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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 February, 2005, 10:44 GMT
West: Hunting is banned, but the hunt goes on
Dave Harvey
Dave Harvey
Politics Show West

Hunters gathering
Has the last horn really sounded?

It's been happening for centuries, and it took 700 hours of parliamentary debate to ban it. But this weekend, hundreds of hunters were out looking, for all the world unchanged by the ban.

They gathered in pink and black coats at farms. They drank port and ginger wine, sometimes together.

They let packs of hounds out of lorries, sounded horns, and ran out across the fields.

If hunt protestors thought they had consigned all this to history, they were wrong.

Because, of course, there is no crime in dressing up, jumping on horseback, and riding around with dogs.

Chasing foxes?

The Act prohibits chasing a wild mammal with more than two hounds - and that is incredibly hard to prove.

To find out just how hard, I went out with a Wiltshire hunt on the last legal day of hunting.

I knew they were chasing foxes - but would I be able to prove it?

With a Land Rover and a driver who knew the hunt, all I saw was horses crossing roads, horses and hounds in the distance sniffing round a wood.

We showed our footage to Andrew Gregg, a leading legal expert in Bristol.

Hunters
So many livelihoods are linked with hunting
"There's nothing illegal here. They could be exercising their hounds - which is fine - or trail hunting - I've seen nothing that looks like evidence so far."

But we followed the same hunt on horseback. One of our reporters is an experienced rider.

He has not hunted, but he has played polo, so he rode with the hunt, and carried a camera. What would he see?

The Terrier Men

Within minutes, he saw a fox run to ground, chased down a hole.

The hounds gathered round the hole, then the so called Terrier Men dug the hole out, and put a terrier down.

The fox, as they do, had vanished. But had he been there, he would have been shot.

"No offence there either," said Andrew Gregg. "It is quite legal to dig out vermin, like a fox, and shoot it humanely. But had they come across a badger, there'd be trouble - they are protected."

Terrier man
Terriers are an important part of the hunt
Soon the hunt has picked up another scent, and this time they catch a fox.

Our reporter on horseback is there with his camera when the hounds, having killed it, eat the remains.

It is grim viewing - and had it been filmed after the ban, legal dynamite.

Trail hunting?

"You've got some evidence here," says Andrew.

"It's clear that a pack of hounds has been hunting, and killed a fox. They would have to argue they'd be trail hunting, and lost control of the hounds, if they wanted to protest their innocence."

So now we know the evidence the police are looking for.

Without an experienced horseman, who can also film while riding, neither police nor animal rights groups will be able to get it.

If anyone thought this ban would spell sudden death to hunting - they had better think twice.

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SEE ALSO:
Meet presenter David Garmston
21 Feb 03 |  Politics Show
Final hunts held as ban looms
17 Feb 05 |  Politics


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