Plea for witnesses as trouble flares at fell pack drag hunt

Date: Friday 21st March 2014

A FOX is alleged to have been killed and a man assaulted after trouble flared at a legal drag hunt near Patterdale.

Protesters and spectators clashed at the Ullswater Foxhounds event on Saturday lunchtime close to Grisedale Beck.

There were reported to have been a series of incidents which prompted one anti-hunt protester to contact the Herald. He said: “Monitors from Cumbria Hunt Watch and Cumbria Hunt Saboteurs witnessed the fox being killed and one of the hounds running off with the fox in its mouth, shaking it like a rag doll.

“Although there were dozens of hunt supporters present no attempt was made by any of them to prevent the kill. Earlier in the day monitors had witnessed a fox being chased by a hound from the same pack.”

It was alleged that the Cumbria Hunt Saboteurs monitor was assaulted as he attempted to video the kill. “A support vehicle for the monitors was blocked in by hunt support vehicles until the police arrived,” said the protester.

Anti-hunt campaigners say numerous people out enjoying a day’s walking also witnessed hunt activity and they are being asked to give statements to the police.

“Monitors from Cumbria Hunt Watch and Cumbria Hunt Saboteurs believe large landowners such as the National Trust should now ban hunts from their land. Monitors believe that the National Trust and other large land owners hide behind unenforced licence agreements which essentially only serve to facilitate illegal hunting,” said an anti-hunt campaigner.

A legal drag hunt involves the laying of a scent, usually animal-based (fox urine) prior to the hounds being released. The hounds then “hunt” the scent line and provide an activity for supporters to follow.

In the wake of Saturday’s trouble, members of the Eden neighbourhood policing team appealed for information about “a number of alleged incidents”.

Officers were present in the area to monitor the event and the activity surrounding it. Police said that also in attendance were around 15 masked hunt monitors, who were there to protest against the hunt and who police said clashed verbally with other people. More officers were deployed as tensions between the two parties increased.

Allegations made to police included that a fox was killed during the drag hunt. Police said a number of other people were identified as being in the area at the same time, but, when officers spoke to them they said they did not witness the alleged incident and did not provide any information.

Also alleged was that one of the hunt monitors was assaulted by a supporter but uninjured, and that a collision occurred between a vehicle and a pedestrian at Grassthwaite Howe, near Patterdale. Police said they had spoken with a number of people but that no information was forthcoming.

Sergeant John Chambers, of Cumbria police, said: “We will investigate any allegations, from all parties. However, in order to do this we need co-operation from the public and for them to give us information about what they have seen.

“We also understand there may be video footage of criminal activity and we would appreciate those with footage to share it with us to help with our investigations.” Anyone with any information is asked to call Cumbria police on 101 and ask to speak to an officer from the Eden neighbourhood policing team.

Ullswater Foxhounds was given an opportunity by the Herald to comment on the alleged incident but declined to do so.

A spokesman for the National Trust said: “Following the Hunting Act 2004, which banned the hunting of animals with dogs, we have granted licences where it is appropriate locally and where they are compatible with the trust’s purposes, which include public access and the protection of rare animals, birds or fragile habitats. We expect anyone using our land to comply with the law.

“We would urge anyone who has witnessed what they believe to be criminal activity to report it to the police. The allegations refer to an area which is not owned by us. Cumbria police, which was present on the day, is investigating the allegations and has asked for witnesses to come forward with information. Where this has happened in the past and someone has been convicted of illegal activity on our land, we have withdrawn their licence to use our land.”