Tetcott Hunt in Stratton

This is not an opinion piece (it would be much stronger). I am trying to provide a balanced article. If I haven’t succeeded, please comment, but keep it polite because I neither condone nor accept rudeness. Thanks.

So, I was kindly sent some photos of the Tetcott Hunt which met at New Year in Stratton. I will set out my stall now to say I in no way support hunting; indeed, I am anti it. My daughter rides horses and works with them. She is anti it, too. So, not all horse riders are pro-hunting.

However, we have to accept that hunting happens and some people derive enjoyment from it, but I’m with conservationist Chris Packham on the subject. Nonetheless, it is a contentious issue with little agreement from both sides of the hunting divide. On Bude Banter, the discussion around these photos attracted 125 comments, varying in nature. Some see it as a country sport, a local tradition, a joy to behold, a chance to dress up and be the centre of attention, while others see it as overt or covert (therein lies the rub) animal cruelty. There obviously isn’t much consensus for there is no halfway house.

Fox hunting started in the 1600s or at least that is when hounds were specifically trained to hunt foxes. Modern-day fox hunting was introduced around the 1780s, so it is certainly a tradition. However, it is a tradition which was around in the days of bear and bull baiting, hare coursing and cockfighting. Not all traditions are good (though I am sure some of you will disagree, and that is your right). Others feel it is a country sport, which ‘townies’ should keep quiet about (though Stratton is a town). I’m not sure people have to live in the countryside (though I do) to have a valid view on an activity. Anyway, the upshot is that hunting with hounds has been a pastime of some communities for many years, supported by landowners and even the Royal Family.

The Hunting Bill wasn’t passed until 2004, and even then it was challenged by interest groups. The Hunting Act came into force in 2005, making hunting wild mammals such as foxes, hare, deer and mink with dogs illegal in England and Wales. There is an ongoing enforcement problem as hunt groups continue to trail hunt, which IFAW suggests leads to a trail of lies. 

So, there lies the problem. Riding horses, jumping fences, and having a jolly get-together is fine, but trail hunting in many areas (I am not saying in this one) has led to masking of lawbreaking. Only recently in Okehampton, investigations have been taking place into illegal hunting activity. Someone will always say the police should spend their time on other things but laws are laws and they are there to investigate illegal behaviour.

Trail hunting is not to be confused with drag hunting. Unlike drag hunting where there is a planned route which usually involves jumping a line of fences, trail hunting is designed to replicate traditional quarry hunting where there isn’t a set route or a finishing time. There are more to this, in order for you to have a successful hunting, you need the best hunting gadgets for you to use, go to Hunter Guide, and learn more about the world of hunting as well as the needed tools that you should use. It is, therefore, harder to monitor. So, to my mind, hunts can still enjoy the thrill of the chase and jumping fences without killing animals if they drag hunt. Tetcott Hunt, if I understand correctly, is a trail hunt.

The hunters were thrilled with the display of support they received in Stratton. However, I’d suggest that people do like a spectacle and hunters in their regalia do provide that. It does not necessarily imply all onlookers were supportive even if they were not protesting, but some will have enjoyed it; you will know where you stand on the issue. I’m not convinced by hunters who tell me they are not really hunting. Certainly, if you Google Boxing Day hunt activity around the country, there were some shocking incidences.




  • Nige says:

    OK, this article is civil and pulls its punches, but let’s be totally frank – it is very clearly an opinion piece and is heavily biased. I think you probably realise that. After-all, you manage no more than a paragraph before you share your opinion of the hunt, and the rest of the article follows suit.

    You also methodically go through the reasons that people think the hunt exists (rural background, tradition, enjoyment, spectacle) and try to debunk them. Fine – a worthwhile point of view – but not very balanced, and definitely opinion.

    For example, look at your references and sources: Chris Packham, the IFAW. You could have easily mentioned David Bellamy, also a conservationist, or the Countryside Alliance, or the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, as examples of pro-hunting opinions. You have hand-picked opinions which you agree with. That’s fine, completely understandable, but not balanced (if that was really what you were aiming for).

    I was expecting a genuinely two-sided article. As for the pros, perhaps a word from farmers who believe they have experienced loss or damage due to foxes. A look at the humanity and practicality of other methods of fox control. A look at the class bigotry involved by those who fling around inaccurate slurs such as ‘toffs’. A look at the hypocrisy and inconsistency of people that protest cruelty in occasional fox hunting, yet happily turn a blind eye on mass meat production on a daily basis which involves them. You also could have looked into why many believe trail hunts are preferable for packs of hounds (and spectators) as opposed to a drag hunt. You could have looked into any of this, not because you agree with it, but simply to achieve balance.

