The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
Chas Newkey-Burden, The Independent
In upsetting undercover footage, a huntsman is seen taking terrified fox cubs out of a small cage and carrying them to a kennel, using a stick with a noose attached.
The little foxes scream as they are taken to the kennel. There, they are thrown to a pack of hounds that had been whipped into a frenzy. Autopsies showed that the cubs were still alive when they were torn apart by the hounds.
The short, caged life of these innocent babies ended in unimaginable terror and pain. The man, a former pillar of the hunting community, is shown dumping their remains into a bin.
Two people were found guilty of multiple counts of animal cruelty. Paul Oliver, the man in the video, and Hannah Rose were convicted at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court. They were given 16-week and 12-week suspended prison sentences respectively.
Two other defendants, Julie Elmore and Paul Reece were given conditional discharges after they admitted they transported the foxes. In other words, despite being caught red-handed, all four walked free.
The hunting community is regularly exposed for animal cruelty and law-breaking. Shocking videos and photographs document the barbarity but nothing seems to change.
In January, a shocking video emerged of a hunter flushing a fox out of its den to allow a pack of hounds to hunt and rip it to shreds.
In December, the Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt was exposed by the BBC for “cub hunting” – training hounds to hunt foxes and rip them to pieces. In the same month, hounds under the control of the Surrey Union Hunt chased a fox across the Surrey Hills and killed it.
Opinion polls show the public is overwhelmingly opposed to hunting and there was celebration when the ban on hunting came in 2004. But campaigners say that thousands of foxes are still being chased and killed every year in the UK. Why are the hunters allowed to get away with it?
There are several reasons. One is that the hunting ban actually left a gaping loophole. The Hunting Act says that “a person commits an offence if he hunts a wild mammal with a dog”, but it adds the rider: “unless his hunting is exempt.” Nine exemptions are given under which hunts can ignore the so-called “ban”.
There should be a blanket ban on hunting and proper penalties introduced for those who break it. The government says it plans to increase maximum sentences for animal cruelty offences to five years in prison but it remains to be seen if such sentences are ever imposed, particularly on hunting folk.
Which brings us to the next obstacle: that hunting remains intimately tied to the British establishment. The Mendip Farmers Hunt met at the country home of Jacob Rees-Mogg in March. A few months earlier, the hunt had been caught on camera fox hunting.
Given hunting’s prized status in the British establishment and among rich, rural people, what hope can there be that the judiciary will take these sorts of offences even remotely seriously?
When the judge let Oliver and Rose walk free yesterday, she said that the anger the pair had faced on social media “has been a punishment in itself”. But since when did public anger mean offenders should be let off the hook? Would a judge let child abusers walk free because what they had done made the public angry?
The wider problem is mankind’s exploitative, profiteering attitude to animals. Humans kill 70 billion animals each year for food. Animals continue to be exploited in circuses and marinas, and killed in sports like rodeos and horse racing. They are slaughtered for their fur and feathers, and tortured in laboratories.
It’s easy to be angry with the huntsman who threw those fox cubs to their deaths, but what forms of animal exploitation and bloodshed is your diet and lifestyle supporting?
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