In the United Kingdom, two women are waiting on the side of a muddy country road dressed warmly. One is holding a camera in her hand. A few meters away, there’s a group of people sitting atop their horses, dressed in hunting gear. They look at the camera with hostile glares.
“This is private property,” one of the hunters calls out. The camerawoman doesn’t let them intimidate her and answers, “We’re just here to make sure no crimes are being committed.” Nearby, two other hunters are waiting for the women to leave the premises, but they hold their ground.
Suddenly a tiny shape sprints past the group followed by a pack of noisy hunting dogs. The pack corners their victim and moves in closer.
The camerawoman’s companion doesn’t hesitate. She runs after the dogs and jumps into the middle of the pack, grabbing the defenseless — and thankfully unharmed — fox and holds him up away from the dogs.
She runs away as fast as she can with the terrified fox in her arms. The camera follows her as she runs in front of the furious hunters and their dogs.
Who are these women and why are they doing this? They are members of a British volunteer group that attempts to discourage and disrupt illegal hunting.
There have been so-called “hunt saboteurs” since the 1960s. They follow British hunting parties with cameras. Sometimes they follow the groups silently, holding a vigil for the animals and documenting the events. Other times they spray essential oils in the air to mask the scent of the fox, blow loudly into hunting horns to confuse the dogs, or jump directly between the dogs and their victims, putting their own bodies at risk.
Traditional fox hunting is particularly gruesome. The fox is chased by a pack of dogs until it is completely exhausted and then they set in and rip the animal to shreds. People follow the dogs on their horses and enjoy the bloody show afterwards.
Fox hunting has been illegal in the United Kingdom since 2005, but the hunt saboteurs know that many still hunt illegally. The prohibition on hunting is difficult to enforce and many hunters don’t want to give up their favorite aristocratic leisure sport. Sixteen foxes were recently found trapped in a barn in preparation for a coming hunt. According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), only a small percent of the hunts that take place conform to the law.
An anonymous member of the saboteurs said, “Advocates of the hunters claim these animals are a plague and that getting torn to shreds by a pack of dogs is the ‘quickest and best’ way to take care of them. Anyone who has ever seen or heard how a fox is killed by dogs knows that’s a lie.”
The saboteurs often have to remain anonymous to prevent the hunters’ taking revenge. Some have found their pets murdered in their front yards. They’ve been attacked, hit, threatened, and have received heavy verbal abuse.
You can see the fox rescue in its entirety here:
The work of these volunteers is even more impressive when you consider the personal risks they are taking on. Hopefully videos like this one will inspire more serious punishment for these illegal acts of violence.