Hunting within the law is not enough – hunts must make sure they carefully record evidence of their legal activities.
That was the central message from this year’s Master of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) annual meeting (29 May) in the light of recent prosecutions and efforts by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) to step up its campaign against hunting.
Addressing the meeting at Cheltenham racecourse, MFHA chairman Stephen Lambert said: “The pace of our opponents’ endeavours has risen by several gears in the last few weeks.
Therefore we must ensure that at all times we have full evidence that we are hunting within the law.”
Meanwhile, LACS recently appointed an additional eight “investigations officers” – making a total of 10 – who will work in pairs around the country.
At the AGM – which was also addressed by Countryside Alliance chairman Sir Barney White-Spunner and Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Soames – Mr Lambert issued a stark warning to hunts.
“The RSPCA has adopted a scattergun approach [against the Heythrop],” he said. “This tactic could snowball unless hunts diligently keep daily records to demonstrate their legal activity with hounds.”
Masters were warned by Mr Lambert that covert camera operators have been at work in the majority of hunt countries, attempting to catch hunts out. And that covert surveillance is set to increase next season.
Louise Robertson of LACS told H&H that most of the investigations officers were ex-policemen or RSPCA inspectors.
“We have revamped our whole intelligence system and everything we do from now
on will be intelligence-led,” she said.
“They [the officers] won’t just pick a hunt we don’t like and go after it; they’ll go anywhere we’ve got intelligence that there is suspicious activity.”
But in his closing comments to the AGM, Mr Lambert urged hunts not to be disheartened by the heightened activity of antis.
“The all-out attack by the opposition gives us an opportunity to demonstrate what a ridiculous law this is,” he said.
This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (7 June 2012)