It is widely acknowledged that the Hunting Act 2004 is not being enforced and saboteurs and monitors up and down the country are out every week, several times a week helping the hunted escape and gathering evidence.
Their tactics are very simply to stop hounds hunting the fox or hare, either by foiling the scent of the hunted animal using citronella or ‘rating’ the hounds: getting between fox or hare and the pack and telling them off using a deep voice and cracking homemade whips (hounds are trained to stop if someone cracks a whip). ‘Sabs’ also do this if the hounds are running into danger; one sab recently stopped a pack as they ran towards the M50.
For the last few years Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs have been embroiled with others in the fight against the badger cull in the Gloucestershire zone. Among other work this has included sett surveying and checking, being out every night during both active culls, speaking to the media and coordinating work across a large part of the zone.
For two years running the government have failed abysmally to reach their cull targets in Gloucestershire directly because of the efforts of numerous anti-cull groups and individuals. They are now resurveying and checking familiar territories and finding lots of badger activity and new setts.
Despite the heavy workload that came with the badger cull, the group also managed to sabotage some fox cub hunts at the same time.
When the cull ended in late October it was back to sabbing the fox hunts exclusively and they managed about 80 days in the field against hunts this season, concentrating most on the Cotswold Vale farmers’ hunt, and the Ledbury and Ross Harriers hunts, all of whom have a considerable amount of country in the cull zone.
During their sabbing work they have seen lots of blocked badger setts, dig outs, hounds all over main roads, a couple of kills and met landowners sick of being disturbed by the hunt.
The group confront terriermen if they are trying to dig out or bolt the hunted fox and they have stopped them from doing this a few times this season. Badger setts are often targeted by them.
They have been on the receiving end of violent attacks from hunters and their supporters but the abuse is mostly just verbal, as well as having their vehicles blocked. Most hunt followers ignore them, however, and some are quite happy to pass the time of day.
“We are there to do a job and we are having a massive impact in the area. As the hunting season ends, preparation for stopping the cull begins,” said a group spokesperson.