Federation of Welsh Packs

 

CONTENTS

To jump straight to a particular section click the link

1. Background Page 2
2. Introduction Page 4
3. Aim of the Federation Page 4
4. Membership of the Federation Page 5
5. Federation Committee Page 5
6. Hunt Countries Page 6
7. Hunt Kennels Page 6
8. Composition of Shooting Packs Page 7
9. A Typical days hunting for a Shooting Pack Page 9
10. Lambing Calls Page 11
11. Fox Destruction Societies Page 14
12. Forestry Commission Page 15
13. Terrier Work Page 19
14. Other modes of Fox Control Page 20
15. Summary & The effects of a ban on hunting in Wales Page 23

 

Appendices

A The Federation of Welsh Packs Constitution

B Members of the Federation of Welsh Packs

C Membership Application for the Federation

D Letter from Farming Union regarding Hunt Kennels

E Afonwy Hunt Income & Expenditure Accounts

F Review of Technical Paper 23 – Foxes & Forestry

G Sample Forestry Commission license

H Regulations for Terriermen

I Sample Terrierman ID Card

J Letters from the League Against Cruel Sports regarding Shooting Packs

K Submission from the Plas Machynlleth Fox Hounds

L Map of Forest Enterprise forestries in Wales

 


BACKGROUND

1.01 There is more hunting per square mile in Wales than any other part of the UK. In most of Wales the fox is viewed as vermin and a threat to farmers, especially since its population has increased over the last fifty years.

1.02 Most hunting in Wales is different to the rest of the United Kingdom. It involves a mixture of control methods, which have evolved according to the locality and the terrain. Whilst the principal purpose of fox hunting in Wales is for fox control, it would be misleading to suggest that those who take part do not derive pleasure and satisfaction from seeing their hounds do a good job of control. In that respect there are clear social, cultural and practical similarities with other forms of hunting.

1.03 During the early part of the 20th century, hunting was seen to be the prerogative of the landed gentry and the upper classes, although it has always been prominent throughout Welsh history. Records exist of Welsh hounds being kennelled by monks at Margam Abbey in the 1400’s. (Please see the submission from the Welsh Hound Association) Now, however it is an activity for all classes.

1.04 With the demise of the large estates after the war years, came the most significant developments in the nature of the countryside in Wales, the inception of the Forestry Commission, currently Forest Enterprise Wales (FE). Huge tracts of open land were planted and with the increase of sheep farming, the emphasis on fox control became more significant. This has remained to this day.

1.05 Initially, packs recognised with the Master of Fox Hounds Association (MFHA), (and governed by their strict rules and regulations) did not organise days with followers carrying shotguns to account for foxes hunted by hounds. In addition, much of the terrain found within the Principality did not lend itself to mounted hunting, with the result that some areas were hunted infrequently or not at all. Consequently in many locations groups of farmers and those interested in hunting began to acquire a few foxhounds, which would be kept at a local farm and hunted locally on Saturdays. Soon these small informal foot hunts were over faced with the demand on their services in their areas and so had to expand. Expenses at this stage were minimal, with a farm vehicle or trailer being used as transportation for the hounds and volunteers providing the necessary labour to feed the hounds and clean the kennels. These hunts were conducted very much on an informal basis through many small rural communities in Wales. The number of packs have increased substantially over the last 20 years, in line with the ever expanding fox population. The success of these packs was judged on the number of foxes culled and in the early 60’s some of the most organised hunts in Wales began to account for over 20 foxes on a single days hunting.

1.06 As the operations become more efficient more hounds were kept, more followers attended with guns, and contributions were received from farmers and funds raised from whist drives, social evenings, hunt auctions and dinners. In addition monies were received from the Forestry Commission, the ‘bounty’ money paid by Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) and the Welsh Office Agricultural Department (WOAD).

1.07 As these packs proved their effectiveness, the number of days hunted increased with the inevitable rise in costs. Much of which was made up through voluntary contributions. The position remains very much unchanged to this day. A common factor with all these hunts is the fact they were initially focused within the community of one particular village or parish. With the development of transportation and communication, the parochial ties remain, but they have now expanded to include a wider area. There is no definitive organisational method for these hunts, but they each have much in common, but also operate with local variations.

1.08 In order to seek answers to the reason for the increase in the fox population a census was obtained from the member packs of this Federation in 1999. 90% of the member packs cited the forestries as being mainly responsible for the increase and the disappearance of the rabbit trapper. The Cambrian Fox Hounds in North Wales cited an estate, which was transferred to the National Trust in lieu of death duties. This Estate had previously employed four full time keepers who had controlled the fox population. It was subsequently planted with conifer trees and is now over run by foxes. The Aber Valley Hunt cite three estates in close proximity to Conwy in North Wales who share this experience and highlight the increase in the number of foxes. Both the Irfon & Towy hunt in Mid Wales and the Dysynni Valley Hunt point to the demise of the hill shepherd and the rabbit trapper, in tandem with the appearance of the forestry plantations. The hill shepherds with their intimate knowledge of the open hill were aware of many earth locations and used to control foxes by utilising terriers.

