Richard Gurney: As lawful as a round of golf [H&H VIP]

  • In the south-east, many packs have been subject to aggressive targeting by anti-hunt activists for decades.

    Masters, staff and supporters of these hunts have not only helped the wider hunting world — taking saboteurs and monitors away from other packs — but have aided all country sports.

    Shooting would be the next target if hunting were to vanish in our area.

    How much longer can those on the front line be expected to go on suffering sustained targeting and provocation by saboteurs?

    A small minority is being allowed to disrupt and antagonise hunts who are trying to hunt within this wretched law [Hunting Act 2004].

    It seems to us “south of the Thames” that, once again, we find ourselves fighting. But this time it is not to stop hunting being banned, but for the right to go out and hunt a trail.

    It is as lawful a Saturday pastime as a round of golf or cycling to the pub. But, as crazy as it sounds, we are not even being allowed to do that.

    To hunt within the law — one of the many interpretations of that law — it is perfectly acceptable to trailhunt using a fox-based scent available from various sources.

    Our trail-layers utilise the country that the master of the day has opened up, to simulate hunting as it used to be — and they are very good at it.

    They use cunning and guile to outwit the huntsman and his hounds. They lay the scent in ditches, through woodland, in hedgerows, across fields and into bramble patches.

    This is a labour-intensive task and requires specific knowledge.

    The constant provocation suffered by the hunting fraternity may lead to an incident. It is surely only a matter of time before someone is badly hurt.

    We are never far from a danger point in the south-east, so it is vital that the huntsman maintains control over his hounds at all times.

    Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 deals with saboteurs hiding their identity. The laws of aggravated trespass and calling hounds on to roads are clear.

    As for filming children out riding, this is a totally different matter for discussion, and is a subject that annoys parents and children alike.

    The police need to act before it is too late, so hunts have a duty to engage and work with the police.

    At the Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent (OSBWK), we have an extensive library of video footage that provides evidence of what we have to endure when saboteurs are out.

    Most worrying is the amount of film we have showing saboteurs spoiling the trails that they have seen being laid, then trying to stop hounds hunting the trails.

    Can you imagine what would happen if hunt supporters turned up at the homes of these people with our faces covered, wearing camouflage outfits, trespassing on private land and filming them and their children’s every move at close quarters, in case they do not buy a parking ticket or commit some other minor motoring offence?

    What would happen if we then posted blogs, put clips on YouTube and other dedicated websites to justify our actions with whatever we wanted to say, without any comeback whatsoever?

    These relentless attacks on hunts cannot be anything other than an invasion of privacy, of civil liberties and our rights to go about our lawful business.

    It is time to put an end to these potentially dangerous situations. It is only the police who can achieve this.

    We cannot go back to the bad old days with ever increasing violence  — and why should we?