Crawley & Horsham Hunt

Although I do not hunt (I am in fact a poor horseman, although, I have been told that I look good on a horse), I respect a persons right to hunt and as such wish to see a repeal of the hunting act, which has very little to do with foxes anyway and was to appease the Labour Party old guard as hunting is something done by country folk who due to the fact that they live in the country are or so the argument goes Tories.

Anyway academics specialising in animal welfare have concluded that hunting with dogs must cause a degree of suffering to individual animals, but that the ban on hunting with dogs is not likely to improve the welfare of the quarry species, there is also concern that the alternative methods left available. The Middle Way Group’s research “Wounding Rates of Shot Foxes” which following a long peer-review process was published in the scientific journal Animal Welfare, showed high wounding rates involved in shooting foxes and has raised serious doubts over anti-hunting claims that shooting is the humane alternative to hunting with dogs. Unfortunately this led Jackie Ballard, Director General of the RSPCA, to state that

“There was not absolute proof that wounded foxes suffer.”

Understandably vets stated that they were “astonished” by the revelation, and Lembit Öpik MP, co-chair of the Middle Way Group, said,

“We have seen evidence from the Burns Enquiry, Portcullis House Hearings and our own shooting study ignored by the anti-hunting groups. Now we see the world’s premier animal welfare organisation defying all reason. This is not just twisting science to suit a case, but also common sense!”

The High Court hearing of the Crawley & Horsham hunt and the 88 farmers and landowners across whose land they hunt has been adjourned for a second time this week.

It had been hoped to obtain an injunction against Simon and Jaine Wild and their West Sussex Wildlife Protection Group on the grounds of harassment, nuisance and trespass which would be in place before 1st September 2008 in time for the start of the hunting season, as these animal rights activists who have targeted hunts and shoots across the South East for decades, have in recent years focussed on the Crawley and Horsham, often causing considerable anxiety to hunt supporters and farmers. The hunt has logged 269 incidents of trespass and harassment carried out by the Wilds and their associates in the last two years alone.

Evidence which includes video footage and witness statements was originally to be presented to the High Court on Monday 28th July however, Mr. Justice Cranston, a Solicitor-General in Tony Blair’s Government, stood aside after 30 minutes of legal argument when lawyers representing the hunt & farmers raised formal objections. When he was MP for Dudley North in 2000 Mr. Justice Cranston described fox-hunting as ‘not a sport, but a barbaric and cruel activity’ in a statement to a local newspaper, the Stourbridge News.

He then went on to ‘welcome the chance to vote…and consign this brutal practice to the dustbin of history’.

Two years later, in December 2002, he signed an Early Day Motion, presented by the late Tony Banks MP, which urged Parliament to ban hunting, on the basis that ‘only a total ban on hunting will be acceptable’

The cases was then scheduled to be heard on 20th October 2008, however three days into the hearing Mr Justice King adjourned the case pending a “case management conference” within five or six weeks, followed by a resumption of the full trial of the action at a later date – possibly in the Spring. The adjournment had nothing to do with the strength of evidence produced by the Crawley & Horsham, and they remain confident that when that evidence is eventually presented to the Court, an injunction will be granted.

Victory in this case, will ensure that one small hunt in West Sussex can carry on without harassment and that every hunt and shoot across the country has a recourse in law should they become the target of the same sort of animal rights campaign.

Hunt supporters from around the world have rallied round this week and given an overwhelming amount of support to the Crawley and Horsham Hunt Injunction fund. As well as phenomenal support from UK donors, donations from hunts in France and Portugal, as well as supporters from Gibraltar, Germany, Australia and America have made generous contributions towards the fund.

If anyone wishes to offer financial support however great or small, especially as this case is about much more than hunting, and concerns a person’s civil liberties and freedom to take part in lawful activities without the fear of victimisation and intimidation then they can do so here using paypal.

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