1.09 Prior to the 1950’s there was a huge rabbit population in Wales (literally millions) and professional rabbit trappers were the norm. Thousands of rabbits were trapped throughout the country each week and the fox population remained relatively low. When a specific area was being trapped, foxes were also caught, sometimes inadvertently, but in the main the professional trapper did not want vulpines extracting (from traps and snares) and feasting on his catch of rabbits and therefore culled foxes as well.

1.10 It transpires from the historical records of some hunts that foxes had become scarce in specific locations. Myxamotosis virtually decimated the whole rabbit population and as a consequence the professional rabbit catcher disappeared from our countryside.

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Introduction to the federation of welsh packs (FWP)

2.01 As fox hunting with hounds in Wales is carried on so widely, a body was needed to impose some self regulation, especially since virtually the whole of rural Wales is hunted over. The Federation of Welsh Packs was officially formed in 1997, after a prolonged period of informal discussion. The need for a governing body to unite and represent organised hunting within the Principality had been the subject of debate for many years and its inception was long overdue. Furthermore, regulation has recently been enhanced by the Federation’s commitment to, and membership of, the Independent Supervisory Authority for Hunting, which should lead to even more accountability in the future.

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AIM OF THE FEDERATION

3.01 The aim of the FWP is to unite and govern all hunting organisations in Wales that use hounds and/or terriers, for the purposes of pest and vermin control.

3.02 The FWP recognises that the different regions of the Principality lend themselves to diverse methods of hunting, which include mounted and foot packs, with or without guns.

3.03 At the same time the FWP recognises the equal validity of all such forms of hunting, provided they conform to its strict code of conduct.

3.04 It is inevitable that hunting in all its forms will be subject to increased public scrutiny. It must therefore be accountable. The FWP will work to a high standard and have a rigid, but workable, codes of conduct and rules. (Please see Appendix A)

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Membership of the Federation of Welsh Packs

4.01 The FWP represents some 48 packs of hounds, these includes packs that are members of the MFHA, located within the Principality.

4.02 Membership of the Federation is governed by certain fundamental requirements. Member packs must agree to work within the rules and regulations as laid down and included in the constitution of the Federation, possess a defined structure, specified insurance cover and hunt within a locally defined area. Terriermen, who are attached to the hunt, must carry ID cards, which are authorised and signed by the Hunt Chairman and issued by the Federation. Such ID cards must include a photograph of the terrierman. All terriermen registered with the Federation work within the code of conduct laid down by the MFHA and the National Working Terrier Federation.

4.03 An annual subscription is payable by member packs to the Federation.

Please see Appendix A, B & C

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Federation Committee

5.01 The Committee of the Federation usually meets monthly, or more frequently as circumstances dictate. The composition of the elected committee represents and reflects the diversity of hunting in Wales and has its roots firmly within agriculture and the countryside.

5.02 The committee’s current Chairman is Mr Ken Jones a sheep farmer from Llanwrtyd in Mid Wales. Mr Jones is also Master of the Irfon & Towy Fox Hounds who hunt three days a week during the winter, twice a week on horseback and once a week on foot with shotguns.

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HUNT COUNTRIES

6.01 Whilst the MFHA packs in Wales have their hunt countries registered by their association, other hunts have no such exclusive boundaries. Their boundaries have evolved through decades of hunting their own locality and the hosting of traditional meets. However it is a requirement of membership of the Federation that hunts should hunt a defined area within their own locality.

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HUNT KENNELS

7.01 Since the role of hunt kennels in dealing with fallen stock, will be well documented within the MFHA submission, there is no need for duplication.

7.02 It is however prudent to point out that in addition to the normal service provided by hunts for fallen stock, that since August 1999 when the bull calf scheme terminated, the situation has nearly reached crisis level. In the dairy areas of Wales some hunt kennels are receiving over 100 bull calves per week and both the farming community and unions realise the seriousness of the situation.

7.03 Approaches have been made to the National Assembly for Wales from the President of the NFU (Wales) highlighting this problem. (Appendix D)

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COMPOSITION OF SHOOTING PACKS

8.01 The term ‘shooting packs’ has evolved within the Principality in the last 40 years. It is used to describe the hunting method which utilises hounds with followers carrying shotguns. It is often perceived that hounds do not have a major role to play during such an operation. A fallacy, hounds are in fact essential to the process.

8.02 In the main, shooting packs are low cost hunts. The main heads of expenditure are the wages of the huntsman, vehicle costs for the transportation of hounds and the care and welfare of hounds and the upkeep of kennels.

