Hunting Office | No foxhunting before 29th March

The so-called Hunting Office (which ‘runs’ fox hunting out of its HQ in Cirencester, and which was burnt badly when webinars discussing how to use ‘smokescreens’ to avoid being caught hunting were leaked by the Hunt Saboteurs Association) has been quiet of late – presumably a combination of not wanting to mess up again now that one of its webinar guests is due in court for “intentionally encouraging or assisting others to commit an offence under the Hunting Act 2004“, and the welcome fact that hunting has been temporarily shut down during the current lockdown (something it inexplicably avoided last time around).

However a 22nd February update on their website advises “registered hunts” that “hunting activities will not resume before 29th March. We will keep all hunts updated regarding the evolving restrictions which will be in place after that date.”

This comes after the government laid out its ‘roadmap’ for exiting lockdown, which included the line that “the Stay at Home requirement will remain, but people can leave home for recreation outdoors such as a coffee or picnic with their household or support bubble, or with one person outside their household” until the 29th. Good news for wildlife, but less encouraging was the additional suggestion that, subject to certain criteria being met after easing restrictions, that “Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, will be allowed to reopen, and people can take part in formally organised outdoor sports“.

It was by claiming that fox hunting is an outdoor sport that hunts were allowed to break the ‘Rule of Six’ last autumn (see – Hunting Seeks Way Round New Covid Law). Presumably they will be aiming to do the same this spring.

Whether any hunts will have the time to get out and commit wildlife crime after the 29th (which falls on a Monday) we will just have to wait and see. The official ‘season’ (which is a nonsensical phrase considering that fox hunting is illegal) mostly ends in March, largely because the farmland hunts use will have crops growing by then or will be full of spring lambs and because of the requirement to protect ground-nesting birds in areas like the New Forest. Never mind of course that many vixens will be pregnant by then too…

Many hunts are in dire economic straits after months without income, though, so they may try to extend the season if they can. Whether many landowners will want to accommodate an illegal hobby that has become increasingly toxic after a long series of revelations and bad publicity remains to be seen…