The Case for the Four Burrow Hunt

The Four Burrow Hunt was founded by Mr Turner, the M.P. for Truro in 1780. From 1854 the Williams family of Scorrier, Redruth have had a long connection with the Four Burrow being Masters until 1977. The Hunt Kennels are still located on the Williams' Estate.

While a large number of members follow the hunt on horses and ponies, the majority go on foot or in cars and on motor bikes/quad bikes.

Fox Control Methods Generally

The majority of farmers and landowners regard foxes as a pest and apply one or more control methods to restrict or reduce their numbers. In the past a variety of control methods were available. During the 20th century these have been severely restricted. The use of leghold or gin traps, poison and gas - which were widely used are now, thankfully, illegal. Fox culling methods which remain legal are hunting with hounds, the use of terriers, shooting (shotguns and rifles), snaring and cage-trapping. All current legal fox control methods are opposed. An articulate lobby with much police support opposes the ownership and use of privately owned rifles and shotguns and snaring, hunting and terrier work are opposed for humanitarian reasons by some members of the public. Cage traps are favoured by those who generally oppose fox control but there are serious problems associated with using them effectively, i.e to avoid suffering they need to be visited every hour or so, but if visited every hour or so foxes are frightened away from them. No control method is completely humane.

Fox Control by The Four Burrow Hunt

The Four Burrow Hunt's fox control activities take place on between 70 and 80 days each year. Hunting begins early in September and continues until the end of March. This season (up to 31 January 2000) has seen the hounds out hunting on 33 days and 24 days autumn hunting. In that time 29 foxes have been accounted for. The fox population in West Cornwall has been severely reduced due to an outbreak of mange in the foxes. Pre mange the Four Burrow usually have accounted for 60 or more foxes in a season. It is widely believed that mange has been caused by various animal welfare groups moving foxes out of the urban areas and releasing them in the countryside. This has resulted in much suffering for the fox population with a long period between catching the mange mite until death. Foxes who have mange usually take three to four weeks to die and unless the foxes are caught by the hounds, death is usually from the effects of cold and starvation. The incidence of mange is nov reducing.

There have been no known animal welfare issues arising out of any day's hunting by the Four Burrow this season. In addition to the foxes caught by the hounds - which tend to be the less fit and alert than those which escape - a large number of foxes have been hunted but not caught. This has the beneficial effect of dispersing foxes so that they are not concentrated in small areas where they would be likely to do more damage but are spread across the district as a whole. On occasions this season, foxes which have been injured by other control methods (shot) or in collisions with cars or which have been suffering from mange or other illnesses have been caught.

Why Farmers and Landowners Support Hunting

Those farmers, whether Tenants or landowners who wish to control foxes on their farms (at present, a considerable majority) are free to choose from any one of the five legal methods. In the Four Burrow area which is in West Cornwall, a significant number (a majority both by acreage and numbers) choose hunting either as their exclusive fox control option or as one of several methods. Since the farming crisis began to bite in 1996 farmers have fewer resources both in time and money to deploy in fox control. Unless a farmer wishes to support the hunt in cash or in kind or to follow the hounds on hunting days, fox control is free of any expense to him. There is a long tradition of hunting in Cornwall amongst the farming community and many farmers and landowners are very active supporters of the Hunt. The Four Burrow Hunt has 90 members of whom 29 are full time farmers. 1'he Four Burrow also has a strong membership of its Supporters Club consisting of some 200 or more members who regularly follow the hounds on foot or by car. Other farmers just like to see the hounds and the hunt staff and followers - many of whom are relatives, friends or neighbours.

Great efforts are made to avoid -farms and holdings where the owner or Tenant has stated that there should be no fox control (there are currently 5 such locations), or where the owner prefers not to have hunting as a fox control option. On rare occasions these efforts do fail and in that event an immediate apology is tendered. There have been no known incursions this season. The Four Burrow Hunt tries very hard to conduct its activities without causing damage of any sort. It does though maintain public liability insurance cover of£5 million with employers liability cover of £10m. There have been no claims on the policy for several years. If sheep, cattle or other livestock stray, the Hunt's rule is that hunting should be suspended to enable the hunt staff and the hunt followers to retrieve them. There have been no such occurrences so far this season.

The Four Burrow Hunt does a considerable amount of conservation work - at no charge to farmers or landowners. We also keep trimmed out and clear many bridleways and byways in the countryside. This saves the Local Councils the expense of their maintenance and gives benefit to others at the same time.

Finally, the Four Burrow Hunt provides a fallen stock service to farmers over whose land it operates. In West Cornwall on-farm burial of fallen livestock is difficult because of the risk of pollution. No farmers have their own incinerators. During 1999 the Four Burrow Hunt received a total of 1,730 farm livestock carcases and spent £18,800 on its fallen stock collection service. Hunt staff and hunt supporters spent over 1,825 man hours on this distressing, difficult and sometimes dangerous task. Presently in West Cornwall there are two knacker farms who charge farmers for disposing fallen stock at a commercial rate. The Four Burrow only charge for the cost of the disposal as per the Ministry Regulations of the bone and offal. The Four Burrow also provide a service to the police of dealing with any livestock killed or injured on the roads. The service provided by the Four Burrow is at no expense to the public and only at a nominal charge to the farmers.

