North Yorkshire Council group likens hunting ban to Nazi Germany

An oversight committee for North Yorkshire Council has discussed banning hunts from council-owned land. Some campaigners were hopeful it would lead the council in the same direction as others in the country. However, hopes were dashed after the group said a ban would mirror “how Germany ended up in the 1930s”.

Rich Maw, a Labour councillor for North Yorkshire, proposed a hunting ban for the county back in July. The Hunting Act already made hunting illegal, of course, but hunts have continued hunting illegally behind the smokescreen of trail hunting. As a result, Maw wanted North Yorkshire Council to specifically ban so-called trail hunting from its land.

The council failed to discuss the issue at its July meeting, and kicked it into the long grass for the council’s Corporate and Partnerships Overview to discuss. This oversight committee has the responsibility to understand how council policies affect the region. And it discussed the hunting ban on 11 September.

Local paper Richmondshire Today reported that Conservative Party councillors collaborated with two independent councillors to “recommend the notice of motion not be supported” when the proposal is decided on at North Yorkshire Council’s meeting on 15 November.

The committee’s chair Andrew Williams went so far as to describe anti-hunting laws as totalitarian, saying:

“It’s a very slippery slope when we start imposing majority will preventing minorities from exercising perfectly legitimate legal rights. I point you to how Germany ended up in the 1930s when it went down a route of imposing majority will as opposed to minorities.”

Of course, it was hunt supporter Ian Jones who recently pleaded guilty to harassment after performing a Nazi salute at hunt monitors in Cheshire.

Meanwhile, Tory councillors in North Yorkshire reportedly trotted out other hunting industry deceptions including ‘class war’ and describing hunts’ activities as “lawful behaviour”.

Maw later posted to Facebook that he was “unsurprised” at the outcome of the meeting. However, he was by the reference to 1930s Germany and questioned how it related to his proposal.

What more evidence do you need?

Responding to a question on his Facebook post about how the wider public can support his proposal, Maw said:

I hope that a good show of support on the day will help. Also a bit of research into successful prosecutions.”

According to Richamondshire Today, the League Against Cruel Sports provided “29 witness reports of suspected illegal hunting, including eight incidents of cub hunting in the county”. Protect the Wild also reported on a number of illegal and anti-social actions carried out by hunts in North Yorkshire.

The Derwent Hunt was the most prolific perpetrator during the 2022/23 season, with hunt saboteurs reporting illegal hunting, assaults and traffic offences. Damian Readman, a joint master of the Derwent Hunt, was present at the 11 September meeting to continue fostering trail hunting as a smokescreen.

Hunt investigation group Wildlife Guardian has also presented evidence of criminal behaviour by North Yorkshire hunts. Videos included footage of the Claro beagles chasing a hare:

Terriermen from the Badsworth and Bramham Moor Hunt (now the Badsworth, Bramham and York South Hunt) digging a fox out of a badger sett:

And a supporter of the Middleton Hunt trying to let the huntsman know about a fox:

It’s clear that North Yorkshire’s hunts are consistently engaged in cruel and illegal hunting as well as other, connected forms of criminal behaviour.

Party politics kills

Maw pointed at the party political division over the issue, saying:

“Of course that’s what a committee of a certain colour, chaired by the same party will espouse.”

While opposition to hunting isn’t defined entirely along party lines, it’s likely no surprise that councillors in the Conservative and Independents grouping have chosen to believe the hunting industry’s lies. Chair Williams even said Maw’s proposal was meaningless ‘gesture and gimmick’. Of course, the decision to back hunting is itself a gesture – and one that puts the committee on the wrong side of history.

Plenty of other councils across the country have passed motions banning hunting, both recently and historically. Given Readman’s own admission that hunts access council land “throughout the season”, choosing not to introduce a ban is tacit support for criminal activity.

Maw, however, seemed unbowed by the outcome. He celebrated the opportunity for his proposal in November, when it will undergo discussion by the entire council – which is decidedly less overwhelmingly Tory.