Vegan Life Article, Autumn 2016

This article was published by the Vegan Life magazine in autumn 2016. It is an exclusive report, giving insight from a HIT investigator involved in the operation.

All HIT investigators are vegan and this was a great opportunity to raise awareness within the vegan community. Thanks to the magazine for helping give a voice to those animals who suffer and die for bloodsports.

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Hunt Investigation Team.

The Hunt Investigation Team (HIT) was launched formally in June 2016 following our investigation into the criminal activities of the South Herefordshire Hunt (SHH). We filmed hunt staff bringing wild foxes to the hunt kennels and hunt personnel taking live fox cubs into the hound block to be killed, we believe by being thrown live to the baying hounds in a medieval training ritual to prepare the hounds for the coming season.

HIT is a small, specialist, highly trained team, we are committed to exposing the truth about fox hunting and other cruel bloodsports. All HIT activists are vegan. A vegan cruelty free lifestyle and a shared respect for the rights of all animals is the cornerstone and inspiration for all the work we do.

Our investigation into the SHH began in March 2016. By May we had gathered enough evidence to suspect that live foxes were being removed from the wild and taken to the hunt kennels. HIT immediately dispatched a team to the kennels in the dead of night and discovered a young fox cub in a cage. At this stage, whilst alarmed, we believed that the hunt were repopulating their territory. This is common practice and involves foxes being removed from areas where they are not tolerated (shooting estates etc) and into hunt territory to ensure a steady supply of foxes to hunt. We placed covert cameras in various locations at the kennels site. The team attended the kennels most nights for the following fortnight, more foxes were found on site (4 in total) and the investigators regularly reviewed the footage from the cameras.

When disturbing footage was viewed of foxes being removed from the cage with a grasper and being moved around the site we contacted the police and RSPCA immediately. Legal advice was sought and the parameters for action needed by both organisations. The advice was very clear, although the footage was of interest and disturbing, there wasn’t enough for them to act. We were advised to keep filming to ascertain exactly what was happening to the foxes.

We placed more cameras into the site and in the early hours of 28/5/16 footage from the additional cameras revealed the brutal truth, investigators were devastated and horrified to discover that 2 young cubs aged between 6 and 10 weeks had been taken that day into the hound block and we believe, thrown alive to the pack of dogs.

Further footage showed hunt personnel throwing the dead bodies of the foxes into a commercial waste bin on the site, next to the kennel block. At 02:00 hours that morning we spoke to the Special Operations Unit of the RSPCA and the police, both decided that there was now enough evidence to act. Haunted by the gruesome fate of these cubs, the HIT team returned to the site and with a thunderstorm raging overhead, retrieved the broken bodies of the cubs from the waste bin. Their bodies were handed to the police, their mangled bodies and the subsequent post mortem results form a vital part of the evidence in the current police investigation.

When legal proceedings finish, it is our intention to bury these little cubs. We want to honour and dignify their lives in a ceremony that will acknowledge and remember their short tragic lives. This will be open to all, the public, the media, the agencies involved in the case and the brave members of our team that not only bore witness but brought to the attention of the world the plight of these fox cubs in a diligent and highly professional manner.

The police and RSPCA raided the hunt kennels in the days following. Arrests were made and evidence seized. The criminal investigation is now being headed up by Hereford CID and further arrests have been made bringing the total to 5. All suspects remain on police bail until August 2017. We expect serious charges, we expect convictions and custodial sentences for all involved.

The South Herefordshire Hunt has not hunted at all since the arrests. They have missed the entire 2016-2017 entire season. The Master of Foxhounds Association and the influential Bailey’s have removed the SHH from lists of hunting packs in the UK. Bailey’s have gone further and have asked for the hunt to be disbanded completely.

We know that our investigation has devastated the wider hunting community and believe that any prospects of a repeal of the 2004 Hunting Act have been set back for many years. The SHH are despised locally and nationally, it is hard to concieve of a person or organisation that would want to associate with this hunt. It is not unreasonable to imagine that the SHH, founded in 1869 could well close completely as a result of our investigation and subsequent criminal case against them.

HIT has grown since the story of the cubs broke on national media, we have received support and offers of help from some incredible people. We thank those people from the bottom of our hearts. We have been able to purchase high end surveillance equipment, we are committed to training and continual improvement in all aspects of surveillance techiques. We have also been contacted by numerous individuals from within the hunting community who have reported on malpractice, cruellty or the internal affairs of specific hunts. We acknowledge your bravery.

The story of the fox cubs has reached many people all over the world, our investigation is ground breaking. The scenes that we filmed have never been recorded and shown before in the UK as far as we are aware. This is testimony to the bravery, compassion and professionalism of the HIT investigators who live daily with the horrors that they witnessed at the kennels of the South Herefordshire Hunt. This is just the start for HIT, with your support, help and donations we believe that we can achieve similar and greater results.”