8.03 Shooting packs tend to employ a part time huntsman, who finds alternative employment during the summer months. Alternatively the huntsman may only receive expenses and can be a local farmer or a self employed person who lives in the community. In some instances hounds vacate the kennels during the spring after the end of the hunting season and arrive back in the late summer. They will in most cases return individually to the same farms each and every year, often where they originally went as pups, strengthening the link between the hunt and the local community. This practise has to a great deal been less favoured with certain packs in recent years and they have kept hounds in kennels due to the increase in traffic during the summer.

8.04 The income of any shooting pack is minimal in comparison to a mounted pack, which generally employs at least a professional huntsman and provides housing and other benefits. There are obviously no mounted followers to subscribe, and funds are raised within the local farming and rural community. There is a tradition in Wales (and this applies to packs who have mounted and shooting days) of ‘books’. This system is applied where a hunt member/committee member who lives in a particular area has a list of farmers and landowners who support the hunt. It is his duty to circulate the farmers who utilise the services of the hunt within his area and receive their annual contribution. In the main the rest of the income is derived from monies raised in the community through whist drives, raffles and social events. Most shooting packs are organised and run via a committee and the term Master of Foxhounds does not apply. Indeed the three most influential people are the Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary who oversee the day to day affairs of the hunt. The Huntsman of such packs, are generally born and bred locally, and it is rare for any person outside the immediate locality to be employed. Typical packs of this nature are the Plas Machynlleth Hunt and the Afonwy Hunt based at Rhyader in Mid Wales and a brief summary is given below of the Afonwy Hunt. The Plas Machynlleth Hunt individual submission is listed as Appendix K.

AFONWY HUNT

8.05 The Hunt was established in 1904 and is located in the village of Rhayader in Mid Wales and they hunt the surrounding area.

8.06 Kennels are on a leasehold basis and the Hunt has 1 part time employee (Huntsman), 50 hound and puppy walkers and 350 subscribers. The huntsman is employed during the winter months only, and the hounds go from the kennels in late spring back to farms in the local area, where individual hounds or a small group are kept by the farmers, until hunting re-commences in the autumn.

8.07 The current Huntsman has hunted hounds for three seasons continuing the family tradition, as his father hunted hounds for the previous 12 seasons. During the summer months the huntsman becomes a self-employed farm worker.

8.08 The Afonwy hunt 3 days a week throughout the season and accounted for 259 foxes in the 98/99 season, of which 117 were dug using terriers. The total expenditure for the Hunt was £12,410 during the 98/99 season.

8.09 AFONWY HUNT – Income & Expenditure 1/6/98 – 31/5/99

INCOME     EXPENDITURE  
Balance Brought Forward 1253.33   Huntsman 5550.00
Forestry Commission (2 Years) 1040.00   Insurance 677.69
Fountain Forestry 160.00   Secretary’s Honararium 400.00
Trisant 75.00   Advert (AGM) 14.81
Members (per Collectors) 9210.00   Rates (Kennels) 84.00
Sale 300 Club Tickets 670.00   Rates (Water) 117.44
Bank Interest (Nett) 1.52     Bye Days 97/98 280.00
Sundries 0.71     Room Hire 15.00
      Printing Club Cards 55.22
      Club Prizes Distributed 350.00
      Veterinary 251.27
      Feeding Stuffs 2712.00
      Bank Interest 0.61
      Balances in Hand 1892.52
  12410.56     12410.56

Please also see appendix E

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A TYPICAL DAYS HUNTING FOR A SHOOTING PACK

9.01 Some of the member packs always hunt on foot, using hounds and shotguns. Others sometimes hunt on foot and sometimes on horseback. These sometimes use shotguns and sometimes do not. Others hunt on horseback on specific days, hunt with hounds on foot specific days and occasionally hunt with hounds and shotguns.

9.02 A typical day’s hunting with hounds on foot and with guns is that the followers with shotguns gather at the designated venue, exactly the same (except for the guns) as any other ‘Meet’, mounted or otherwise. This can be a public house, a farmhouse or a particular spot in the countryside, such as noted landmarks or cross roads.

9.03 At the allotted time the followers are briefed on safety aspects and the order of the day and move to surround the first designated area to be hunted. Hounds are subsequently unboxed and, with the Huntsman in attendance, begin to hunt the area (‘quest for a fox’). This initial practise is no different to any other types of hunting with hounds questing for the scent of a fox, except that the followers with guns have positioned themselves in strategic locations. Once hounds have found a fox and are hunting, a number of situations may arise, dependent on the area being hunted.

9.04 In a large wood or forestry plantation hounds may hunt the fox in cover, with the result that the waiting guns may not have an opportunity to shoot. Conversely the hounds may immediately hunt their fox towards a waiting gun, who dispatches it. In the event of the fox being wounded the close attendance of the hounds means that if injured it is quickly caught. During the period that hounds are hunting a particular fox, others may very well be disturbed and move offering the standing guns an opportunity to cull. It may transpire that foxes do not afford the guns the opportunity to shoot and consequently they are caught by the hounds, put to ground or lost. Whilst drawing (seeking a fox) the packs might ‘mark’ (indicate that the fox is located underground) when terriers will be used and the fox humanely accounted for.

