Is it OK?

Christmas Eve and the hunt were out – not sure which, their names probably mean something to people familiar with the hierarchy of hunt status. Boxing day and the hunt – a different lot maybe, were here again. New Year’s Day, and the hunt was on the road with their cars and their trailers and lorries and their hounds and their followers churning up the verges, blocking the roads as if they had every right to do so, milling, smiling or maybe smirking, waving, archaic. Rural hooliganism?

Each time they are in the area the alpacas, who are acutely aware of the predatory, huddle tightly in the middle of the field. Even if the hounds are a mile distant, they are terrified by the sounds of the dogs. As the pack gets closer, bothered Roe deer leap across the hedges to escape and all the birds leave the trees and fields for somewhere safer. This year so far, no fox – previously, a vicious mass of hounds chased one into our hedge. The outcome was not clear.

A week ago, our newspaper reported that members of an Oxfordshire hunt dragged a fox from its hiding place in the presence of the dogs. That seems like a deliberate act. Sometimes the resulting savagery is the result of the master of hounds not controlling his pack. The Portman hunt and a “disembowelled fox” featured in an item by the BBC this month.

So, two stories of the damage and distress caused to alpacas by mounted riders and their dogs:

Last February, “A hunting group apologised to owners of an alpaca farm after it’s hounds ‘unexpectedly’ entered their land – leaving the animals terrorised … despite being protected with fencing and barbed wire” (Hertfordshire Mercury).

In Derbyshire just before Christmas the BBC reported that hounds from the Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt ripped the back of an alpaca, injured another and terrified the rest of the herd. The mangled alpaca was euthanised. A hunt spokesperson said that the hounds had been removed as quickly as possible and that they are liaising with the owners – well, that’s alright then.

Two years ago, an owner in the New Forest who lost an alpaca to a dog attack, asked that alpacas receive the same legal protection as sheep. The NFU responded by saying that although they are farmed for their wool (it’s not wool, wool comes from sheep and alpacas produce yarn), alpacas are not legally Listed as livestock and therefore do not receive the same protection. (Bournemouth daily Echo 2017). That’s not really ok.

Pleasingly when the hunt came by the house recently, they were monitored by Hunt Saboteurs. An information leaflet was posted through our door. The leaflet focussed on the biosecurity risk caused by hounds entering land where livestock are kept including contributing to the spread of diseases such as bovine tuberculosis. A new reason to be unhappy about this bizarre entertainment.