Archive for November, 2011

Inside knowledge

How coincidental that only a few weeks ago an article appeared on the League Against Cruel Sports website entitled The elephant in the room. Looking at the LACS website and its Twitter comments a short time later, it would seem that a very big elephant indeed is in the League’s room and, publicly at least, is being ignored.

Up until a few days ago, someone called Steve Taylor was the League’s Head of Campaigns and Communications and part of the Senior Management Team. It was Taylor who was the LACS front man, constantly appearing in the media condemning the “criminal” hunting world and ‘tweeting’ and ‘blogging’ endlessly, often making juvenile or insulting personal comments.

Perhaps the most bizarre product of Taylor’s mind, fully backed by the League, was a short film he “wrote and produced’, supposedly on behalf of a body called the National Association of Burglars. Letters were sent to every MP inviting them to the film being shown at the Houses of Parliament. (In doing so, parliamentary rules were broken, but that’s another story.) Various members of the LACS staff made their “acting” debuts and the point being made here was that just because burglars continue to break into private property and steal, this is no reason to repeal the Theft Act. Likewise, so the thinking goes, because the Hunting Act is being breached, that is no basis for its repeal.

A curious argument, as I can’t recall any MPs, Peers, police officers, members of the judiciary, senior civil servants or a former Prime Minister ever advocating repeal of the law governing theft. I suspect even burglars would not want to see a complete free -for- all when it comes to stealing, as they too would prefer to hang on to their ill-gotten gains. For a charity to use its funds in this way, while at the same time making light of what can often be a devastating incident for a householder, is highly questionable, but it does say something about the mentality of Taylor and his LACS colleagues.

 Then a bombshell dropped. Under the rather benign heading Changes at League Against Cruel Sports quite a dramatic piece of news was quietly slipped out on the website just before the story hit the national press:

“Steve Taylor, a member of staff at the League Against Cruel Sports has been dismissed for gross misconduct following a disciplinary investigation concerning expenses claims.    The disciplinary papers have been handed to the police and the Charity Commission has been informed as the member of staff concerned has previously worked for other charities.”

Last week Taylor was arrested on suspicion of fraud and was bailed until January next year. Then something strange happened; a new Twitter user popped up and hinted at some very unsavoury financial goings-on and, if true, something that should seriously concern League supporters and potential donors.

Lies, rumour or the truth? Who knows, but it appears that someone who is, or was, very close to the inside workings of the League is not very happy. Yet despite this, the now sporadic LACS’  ‘tweets’ and ‘blogs’ say  nothing of its internal  problems and all we get are upbeat comments following the weekend’s gathering – “Very productive Trustees meeting today. Lots of positive feedback on plans for 2012.”  Really?

 It’s clear that while those in charge of the League Against Cruel Sports would like everyone to believe that all is fine within the organisation, that could not be further from the truth. So while the arrogant moralising from the LACS may have receded thanks to Taylor’s departure, this situation is far from over.

Watch this space.

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Have you ever wondered why the hunting debate seems so divisive? Can it really be the case that there are simply two types of people involved in this argument – those who genuinely care about animals and those who crave nothing more than to terrorise and kill them?

To certain groups, that stark description of the hunting debate suits perfectly well, because they know it delivers precisely the desired result…a result that is far more about banning hunting than improving animal welfare.

Let’s examine one group central to the hunting issue – Members of Parliament. Anti hunting politicians had been told for years that banning hunting with dogs would be easy, popular and inexpensive. Yet when it came to the drafting of that legislation and the detailed scrutiny of the Hunting Bill during its parliamentary passage, things started to become difficult. While of course humans are involved, it is the hounds that actually hunt and therefore the definition of ‘hunting with dogs’ had to be agreed. In previously failed Bills, descriptions such as ‘pursue’, ‘harry’ or ‘chase’ were thought to be unclear and were dropped. Instead, the matter would be left to the courts to decide – a problem for the antis, as the judicial view differed significantly from their own.

The phrase ‘hunting with dogs’ applies to all dogs. A legitimate question arose in the case of dogs that may chase and kill rats, as certain breeds will do naturally. Would that be illegal? Well, no, as it would catch too many innocent people, so hunting rats with the permission of the landowner is exempt. The same situation also applies to rabbits and so they too can be hunted. Interesting to note that such hunts are not generally regarded as ‘organised hunts’ and perhaps therein lies a clue as to the motive of some anti-hunt people.

Another exemption in the Hunting Act permits the flushing of a wild mammal out of cover under certain conditions. One of those conditions is that only two dogs are used and a further condition is that the intention must also be to shoot that animal – a staggering imposition for a supposed animal welfare law. And who decided on the magic number of two dogs? Could it be that three or more slowly starts to become a small pack?  Well, that must be resisted.

The name of Giles Bradshaw may be familiar to some readers of this website and it is certainly well known to the League Against Cruel Sports. Giles owns land in the West Country and uses his three dogs – yes, three dogs – to chase deer away to protect his woodland and he doesn’t shoot. So, he seemingly breaks the hunting law on two counts and shortly after the Hunting Act came into force managed to send DEFRA officials into a spin over whether his actions were illegal or not. Yet no action has been taken against him by either the League or the police and the reason is simple; Giles does nothing remotely cruel in the way he preserves his woodland and prosecuting him would only highlight the ridiculous nature of the Hunting Act.