9.05 During such a days hunting, a fox may often avoid the guns and leave the area being hunted, with hounds in pursuit. Again once it has avoided the ‘ring’ of followers with guns, it is hunted by the hounds until it is caught, put to ground, shot or lost.

9.06 Large numbers of foxes can be accounted for on such days shooting, especially early in the season. It is a productive method of control especially when small woodlands or similar areas are hunted that play host to large number of foxes. Some of these foxes may never be directly hunted by the hounds, but move within the area hunted because of the presence of the hounds and present the guns with an opportunity to shoot. In actual fact hounds may only hunt one fox, but several may be shot.

9.07 When open terrain is hunted, especially mountain or uplands, the use of shotguns becomes more limited. Followers are often unable to gain access to strategic locations without climbing or walking for hours, and foxes tend to be found on the open hill which does not present the shooter with any adequate cover for concealment from the fox, thereby not offering the opportunity to be able to fire. Foxes will avoid ‘visible’ guns or those they can ‘wind’ (smell). The onus is then greater on the hounds to catch the fox, or hunt it to ground.

9.08 In recent years Hunts registered by the MFHA have introduced hunting days with farmers and followers attending with shotguns and some currently shoot consistently throughout the season, in addition to their mounted or foot meets.

9.09 Again due to the terrain some MFHA packs in Wales do not hunt, or only occasionally hunt on horseback, hounds are hunted on foot by the huntsman and the followers are also on foot. This practise of course is exactly the same as the one carried out by the packs in the Lake District.

9.10 Below is table showing the fox cull figures for a selection of packs from the Mid Wales area.

 

NAME OF HUNT

FOX CULL TOTAL

98/99 SEASON

AFONWY FOX HOUNDS, MID WALES

259

DYSYNNI VALLEY, MID WALES

180

PLYNLIMON, MID WALES

189

PLAS MACHYNLLETH, MID WALES

130

ANCHOR & DISTRICT, MID WALES

160

UPPER BANWY, MID WALES

285

The ‘season’ would include the months of October, November, December, January, February and March.

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LAMBING CALLS

10.01 A vital role, which is undertaken by hunts in Wales, is the service that is provided and utilised by the farming community when lambs are lost or at risk due to fox predation. This service is usually at the end of the hunting season, when the lambing period is at its peak, although the time scale can vary with regional fluctuation.

10.02 Foxes can be either selective or indiscriminate when killing lambs. It is the usual practise for the farmer to request the presence of the hunt as soon as possible after a lamb loss. The huntsman, with a small number of followers, arrives at the farm at dawn, where they will be received by the farmer. The information regarding the location of losses may have been discussed during the initial contact, but any updated information will be conveyed at this stage. The gathering with the hounds in attendance will then go to the lambing fields where the hounds will begin their quest for the scent of a fox. At this stage the experience of the Huntsman, who has close local knowledge of the area, is invaluable.

10.03 In a usual scenario, the line (scent) of the fox responsible for the lamb losses will be found and the hounds will slowly hunt the line (in hunt terms this is called ‘drag’). The fox could at this stage have gone back to its earth. Hounds will then follow the line until they reach the earth and mark at it. Terrierwork (described in more detail below) is then used to deal with the fox.

10.04 However there are many variables which influence how the day may go, which must be mentioned to present a fuller picture.

10.05 Foxes will often lie up close to lambing fields – so when the hounds start hunting the ‘scent’ they may soon find the fox.

10.06 The fox might not have gone back to an earth. It could then be hunted and caught by hounds, or hunted and shot, or again hunted to ground. Again, it might carry little or hardly any scent, so that it cannot be hunted. It may not have killed again or even visited the lambing fields on the previous night. Although the taking of lambs by foxes, once it begins, is usually constantly carried out, the fox may not follow a regular pattern.

10.07 Lambing call outs are not confined to the upland areas of Wales, indeed even fields in lowland areas, which are viewed as offering greatest sanctuary to lambing, do not escape the attention of foxes which have developed a taste for lambs. What is common in lambing losses is that once a fox begins to kill lambs it will continue, until it is itself culled. Various and often extensive precautions have been taken over the years in an attempt to alleviate losses, including flashing lights, radios blaring, etc. but to no avail.

10.08 It has been generally found over the years that lamb losses are worst while vixens are raising cubs. A recent survey undertaken by the Federation has produced evidence that vixens that are raising cubs are usually involved. Sometimes during lambing calls litters of cubs are often culled. Without hard evidence it can be difficult to be sure that a particular fox is guilty of the killing. However an indication once a particular fox, whose scent has been found in the lambing holding, is culled and the attacks on lambs cease, that it is the predator who has been caught. In the spring of 1999 in Pembrokeshire a barren vixen was shown to have killed 27 lambs over a period of 3 weeks before she was caught. This is an example of an exception to the general rule. She was killed using terriers. Similarly during the filming of the BBC documentary ‘21st Century Fox’ in the David Davies Hunt country in Mid Wales, the Producer, Director and Film Crew accompanied Huntsman David Jones on a lambing call at 6am. Hounds took a line of a fox from the lambing field, and caught a fox heading back into the forestry plantation, a distance of over a mile from the field where the ewes and lambs were located. This was again a barren vixen.

