A day in the life of the Hunt Investigation Team

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Jenny from the Hunt Investigation Team talks about the important work their vegan campaigners do to save local wildlife

The Hunt Investigation Team or H.I.T. was launched in May 2016, following the exposure of the South Herefordshire Hunt. The SHH were covertly filmed throwing live fox cubs to their hounds, to instil in them a hunting bloodlust. There was a huge national outcry and the fox hunting industry was exposed for a new level of barbaric animal cruelty. A criminal investigation and internal inquiry are now underway with five hunt staff under arrest, and all hunting activity at the SHH suspended. The case continues to affect the wider hunting community, with surrounding local hunts also complaining of reduced support this year. Fox hunts have long been rumoured for their grisly practices behind the scenes (the cruelty isn’t saved merely for hunting days) but this was the first time the world witnessed what actually goes on behind closed kennel doors.

The fox cub is thrown to the hounds

The undercover footage which sparked this exposé was obtained by the Hunt Investigation Team, or H.I.T. So who are the H.I.T. and what does our work really involve? At the H.I.T. we are all committed vegans, inspired by a shared respect for animals to defend persecuted wildlife. We are all volunteers, with full time jobs and family commitments, but we are moved by our shared ethos of justice for animals to practice our values in even the most hostile environments. The team work hard to develop the specialist skills required. This involves training in surveillance techniques, physical fitness, hunt research and ground work.We make sure we've got the staying power for long days on the ground by bringing with us vegan butties full of beetroot, carrot, ginger and garlic for endurance; peanut butter and banana fillings for energy; and homemade houmous and roast veg for comfort food. We take pride in being healthy, strong vegans who show what can be achieved with the values and diet of a vegan life. 

H.I.T. receives intelligence from the public and even members of the hunting community who are concerned by what they see and hear. H.I.T. investigators follow up such information with background research and time on the ground. If the lead is strong enough, surveillance follows, using covert cameras and other high-end equipment, to gain evidence of criminal activity. This can be a very risky operation, working ‘behind enemy lines’ at the scene of wildlife crime. It can also be very distressing, when footage is retrieved and reviewed, showing the full scale of horror committed behind closed doors. We often work through the night, out on the ground in all conditions, to capture the footage which can secure prosecutions. Whilst some activist interventions focus on stopping individual acts of cruelty, H.I.T.'s focus is on stopping the process entirely. In the case of the SHH, this meant the supply of baby fox cubs for the preparation and training of hunting hounds. Our work meant that the SHH's entire ‘cubbing’ season was aborted and their hunting activities are still suspended. We are an independent group, but work in alliance with the Hunt Saboteurs Association, League Against Cruel Sports, RSPCA and other groups, each with different approaches but together taking on the hunting industry from all angles. 

If footage is of sufficient quality for legal and/or media attention, it is submitted to trusted contacts. Giving statements to the police and interviews to the media help HIT to ensure that animal suffering is exposed, prosecuted and given publicity. We want to stop the individuals involved and show the public what is going on. Social media is invaluable in showing how much the public care, and keeping pressure on those in power. H.I.T.'s supporters have been instrumental in keeping the SHH case in the media and holding the police accountable. H.I.T. maintains an active social media profile and provides advice and guidance to the many queries we receive about wildlife crime in general. The support of the general public has been phenomenal and heartening – the future of hunting is weaker than ever.

H.I.T.'s early work was entirely self-funded, but we now fundraise to help us buy essential kit for investigations. We hope to secure funding to employ staff, as their time and expertise on the ground is as vital as the kit they use. We receive more intelligence than we can currently follow up, due to the limitations of being a small group of volunteers. However we are constantly inspired by others fighting all forms of animal abuse and this keeps us going. We believe the vegan community is stronger than the hunting fraternity and we encourage all vegans to get active in the fight against animal cruelty.  If you know of hunting in your area please phone our whistleblower hotline on 07562 314444. If you want to get involved with H.I.T and our work, please email on huntinvestigationteam[at]gmail[dot]com

Fox cubs in the fields

By Jenny Robbins

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