Back to the farcical parliamentary passage of the Hunting Bill, as it then was. The Labour Party did not want to include the banning of shooting in its moves against hunting for a variety of reasons. This reluctance was made clear in numerous discussions with anti-hunting groups, in statements to the media and in manifesto commitments. However, when the Hunting Bill was going through its committee stage, anti hunting MPs, who frequently showed their ignorance about hunting, were confronted with the fact that terrier work is not just undertaken by organised hunts and working terrier groups, but also gamekeepers for shoots. After a quick bit of consultation, Alun Michael, the minister in charge of the Bill, came up with the totally unprincipled exemption for terrier work to “protect birds for shooting”.  And you thought the League was opposed to killing for sport?

The Hunting Act succeeded in becoming law because it relied heavily on MPs who were always far more keen about preventing a particular type of activity upheld by a particular type of person. For them it was not about animal welfare – if it was, why does the Act contain the illogical exemptions as described above? – it was about winning a political battle at all costs.

There are other exemptions in the Hunting Act which are equally unprincipled and irrational, but will probably never be even thought about by members of the public and this exactly what anti-hunting groups like the League rely upon. Take a look at their latest video featuring TV personality and now LACS vice-president, Alesha Dixon


In it, Alesha says, “I was delighted when MPs voted to ban hunting with dogs in 2004. At last, I thought our foxes, hares and deer would be allowed to live in peace and quiet in their natural habitats.”  Now, Alesha Dixon may very well be a talented young woman in the music and dance arena, but unfortunately she has been seriously misled with regard to the effects of the Hunting Act. In turn, she is now being used to mislead the public. What she is saying is blatantly untrue…and what’s more the League knows it.

The League is fully aware that foxes, hares and deer are not living is some countryside utopia, but are now controlled by methods that are unselective and capable of leaving them wounded –  it’s just that members of the public don’t see it.

They cynically choose to hoodwink the public into thinking that animal welfare is somehow served by the Hunting Act, but refuse to employ any means to prove that contention. They are prepared to use celebrities to convey their message to the public, knowing their claims will rarely be scrutinised. They work with politicians who use the anti-hunting campaign for their own political benefit, knowing that such people probably could not care less about the actual outcome. They claim to want a ‘grown-up’ debate, while fabricating situations in which they childishly think they are scoring points.

Hunting with hounds in the 21st century requires and deserves a mature debate to resolve wildlife management and animal welfare issues, but the way the League Against Cruel Sports operates falls far short of that.

I wonder how they genuinely feel about their arguments and methods of campaigning…or is it, like those anti-hunting MPs, just a matter of winning at all costs?


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It’s no surprise that if you ask some people about their feelings on hunting with hounds many will say they don’t like it. Ask about the hunting ban and they will probably say they agree with it. Then ask those same people if they have read the Hunting Act and understand exactly what it does and 99% will say no.

Even MPs who were so passionately supportive of the Hunting Act when it was being debated in parliament, now run a mile rather than discuss the detail of this failed law. They were quite happy to spend 700 hours trying to ban hunting, but now can’t find just a few moments to hear about the detrimental effects it has had on animal welfare.

This is a problem for the hunting world and one that is exploited to the full by anti-hunting groups. For example, the latest tactic adopted by the League Against Cruel Sports is to recruit the public by way of a campaign that plans to invest more than a million pounds over the next four years on hiring investigations staff and equipment to gather evidence and get hunts into court.”  Adverts have been placed in newspapers calling on the public to “Help us bring to justice those who kill for fun”. 

Genuine wildlife crime is indeed a problem, but this is only made more difficult to detect when lumped together with flawed legislation like the Hunting Act. 

Those employed by the League appear not to understand this law that is entirely a product they helped construct. They hail the Hunting Act as a marvelous piece of legislation, while at the same time condemning “killing for sport”, hunting wild mammals with dogs and terrier work, yet all of these activities are legal under this law.

Another difficulty is that the League and its monitors, unlike the police, can hardly be regarded as unbiased. Despite their claim that “the majority of hunts are flouting the law.” this is not supported by the prosecution figures involving registered hunts. The antis see illegal hunting at every turn, but the authorities tend to construe the law differently. Judge Graham Cottle said the Hunting Act, “is far from simple to interpret or to apply: it seems to us that any given set of facts may be susceptible to differing interpretations” and Joshua Rozenburg, the Legal Editor of the Daily Telegraph and BBC commentator, said, ”The Act is difficult to enforce, as there are so many exemptions…”

So, if those in charge of the League don’t understand the Hunting Act and its monitors don’t understand the Hunting Act, how on earth are members of the general public supposed to know what is legal and what is not?

Here’s a suggestion for the League.

You say that a majority of hunts are breaking the law, but offer little proof. Instead you are spending a million pounds on surveillance equipment, investigators and advertisements designed to raise your profile and which will inevitably result in filling up the files and consuming time of the various police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service. What the cost to public funds will be is anyone’s guess.

So if you’re so sure about your claims, why not fund those prosecutions yourself and then we can all see how good your evidence really is?  In other words, put your money where your mouth is.

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