UK hunts are being warned to avoid confrontations with antis this season after concerns that “hunt monitors” are trying to bait followers.

In a letter sent to packs last month, Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) chairman Stephen Lambert said: “Their [the monitors’] prime objective is, without doubt, to inflame our supporters and trigger a serious public order incident in which hunting people will be shown as the aggressors.”

For the first time since November 2005, no hunt is facing prosecution under the Hunting Act, and repeal looks increasingly possible.

Antis, therefore, are exploring other ways to win back the support they have lost since the Act came into force, says the MFHA.

The Heythrop and Vale of Aylesbury with Garth and South Berks (VAGSB) has experienced an increase in activity by monitors, including Protect Our Wild Animals (POWA) members Penny Little and Peter Bunce, in the past few weeks.

Guy Portwin, senior master of the VAGSB, said: “The hunt has been targeted by local monitors about six times so far this season. Several complaints have been made to police by the hunt, including concerning the filming of children.

“We have stressed to followers the need for restraint, no matter how provoked anyone feels, and are pleased to report that followers are filming the monitors, making complaints to the police and avoiding interaction.”

The Countryside Alliance (CA) has written to the chief constables of Thames Valley Police and Gloucestershire Police pointing out the antis are pursuing a clear strategy
of incitement.

Mr Lambert told H&H: “The antis of this world are desperate. They lost the moral and wildlife management arguments ages ago. Now they see that their only hope of wrecking repeal is to provoke a disastrous public order incident that they will try to pin on the hunting world.
“I am optimistic that the police are now beginning to grasp the picture and will play their part as much as they can to ensure that the next few months pass without incident.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (8 October, 2009)