10.09 In the main it is the member packs of the Federation located in West, Mid and North Wales which are involved in the most lambing calls and sample records of lambing calls undertaken last year are provided.

10.10

NAME OF HUNT

No OF LAMBING CALLS

UNDERTAKEN

TOTAL

No OF ADULT FOXES KILLED

CUBS

CWRT-Y-CADNO

36

14

15

CAMBRIAN

5

5

20

BRECON & TALYBONT

7

6

9

PLAS MACHYNLLETH

10

5

13

IRFON & TOWY

30

25

52

AFONWY

12

14

13

LLANWNEN

15

3

28

DYSYNNI VALLEY

14

8

12

 

10.11 It must be noted that the above figures relate to areas where extensive fox control by these packs had been normally carried out during the season prior to the lambing period and otherwise the problem would be far worse. The use of hounds and terriers to respond to ‘lambing calls’ is considered crucial within the farming community in the Principality. As part of this the use of terriers is essential, indeed without terriers it would be a futile exercise. (Please see Terrier Work)

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FOX DESTRUCTION SOCIETIES

11.01 Fox Destruction Societies are unique to Wales and were initially formed after the war years due to the significant increase in the fox population and the advent of the huge blocks of forestry, which were planted by the Forestry Commission (currently Forest Enterprise Wales).

11.02 Within a short period of time fox predation became a major cause for concern in Wales, especially after myxamotosis virtually wiped out the rabbit population which increased the tendency of foxes to prey on farm animals and poultry. The forestry plantations had become a haven for foxes and offered virtually undisturbed breeding grounds. The Forestry Commission had become a major landowner in Wales and took its responsibility to its neighbours seriously. It was dependent upon its adjoining landowners and rural communities and indeed derived its workforce from the local communities. It was concerned by the fact that foxes that resided within the forestry blocks were involved in killing lambs on outlying ground.

11.03 It employed some pest control operatives, but in addition began to remunerate local packs to control foxes in the forestries. Fox Destruction Societies were formed to administer and organise fox control days. Most of these Societies were in effect the local hunts, although there were a few that were a committee of local farmers, who received monies from the Commission and paid it out to their local hunts.

11.04 During this period MAFF/WOAD were also remunerating Fox Destruction Societies with bounties for every fox killed. In addition they employed pest control officers who would organise fox ‘drives’ and fox control days. The payment system was withdrawn in 1979 and at that time the Government paid a sum not exceeding 50p for adults and 25p for cubs.

11.05 Some member packs of the Federation carry out fox control on behalf of 3 or 4 Fox Destruction Societies, who in part claim remuneration from FE (Wales) in respect of fox control on FE land within the Fox Destruction Societies area.

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FORESTRY COMMISSION

12.01 With the inception of the Forestry Commission in Wales, huge tracts of land were planted which significantly altered the topography in the Principality.

12.02
Forest Enterprise (Wales) currently owns;
Area 1 Canol Barth Forest District 63823 acres
Area 2 Dolgellau Forest District 58014 acres
Area 3 Coed y Cymoedd District 95031 acres
Area 4 Llanmyddyfri District 56860 acres
Area 5 Llanrwst Forest District 48512 acres
  TOTAL

322,241.32 acres

    (130,403.99 hectares)

12.03 In addition there is 192,738 acres of conifer woodland privately managed in Wales. The above figures serve to illustrate the amount of conifer plantations, which are found within the Principality.

12.04

Examples of large blocks of forestry plantations;
Brechfa, Carmarthenshire 14,500 acres
Towy, Carmarthenshire 15,500 acres
Crychan, Llandovery 7,900 acres
Hafren, Newtown 6,000 acres
Trehenig, Llanidloes 9,900 acres
Clocheinog, Ruthin 15,900 acres
Gwydr, Llanwrst 11,600 acres

12.05 The above figures indicate the acreage of large plantations owned by Forest Enterprise and the extent of virtually undisturbed habitat that was/is made available for foxes. (Appendix L)

12.06 The formation of the Fox Destruction Societies after the war years served to highlight the link between the Forestry Commission and the rural communities. Great tracts of open hill and grassland had been planted with conifers, providing employment for a rural workforce and generating a boost for the local economies. In addition, the Forestry Commission had become a significant landowner. However the ensuing years also marked a significant increase in fox numbers who found the forestry plantations as ideal breeding grounds. The lack of disturbance and the abundance of cover, often over a huge acreage of land covered by trees, meant such an upward trend in fox numbers continued unchecked.

