The hunting office, the executive governing arm of hunting with hounds throughout the UK, has reportedly allowed hunting from the 1st of June, despite concerns nationwide about the pandemic. The traditional fox hunting season isn't until autumn, however the directive from the hunting office means that mink hunts will be allowed to go out during whats left of their usual season.
Mink hunting is a banned practice in the UK, under the same laws that govern hunting with hounds, however evidence has shown that it still continues. Like fox hunting, mink hunts happen deep within the countryside along waterways, often out of sight of the public. Hunters use packs of hounds and walk either alongside or in the river, and allow their hounds to seek out and bring an untimely end to any mink they find, encouraging and directing them using voice calls.
What this means for hunted wildlife in 2020.
The hunting offices decision ultimately paves the way for hunting to be reignited, and allows all forms of hunting with hounds to start making plans for their respective seasons. Although mink hunting is where we'll see immediate effect, due to the ease of setting up mink hunts, it does mean that large more well funded and organised forms of hunting with hounds can begin to make preparations for their seasons.
Fox hunting is of course of major concern; this form of crime is well funded and organised and requires major resources to be properly investigated. The CCW has already begun preparations and training for these investigations and will continue to monitor the situation closely, as we will with mink hunting.
Groups and gatherings
One of the fundamental issues with The Hunting Offices statement is that both mink and fox hunting is done with groups of people much more than the currently allowed six according to government directives, and often the type of physical interactions that hunters have to undertake are often within two meters of each other, we'll have to see how hunters decide to tackle this challenge.
There is reasonable cause for concern among paying members as well, often older and more vulnerable members of hunts mix with younger hunters, exacerbating the risk of spreading the Covid-19 virus.
What the police say
Cambridgeshire rural crime team replied to our question about hunting during the pandemic:
"We have had no official guidance on hunting as of yet. However the fox hunting season normally starts at the end of October/start of November so it is unlikely that this activity will be active currently. I'm sure social distancing measures will have changed by then as it is an ever evolving process. This aside knowone [sic] should be involved in any activities currently controlled by government measures."
What you can do to help.
The CCW actively investigates illegal hunts, providing much needed evidence as well as emergency care to animals where needed. As we prepare for the oncoming season, we're in need of donations to help us purchase the necessary equipment to allow our experts and volunteers. Please help us by donating where possible, and sharing this article.