But the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds kills even more foxes
LONDON––On February 18, 2020, the 15th anniversary of the Hunting Act coming into effect in England and Wales, supposedly banning fox hunting by riders on horseback galloping after hounds, “The Wynnstay Hunt deliberately killed a fox in the private garden of a resident of Aldersey, in front of their young children,” charged the Hunt Saboteurs Association in a posting to Facebook.
Live News reporter Gemma Sherlock confirmed that the Cheshire Constabulary were investigating.
A day later, alleged the West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs, “the Warwickshire Hunt chased and killed a fox in front of saboteurs. The hunt’s whipper-in,” or houndsman’s assistant, “jumped off his horse and into the hedge where the hounds had killed the fox and took the body away from cameras.
“Members of the hunt physically prevented sabs from entering a field to save the fox,” the West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs continued. “Moments later the hounds were chasing a second fox from the same location. The hounds were out of control with no member of the hunt with them. They burst out onto a busy road on a blind bend, causing chaos.”
“Almost all hunts flout the law”
At least 378 people have reportedly been prosecuted for violations of the Hunting Act, but fox hunters and hunt saboteurs still clash every weekend throughout the hunting season and the quasi-hunting season that precedes it, when new hounds are trained.
“As hunt saboteurs, we see widespread law-breaking every time we go out in the countryside. Almost all hunts flout the law,” Hunt Saboteurs Association spokesperson Lee Moon told Joe Roberts of Metro U.K.
“Even if you do have a police force that is keen on enforcing the hunting act,” Moon explained, “it’s a challenging piece of legislation. It’s very difficult for the police to know what they are looking at and to do anything about it.”
Hunters “emboldened” by Boris Johnson
Further, Moon told Roberts, fox hunters have become “emboldened” since pro-hunting prime minister Boris Johnson was elected prime minister in July 2019.
“They know they have a Conservative government that doesn’t care about hunting, and is never going to enforce the act,” Moon said.
“The fifteenth anniversary of the Hunting Act coming into force in England and Wales should be an occasion to celebrate, and in some ways it is,” posted League Against Cruel Sports chief executive Andy Knott.
“But hunting with dogs still plagues the British countryside,” Knott affirmed. “There are 299 hunts operating in Britain, still chasing foxes, hare and deer. The Hunting Act is not working. Legal loopholes are being exploited to create ‘trail’ hunting, a cover story created by the hunting community in an attempt to fool law enforcement, lawmakers and the general public. The reality is hunting continues just as it did before the ban.”
At least 43 fox kills in most recent full hunting season
The League Against Cruel Sports in December 2019 announced having collected “126 witness reports of suspected illegal fox hunting in the six weeks since the first hunt meet of the season in late October,” including six verified fox kills.
During the 2018-2019 hunting season, the League Against Cruel Sports said, it “gathered 284 reports of illegal hunting activity and 43 reports of fox kills by hunts,” along with “129 cases of fox cub hunting between the beginning of August and the end of October,” when “hunts’ hounds are trained to kill in the run-up to the fox hunting season, by being let loose in woodland to target fox cubs and literally tear them to pieces.”
Founded in present incarnation in 1924, with much older antecedents, the League Against Cruel Sports and the Hunt Saboteurs Association, founded in 1963, were among the organizations most instrumental in winning passage of the Hunting Act.
The Hunting Act was unfortunately flawed––perhaps fatally––by the inclusion of the many exemptions which have allowed participation in organized fox hunts to continue.
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds killed 598 foxes & 800 crows
But the numbers of foxes allegedly killed by fox hunters in recent years has been eclipsed many times over by massacres conducted in the name of conservation by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, points out independent journalist Jason Endfield.
“The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds kills thousands of animals and birds each year,” Endfield blogged on February 20, 2020, “The Society is quite open about this, even publishing an annual summary of its own wildlife culling. Yet many of its members seem unaware that Royal Society for the Protection of Birds management initiatives involve large scale slaughter of selected wildlife.
“In just one year, between September 2017 and August 2018, the Society killed 598 foxes and 800 crows,” Endfield itemized.
Hundreds of birds killed in the name of bird protection
“The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds also destroyed 322 Canada goose eggs and 321 greylag goose eggs, the reason given for this action being ‘air safeguarding,’ Endfield wrote.
“They also removed 22 barnacle goose nests and destroyed more than 100 eggs of this amber listed species,” meaning that the species is recognized as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, “in the name of ‘tern and avocet conservation.’
“In total the Society killed at least 2,719 animals and birds in just one year,” Endfield recounted, also mentioning that “The Society still advocates the use of Larsen traps to catch and kill corvids, a cruel system that has been outlawed in other countries. In recent years, there has also been criticism of the way the Society chooses to dispatch foxes and other mammals.
