Sheffield & Doncaster Sabs have had a busy and successful season of sabbing hunts and shoots in the North, between August 2012 and March 2013. The rain in the Summer helped a lot by forcing hunts to delay the start of their seasons considerably (as wheat harvesting in the hunting fields had been delayed). Frozen ground, snow, heavy rain and flooding in December, January and February also forced many cancellations. We’ve not known the rain to get too much for hunts before, so either they can’t hack climate change, or something else is dampening their spirits! Of course we were not put off by the weather, so we went out 6 times in addition to the days mentioned below, when hunts were thankfully nowhere to be found. We’ve sabbed independently, and regularly with Manchester Sabs and other groups, so thanks to them for their help. We’ve had another interesting year with Yorkshire Police, who act as security for the criminal B&BM & Y&AS hunts, but we have continued to succeed in sabbing these hunts.
Our first sab of the season was August 18th, on Saddleworth Moor in the Peak District. We sabbed a large, organised grouse shoot with other Northern groups, on the first Saturday of the shooting season. We stopped them shooting all day, despite them attempting to sneak back onto the vast moorland several times, and the efforts of a handful of West Yorkshire Police officers to stop us stopping them. The shooters were so miffed and bloodthirsty that they resorted to a few minutes of shooting in a farmyard at the end of the day – we’re not sure what they were shooting.
Next we went to our first sab of the Badsworth & Bramham Moor Foxhounds with other Northern groups. We saw off a rough bird shoot near to the hunt on our way, before they had even started to shoot. The hunt claimed to just be out for a ride, but when they came across a fox in a kale field this all changed. The huntsman did his best to scare the fox back into the crops, where it would be killed, but it ran, with the pack of hounds following. Sabs intervened and stopped the pack just as the fox was diving through a hedge to its escape. This made the hunt and supporters very angry – even though they were “only out for a ride”. When they packed up, we checked if the shooters had come back, and they hadn’t!
Next we sabbed the Lunesdale Foxhounds in Cumbria, with a few other groups. We started with a 3 hour stand-off with the hunt at their meet. Then they eventually set off to hunt when the police arrived to protect them, and apart from briefly taking the hounds for a run away from the huntsman, we unfortunately lost them for the rest of the day due to difficult terrain. One sab was wrongfully arrested during the day, and found not guilty in a farce of a court case in February.
At the start of October we sabbed the Rockwood Harriers, not far from Sheffield, with other sab groups. We had a 1 hour stand-off in a field with the hunt first thing, while they tried to work out what to do about us. Then they moved on to try and hunt. Sabs put them off hunting a large patch of woodland by running ahead of them and spraying citronella all over the place. We then took the pack of hounds from them for about an hour, using a hunting horn etc., when they tried to move on again. Eventually this all got a bit much for the hunt and the huntsman and some of his minions – including a topless Peter Andre lookalike and some kind of troll in a nurses uniform – launched an attack on us, injuring a few sabs. With it being the end of the day, we left it at that, but the Rockwood haven’t seen the last of us!
Next we helped with a sab of the Colne Valley Beagles on Rooley Moor, on the edge of Rochdale. We had a weird day, firstly at the meet, then on the moor the hunt had planned to hunt hares on, as although the hunt supporters were there waiting to watch the action, the huntsman and beagles never turned up. We can only guess that he was warned we were in attendance so decided not to come to the meet, and either cancelled or hunted elsewhere without supporters.
We sabbed the York & Ainsty South Foxhounds the following Saturday, with Manchester & West Yorkshire Sabs. We had a fairly uneventful morning with them – which is always a good thing! As the hunt finished, an unlawful pheasant shoot started nearby. Sabs stopped them shooting as soon as they started, and until well into the second half of their day, scaring 30-40 pheasants away in the process. Ultimately North Yorkshire Police unlawfully forced sabs to leave the area, but there would have been very few birds left to shoot.
Towards the end of October, with friends from other groups, we sabbed the Badsworth & Bramham Moor Foxhounds again. We had a great start to the day – spraying almost all the woods the hunt would be hunting, so they would have little chance of following a fox scent. The day took a dramatic turn just as the hunt started at 11am, when their ex-huntsman launched an attack on sabs. No sabs were hurt, but unfortunately 7 sabs (who were not involved in the altercation) were then wrongfully arrested on suspicion of defending themselves against this man (case dropped in April). But all was not lost, as the hunt stopped as a result of the incident, about half an hour after starting! We also found a confused crow hanging upside down with it’s leg caught between tree branches, on the way home. The crow had clearly been there a long time so couldn’t move the leg, but after some rest, food and water at a rescue project, was once again able to, and was released a couple of days later.
