Hunting Act, but the act has various loopholes (it is still legal to flush out a fox to a gun using two hounds and to ‘trail hunt’ – follow an artificial scent). These loopholes coupled with the fact that the police aren’t really bothered what the hunts are up to, mean that the majority of hunts continue to hunt just as they did in pre-ban days, often under the guise of ‘trail hunting’.
Although the most obvious victims of hunting are the hunted animals themselves (famously foxes, but there are hunts that chase and kill hares, stags, mink and more), they are not the only ones. When a hound becomes too old or slow to hunt or if they were never any good at hunting in the first place they are simply shot. The horses often don’t have a very pleasant existence either as they are often ridden to exhaustion and hunters and members of the field (the riders following the hunt) hitting their horse if they don’t ‘behave’ sadly isn’t a rare occurrence.
Hunt Saboteurs are the only organisation to take direct action to stop the hounds from killing foxes. The Hunt Saboteurs Association has been in existence since 1963 and although tactics have been refined over the years, the basic techniques have changed very little due to their effectiveness. There are a number of tactics saboteurs (or ‘sabs’) use to intervene during a hunt. Horn and voice calls that mimic the huntsman are used to either distract the hounds or to call hounds away from a copse or woodland where a fox might be. When a fox is spotted, citronella is sprayed behind it, covering the ground in a pungent, lemony fragrance making it very hard for the hounds to pick up the fox’s scent. When the hound are ‘in cry’ (the term used for the bloodcurdling noise they make when they find the scent of a fox) hunt sabs use whips, again mimicking the way the huntsman does. The hounds are trained to stop at the sound of a whip cracking and so when they are onto a fox, often this will stop them in their tracks. The video camera is also a very effective tool in preventing hunts from killing as often huntsmen are quite camera shy due to the fact that they are involved in an illegal activity. It is quite common for a huntsman, upon seeing he is being filmed, to call the hounds away from the fox. As well as these tactics, simply the sight of saboteurs will stop a hunt as they may well call the day off (this is more common with beagle packs as they hunt on foot and so are unable to ride away from sabs) or the fact that sabs are present will force the hunt to keep evading them and so are not able to hunt properly in one area.
There are approximately 30 foxhound packs in Wales (excluding private packs not registered with the Master of Foxhounds Association) and so the work of the Welsh saboteur is tireless. Every week, South Wales Hunt Saboteurs are out in the countryside stopping this barbaric tradition and saving the lives of hunted wildlife. If you would like to get involved or to simply support the group, you can find South Wales Hunt Saboteurs on Facebook or email them.