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GOOD NEWS: Airedale Beagles pack folds

Another hunt has folded. It wasn’t regularly monitored or sabbed. But it’s nonetheless a sign that the writing is on the wall for the hunting industry.

On 19 January, the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) shared news that the Airedale Beagles are finishing as a hunt. The hunt, based near Keighley in West Yorkshire, were one of the oldest extant beagle packs in the UK. It was formed in 1891, the same year as the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles (AMHB).

Beagling is hare hunting with hounds carried out on foot. There are roughly 40 active packs across England, Wales and Northern Ireland – though the end of the Airedale Beagles means there is now one fewer, of course. Scotland doesn’t house any beagle packs of its own.

It’s important to note there is a dark side to the end of these hunts. Hunts will ‘draft’ some hounds, or send them to other packs, but its likely that the hunt will kill many of the hounds. This murder is a choice by the hunt, because there’s no reason it can’t at least attempt to re-home most of the hounds.

Nonetheless, celebrating the news, Calder Valley Hunt Saboteurs said it had previously “had the displeasure of sabbing this bunch of losers a few times”. There are also a handful of hit reports for the Airedale Beagles through 2015 and 2016 from Manchester Hunt Sabs, Sheffield Hunt Saboteurs and Liverpool Hunt Saboteurs.

The hunt nevertheless appear to have gone relatively un-monitored and un-sabbed. But its demise is a sign of the times.

Writing on the wall

Numerous factors will lead to a hunt’s decision to fold. Anti-hunting direct action is one of the most significant. West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs’ six-year campaign against the Atherstone Hunt is perhaps the clearest example of this. But the Hunt Investigation Team’s exposé of the South Herefordshire Hunt feeding fox cubs to hounds shows that covert direct action has equally significant implications.

There are also other crucial factors including loss of revenue generation, lack of new followers, and loss of land – such as the New Forest Hounds changing into a bloodhound pack after Forestry England suspended trail hunting on its land. All of these nonetheless represent a cultural shift away from supporting hunting, either because people don’t want to associate with these wildlife crime gangs or simply because they’ve fallen out of favour with hunting as an activity.

None of this is possible without direct action, though. Hunt saboteurs and monitors have not only helped countless creatures escape hunts, but they’ve exposed the cruelty and oppression of the hunting industry time and time again. They come out of, and feed back into, an endlessly growing culture of opposition to hunts locally and nationally. And it is this culture that erodes the support that individual hunts receive.

Beagles

Perhaps the Airedale Beagles has folded purely as a result of internal problems. But if there was enough support for hunting generally, it would no doubt continue. And its end fits perfectly into a pattern of mergers and dissolutions sweeping through the world of hunting like a plague.

Protect the Wild previously wrote about a number of pack mergers that happened in 2022. But hunts confirmed to have folded in 2022 alone include:

  • Killultagh, Old Rock and Chichester Hunt
  • North Norfolk Harriers
  • Tanatside Hunt
  • Tettcott Hunt

There are still several hundred hunts left in the UK. But it’s clear that after roughly 70 years of direct action, the hunting industry’s time is coming to an end.

Consider supporting sab groups that focus on disrupting hare hunts include Severn Vale Hunt Saboteurs and Berkshire Hunt Saboteurs. You can also support Calder Valley Hunt Sabotuers via ko-fi.