to employ hi-tech anti-hunt equipment such as hidden cameras
Gray, Environment Correspondent
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
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."