the road. At this point, the foot team watched as the other quadbike sped off from the back of the field (the riders out with the hunt), scaring some of the horses as they did so. The sabs ran to catch up as best as they could. As they came into sight of the hunt a couple of minutes later, a repeated whistle could be heard (whistles have been used for many years in place of the traditional ‘holloa’ at some hunts to indicate that a fox has run in that direction – whistles are often used instead of holloas as hounds will not react to them and lift their heads – it is a way of communicating with the hunt staff without distracting the hounds themselves).

The foot sabs radio’d through about the whistles. Meanwhile, the 3C driver had left the car as hounds had been in a small wood near to her – as she walked through the wood, hounds now in full cry, she spotted a man she believed to be a terriermen shoving something like a sack up his jacket and she followed him. The man and his buddy are both shown in the video, his buddy carrying something which looks a lot like cut cable ties in his hand…

Back with the hounds and foot sabs were about to run back down the road, believing hounds were heading further away when a fox ran behind them, head and tail up – one foot sab spotted him just metres away from them and the other sprayed the road. Bristol, Bath and South Wales sabs had deployed a foot team into the fields and the fox ran through a field near to them, sabs covering his scent in the area with citronella, the hunt calling off the chase when hounds lost his scent. An experienced sab of many years asked if anyone else thought the fox seemed lost, head up, hair on end… the typical look for a bagged fox dumped in unfamiliar territory. It was just as we were talking about this that we received a call from our driver about the terriermen with the sack and cable ties…

‘Major Patrick James Auchinleck Darling is quite an eloquent person whilst pushing people down banks and calling us peasants and lowlife and we’re wondering how he’s going to try and justify this latest exposé…

In addition to the suspected use of bagged foxes and the more recent information which has come to light, we also suspect that the hunt have blocked badger setts in the areas in which they hunt. Hounds marked to ground at a partially-blocked badger sett on New Year’s Day 2015, ex-master Patrick Darling (whose land this incident took place on) proceeding to push the 3 sabs downhill after the hunt had to call hounds back.

On 14th March 2015 sabs attended Mal William’s last meet with the hunt at the Black Swan (see list below for more of the hunt meet venues and their contact details). With sabs coming over from the South Wales, Bristol, Bath and Southampton groups, the hunt did a quick disappearing act into one of their favourite haunts, the Mynde Estate. Throughout the day hounds were called off foxes (and deer) before hunt supporters blocked in some sabs and punched one of them in the face. A fox, frozen solid, was then discovered on a grit bin nearby, bite marks clearly visible on his body – he’d been put in a freezer by someone then left for us to find.

We wonder what the Masters of Fox Hounds Association will say about this – the first of their 3 ‘Golden Rules’ for anyone going hunting (in their Code of Conduct) is that foxhunting is the hunting of a wild animal in its wild and natural state and nothing must be done which compromises this concept. Rule 3 of 3 is that the masters of hounds (or appointed deputies) are solely responsible for the conduct of each day’s hunting – wonder if they’ll extend that to include the conduct of the hunt at kennels too. The Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management agrees with foxhunting as a means of managing populations and states that foxes are hunted in territory which they are familiar with, thereby giving them the best chance of escape. The use of bagged foxes and the feeding of foxes directly to hounds surely does not fit in with this statement.

Some of the venues which the hunt hold their meets at during the hunting season are listed below. If you contact them about their support for the hunt, please keep all communications polite.

The Shirehall – St. Peters Square, Hereford HR1 2HX, 01432 260256 / 01432 260127 – Shirehall have also hosted the hunt ball
The Kilpeck Inn – Hereford HR2 9DN, 01981 570464
Garnons Estate – Byford, Herefordshire HR4 7JX, 01981 590235 – host the hunt’s Point-to-Point
The Black Swan – Much Dewchurch, Hereford HR2 8DJ, 01981 540295
The New Harp Inn – Hoarwithy, Hereford HR2 6QH, 01432 840900 *The New Harp have now said they want nothing to do with hunting
Castle House Hotel – Castle Street, Hereford HR1 2NW, 01432 356321
The Garway Moon Inn – Garway Common, Garway, Hereford HR2 8RQ, 01600 750270
Church of St. Lawrence – Upper Weston, Weston-under-Penyard, Ross-on-Wye HR9 7QA, 01989 564584

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While the following articles do not refer to the South Herefordshire itself, they highlight the fact that incidents such as those shown in the recent expose, as well as the use of bagged foxes, have been going on for many years (and do not seem to have ceased despite the Hunting Act coming into force in early 2005).

Clifford Pellow – Daily Mirror and Wales Online

More information about the use of bagged foxes can be read in this article from the League Against Cruel Sports in April 2004 when they investigated the Croome and West Warwickshire Foxhounds who hunt in the 3C area.

“One of the Midland’s most recognised fox hunts has been secretly filmed holding a fox captive in a specially designed chamber before subjecting it to a prolonged ‘dig out’ involving a huntsman, hounds and terrier men armed with spades, pitchforks and drain rods”

Even hunt staff and supporters themselves write about badger setts and badgers in relation to hunting – our article Hunts vs Badgers covers a number of different examples, as well as mentioning our own personal experience with hunts mainly in this last season when we’ve started to focus more on the link between badgers and hunting.

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If you can help to support our continuing work against the hunts in the three counties, gathering evidence against them and intervening when possible to stop wildlife persecution, there are a number of ways you can get involved.

– Financial support is vital to our continuing efforts – our current appeal is on gogetfunding although our costs are ongoing throughout the year. If you can donate or spread the word about what we do, please keep an eye out for our appeals or share our paypal details to others who can help out with funds – paypal.me/threecountiessabs

– We have a facebook page as well as a website (plus a vimeo page for videos). Both have a blog where we post our reports, news and appeals, but the website also includes ‘static’ pages where we share articles and information about hunting, culls and our tactics as well as links to other groups and resources. It’s a work in progress at the moment, but feel free to share any information, pictures and videos in order to raise awareness of these issues and suggest ideas of what we could include on our website and what you would like more information about – our email address is threecountiessabs@live.co.uk

Please contact us with any information about hunts, culls, shooting and other wildlife abuse, anonymously if you would prefer, as all information, however small, helps us to build up a picture of what is going on in the three counties. We can also pass on information to other groups about hunts in other areas, etc. Meet cards (fixture lists) of dates and locations of hunt meets are greatly appreciated and extremely useful, but so is information about past meets and sightings of hunts on the day. You can call us on 07891 639803 or 07954 404702 or contact Three Counties Wildlife Crime Watch (facebook) on 07561 137950 as all information on hunting is shared between the groups as necessary. You can also email us or contact us on facebook