Hunting The Hunters


Saboteurs to employ hi-tech anti-hunt equipment such as hidden cameras

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent

Hunt saboteurs are opening up a new front in their battle with hunt followers by using hi-tech monitoring equipment, including telescopic lenses and hidden cameras. As the new hunting season begins today, animal rights activists are threatening to disrupt meets as "observers", as well as joining hunts undercover.

The saboteurs will film constantly using new telescopic lenses so hunts can be monitored from a distance. They will also use hidden cameras in clothing and time-delay devices dotted around the countryside. The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), that has invested tens of thousands of pounds in the new equipment, claim more opportunities to film hunts and better quality footage will enable them to bring more successful court cases. However, the Countryside Alliance insisted the law is so unclear that it remains almost impossible to prosecute anyone for hunting with dogs.

Hunting was banned in 2005 but since then the number of people taking part in the sport has continued to increase, with 50,000 mounted followers expected this year compared to 40,000 in 2004. This year there are expected to be a further 50,000 supporters following the hunt on foot or in cars in order to put pressure on any new Government to overturn the law.

The Tories have said that if they win the election, they will allow a free vote on repealing the ban. The Hunting Act has been criticised as a "farce" because of the difficulty of proving those taking part are actively hunting a wild animal rather than simply riding to hounds. However Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive of the LACS, said activists and the police will be working together this year to gather as much evidence as possible.

“Our hunt observers have undergone further training this year and have been provided with high-tech equipment to enable them to collect quality evidence that we can then pass to the police,” he said. “We are absolutely determined that we will see a dramatic increase in prosecutions this season, and hunters should be very aware that we will stop at nothing to bring them to justice.”

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have published a new investigators manual to advise police officers on what counts as illegal. But Tim Bonner, of the Countryside Alliance, said it remains almost impossible to prosecute anyone for hunting with dogs. He said that since the law came into force only three people have been successfully prosecuted, while six attempts to prosecute have failed.

"The results of the attempts by animal rights activists to bring prosecutions against hunts have in nearly every case ended in failure," he said. "They are resulting in thousands of hours of police time being wasted on an unworkable and pointless piece of legislation."


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