At the start of November we attended the Owd Betts meet of the Colne Valley Beagles, only to find the Holcombe Harriers were also meeting there! Some sabs went out onto the moors to follow the Holcombe, who tend to behave when being watched, and were pleased that they trail hunted, whilst we waited around at the meet to see what the CVB did, and were even more pleased when they eventually cancelled and went home, 4 hours later!
On November 10th we Sabbed the B&BM again, in Haddlesey with Manchester Sabs. We had a good morning following them, with them unable to follow the scent of any foxes, despite a large hunt thugs presence, and North Yorkshire Police stopping us and threatening to arrest us illegally.
Next we sabbed the York & Ainsty South with other Northern groups. It was a really good day. We followed the hunt over a large area to begin with, with them not hunting any woods they were passing due to our presence. Then they started properly hunting and we saw a fox running from the hounds. So we sprang into action and stopped the hounds, using lots of hound calling, and scent-masking spray, and the fox managed to escape. After the hunt managed to get the hounds together, they scarpered and eventually packed up.
On November 24th we sabbed the CVB, with Manchester & Liverpool Sabs. They were once again attempting to hunt on Rooley Moor. We pulled up at the meet moments before they planned to head out to hunt, but instead they stalled for about an hour, then attempted to loose us by driving out onto the moors. This didn’t work, so they stalled some more, before going for a drink at the Black Dog pub on the edge of Rochdale. After a while they emerged and went their separate ways. We followed the huntsman just to be sure he wasn’t off to hunt elsewhere and he led us on a long drive around the Rochdale/ Huddersfield area, ending up outside the farm of Saddleworth Moor shooters, who have it in for us after we sabbed them at the start of the season. He had clearly led us there for this reason. So, with the weather turning and daylight fading, we left him to it – victorious, with the beagles having not stepped out of the van once all day!
On December 8th a small group of Sheff Sabs sabbed the Barlow Foxhounds for the first time in ages, near Chesterfield. We started with a long distance stand-off with a bunch of terrier-men who seemed intent on digging out a fox, shortly after the hounds had been in cry there, but they eventually gave up. Then we moved on to the huntsman and hounds and intervened to stop them as they pursued a fox, giving it time to escape. Then one young chap, clearly disappointed by the lack of bloodshed in his day, decided to brick our mini-bus windscreen while we were driving at about 30mph on a B-road! This didn’t deter us as we stuck around to sab the hunt, whilst he fled.
We went out independently again on the 15th, and had an unusual day. We started by parking up outside the Ecclesfield/ Holme Valley Beagles kennels on the edge of Sheffield, causing them to cancel their day of hunting once they realised we were there. We waited around for a while just to make sure, then went North to look for the Y&AS, who were hunting near Tadcaster. We started to follow the hunt, but before too long came across an exhausted roe deer, which couldn’t stand, lying just inside a wood. The deer had and old injury to her leg, and fresh swelling to the head. It seems a bit of a coincidence that she would be in this state on land that the hunt had hunted over a few hours before, and it not be connected to the hunt, so we suspect she had been chased by the hounds, and fell jumping a fence before we got there. We managed to get the deer to a wildlife rescue project, who took excellent care of her, but unfortunately she died the next day.
On Boxing Day we sabbed the Airedale Beagles near Skipton with Grimsby & Liverpool Sabs. This hunt has, for no particular reason, not been sabbed for about 20 years, so they must have been a little surprised to see us! We parked up at the pub where they were meeting and watched as they began to stall and huddle upon spotting us. Soon enough North Yorkshire Police arrived, with one of them literally shaking with rage at the sight of us. He instigated searches of any sabs he could get hold of, and of one or our mini-buses, and threatened us with arrests, as our appearance was upsetting him. Despite his best efforts to aid and abet these animal killing criminals, our presence alone was enough to force them to cancel their day of hunting altogether and head home to their kennels. Not a bad result for the most prestigious day on the hunting calendar!
On Saturday January 5th we started our day, with Manchester & Liverpool Sabs, near the kennels of the High Peak Harriers, where we were joined by 6 police cars (one in full siren) and a police helicopter. Despite being massively outnumbered, and held for some time to verify our driver’s details, we were able to follow the hunt to their meet at Peak Forest, Derbyshire. The hunt blatantly hunted 2 hares in front of sabs, who were able to jump in with sprays to cover their scent and also call the hounds away with horn calls. Despite being threatened for much of the day by a small number of support, who also started two fights with sabs, we followed them back to the meet where they packed up at 2:30pm, having not killed a single hare.
