RSPCA / CPS … A New Alliance

Fox watching from behind tree

So … the RSPCA, on advice from Stephen Woolner (a former Crown Prosecution Service chief inspector) has decided to cease it’s previously relentless legal pogrom against the fox-hunting fraternity in the face of an embarrassing prosecution failure rate. It should be noted, too, that the RSPCA’s new head of prosecutions is an ex-CPS employee and lawyer, Hayley Firmin. As a shooting and hunting man myself, I do hope our representative organisations and their members don’t celebrate this as a victory this weekend? It is far from it.

The RSPCA, it would appear, has just turned a couple of gamekeepers into poachers. We ‘country sports’ folk should immediately recognise the danger in this. Yet only if we have something to hide.

I know from my interaction on social media that the majority of shooting and hunting people are as disturbed as I am when some of our fraternity ‘cross the line’. Because it tars us all with the same brush. Whether that is illegally targeting raptors, coursing hares, running deer with sighthounds or killing foxes with hounds.

There have been laws passed. Ridiculous, bastardly ignorant and ill-judged laws I admit. A law which insists that my lurcher must discriminate between a rabbit or rat being a legal quarry while on the chase … and a squirrel, not legal … is nonsensical. Yet the laws are there and (unless repealed) must be obeyed if we are to take the moral high ground, surely? To ignore these laws and invite prosecution is to fall as low as the anarchists who put on balaclavas and wield iron bars at country folk going about their sport legitimately.

I am a huge fan of our current tranche of legal representatives (one of those is a poacher turned gamekeeper, ex LACS) and their wave of successes. I applaud them every time on social media. Yet I am sure that they would, behind closed doors, agree that in many of the recent cases their success has been down to legal ‘technicalities’ more than the pure innocence of the defendants? A lawyer or barrister, of course, needs work so the idiots who continue to (potentially) mar the good reputations of most hunting folk pay the piper. If (like me) you are a member of several of the organisations who may find themselves funding the defence, you have a right to be piqued if the fees are from Member funding.

I will always defend the right to hunt, shoot and fish. That’s why I write about shooting. I will never, however, defend a deliberate breach of law to facilitate those activities because I think that the one rotten apple often spoils the barrel. And I live in that barrel.

The RSPCA are playing a very clever game. Don’t get me wrong … as a charity and when they pursue the objectives of their mandate (to prevent cruelty) … they do an outstanding job. Unfortunately (and why I wouldn’t put even a penny in an RSPCA tub anywhere) they have associated any form of hunting with ‘cruelty’. A clean and clear dispatch of any quarry is not ‘cruel’. Pursuit by a predator is the 24/7 existence of most wild creatures. Watch a domestic cat toying with a mouse before killing it and you will see ‘cruel’. Watch a fox on film inside a poultry shed and you will see ‘cruel’. Watch a skilled stalker drop a deer or watch me cull a rabbit and you will see pure, clean death. Death is not ‘cruel’. Only intentional wounding is ‘cruel’.

So, my point about the RSPCA? You don’t buy the experience of people like Hayley Firmin and Stephen Woolner to sit back and say ‘we lost’. They will ensure that, in future, solid evidence will be brought to the party in an unassailable manner. So if you’re thinking of digging out a den of cubs next March to fatten for a hunt later in the year, please think again. If the buzzards are bugging the poults, please don’t set that old gin trap on a pole. That nuisance badger sett in the wood? Please don’t interfere. If you get caught (and the evidence is beyond defence) I don’t care if you go to jail. In fact, I want you to. For I’m about defending my sports from selfish idiots like you. I’m for the legitimate sporting hunter who abides by the rules … even if we hate the rules.

Copyright Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, Dec 2015

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