Fox Hunting and What You Can Do to Help Stop It

18 Sep 2020

@katelouisepowell profile image

fox closeup



From autumn until mid spring, the chilling sounds of hunting hounds in pursuit of foxes can still be heard all over the UK countryside. Fox hunts are responsible for some of the most heartbreaking acts of animal cruelty imaginable. Thankfully, there are groups of dedicated people who descend on the countryside to disrupt the hunters and level the playing field for the wildlife.

Generally, the UK public believes hunting is banned as a result of insubstantial laws that were passed almost 20 years ago. The 2004 Hunting Act and the 2002 Protection of Wild Mammals Act were intended to put an end to fox hunting. Unfortunately, due to seemingly deliberate loopholes and the hunters’ general disregard for the law, these acts have proven to be ineffective.

In England and Wales, hunters pretend they’re carrying out a hunting simulation – ‘trail hunting’ – where hounds supposedly follow a pre-laid animal-based scent trail. Conveniently for them, this farce mimics the traditional blood sport in almost every way, so onlookers often can’t distinguish between the real and the simulation. This means that the hunters can kill with impunity and claim that the deaths were accidental. In Scotland, foxes are intentionally hunted and killed under the guise of ‘pest control’, in which a gunman is supposed to shoot a fox as he/she flees from cover after being ‘flushed’ by hounds. In reality, the gunmen often stand around as the hounds catch and consume the fox, as they did before the 2002 act. The reality of fox hunting is brutal and savage: petrified animals are chased, often for hours, until the point of exhaustion before being mauled to pieces. If a fox escapes below ground, terrier men will force a terrier dog into the earth to force the fox out, or failing that, will slowly dig them out.

fox closeup

As brutal as this sport is, there are activists out there who have figured out how to successfully sabotage a hunt. Commonly known as ‘Hunt saboteurs', they form local, non-hierarchical groups which can be small compared to the size of some hunts - but even a handful of people can make a difference and save lives once they know how it’s done.

Hunt saboteurs are ordinary people who use non-violent, direct action tactics to disrupt the hunt, mainly by distracting and redirecting the hounds in ways that don’t harm them. This is done by mimicking the huntsman’s voice calls, using plant-based scents to disguise the smell of the fleeing fox, and by cracking whips in the air (the signal for the hounds to stop).

Even without using specific techniques and equipment, saboteurs - or ‘sabs’ - can disrupt a hunt by merely showing up and walking around. Sometimes, the mere presence of anti-hunters can discourage illegal hunting and change the course of the day. Some people might see sabs as heroic or extraordinary, but they’re just ordinary people who spend some of their free time from September until March to ruin the hunt’s day.

fox in a jungle

‘Sabbing’, a term used by hunt-saboteurs to refer to sabotaging hunts, is a difficult form of activism. However, it makes a direct difference by saving these animals – the feeling of seeing a fox flee to safety is unparalleled. If you’re based in the UK, Ireland, or some select places in Europe and beyond (there is a sab group in Melbourne, for example) and want to get involved, there’s a place in a sab group for you.

If you’re sporty and speedy, you can be a great asset running after the hounds. If you’re good at orienteering, you could be a map-reader and navigator for your group. If you’re good with tech, you could assist with radios, go-pros/body cams, or even a drone. If you don't feel like being out in the field, you could consider being a driver who follows the hunt and stays on the road, ready to ferry small groups of sabs to and fro. If you’re not in a position to do any of these things, you can still show support by following sab pages, sharing hit reports, or even donating through abillion. Anyone can play their part.

Most sabs believed they would “never” be one – just as most vegans probably told themselves they could “never be vegan” before making the change. You might surprise yourself - all you need is a strong sense of determination and a willingness to give up some of your time and comfort to help wildlife.

See you in the field!

. . .

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@laikaart profile image
laikaart2 YEARS AGO
Great article. Although the actions of saboteurs are truly heroic it's important to normalise the practice and understand that it's not as radical or dramatic as a lot of people first think. This article does it very well.
@vikas profile image
vikas2 YEARS AGO
Thank you Kate for this beautiful story
@jonedoe007 profile image
jonedoe0072 YEARS AGO
Great article! Thank you for sharing.
@amazinganne profile image
amazinganne2 YEARS AGO
So sad to hear of rhe defenceless foxes being shot or mauled. Will supporr the sabs!💖
@sar24 profile image
sar242 YEARS AGO
Awesome article ...great job Sabs!
@jasonb01 profile image
jasonb012 YEARS AGO
This is a brilliant insight into the world of the Sabs. You are all heroes in my eyes, thank you all soooooooo much for all the lives you have saved and those you will go on to save in the future. I’ll continue supporting the HSA as long as it’s needed and really hope for the day it can be disbanded because ALL hunts have folded!!
@clarythevegetable profile image
Can't believe the governments still allow such acts of cruelty, if I ever visit those countries around the months of the hunting, I will definitely take part in stopping it!