There’s something thrilling about the chase – that’s what we would tell each other anyway.
Foxes are vermin, their numbers need to be controlled, hunting is less cruel than shooting or snaring – those were some of the excuses.
But deep down, I knew I was doing something wrong as a pro-hunter, and that’s why I started questioning a way of life I’d always been involved with.
Before the ban
The Hunting Act came into force in 2005. By that time, I had stopped going out hunting myself for a number of reasons, but was still part of that social circle, and sometimes followed the hunt on foot.
Something that is still quite difficult to explain to anti-bloodsports people is the social part of hunting.
It is about chasing the quarry, and it is about going out and riding, but it’s also about being part of a community.
If you are out and about, for example, and see someone wearing a certain tie – you know you have that community in common.
That can make it quite difficult to leave.
But despite this, my feelings about hunting were becoming too strong to ignore.
It’s true that many hunters are hooked on the ride – and you have to be good to chase a fox – but it’s also true that the quarry suffers horribly.
It was witnessing one such animal die – loudly and in obvious agony – when following a hunt, that made something in me snap.
I went and read some of the autopsies done on foxes killed in hunts – and it made horrible reading. And it made me question my own behavior.
No-one likes to think, ‘I am torturing an animal’ – but I realised that’s exactly what I was complicit in doing.
I see lots of lies and misinformation about hunt sabs.
Lots of the hunting fraternity say that sabs hurt the dogs or horses, spray acid in their eyes, or lead them onto roads and railway tracks.
That is such complete nonsense.
I also see hunters accuse sabs of wearing balaclavas. That is also a total lie. While sabs often cover their faces, they never wear balaclavas.
In fact, the only people I have ever seen at a hunt wearing them are the terrier men.
Who, you might ask?
These guys represent the seedy, scummy side of hunting more than anyone else.
They drive quad bikes which have metal boxes on the front – and in the metal boxes, they keep terriers. These animals wear tracking devices on their collars.
When a fox goes to ground, instead of sportingly doffing their cap to the animal, and admitting they were outfoxed, these so-called ‘sportsmen’ will send terriers down to find the fox. Some use metal detectors to track the terriers, and ‘dig out’ the fox – who is then thrown to the hounds.
And you call this a sport?
More unsporting behavior – you hear stories about hunts keeping foxes to release to hunt.
I have even seen video footage of a fox being captured by a hunt, then bagged, and driven away. I can’t bear to think about what these people will have done to that animal.
But it makes the point decisively: population control is nothing more than an excuse for hunting. It is not necessary – and it is not the motivation.
Every sab I know is vegan, and we would never hurt an animal – whatever beliefs we hold about hunters.
I wasn’t vegan when I first started getting involved with sabbing, but as I started to care more about animals, I didn’t want to hurt them at all.
In fact, I have seen a horse die at a hunt – and hunters left the horse in the spot until after they had finished riding.
Hunting hounds are treated horribly. They are working animals, not companions, and when they aren’t useful anymore, they are shot without emotion.
The advent of social media has changed hunting – as it has changed other things.
In many ways, it’s made it easier to get information about the hunts – which are incredibly secretive.
I am not the only hunter turned sab – and through social media and the internet, more people than ever are providing valuable information about bloodsports – even from within the community.
Times, it seems, really are changing.