Next we sabbed the York & Ainsty South Foxhounds with Manchester & Liverpool Sabs, at one of their meets in Humberside. The hunt blatantly hunted 3 foxes during the course of the day, but sabs were there each time to stop the hounds with whips (hounds are trained to stop at the sound of whips being cracked) and sprays (to mask the fox scent). 4 deer were also disturbed by the hounds as they repeatedly hunted through woods. Of course the police were on stand-by to deal with any criminal activity – and what did they do when 2 foxes were hunted across the road in the space of a few minutes? They left. They managed to grab one sab before leaving, for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING (with no charges brought against the sab), so a new compensation case against the police will begin soon. The hunt helpfully led us to a rough bird shoot at one point, so we forced them to pack-up early too. Then we gave the hunt a bit more of a run-around till they packed up, as they stayed out very late in sheer desperation to kill something, and undoubtedly to try and annoy us.
January 19th saw most of the country covered in snow, so we decided to take a look at the Ecclesfield/ Holme Valley Beagles, who hunt on foot. They drove out of the kennels twice, but we didn’t follow as we could see they weren’t carrying the beagles. They probably hoped to loose us on the roads, come back for the beagles, then get on with their day, but instead they cancelled.
We received a tip-off that the Y&AS would be hunting on foot on January 26th, because of deep snow. So us, Manchester & West Yorkshire Sabs went to the meet and began to pre-spray as many woods as we could (to mask fox scent), but after a couple of hours of waiting around it became apparent that they were cancelling and heading back to the kennels, after having had a good look at the sab vans parked up around them.
At the start of February we went back to the kennels of the Ecclesfield/ Holme Valley Beagles. We totally foiled their day again, as they weren’t prepared to hunt with us around. We stayed there for over 5 hours as fluctuating visits from police and huntscum driving back and forth kept on making us wonder if they hoped to sneak out late – but they didn’t!
On the 16th we had a near disastrous day, with both of our vehicles breaking down before we got to the hunt! We eventually got things together and joined Liverpoool Sabs, who were already in action at the York & Ainsty South Foxhounds. We kept the hunt running, and half-way through the day saw a fox running way ahead of the hounds. The hounds eventually picked up on its scent, but sabs had already covered its tracks, and caused enough commotion for the huntsman to take the hounds in the opposite direction. We stuck at it till they packed up, ensuring it was a kill-free day.
We were with the Y&AS again the next Saturday. We had a brilliant morning, with the hunt unable to move without bumping into a group of sabs. Then later in the day the hounds were hunted through very thick woodland. One fox was seen running from the woods, and another a few fields away, and both had their tracks covered without the hunt members even knowing.
We had a top day of sabbing on the March 2nd, with a few other sab groups, at the Badsworth & Bramham Moor Foxhounds’ last meet of the season. The hunt was kept on the move all day, with the hounds only picking up a fox scent once, and sabs intervening to help them loose it.
We had a horrible day sabbing on the 9th, at the York & Ainsty South, with their hounds ripping a fox apart towards the end of the day on the Escrick estate, and the huntsman sounding the horn to celebrate the kill. We had had a successful morning, but as the fox tried to hold its ground in a thick crop field, we were unable to intervene. Surprisingly North Yorkshire Police have took quite an interest in this case of illegal hunting – we’ll see how long that lasts.
Disgusted by what we had seen, sabs from a few groups made a special effort to sab the Y&AS’s last meet of the season on a Tuesday 3 days later at Escrick Park. Sabs were in the area two hours before the hunt, spraying woods and fields with litre upon litre of water and citronella oil, to mask the scent of the resident foxes. This resulted in them passing through where we had sprayed without the hounds picking up any scent. Once they started we stuck with the huntsman and hounds near enough all day, running rings round them, spraying even more ground and calling the hounds to distract them from hunting. This resulted in them frequently changing direction, avoiding certain woods and packing up without a kill – despite hunting till 5pm!
We finished the hunting season off, with a few other groups, on March 30th with a visit to the Middleton Foxhounds. This hunt haven’t been sabbed in about 10 years (for no particular reason), and as other hunts around them had already finished for the season, many had come to join in for this last meet. We had a lot of success from start to finish – repeatedly taking control of the hounds and covering fox’s scent, and they even told us we were ruining their day! Unfortunately we think they may have managed a quick kill, as when we caught up with them at one point several hounds had blood on them, but the hunt didn’t seem pleased with how the day went so it’s hard to tell. Things turned a bit dramatic towards the end of the day, when we successfully stopped the hounds as they were “in cry” on a fox scent, and 2 sabs were unfortunately arrested (but we can’t say a lot about it as the case is ongoing).
So with the hunting season finished, we will soon be sabbing the badger cull instead, as well as doing fund-raising and recruiting events over the Summer. If you can help with sabbing in the field, driving/ navigating one of our mini-buses, helping with mini-bus repairs, infiltrating hunts/ providing information, or fund-raising/ donating to our groups then please get in touch.