This season has been pretty different to others of recent years because of the badger cull. When last season finished we knew the badger cull could soon be upon us. We knew we weren’t going to stand for it, so geared up to sabbing it with some surveying of badger setts in Gloucestershire – admittedly we should have put more time into this, but we didn’t really think the cull would actually happen. Nevertheless, we played a big part in totally destroying DEFRA’s culls and saved thousands of badgers, with sabs in the cull zones for near enough their entire duration.
Amongst badger surveying, before the cull started, we decided to show our disgust at the start of the grouse shooting season, with other sab groups in Derbyshire on August 17th. We thoroughly searched the Peak District and didn’t find any shoots, so looked further north and found a grouse shoot near Halifax, which stopped shooting for the day as soon as we approached – job done.
Then, with the cull on from the end of August, we had to mostly put hunts and shoots on the backburner for over 3 months. Our only visit to hunts in October was when 2 of our sabs sabbed the York & Ainsty South hunt on the 30th and took the hounds from the huntsman as he attempted to hunt foxes, which set the scene nicely for when we all returned from the cull.
In November, we sabbed a pigeon shoot and the Cotswold Vale Farmers hunt while we were in Gloucestershire, with Nottingham Sabs, and our sabs not in the cull zones sabbed the Quorn hunt with Manchester Sabs.
We were back home for sabbing hunts from the start of December. Firstly we visited the High Peak hunt in Derbyshire. They managed to escape us first thing so we had to trawl round loads of meets to locate them, but when we did we were pleased to find them trail hunting (presumably because they knew we were around), and even more pleased when they packed early when they spotted us! Then it was on to the York & Ainsty South hunt for December 14th, 17th and 21st. Sabbing this hunt has been a very regular thing this season, with our group working alongside different combinations of sabs from Liverpool, Manchester, and West Yorkshire at different times. A fox was hunted from a small wood on the 14th, which ran across a road, and, as sabs willed it to run to them in a field, it did. Its scent was then masked by sabs and the pursuing hounds were stopped. We returned that Tuesday for another good sab, and again the next Saturday, when the huntsman’s temper flared on falling from his horse and a few hunt riders attempted to run sabs down with their horses. On Boxing Day we helped sab a joint meet of the Colne Valley and Holme Valley Beagles (who are pretty much 1 hunt these days) at the Fleece Inn, Holme. With sabs watching their every move they didn’t hunt at all, and other than standing in a field for half an hour, did little more than drink and try and insult us for the whole day! We ended December with the Y&AS at Escrick Park. It was a dramatic day, with 3 foxes being deliberately hunted during the day (all of which escaped death), and sabs stopping a digout of a fox from a badger sett and having to fight off terriermen who used spades and a gun as weapons. The CPS are currently making a decision on prosecuting the terriermen for various things they did on this day.
January saw the York & Ainsty South hunt draft in a bunch of wannabe-thug posh boys from York and security guards with alsations (from X9K9) to try and stop sabs sabbing. They also started using walkie talkies, video cameras, and even a trail on a rope! This didn’t work at all and we stuck at it all the same. On Tuesday 9th, with sabs from the Northwest, we sabbed the Colne Valley Beagles who left their meet for home without unboxing the beagles, because we were watching. And we sabbed the High Peak hunt again on the 11th, who, seeing us parked outside, left the hounds at the kennels and simply went for a horse ride!
February was another successful month. We had predicted a fairly boring day with the boring Ecclesfield Beagles on the 1st, but on the day found they were having a joint meet with the Colne Valley Beagles who were being sabbed by Liverpool and West Yorkshire Sabs – so the 3 sab groups met the 2 hunts who were walking out onto the moors together! A short pleasant stand-off was had while the hunts weighed up their options, before a walk back to their vehicles to put the beagles away and go to the pub. On this walk the beagles put up a white hare and were stopped by sabs as they started to go for it. We then sabbed the Y&AS on the 8th, 15th, 22nd and 25th. We see this hunt intentionally going after foxes every time we attend (apart from the occasional day when there’s not many woods or foxes in the area) and routinely have to intervene. We now know that many landowners are refusing this hunt access to their land for a number of reasons – a big one being sabs – and this was very evident on the 8th, with them hunting round and round in circles all day, and them packing up just after changing horses due to a landowner denying them entry to his land on the 22nd. Tuesday the 25th was a good day of team work sabbing them with Liverpool Sabs, while they were hosting visitors from a Devon hunt who had brought their hounds up for the hunt. The hunt was after foxes all day, so sabs took control of the hounds at least 5 times to disrupt their effectiveness. A squirrel was also found caught by the leg in a trap and released. February also brought the positive development that terriermen stopped coming out with the hunt on Saturdays, which is near enough unheard of for such a hunt.
On March 1st we sabbed the High Peak Harriers. It was another good day for the most part. The hunt seem to be slowly learning they can enjoy the Peak District without killing animals and left their hounds at the kennels upon sight of us again and just went for a long horse ride. The day was only tarnished by seeing 1 of their horses collapsing and dying after about 10 minutes of riding. The following week we went to the Y&AS on Thursday and Saturday. They were supposed to meet at Escrick Park on the Thursday, but they didn’t go out at all. Talks with local contacts then confirmed, via 2 trustworthy sources, that the hunt have been banned from Escrick Park and the estate just haven’t bothered to tell us! The Saturday was a meet at Stillingfleet. It was a good day, with the hunt literally bouncing between us, Liverpool and West Yorkshire Sabs whichever way they turned and packing up without even having caught a whiff of a fox! Mid March, we sabbed the last meet of the Sinnington hunt (and last meet of vile huntsman Adrian Dangar) in a 45 person strong group of sabs. The visit was in response to them attacking a lone hunt monitor on the 1st. This hunt haven’t had a full group of sabs with them for over 20 years so they weren’t best pleased to see us! We took the hounds from the hunt as often as we could from the start of the day and caused them to leg it all day and, we think, pack up earlier than they planned to. On the 22nd we sabbed in Northamptonshire. We started by totally destroying the Ryford Chase and Pytchley fox hunt’s plan of an unusual rabbit hunt in Thornby, with a number of other sab groups. The hunt started a huge fight at the meet, which ended well upon introduction of some well aimed self defence, and the Ryford Chase huntsman boxing up the hounds and driving home to Gloucestershire on his own! A prosecution against the main aggressors from this incident is in progress. We then went on to a meet of the pitifully small Woodland Pytchley hunt nearby. Little to report with this lot other than being harassed to the extreme by Northamptonshire Police, who at one point blocked us in, damaged one of our windows and threatened to tasar us even though we had done everything they told us to. IPCC complaint to follow! We finished the season off on the 29th, with the Middleton fox hunt. With loads of other sab groups joining us, we had a really good day, taking control of the hounds several times and stopping them when they were after foxes twice.
We’ve also joined in with the first endeavours into online campaigning this season, with ourselves and other northern groups publicly asking pubs and landowners to stop facilitating the York & Ainsty South hunt. So far, we’ve “approached” the Crown Inn pub, the Durham Ox pub, and of course Escrick Park, all of which are now refusing the hunt access. We have also asked Askham Bryan College – a college which bizarrely thinks it’s acceptable to host fox hunt meets – to sever ties with the hunt and are informed they will do so if the hunt are prosecuted for events of 28/12/13. We’d like to thank all of our supporters for help with this, and for many generous donations and other support and are pleased to say we are finishing the season with no legal cases against sabs ongoing (as they’ve all been dropped!).