“How did wildlife survive before it was ‘managed’?”
“How, one wonders,” Endfield wrote, “did wildlife survive before it was so carefully managed by the likes of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Natural England?
“Humankind has desecrated habitat and countryside to such an extent that many species simply cannot naturally thrive in this country. That is why we have artificially contrived areas of habitat, ‘reserved’ for these selected species, often at the expense of other animals. Clearly we have a need for reserves like those run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds,” Endfield allowed, “due to the mess we have made of our countryside––but there is a danger of accepting them as an alternative to proper protection of the environment.
“Reserves must not become zoos,” Endfield warned. “Species which are currently being exterminated on reserves may soon themselves be under threat elsewhere.
“Personally I think we should celebrate––yes, and protect––those species that have found a way to thrive in the hostile environments that we have created. That includes foxes and crows. And gulls and geese. Killing them in large numbers,” Endfield finished, “as a means to conserve other species, whose demise was itself caused by misguided human activity, seems like flawed thinking.”
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ body count also included 547 red deer, 333 roe deer, 146 Sika deer, 38 muntjac deer, 108 mink, and 97 grey squirrels, all but the roe deer killed chiefly for being officially not native to Britain.
League Against Cruel Sports promotes pit bulls
The League Against Cruel Sports is unlikely, however, to add birding to the list of activities it decries, despite having recently taken a bizarrely contrived position against dogfighting, in partnership with the Royal SPCA of Great Britain, which centers on attempting to repeal the Dangerous Dogs Act 1993.
This would allow legal possession of dogs openly defined as pit bulls, along with pit bulls called Staffordshires, bulldogs, and a long list of other pit bull “brand names,” in effect opening legal commerce in dogs specifically bred and trained to fight.
The League Against Cruel Sports otherwise appears to be still distracted with what is now nearly three years of infighting over the leadership and direction of the organization.
“Ethical veganism is a philosophical belief”
Former League Against Cruel Sports policy director Jordi Casamitjana in December 2019 won an employment tribunal ruling that “ethical veganism is a philosophical belief that is protected by law against discrimination,” summarized Damien Gayle of The Guardian.
“Casamitjana claims he was unfairly sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports after he raised concerns with colleagues that its pension fund invested in companies involved in animal testing,” Gayle continued.
“The ruling by a tribunal in Norwich does not settle Casamitjana’s claim to have been unfairly dismissed, but lays the ground for a substantive hearing,” Gayle explained.
“Judge Robin Postle ruled in a short summary judgment that ethical veganism satisfied the tests required for it to be a philosophical belief protected under the Equality Act 2010. For a belief to be protected, it must meet a series of tests including being worthy of respect in a democratic society, not being incompatible with human dignity, and not conflicting with the fundamental rights of others,” Gayle added.
Cops vs. hunt saboteurs
“Although an interesting point of law,” conceded solicitor Rhys Wyborn of Shakespeare Martineau, representing the League Against Cruel Sports, “this hearing was preparation for the real crux of the matter: why Jordi Casamitjana was dismissed. The League is now looking ahead to the substantive hearing in this case and to addressing the reason for Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal, which it maintains was due to misconduct and not the belief he holds.”
The Casamitjana firing came amid “a split between hard line activists and the new leadership of the charity, which includes retired police and army officers,” reported Hayley Dixon of The Telegraph in January 2019.
“As well as terminating the appointment of 11 directors and one secretary last year  alone,” wrote Dixon, “the League last month [December 2018] ousted vice presidents Peter Egan, the Downton Abbey [BBC television series] star, and author Penny Morgan.
Ex-Army officer now heads League Against Cruel Sports
Among the casualties, Dixon mentioned, were “trustees Chris Williamson, the Labour Member of Parliament who led the League for a decade, and Simon Russell, who sits on the Hunt Saboteurs Association committee.
“Andy Knott, a former lieutenant colonel and commanding officer of 2 Signal Regiment, took over as chief executive in May 2018,” Dixon continued, “at around the same time as Martin Sims, a former chief inspector and head of the police National Wildlife Crime Unit, became director of investigations. Simon Prince, the retired chief constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, was appointed a director in September.”
“Sources say,” Dixon said, “that the former officers are not a comfortable fit with activists who have spent years protesting.”
“No history in animal rights or welfare”
Egan in a February 7, 2019 public statement questioned how Knott came to be hired, having “no history in the animal rights or welfare movement,” and having “never worked for any charity or campaign organization.”
Recounted Egan, “In mid-2017, Knott applied for a lowly role in the campaigns department at the League Against Cruel Sports.”
Though not hired, Knott became a League Against Cruel Sports volunteer, then was appointed interim chief executive by League Against Cruel Sports chair Iain Blake-Lawson after predecessor Eduardo Goncalves departed, following a long absence attributed to illness.