12.07 Five years after initial planting the average growth of conifer trees is between 2’ and 4’ per annum, highlighting how quickly a new habitat is formed (figures from FE Wales).

12.08 It soon became apparent that foxes were residing in the forestry plantations and predating onto neighbouring land. The increase in fox numbers was also highlighted in the increase of lamb losses.

12.09 The Forestry Commission who were so much an integral part of the local communities were aware of its obligations to its neighbouring farmers and began to contribute monies to the Fox Destruction Societies on a regular basis. The Commission also co-operated with MAFF in organising fox drives and employed pest control operators amongst its workforce.

12.10 The relationship between the local farming community, hunts and Forest Enterprise continued harmoniously until the late 1990’s. It was relaxed and informal, and Forest Enterprise Rangers/Wardens residing within the local community were able to respond to local needs. Up to this time hunts submitted their seasonal lists to the local Ranger/Warden and often informally or verbally conveyed the information if there was a change in the date of the hunt. This atmosphere of goodwill was the basis of a relaxed working relationship. Fox Destruction Societies and Hunts submitted their claims for payment, usually at the end of a season and were promptly paid. The remuneration by Forest Enterprise for fox control is currently £25 per day.

12.11 In 1997 the climate changed and the FE insisted that licenses were to be issued to hunts who wanted to control foxes on land owned by Forest Enterprise. No hunting would take place prior to a certain date, only two hunts per season could take place in each plantation. A charge would be made for licenses. No digging of foxes could take place on land owned by Forest Enterprise. Only two vehicles would be allowed on land owned by Forest Enterprise, etc., etc., etc. In addition breaches of any of the regulations would result in the hunt being suspended from hunting on Forest Enterprise land.

12.12 It was advised that Forest Enterprise has produced (in house) a document entitled ‘Foxes & Forestry’ Technical Paper 23, and that some of their ‘new’ policy had been derived as a result of this publication. A subsequent review of this publication by the eminent Dr Jonathan C Reynolds of the Game Conservancy Trust highlighted its inadequacies. (Appendix F)

12.13 The total change in attitude was a complete shock, even though it hinted that political pressure lay behind the decision. Local farmers and landowners, whose land adjoined these vast plantations, were livid and a series of meetings took place in Wales between interested parties.

12.14 The Federation of Welsh Packs in tandem with the CLA, FUW and NFU backed by the farming community began negotiations with Forest Enterprise.

12.15 The Federation acknowledged that increased public access should be encouraged by the FE and that more recreational events would also be hosted. However it was inevitable that the farming communities, many whose land adjoined FE land, would view the FE’s policies as unjust. Local farmers/hunts were to be restricted on FE land to control foxes which affected their livelihoods, whilst other recreational forest users were encouraged. Ironically it viewed one of the minor regulations as bizarre. On a specific fox control day the FE initially only allowed 2 motor vehicles into the forestry plantations, yet host the biggest motor rally in the world. The RAC Rally held annually in November, not only attracts hundreds of cars but also thousand of spectators and encompass the forestries of Wales, where fox control is essential.

12.16 After prolonged discussion and a series of meetings between the Forest Enterprise and the Federation of Welsh Packs agreement has been reached on fox control/hunting on land owned by FE (Wales). The Federation signed a national agreement with FE (Wales) on behalf of its members, and an individual license is issued annually to Hunts and Fox Destruction Societies. (Appendix G)

12.17 The situation has been rectified somewhat, although it remains difficult for many farmers and landowners who have adjoining forestry plantations, to understand how FE after years of acknowledgement that such plantations harboured foxes that preyed on outlying land, could suddenly abstain from their moral responsibilities after decades of harmonious relationship. In many instances it is essential that FE retain this relationship as access or permission to venture onto neighbouring land is required for their operations.

12.18 The perception is that the whole issue was the result of political interference. Sadly this remains, and the people who would be adversely affected became political pawns, these being the farming communities who live with the presence of the forestries.

12.19 To emphasise the comparable figures of foxes culled in forestries, cull records of the Plas Machynlleth Fox Hounds from Mid Wales are detailed below.

1993/94 SeasonTotal Killed – 101
87 killed in forestry plantations
4 killed on lambing calls
10 killed on mountains
1994/95 SeasonTotal Killed – 98
71 killed in forestry plantations
5 killed on lambing calls
22 killed on mountains

1995/96 Season
Total Killed – 107
88 killed in forestry plantations
5 killed on lambing calls
20 killed on mountains
1996/97 Season
Total Killed - 120
91 killed in forestry plantations
9 killed on lambing calls
20 killed on mountains

1997/98 Season
Total Killed – 135
97 killed in forestry plantations
7 killed on lambing calls
31 killed on mountains

 

Please also see Appendix G

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TERRIER WORK

13.01 Terrier work within the Principality has a long tradition. In addition to the many hundreds who keep and work terriers on a freelance basis in Wales, each and every member pack of the Federation is reliant upon terriers to account for a substantial part of their annual tally. It is not within the brief of this submission to comment on terrier work that is independent of member packs, however it is prudent to mention that a substantial figure of foxes are culled through the independent use of terriers within Wales, and these figures are never included in any official count or census.

