In 2003, 37,000 hunt supporters and staff signed a pledge to continue fox hunting in defiance of the Hunting Act which criminalised the hunting of wild mammals with dogs. It is no secret for the sabs and monitors out with the hunts every week that the hunts have stayed true to their word.
Despite a mountain of video evidence, and numerous criminal prosecutions, the hunting community have relied upon friends in high places to veil their conspiracy. Politicians, journalists, judges, and the police have all conspired to convince the wider public that each fox killed was ‘accidental’. After sixteen years, the hunt’s governing body (the Master of Foxhounds Association – MFHA) accidentally exposed the truth. Webinars featuring senior members of the MFHA were leaked to the press by the Hunt Saboteurs Association, and they lifted the rock off of a dark and sordid underworld.
The webinars outlined in detail the tricks and cons used by hunts across the country to use trail hunting as a ‘smokescreen’ for illegal fox hunting, and were seized upon by sabs across the country. Allowing illegal hunting on your land is a criminal offence under the Hunting Act, and the launch of pressure campaigns has convinced a raft of prominent land owners to suspend or revoke hunting licences. As a result, those who rely on these licenses, such as the New Forest Hunt, have been barred from their hunting grounds and have been unable to hunt since.
Many hunts however, use land owned by wealthy supporters. For Weymouth Animal Rights (WAR), our local hunt is the South Dorset, who use land owned by MP Richard Drax, whose ancestors stole it, and barricaded it with a wall paid for with a fortune accrued through the slave trade. Mention reparations and land rights, and Drax refuses to discuss the past. When it comes to hunting he fully engages in it.
To combat the South Dorset Hunt, another front has opened which allows us to combine sabbing with pressure campaigning with devastating effect.
In recent weeks, Hunting Leaks have released a trove of information which provide a blueprint of how to end fox hunting once and for all. Amongst the documents were minutes from the hunt’s AGM, and their internal ‘Red Book’, which include a detailed list of their financial backers..
Despite allies like Richard Drax, many hunts are struggling financially. The South Dorset Hunt, for example, can no longer offer the hunt master’s cottage for free, and wearing the red coat now comes with a rent invoice. A cursory glance at the hunt’s accounts reveal that they have been making a loss since 2008, and only Covid grants are keeping them afloat.
Fundraisers such as the Hunt Ball, and Point to Point races are the hunt’s life line, and these events rely on corporate sponsors. These sponsors are all listed in the Hunting Leaks documents, and within hours of us contacting them, Volvo UK publicly announced that they will never sponsor a hunting event again. Others firms show less compassion to our British wildlife. Humphries Kirk solicitors in Dorset are proving rather belligerent, perhaps unsurprising as their Managing Partner is also the hunt’s treasurer. Since the launch of our pressure campaign, we have seen activists dropping banners, fly posting, taking part in email action alerts, and contacting the firm’s clients and corporate partners. When lock down ends there are plans for protests, and other attention grabbing stunts. It is only a matter of time before they too distance themselves from illegal hunting.
As their support pillars are removed, the hunt have responded with thinly veiled panic. They are powerless to prevent us from financially ruining them, and they know it.
Weymouth Animal Rights (WAR)