The Hunting Office is reiterating its message that there will be more covert surveillance by antis this season – so hunts must diligently record evidence of their legal activities.
Stephen Lambert, chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA), told H&H that his colleagues had been working with hunts across the country to ensure “that it becomes second nature to file evidence of trail laying or hunting within the exemptions of the Hunting Act”.
Private prosecutions by animal charities this year have seen members of the Meynell and the Crawley and Horsham convicted of unlawful hunting.
A case brought by the RSPCA against the Heythrop is due to be heard in December.
And the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) has hired eight new investigators since last season, many of whom are former police officers.
“Hunts are taking this very seriously and we are pleased they have accepted that they must be able to defend everything they do and keep a log of their legal activity,” said Mr Lambert.
“We must be absolutely punctilious about this and have our ducks in a row.”
Mr Lambert’s warning was echoed by Tim Bonner, campaigns director at the Countryside Alliance.
“LACS’ strategy is covert surveillance, which would mean that in most instances, hunts would not even be aware that they were being filmed.
“The threat of spurious allegations from such a biased source is obvious,” he added.
Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent huntsman Mark Bycroft said evidence gathering was not an onerous task.
“It is just like extra paperwork – you get used to it,” he told H&H.
“We have three teams of trail layers and each one has a camera. At the end of the day you take the memory card out of the camera and put it onto the computer – so you’ve got the evidence in case of any problem.”
Mr Bycroft stressed that this approach was essential to safeguard the future
“There’s a small minority who will try everything to get you into court,” he said.
“If the case for repeal is presented to the government and more hunts have been up for illegal hunting, then it may not happen,” he added.
This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (11 October 2012)