13.02 The FWP consider it imperative from a welfare point of view that if an injured or wounded fox goes to ground during a days hunting, then terriers must be used to humanely account for it, so as to avoid prolonged suffering. With such an emphasis upon fox control within Wales, the digging of foxes that are found underground, or are hunted to ground is the norm, with all member packs of the Federation and curtailment of the use of terriers would severely compromise the effectiveness of the fox culling.

13.03 In order to portray more effectively how extensive and essential the use of terriers are in fox control with member Packs of the FWP, a sample record with a geographical spread is shown below.

1998/99 Season

NAME OF HUNT

PERCENTAGE DUG

of total tally

AFONWY

45%

CAMBRIAN

43%

CWRT Y CADNO

80%

PLAS MACHYNLLETH

30%

DAVID DAVIES

90%

SOUTH PEMBROKESHIRE

85%

AVERAGE OF

62%

 

 

13.04 In addition, on some occasions terriers may very well be used to deal with a particular problem without hounds. A prime example would be during the lambing period when an earth is located which shows signs of occupation and there is evidence that the occupants are involved in predation of livestock. (i.e. wool and bones from sheep)

13.05 The Federation will only register and issue ID cards with photographs, to terriermen of packs who are members of the FWP. The applicant must be fully conversant with the legislation appertaining to the badgers and posses a firearm/shotgun certificate. They must also conduct operation within the rules issued by the MFHA and the code of conduct of the NWTF and their suitability must be authorised by the senior official of the Hunt.

Appendix H and I

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OTHER MODES OF FOX CONTROL

14.01 Although the use of hounds is the principal method of fox control in Wales, it is not the only method. Terrierwork is very much a tradition in Wales, not only in rural areas but also in the South Wales Valley’s. It became common during the 60’s for miners to travel from the valley’s to the West & Mid Wales with their terriers and lurchers. They initially hunted rabbits and foxes occasionally, however since the introduction of myxamotosis and the demise of the rabbit, foxes became a prime quarry. Since such operations are freelance, accurate tally figures are not feasible but it is not uncommon for three to four foxes to be accounted for by an individual on a single day. Permission to hunt foxes is easily obtained by terrier and lurcher owners, with farmers viewing it as free pest control.

14.02 Similarly, some local farmers with shotguns may keep a few beagle type hounds and hunt their own locality on weekends. Some view this not only as a fox control operation but also as an opportunity to enjoy one day a week in the company of their neighbours. Again it is difficult to achieve an accurate countrywide tally from such diverse sources, but from personal experience of two such operations, they have both achieved a tally of over one hundred foxes each over the past four seasons.

Shooting

14.03 Opponents of hunting methods involving hounds or dogs, advocate shooting as a method of control.

14.04 In order to determine what is meant by ‘shooting’, the subject must be examined in more detail.

14.05 Shooting can be subdivided between the use of a) shotguns and b) rifles, and also daytime and night use.

14.06 During the hours of daylight foxes will seldom be seen, they spend the majority of this period either concealed in heavy cover or underground. Without the use of hounds or dogs to flush from cover, it becomes a hopeless task to effect any measure of control. Indeed it would prove to be an impossible task to even locate a fox.

14.07 Shooting at night, with the aid of a powerful searchlight and using shotguns or rifles, will achieve some success in the right areas. It is a method that is currently being practised in certain areas of Wales, but its success has been limited. It is often difficult to attract foxes within the range of a shotgun and this is particularly the case on open hill or land surrounded by trees. The greatest success is achieved during the autumn months when the current crop of foxes are often curious and are attracted to the ‘squeaking’ sound (imitating a rabbit in distress) emitted by the gunman to entice them into range.

14.08 Whilst rifles posses a far greater range and velocity, the dangers of using weapons that can kill at such distance must be taken into consideration, especially at night. Shots can only be attempted when there is a safe and solid back drop to the target. It is a method that in the hands of a skilled marksman finds favour in a few suitable areas within the Principality. In the main however the terrain is often unsuitable and in addition where large woods or forestry blocks exist it has a negligible effect upon the fox population.

14.09 Finally some landowners and farmers are concerned at the use of high powered rifles during the hours of darkness.

Snaring

14.10 This method of control remains localised throughout Wales and is mainly viewed as historical, but it is an effective method when carried out by a skilled operator. With the demise of the rabbit trappers/snares of the 40’s & 50’s, such skills are sadly often lost to the countryside. Localised snaring is usually carried out by farmers during lambing periods, but it remains one of the main methods of control for gamekeepers, who have acquired the necessary skills.

