Badger at the entrance to a sett

Another public landowner has just wised up to hunting’s criminal activities

North Yorkshire Moors National Park Authority (NYMNPA) recently announced that hunts are no longer welcome on Levisham Estate. The move comes after hunt saboteurs caught terriermen digging out a badger sett on the property.

East Yorkshire Coast Hunt Sabs said on 4 December that NYMNPA had decided to “not… allow hunting to resume on the Levisham Estate for the foreseeable future”.

The decision came as a result of disrupting terriermen from the Saltersgate Farmers Hunt on 12 March 2022, the sab group said. It had caught the terriermen digging out a badger sett on the property during a joint meet between the Saltersgate Farmers Hunt and Derwent Hunt.

Protect the Wild contacted NYMNPA about the decision. It said:

The National Park Authority has recently taken the decision not to renew its agreement with a local farmers hunt to allow trail hunting on its Levisham Estate.

The National Park Authority owns less than 1% of the North York Moors, with the vast majority either under private ownership or controlled by public bodies such as Forestry England or charities such as the National Trust. The National Park Authority therefore has no influence on whether trail hunting can take place on any land other than Levisham Estate.

Sett interference

Interfering with badger setts is illegal. The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 made it a criminal offence to interfere with an active sett in any way. And its exemptions were done away with by the Hunting Act. Nonetheless, hunts and their terriermen often end up interfering with setts because foxes attempt to escape hounds by hiding inside of them, also known as ‘going to ground’.

In October, two men connected to the Wynnstay Hunt were convicted of interfering with a badger sett. A police officer found Jamie Barnes and Ben Davies in the middle of digging out an active sett in August 2021, the day before a meet of the Wynnstay Hunt in the same area.

Terriermen Seward Folland and Nathan Bowes were convicted in July 2021 for interfering with a badger sett. Devon County Hunt Saboteurs filmed them blocking an active sett during a meet of the Eggesford Hunt at Bridge Reeve on November 2019. The sab group said they arrived “just in time to stop them from digging out the fox”.

A man stares at the camera holding a spade next to a badger sett entrance

Earlier, in 2015, a terrierman for the Cottesmore Hunt plead guilty to a similar offence. Investigators with the League Against Cruel Sports filmed Dean Jones blocking a sett before a meet at Sauvey Castle, Leicestershire, in November 2014.

True justice

While these cases represent successful convictions, many more incidents of sett interference go unaccounted for by the legal system. Mendip Hunt Sabs, for example, covertly filmed a terrierman with the Mendip Farmers Hunt putting a terrier into an active sett. Although the footage was passed to Avon and Somerset Police, no further action was taken. And in 2015, the CPS dropped charges of sett interference against three terriermen with the York and Ainsty South Hunt. Sheffield Hunt Saboteurs provided clear footage of the act, but no explanation was given by the CPS for dropping the charges.

Scenic view of a valley with fields, scrub, hedges and a blue summer sky. It's a view of the Hole of Horcum.

The actions of East Yorkshire Coast Hunt Saboteurs not only saved a fox’s life on the day, but possibly the lives of many more foxes afterwards. In this way it represents perhaps the best form of justice for foxes. At the same time, losing meets such as the 1,360 hectare Levisham Estate is a major win as well. Such outcomes are a crucial part of the strategy to end the hunting industry.

You can support East Yorkshire Coast Hunt Saboteurs at their ko-fi page.

Additional image via Devon County Hunt Saboteurs.