The MoD just became even more secretive about hunting on its land

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has sent the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) a letter, terminating a memorandum of understanding between the animal rights organisation and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Writing for ITV News, Rupert Evelyn said:

“The long-standing memorandum between the MOD and LACS is designed to inform the anti-hunting organisation where on the publicly-owned Salisbury Plain fox hunts are operating. Monitors are then able to observe them.”

Evelyn continued:

“The defence secretary cited ‘security concerns as well the behaviour of protesters and their attire which is intimidating to other users’.”

Quite a coincidence

The timing of Wallace’s letter is coincidental, to say the least. It comes soon after Charles Carter, huntsman for the Royal Artillery Hunt, was almost prosecuted under the Hunting Act after wildlife monitors filmed the hunt chasing a fox on MoD land. The case was only dropped because the Crown Prosecution Service failed to submit the correct papers in time. If the case had gone to court, it would have been the first time in history that a hunt would have been prosecuted for illegal hunting on MoD land.

Protect the Wild spoke to Rachel from Salisbury Plain Monitors. She said:

“We are not surprised that Ben Wallace wants to hide the activities of the Royal Artillery Hunt. If there is nothing to hide, why not be transparent? Show they are trail hunting, provide evidence of the ‘liquid’ – the use and source – as well as the pre-defined route ahead of the meet. Evidence proves that they are not trail hunting.”

Thanks to Salisbury Plain Monitors and hunt saboteurs on the ground, there’s countless evidence of the Royal Artillery Hunt illegally hunting time and time again. The Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) reported on a long list of other cases, including:

  • 23rd October 2021: Monitors filmed the hunt chasing 2 foxes. Wiltshire Police investigated, but took no further action as the hunt claimed they had ‘laid a trail’…

  • 13th November 2021: Royal Artillery hounds chase a fox. This was witnessed by MoD Police who told the hunt to pack up. The police left and the hunt continued…

  • 4th December 2021: hounds ‘riot’ and chase 2 deer across a public road, endangering road users.

  • 24th December 2021: the hunt kill a fox. Monitors were present but were too far away to prevent the kill. They retrieved part of the body and later found the rest pushed into undergrowth. The hunt claimed the monitors picked up roadkill, but later admitted to killing the fox in an MoD ‘accident report’- a requirement of their licence agreement.

  • 27th December 2021: the hunt kill another fox. Surrey Hunt Sabs retrieve the body but are set upon by regular supporters of the hunt, Terry Gover forcibly took the body of the fox from sabs, and Hayden Gover assaulted a sab and stole a hunting horn. He was given a fine and a police caution for this incident. The CPS decided not to prosecute for illegal hunting, as the hunt claimed a trail was laid. However video evidence proves no attempt was made by the hunt to stop the hounds.

Charles Carter of RAH is told to return to kennels after chasing a fox
Charles Carter of RAH is told by police to return to kennels after chasing a fox on 13 November 2021. Photo by Salisbury Plain Monitors


Who are the real criminals?

Wallace cited the behaviour of protesters, as well as their dress code, as the reason to withdraw the memorandum of understanding. In response, Rachel said:

“Ben Wallace, we suggest you get your facts right. We use evidence, and not made-up stories. Monitors and hunt saboteurs have had no convictions for our behaviour.”

Rachel went on to cite the Royal Artillery Hunt’s numerous incidents of illegal activity this year, including all of the cases listed by the HSA above. She continued:

“At the beginning of 2022, a hunt support red card holder repeatedly drove at monitors and sabs’ car, swerving at the last moment. The MoD police caught them and issued them with a fixed penalty notice for driving without due care and attention.”

And, as Protect the Wild reported only days ago, huntsman Charles Carter has been filmed literally running down hunt saboteurs with his car. After that incident was publicised by Moonraker Hunt Sabs, the Royal Artillery Hunt released its own statement in an attempt to sway the narrative, saying that its hunt staff were subjected to “prolonged verbal abuse, with one sab even threatening to beat up a member of our team.”

The MoD should be banning hunting on its land, not defending it

The MoD is one of the only major landowners not to have banned hunting on its land. Campaigners have been trying to persuade it to follow in the footsteps of the National Trust, Forestry England and others, who have banned the disgusting bloodsport. But by sending this letter to LACS, the MoD has made it clear where its allegiances lie.

Obviously, by terminating the memorandum of understanding with LACS, Wallace is hoping to prevent hunt saboteurs and monitors from locating the Royal Artillery Hunt when they’re on Salisbury Plain. But Rachel is unconcerned; after all, LACS never shared any of their information with Salisbury Plain Monitors or local hunt saboteurs, anyway. She said:

“Wallace’s withdrawal from the memorandum of understanding doesn’t impact us as independent monitors. We are successful in locating the hunt through monitoring, through intelligence from the public, and through working with hunt saboteurs.”

Meanwhile, Moonraker Hunt Sabs told Protect the Wild:

“We’re not surprised by further collusion with illegal fox hunting on public land by the unconscionably corrupt Tories. We cannot trust those in power to uphold the law or to protect the wildlife of this country. Hunt sabs were out with the Royal Artillery foxhounds again on Salisbury Plain today, and we will continue to actively intervene to prevent them from killing for kicks, and from attempting to destroy the precious wildlife we have left. They operate with impunity, illegally hunting and killing foxes and this crime, oft evidenced, appears to be given special exempt status by many police forces and their chums in high places. No justice, just us.”

So, if Wallace thinks the Royal Artillery Hunt will no longer be monitored, he is very, very much mistaken.

Featured image of the Royal Artillery Hunt by Salisbury Plain Monitors