14.11 Snaring would be impossible as much of the terrain in Wales, especially on the upland hills and mountains. As a singular method of control throughout the Principality it is highly ineffective.

Lurchers

14.12 The use of a powerful searchlight and a lurcher is another method which is quite popular in Wales. Again it can achieve some degree of success in the right circumstances. To be highly effective the weather conditions are required to be windy, with no moonlight. The fox must be enticed (usually be squeaking) close enough to offer the lurcher an opportunity to catch it. The operator must also endeavour to keep the pursued fox within the beam of the searchlight. It is most effective on large level fields, where the fox can remain in the beam longer and the lurcher is able to use this to his best advantage.

14.13 Lurchers are often used in conjunction with terriers on open hill, they are expected to catch any foxes bolted from earths by the terriers. On some occasional instances the lurcher is also used on days when hounds flush foxes from cover to waiting guns. Again the terrain has to be suitable for the lurcher to view, chase and catch the fox.

14.14 Of other methods of fox control currently practised in Wales, other than with hounds, it must be noted that the majority of those involve the use of dogs.

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SUMMARY & EFFECTS OF A BAN ON HUNTING IN WALES

15.01 It is impossible to predict and difficult to envisage the effect that a ban on hunting with hounds would have in Wales. Current practises and methods have evolved over the years to provide efficient, humane and well regulated hunting.

15.02 It is patently obvious to all and sundry that foxes will always need to be controlled in Wales, in fact evidence of historical payments by MAFF and currently Forest Enterprise to Hunts and Fox Destruction Societies, only further serve to emphasise this fact.

15.03 The current methods of control mentioned in this submission work well in conjunction with each other, however hunting with hounds and dogs is by far the most successful in achieving an acceptable annual cull of foxes.

15.04 Studies by the Game Conservancy Trust (Rural Fox Management Project 1998) indicate that the use of hound and terriers in Powys accounts for ¾ of the foxes culled in the County.

15.05 This submission has provided evidence of the integral role of the hunt within the local agricultural and countryside communities. It conveys a sense of belonging, it nurtures feelings of pride in the role that the hunt plays within the community.

15.06 The hunt is historical, it remains as an institution which adds to the quality of life of the inhabitants in some of the most remote areas of Wales. A meet of the local hunt brings people to the designated spot, to gather, converse, socialise and also to provide an efficient service. Hunt functions serve to provide a focal point, a social calendar for some that have no other interests.

15.07 Demonstrating does not come naturally to the inhabitants of the Welsh countryside, it is alien to their nature. It requires a matter of great concern to change their attitudes. The 10th July 1997 was the first occasion when they joined over 110,000 at Hyde Park in London, again on the 1st March 1998 when they formed part of the March in London and finally on the 10th November 1999, when over 13,000 marched through the streets of Cardiff to the National Assembly. It was interesting to note that of the many thousands who travelled to London from Wales for the Countryside March in March 1998, there were many aboard the coaches that had never travelled outside Wales, let alone been to London.

15.08 In addition in 1997 two bands of men and women walked all the way, one from Machynlleth in Mid Wales and one from St Clears in West Wales, to London, to end up at Hyde Park on the 10th July 1997, an epic journey lasting around three weeks, which emphasised their commitment to the issue. These included people from all walks of life, all united in their love for the countryside. Again in November 1999 a group walked from Machynlleth to Cardiff to the Countryside Gathering. They were at the head of the 13,000 who marched through the streets of Cardiff to the National Assembly. These marathon journeys have become symbolic in Wales and have earned their place in the realms of Welsh history.

15.09 Not only has this submission presented the facts regarding hunting in Wales, it has highlighted the need to control foxes. It has in addition proved that the use of hounds and terriers will always be required if control does not descend into a cosmetic exercise, which satisfies no one.

15.10 There was some speculation that Michael Foster’s Private Members Bill would provide exemptions for Shooting Packs. The proposed exemptions were extremely flawed, unacceptable and unworkable and only served to highlight the lack of knowledge that those who oppose the use of hounds posses. In addition copies of two letters received from those that oppose hunting, further serves to illustrate how they wish to ban all hunting. (Appendix J)

15.11 The member packs of the Federation are involved and integrated in the rural and agricultural communities in the Principality, they bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Federation. They perceive the attacks upon hunting in Wales as a politically motivated issue, driven by organisations and bodies that have no experience of the Welsh countryside or its associated problems.

15.12 An interesting cultural aspect is that the Welsh language is synonymous with the rural areas, and it is a common complaint with the Welsh language media that they have great difficulty in finding any anti hunting Welsh speakers to appear in programmes or debates.

15.13 If legislation would be effected which banned hunting, a whole way of life would be immediately destroyed for many thousands of families in Wales.

 

Signed: _____________________________________ Date: ______________________________

Ken Jones, Chairman

 

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Date uploaded to site 28 March 2000