Hunt Monitors

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In The United Kingdom (The U.K.), Hunt Monitors endeavour to observe behaviours of organized hunts and undertake information gathering activities, known as hunt monitoring.

Hunt monitoring[1] is an activity undertaken by concerned individuals who want to see the UK Parliament’s Hunting Act upheld and endeavor to bring the persecutors of our wildlife to justice.

A hunt monitor observes a hunt in England

Hunt monitoring activities are undertaken mainly by private individuals who wish to see The Hunting Act 2004, passed by The U.K. Parliament, upheld by The U.K. Courts. Hunt monitoring is also carried out by a number of animal welfare organizations in The U.K.. The prime aim of hunt monitors is to facilitate successful prosecution of those who do not hunt within the laws of The U.K., through gathering evidence of illegal hunting.[2]

The Hunting Act 2004 became law, in England and Wales, in February 2005. It bans hunting with dogs of particular wild mammals, namely: foxes, deer, hare and mink. The ban was achieved through efforts of many campaigners, over almost a century. In recent years, evidence gathering by hunt monitors became central to the long campaign to ban hunting with hounds, as hunt monitors began to use portable video cameras to record hunting activity.[3] Recorded evidence of hunting with dogs, collected by hunt monitors, was shown in the media and to Members of Parliament, and contributed to evidence used to support passage of The Hunting Bill through Parliament.

Before the hunting with dogs ban came into force, it was reported that an estimated 50,000 hunt supporters had signed a "Hunting Declaration", pledging that they would break any such anti-hunting law, should it be put onto The Statute Book. Local newspapers were invited to hunting rallies, in order to publicize signings of "Hunting Declarations".[4] [5]

Since The Hunting Act became law, in contrast to tackling illegal hare coursing fairly consistently, the police and The Crown Prosecution Services appear to have been reluctant to act against organized hunts. Nevertheless, numerous members of organized hunts have been taken to court. A significant number of members, as well as an organized hunt, acting as a corporate body, have been convicted of hunting illegally [6].

The work of hunt monitors has been recognized by Ann Widdecombe, a former Conservative Minister and MP.[7]

On 22 March 2007, Ann Widdecombe, MP led an Adjournment Debate [8] in The U.K. Parliament, where, in The House of Commons, she raised an issue of enforcement of The Hunting Act 2004. She explained to The House the roles of hunt monitors[9] and the problems which they encounter. She paid tribute to hunt monitors, saying "… some of them are extremely brave."[10]

Later in 2007, on 31 October, Ann Widdecombe, MP held a reception in Parliament,[11] where she showed film to those present, including representatives of 11 police forces, The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and Members of Parliament, which demonstrated that the hunting law was being broken, up and down the country. She pointed out that the only people monitoring these activities were groups of hunt monitors.

In January 2011, The Huntsman and a Terrierman of The Fernie Hunt were found guilty of digging a fox out of a sett [12] and, in May 2012, three members of The Crawley and Horsham Hunt were found guilty of illegal hunting.[13]

In August 2012, two members of The Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt were found guilty of illegal hunting. The Hunt Master and a Terrierman were each convicted at Derby Magistrates' Court.[14]

An illegally hunted fox at Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire 2012

In December 2012, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) took out a private prosecution, using evidence collected by several, independent hunt monitors, against Heythrop Hunt Limited.[15] This was a landmark case, as it was the first time that an organized hunt was prosecuted as a corporate body. The Heythrop Hunt, its Huntsman and its Senior Master all pleaded guilty to four charges of illegally hunting a fox.[16]

Heythrop Hunt hounds maul a fox on 29 February 2012

A major reason why some hunts have been prosecuted and convicted successfully is because of the availability of compelling evidence, gathered by hunt monitors, whose footage of certain, organized hunts' illegal activities has provided important evidence, necessary to bring illegal hunters to justice.

Hunt monitors have been subjected to threats, assault,[17] damage to their cars,[18] cameras and radios, as well as verbal abuse, obstruction and intimidation.[19]

On 13 February 2013, Chris Williamson, MP led a debate in The House of Commons, entitled Policing of Violence at Hunts, to highlight, as he put it "... the antisocial and criminal behaviour ..." directed towards hunt monitors by some hunt supporters.[20] [21]

In 2014, The RSPCA commissioned an independent review of its prosecution activity.[22] In the review, Stephen Wooler, CB refers several times to hunt monitors, e.g., "The volume of footage available [taken by hunt monitors] leaves the objective viewer in no doubt on the balance of probabilities that it is ‘business as usual’ for many hunts because enforcement is so difficult."

While some hunt monitors are employed by organizations and charities, such as The League Against Cruel Sports and International Fund for Animal Welfare, most are private individuals, who are unpaid and self-funded. Some hunt monitors accept donations to support their activities, made through social media sites, such as GoFundMe and Facebook.


  1. ^ "Out with the anti-hunt monitors".
  2. ^ "Out with the hunt monitors". BBC News. 10 March 2005. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  3. ^ Sawer, Patrick (14 March 2009). "Bitter battle between hunts and anti-hunt lobby". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  4. ^ "Hunt supporters defiant over ban". BBC News. 2 November 2003. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  5. ^ Camitjana, Jordi (22 January 2016). "The 'Hunting Declaration' mystery". IFAW. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  6. ^ "Hunting Act 2004 Prosecutions of Organized Hunt Members". Campaign to Strengthen The Hunting Act - POWA Initiative. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  7. ^ Widdecombe, Ann (31 August 2011). "Monitors help keep hunt legal". The Daily Express. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Adjournment Debate on Hunting Act 2004". HC Deb, 22 March 2007, c1053. 22 March 2007. Event occurs at 18.00. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  9. ^ "Parliamentary Business, 22 Mar 2007 : Column 1052". Hansard. 22 March 2007. Event occurs at 18.00. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  10. ^ "Adjournment Debate on Hunting Act 2004". TheyWorkForYou. 22 March 2007. Event occurs at 18.00. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  11. ^ Widdecombe, Ann (6 November 2007). "The law applies to everyone". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  12. ^ "Two Fernie Hunt employees are found guilty of digging fox out of sett". Leicester Mercury. 13 January 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  13. ^ "Three Sussex hunters guilty of illegal fox hunting". BBC News. 14 May 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  14. ^ "Two found guilty of illegally hunting foxes with dogs". BBC News. 9 August 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  15. ^ "Heythrop Hunt members admit illegal fox hunting". BBC News. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  16. ^ Davies, Caroline (17 December 2012). "David Cameron's local hunt convicted after RSPCA prosecution". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  17. ^ "Barged aside". Oxford Mail. 17 January 2007. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  18. ^ "Hunt member slashed tyre on protester's car". Oxford Mail. 15 September 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  19. ^ Hughes, Tim (22 February 2007). "'Hunt man tried to run me down'". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  20. ^ "Policing of Violence at Hunts". TheyWorkforYou. 11 February 2013. Event occurs at 22.05. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  21. ^ "Policing of Violence at Hunts". House of Commons, Hansard c682. 11 February 2013. Event occurs at 22.05. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  22. ^ RSPCA Wooler Review Final Sept 2014 [1]

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