Ramifications as police investigate leaked hunting webinars

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)

30 thoughts on “Ramifications as police investigate leaked hunting webinars”

  1. Fingers crossed! The more they’re exposed the more damning the evidence – shine a light on all these dark places to save our wildlife! Thank you for all you do to keep these issues in the public domain.

    I still think a mass trespass on aug 12th across as many moors as possible may help ? It could comprise an alliance of diverse, previously separated groups with the same objectives … League against cruel sports, Hunt Saboteurs (who perhaps have the greatest experience of organising such events) Extinction Rebellion, even RSPB??? Local naturalist trusts etc etc etc perhaps with key celebs Chris Packham David Attenborough Bill Bailey, Brian May … your thoughts?…

    1. We would definitely be up for that David. Peaceful civil disobedience seems to be the only thing left open to us now.

  2. The National Trust have now also withdrawn their licenses.

    This has been a long time coming and backs up what anti hunt activists have been saying for years. The hunter have shot themselves in the foot and while I don’t expect any prosecutions to take place it will have fundamentally changed how the police now deal with hunters.

    We (the HSA) will also continue to target shoots when we can. The HSA and the local groups are generally the only organisation which will use these tactics as they are effective, non-violent (despite what the other side say) and highlight the wrongs in our countryside.

    [Ed: thanks, will update blog]

    1. AA and Heather, had the National Trust done this a couple of years ago when they had the chance at an AGM, they wouldn’t have lost us as members and, I suspect, very many more like us. Certainly won’t be rejoining now.

  3. I understand that ITV News has reported that the National Trust has suspended ‘trail’ hunting on their land and will not be issuing licences for the rest of the season, which hasn’t long started! I would not trust hunts to abide by this.

    [Ed: Thanks, blog updated]

  4. Today the National Trust has also followed suit and stopped any hunts from ‘trail hunting’ on their land and will not be handing out any new licenses for the rest of the hunting season.

    It’s also worth mentioning that, if police do consider what is being said on the webinars to be criminal, then potentially this could be the largest conspiracy, to commit wildlife crime, ever uncovered in the UK.

    It’s worth also pointing out that during the webinars it is encouraged that birds of prey be used as a smoke screen for ‘holding up’ during what is described as ‘autumn hunting’. So called autumn hunting is commonly known as cub hunting. This is part of the fox hunting season which is little known about, occurring between September and October, and kept quiet by fox hunters, but is carried out by all hunts across the country. The idea is to train the new fox hounds along with the more experienced dogs. The term ‘holding up’ refers to holding up a woodland to stop any fox escaping from that cover. This is done by surrounding the cover with horse riders and other hunt support. Horse saddles are hit with whips and vocal noises are shouted by hunt staff. Hounds are then sent into the cover to search for foxes and the idea of the noise outside of the cover is to help prevent the fox from escaping out from that woodland and makes for an easy kill for the new dogs if they happen to find any foxes. This is what ‘holding up’ means and the reason it is encouraged to use birds of prey during this activity outside of Scotland, is that you can then claim NOT to be trail hunting, but instead say that you were using an exemption in the law which allows a bird of prey to be used as part of an activity where dogs can be used to flush a fox out of cover to a bird of prey. Of course, no bird or prey will be set onto any foxes, but to have a person standing outside of a cover with a bird of prey, often an Eagle Owl, on his or her arm, then allows a hunt to hold up a woodland whilst dogs are searching for a fox to kill it within that cover.

    1. Thanks for your comprehensive explanation. Surely, if hunts surround a block of cover as you describe there can be no purpose other than hunting foxes or training dogs to do so. Even if technically the activity is not illegal it ought to represent a fairly obvious clue to the police that those concerned intend to commit a crime anon.

  5. [Ed: Sorry George, too much of your comment was potentially libellous and I don’t have time today to try and pick out those bits and make the rest sound coherent]

  6. Sounds like there could be some rich pickings in this for the media – let us hope so. The more this vile uncivilised activity and those that support and protect it is exposed the better.
    It will be interesting to see what action the police take. Not a great deal, I wager.

  7. Its an interesting way of communicating. i always imagined that hints and tips on where to get poisons and the best ways of shielding a sat tags were exchanged in the car park outside XXX meetings……but it looks like the use of online webinars would not have been out of the question.

