On the day after Christmas, Steve and I went to Chagford to watch the Mid-Devon Hunt ride out. The first records of this hunt date from 1604. Hunting with dogs has been banned in the UK with the 2004 Hunting Act and the decision is still very controversial.
This statement is from the home page of the The Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) website:
Statement on the Human Rights Challenge to the Hunting Act
“The Human Rights challenge to the Hunting Act was launched back in 2004. The case was heard in the High Court, Appeal Court, and House of Lords, who all had sympathy for our point of view, but felt unable to overrule the wishes of elected Parliamentarians, whatever the quality of the argument. Recently The European Court of Human Rights has said that, although hunting was “part of the fabric and heritage of rural communities” that Parliament was justified in legislating where it judged an activity was “morally and ethically objectionable”. The court has therefore dismissed our application, not on the basis which the Government used to justify the Hunting Act; an unproven benefit to animal welfare, but because it considers that Parliament is justified in acting on subjective judgments about the morality of an activity. This was not the argument that Ministers or supporters of the Act used to promote it at the time. Thankfully the importance of the Human Rights case has diminished as parliamentarians have come to accept that the ‘moral judgment’ that led to the Act was prejudiced and that laws created on that basis are bound to be unworkable and fail. The European Court of Human Rights concludes that as the Hunting Act was passed by the UK Parliament, then it should be for the UK Parliament to decide on its future. We think that once it has this opportunity the Act it will almost certainly be repealed.”
Since the ban most of the 185 hunts in England and Wales have switched to trail-hunting, in which hounds follow a lure doused in fox urine. Trail setters run across fields, through ditches, and over hedgerows in an effort to mirror the movements of a hunted animal. I personally support the Hunting Act and do find it thrilling to see the hunt ride out. It feels like a deep part of English history and tradition.
We arrived early and went for a walk along the River Teign. It was a beautiful clear and cold day. The river reflected the bare winter trees and slow moving clouds.
The octagonal Market House in the town square is known locally as the Pepper Pot.
When we got back to the village, more and more people showed up to await the arrival of the hunt.
A fine brace of terriers
Among the first to ride up was the Master of the Foxhounds.
Over the next hour or so, more riders and spectators arrived and the hunt finally commenced at around 11:30.
After the hunt had gone, we went into the Ring O Bells pub to warm up by the fire and have a glass of mulled wine. Above the fire was a not so lucky fox.