A couple of weeks ago the Hunt Saboteurs Association published two secretly-recorded webinars showing some of the UK’s leading hunting personnel, including high-ranking former police officers, discussing how to avoid prosecution for alleged fox hunting.
[Screengrab from one of the webinars, via The Hunt Saboteurs Association]
Anti-hunt campaigners have argued that the videos provide evidence of ‘mass criminality’ and there have also been allegations of individuals attempting to conspire to pervert the course of justice and committing perjury.
These videos can be watched here (scroll to the bottom of the page) and accompanying transcripts can be viewed on the same page.
The content of these videos has caused a furore and there has been wide press coverage, including a feature on ITV News yesterday (see here).
Interestingly, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service are now reviewing the videos for evidence of criminality and ITV also reports that the police are ‘reviewing their relationship with hunts’.
As a result of the ongoing police investigation, Forestry England has now announced it has suspended all ‘trail hunt’ licences on its ground, which includes 1,500 publicly-owned woods. Pressure is mounting on other landowners, particularly the National Trust, to do likewise.
[UPDATE 14.00hrs: National Trust has announced on Twitter, ‘We’ve taken the decision to pause trail hunting on National Trust land and will not be issuing any licences for the remainder of the season’].
[FURTHER UPDATE 18.00hrs: United Utilities has now also suspended all trail hunting on its land until the police investigation has concluded – see here].
[ANOTHER UPDATE 27th Nov 2020: Lake District National Park Authority has now also suspended all trail hunting on its land until the police investigation has concluded – see here].
[AND ANOTHER UPDATE 28th Nov 2020: Natural Resources Wales have also removed permission for trail hunting – see here].
You might be wondering why this topic is being written about on this blog. Well, partially because it’s big news that campaigners have finally managed to force a police investigation in to a ‘country sport’ that has long been associated with criminality but has often escaped investigation and prosecution despite what often looks to be clear evidence of crime (sound familiar?).
But this story is also of interest because as I understand, at least one of those webinar participants also serves on the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) as a representative of the Countryside Alliance.
The RPPDG is, in my opinion, a partnership sham, designed to look as though efforts are being made to effectively tackle illegal raptor persecution in England and Wales. It’s been in existence since 2011 and so far has achieved absolutely sod all in terms of contributing towards the conservation of raptors in the UK and instead has frustrated the efforts of those organisations who are genuinely trying to stamp out persecution (e.g. see here).
It’ll be interesting to see whether there are grounds for this individual/the Countryside Alliance to be suspended from the RPPDG as the police investigation in to the webinar content gets underway, in the same way as Forestry England (and now the National Trust) has initiated a suspension of trail hunt licences, or whether this individual’s position, and/or that of the Countryside Alliance, on the RPPDG will be reviewed after the findings of the police investigation are known.
UPDATE 18th October 2021: Time to review Countryside Alliance’s position on raptor group after hunting webinar conviction? (here)
UPDATE 20th October 2021: Further evidence to support a review of Countryside Alliance’s position on raptor group (here)
UPDATE 25th October 2021: Police boot off Countryside Alliance rep from all wildlife crime priority delivery groups after hunting webinar trial (here)