  8. Thanks Wild Detection, very enlightening nothing surprises me what the dark side get up to in the name of sport.

  9. Thank you for raising the issue through this excellent blog, thank you for alerting the public to the barbaric nature of organised and elite wildlife crime that goes on in the countryside.

    Sadly, they’ll have advocates in the corridors of power so I’ll not hold my breath for any prosecutions but oh, what a fantastic coup in obtaining these pieces of evidence, hearty congratulations to all involved.

    That the Forestry Commission and eventually the National Trust suspended licenses, excellent news and here’s hoping they’re not quietly returned.

  10. Well done the Sabs. Brilliant work. Nice to see the National (dis)Trust will some well-deserved egg-on-face too.

    The content of that video could just as easily have been a webinar on ‘how to get away with xxxxx xxxxx’. Let’s hope for prosecutions, but I very much doubt that any will happen.

    [Ed: Fair point, but libellous!]

  11. There are now few hiding places left for these degenerates. As their various pretences are exposed for all to see, their obscene edifice is crumbling, stone by stone in front of their eyes.

  12. Well, haven’t they just incriminated themselves!
    Well done to whoever managed to infiltrate the webinar.
    It just goes to show what is really going on behind the scenes.
    Good on those official bodies for suspending hunting on their land, though they should never have allowed “trail hunting” on their land in the first place.

  13. I received this reply from The National Trust *yesterday*.

    Very glad to see that 24 hours later they have CHANGED their minds….

    Dear Keith,

    Thank you for your email about trail hunting.

    We do not currently allow illegal activity on our land and not all trail hunts are covering illegal activity. The National Trust does licence trail hunting in some areas and at certain times of the year, where it is compatible with our aims of public access and conservation.

    Our clear, robust, and transparent set of conditions will allow participants to undertake a version of this legal activity that’s compatible with our conservation aims.

    Any activity associated with the term hunting continues to provoke strong emotions on both sides of the debate. We recognise our approach will not satisfy everyone.

    You can read our views on trail hunting here on our website – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/our-position-on-trail-hunting

    I have also passed your comments onto your head office. <——-

    Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

    Kind regards,
    Adam
    Supporter Services Centre
    National Trust

    —- Original Message —-

    Keith Dancey

    xxxxxxxxxxx
    xxxxxxxxxxx
    xxxxxxxxxxx
    xxxxxxxxxxx

    *Trail Hunting is a Sham*

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I noticed on tonight's *ITV News* that the Police are investigating the
    role of *Trail Hunting* as a deliberate cover-up for illegal activities,
    with recorded comments from The Hunting Office broadcast to the nation.

    I *assume* they will also be investigating the current *collaboration*
    between *The National Trust* and Trail Hunting?

    The net is slowly closing in…. we British do not like animal abusers.
    Or their apologists.

    Yours sincerely,

    Keith Dancey

  14. Well well well,what as been known about for years regarding so called trail hunting,this absolutely XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX.

    Hopefully this will have Massive repercussions .A Massive Well Done to All The Hunt Sabs who helped uncover this.

  15. If there are no prosecutions, which is most probable, those who participated in these webinars will no doubt claim that they are completely vindicated.

    However, the damage has been done, and the public will be able to make up its own mind as to exactly what was being said in those webinars, and then draw its own conclusions as to what is actually occurring in our countryside when the hunts go out.

    Hopefully big landowners like the Forestry England, The National Trust, United Utilities will not want their brand reputation being tarnished by the suspicion that hunts may not be operating in an entirely honest and transparent manner, and therefore not allow hunting on their land to resume once the police investigation is concluded.

    Public consciousness has been very much awakened by the informative wildlife programs produced by people such as Sir David Attenborough.

    When the majority of society is waking up to the consequences of climate change, extinction crisis, plastic pollution, and the woeful state of British wildlife, then those who are perceived as participating in activities which kill and harm wildlife must expect to be labelled as villains, and be prepared to be on the receiving end of public anger and criticism.

    Hopefully one of the consequences of what has been exposed will be a tightening of the hunting legislation, so that those “wheezes” talked of in the webinar will no longer afford legal protection for those who break the law.

    Fortunately the Covid19 restrictions should mean that there is no hunting over the winter period, but I suspect those who enjoy such activities will find other vile methods to inflict suffering on wildlife.

  16. I have been saying on this blog for ages get the LACS and especially the Hunt Saboteurs involved and they will sort out the persecution of our raptors etc. We have been harping on for to long and nobody is listening. WE NEED ACTION ,NOT WORDS.

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