    To be clear, the article is absolutely fine – you are completely entitled to broadcast your opinion… it is your blog, and we all know that you will receive a swathe of affirmation and support for this point of view. But perhaps it isn’t wise to dress it up as a “balanced article”. Sadly, it is no such thing.

    I don’t intend to hang around for a debate or wade into Facebook comments, because I have seen the bigotry and hostility on both sides of the argument. Ironically, I don’t have strong opinions either way, and I wouldn’t describe myself as pro or anti – I just wanted to take you up on the offer of showing why this is very much an opinion piece and far from balanced. I hope you don’t feel offended. I mean no ill-will towards you and wish you a Happy New Year.

  • Thank you, Nige; I appreciate your comment and certainly wish I’d had the time to create a more balanced article with more sources included. I wouldn’t say it is totally unbalanced, but certainly, it is easy to read my own view on it. Thank you for taking the time to comment and so civilly. I wish you well. I think my key point was that trail hunting is unfortunately used by some groups to hide a multitude of sins. Drag hunting seems to be a legitimate way forward for people to enjoy the spectacle without the kill.

  • Clive says:

    Balance is balance,bias is bias. I wholeheartedly agree with Nige and wished you had voiced both sides of the story.

    There are many opinions on what represents animal cruelty. Where does a hound killing a fox differ from a cat killing a mouse/rabbit, a fox killing a pet chicken, a terrier killing a squirrel/rat, a chicken eating a worm, or a car running over any of the above? You could argue people/owners involved in any of these situations are culpable.

    The goal of a responsible civil society should be to educate people/owners to try their best to operate in a way that seeks to minimise cruelty to animals in the minds of others. However we should start from an acceptance of the fact that nature is regularly cruel for good reason. Mankind can’t regulate everything.

    Laws are made to be followed by all. Hunts must uphold the law like all parts of society, including the Sabs and Anti’s.

    Focusing on vilifying a fox-hunting minority whilst turning a blind eye to a far greater part of the population that thinks it ok to keep budgies in cages, or lock dogs in houses without adequate walks demonstrates how sadly hypocritical contemporary society has become.

    The question of whether to Drag or Trail is perfectly valid for Hunts to address. The decision must be theirs. However whatever the final consensus, one thing is for certain: Animals without natural predators will always have to be controlled if livestock farmers are to put food on tables.

    Hunting will always be a contentious issue, and I personally was happy to see regulation introduced even if it was politically motivated and more about class warfare & populism than pragmatism

    I add my New Year best wishes to those of Nige!

    • Thank you for your considered and polite comment, Clive. Seems I failed in my attempt to be unbiased but so be it. If it was an academic essay then I’d be worrying. However, I’d be happy to post a more considered piece if anyone else wanted to write one. Where does animal cruelty kick in and take over from natural behaviour? Well, I like to think humans have higher thought processes than foxes/cats, etc., so ethics and morality affect what we do. Totally agree that there are other issues of animal welfare, both locally and globally. We highlighted concerns last year about dogs kept ina caravan, for example. The fact that hunting is so public makes gives it a higher profile, but hypocrisy in animal welfare? Absolutely. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

  • Jackie Diffey says:

    Well I enjoyed this short article and learned a little more about hunting. Thank you. Yes, nature isn’t always kind but animals killing to survive is a different matter from humans choosing to inflict pain and suffering for ‘sport’. We have a choice, wild animals don’t and when something like a hunt is so weighted in favour of the kill, with the quarry heavily outnumbered, I do wonder where the sport is. I’d like to think we’ve moved on from such barbaric ways to spend our time – I don’t get the attraction. Horses: wonderful, countryside: amazing, death…not so much. And the whole conservation thing… really? (btw I’m not a hunt objector who then eats abattoir meat). I do appreciate the points put earlier and how considered they were.

  • Dennis Jeffery says:

    All the anti hunting comments seem to be assuming the hunts are hunting illegally which is certainly not the case. I don’t believe, even when hunting live quarry was legal, that people went hunting just to kill animals. Despite what many people choose to believe most people who go hunting are animal lovers and in one way or another , spend most of their time looking after animals, conservation projects and protecting wildlife in various ways. Hunting is about meeting friends, getting out in the countryside, riding their much loved horses and ponies and watching the hounds follow a line and the thrill of hearing a pack of hounds in full cry. This is supported by the fact that despite the legislation banning hunting live quarry the drag and trail hunts are still thriving. I am not a hunt supporter and never have been but I do love to see the hunt out in the fields and will always stop and watch for a while. Management of our wildlife is in the hands of the people who work and earn a living from the land, they know what they are doing and will continue to do so if allowed without interference from people who think they know better.

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