Outside the kennels of the South Herefordshire Hunt. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.
Fox cub persecution: hunting and violence are inseparable
23rd June 2016
An investigation by the League Against Cruel Sports shows that English hunts are training hounds to kill foxes in horrific secret slaughter sessions, writes Eduardo Gonçalves. It's just one example of the cruelty and violence that's intrinsic to fox-hunting, and another reason why the ban has to be maintained.
Cubbing is extremely secretive - but it's the ruthless true face of hunting which hides behind the apparent glamour and ceremony. Without training the dogs to kill foxes, there would be no fox hunting.
A squealing fox cub is pulled from a container in a van, then carried into a building by a man where the sound of baying hounds erupts.
A little later, the man emerges carrying the lifeless body of the cub which he dumps into a wheelie bin. He then takes another fox cub into the building ...
This horror story has been captured on film released today by the League Against Cruel Sports, and we believe it shows the secret method of training young hounds to kill foxes.
The buildings are the kennels of the South Herefordshire Hunt, and three people have been arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty. An independent inquiry into the hunt has been launched.
These scenes will be shocking to most people. The cold-hearted brutality of what the footage appears to show simply can't be defended. The pro-hunt lobby have quickly said that if the footage shows what it appears to, then this 'has no place in hunting'.
The reality though is that this kind of thing does have a place in hunting. It is in fact an essential part of hunting, so any attempt to paint this incident as a 'one-off' is a desperate attempt to disguise the truth.
Training dogs to kill - against their own instincts
The League Against Cruel Sports has been undertaking an ongoing nationwide investigation into illegal hunting practices using both retired police officers and local investigators - in this case the Hunt Investigation Team.
What we have been trying to expose is the 'myth' that fox hunts are required to control foxes. Any debate on fox hunting will see the pro-hunt defenders claiming that hunts are necessary for farmers to protect their livestock. I'm sorry, but from everything we have seen and heard, this is utter nonsense.
For starters, all those involved in hunting know of the practice known as 'autumn hunting'. This somewhat romantic sounding activity also has another name - 'cubbing'.
Cubbing involves the hunts taking a trip to areas where they know there will be fox cubs. The area is surrounded by those on horseback, then the hounds are sent in. Many of the hounds will be young, or 'unblooded', so this is their training session. Dogs won't naturally kill foxes, so they need to be taught to do so. Huntsmen use calls and the whip to ensure the dogs do what they are meant to do.
Cubbing is extremely secretive - not surprisingly - but takes place every year among hunts across the UK. This is the ruthless true face of hunting which hides behind the apparent glamour and ceremony. Without training the dogs to kill foxes, there would be no fox hunting. We believe this is exactly what is happening at the South Herefordshire kennels.
The abuse doesn't stop there, as our investigation has shown. 'Artificial earths' are basically man-made structures (small 'dens', or perhaps disused pipes) where foxes are taken then raised by those involved with the hunts.
They do this because for a hunt to ride without finding a fox would be poor, and would damage the reputation of the Hunt Masters. Thus the captive foxes can be released at the appropriate moment in front of the hounds to ensure a good chase.
We have the evidence. Now can we have the political action?
Some of the evidence gathered by our investigation so far includes:
16 fox cubs in a barn, on land linked to the Middleton Foxhounds Hunt. The League believes these fox cubs were kidnapped as a ready supply of animals to be chased by the hunt (investigation footage here).
A fox in a disused building the League believes was being held to be hunted by the Belvoir Hunt (Investigation footage here).
Intelligence reports implicating more than 20 hunts in capturing foxes to be hunted during 2014 and 2015.
All of this paints a very different picture to the one the hunts would like people to see. In fact, they are desperate to conceal it.
In March this year two League investigators were seriously assaulted and robbed of their cameras while monitoring the Belvoir Hunt. The alleged assault, which left one with a broken neck, is thought to have been in retaliation for one of the investigators' discovery and subsequent release of the fox being kept in a shed on land hunted by the Belvoir Hunt.
You cannot separate fox hunting from violence. You cannot support fox hunting without acknowledging all the evidence before us.
We truly hope that if or when the government feels like it should bow to the small but influential pro-hunt lobby and consider making fox hunting legal again, that every MP in this country stands up in opposition to this true face of hunting.
Eduardo Gonçalves is the Chief Executive Officer of League Against Cruel Sports.
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