The Recreational and Social Contribution

Apart from the benefits which are described above the Four Burrow Hunt makes a considerable contribution to the recreational and social life of West Cornwall. Local people - by no means all of whom are farmers - follow the hunt up to five days each fortnight from September to March. A number of people - especially children - have taken to riding through the Four Burrow Hunt and its Pony Club and several have gone on to compete in equestrian events all over the world. The Four Burrow Hunt also organises One Day Events, Hunter Trials, long distance rides, a Ball, a point-to-point steeplechase race meeting (and helps to run two others), several dinners at local Public Houses as well as clay pigeon shoots and barbecues. At all of these, anyone is welcome to attend and they are generally well supported. Indeed the Four Burrow Hunt One Day Event and Hunter Trials are so well supported that they usually have to be balloted to control the entries. The Four Burrow also regularly raise monies for local Charities including Riding for Disabled, the Foal Bank and the Air Ambulance.

The Employment Contribution

The Four Burrow Hunt itself directly employs two people and generates part time employment for two other people. Hunt followers who keep horses wholly or largely for hunting generate employment for the full time equivalent of twelve other people. The lives and livelihoods of those people are a factor to be borne in mind when assessing whether the activities of the Four Burrow Hunt should be criminalized or left to take their own well established course. If the activity is wholly or largely justifiable, the removal of these peoples' livelihoods would be a travesty.

The Saboteur Issue

In common with other hunts in the South of England the Four Burrow Hunt is targeted by hunt saboteurs. There are only two saboteurs or active anti-hunting people in West Cornwall. Although a large number of hunt saboteurs have been arrested and charged with criminal offences since intensive sabotage activity began in 1993/4, not one Four Burrow Hunt member has been arrested. The Four Burrow Hunt co-operates closely with Devon and Cornwall Police to enable its activities to proceed - often in the face of saboteur violence or threats of violence. By way of example, we would illustrate the occasion on the 1 2th March 1994 when four of the Four Burrow members including the Joint Master and Huntsman were hospitalised after a particularly savage attack by a large number of saboteurs who had been bussed into West Cornwall from all over the country. They were dressed in combat clothes with balaclavas and were armed with fencing stakes.

A considerable amount of time and money is spent on policing the issue, not only by the Police themselves but also by the Four Burrow employing security firms to guard their horse boxes and trailers. The Hunt does all that it can both by liaising closely with Devon and Cornwall Police and wherever possible acting in accordance with the Police advice in order to minimise the effects of saboteur activity. In a country ruled by the law, right thinking people should surely hesitate to support a campaign driven - to a substantial extent - by actual violence or threats of violence. To criminalize an activity - such as foxhunting - in response to a campaign which is itself largely criminal sets a dangerous precedent which threatens all law abiding citizens.

Effective Public Opinion

The ostensibly respectable anti-hunting organisations would have the world believe that the overwhelming majority disapprove of foxhunting. They put forward this theory with opinion research which, to a substantial extent, they have themselves commissioned and paid for. The anti-hunting organisations have very few members, and the leading anti-hunting organisation has less than a handful of members per parliamentary constituency across the United Kingdom. The Four Burrow Hunt operates in parts of four parliamentary constituencies. The Four Burrow has 90 members and over 200 members of its Supporters Club, all of whom live in those constituencies. The members of the Four Burrow Hunt therefore outnumber the members of the leading anti-hunting organisation by many times. When there was a parliamentary threat against foxhunting the Countryside Alliance organised a protest march in London - on Sunday 1 March 1998. 300,000 people attended the march. Reports at the time indicated that it was the largest single demonstration that had ever taken place in this country. A few weeks later the anti-hunting organisations organised their own protest march. That march attracted just 3000 people. Last year, the Western Morning News which is the leading Westcountry newspaper conducted a written poll over a period of at least six weeks. The result was 74% in favour of hunting and only 26% against. On the 30th October 1999 the Countryside Alliance organised a Rally at Exeter which was attended by over 22,()00 people. There was a presence of less than 50 from the anti hunting organisations.

On 27th December last just over 250 hunts met up and down the United Kingdom on Boxing Day. Press reports indicated that about 300,000 supporters attended those meets. The Boxing Day meets have also become something of a tradition for the opponents of hunting. Press reports indicated that the anti-hunting organisations were only able to field 3000 protestors in opposition to hunting. The Four Burrow was one of the few hunts who saw an anti-hunting demonstration at its traditional Boxing Day meet at Carn Brea, Redruth. The Boxing Day meet is always a very well attended meet, not only by the members of the Hunt, their families and friends but also by farmers and those who live and work in the Redruth and surrounding area. There were about 60 mounted followers and about 150 car followers and about 400 pedestrian supporters of hunting at the meet with a demonstration of just five hunt saboteurs. Shortly after on the 1 st January 2000 the Four Burrow held its New Years Day meet in St. Columb and about 400 supporters attended with no hunt saboteurs. The above figures hardly demonstrate a potent argument for a ban on hunting and massive public support for a ban.

The Four Burrow Hunt are quite clear that the vast majority of people in West Cornwall support fox control by hunting and that only a very small number of people are against hunting. Any saboteur activity experienced by the Four Burrow usually involves people being bussed into the County from far afield.


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Uploaded to site 6 June 2000