HUNTING a fox with packs of hounds was banned 10 years ago, but a decade on hunters and anti-hunt activists alike are not satisfied with the results.

Jeremy Reed, 52, master of the Flint and Denbigh Hunt, says he would like the law overturned, while anti-hunt spokeswoman Annie Maluver, 44, of Brymbo, says current enforcement is not good enough.

Horsemen and women and supporters of the Flint and Denbigh Hunt can sometimes be seen in Denbighshire and Flintshire.

The hunt traces its history back at least 125 years when three existing hunts amalgamated.

Mr Reed said: “My father hunted, shot and fished. Hunting has been part of my life since I was tiny. I remember being told hunting stories by my mum.

“There’s never been a time where I wasn’t involved in the hunt, but I started actually attending hunts under my own steam when I was 13 or 14. Now I look after 70 foxhounds and it’s a full time job.”

Mr Reed still leads hunts since the ban, as trail hunting, where a fake scent is laid down, which is not illegal.

He says the Flint and Denbigh Hunt endeavours to stay within the letter of the law.

He said: “I remember when the ban came in. I wasn’t expecting it to be passed. It’s one of those things, like when your mother or father dies, that you never think will happen.

“Emotionally and financially I went through quite a rough time.

“I’ve now been doing the job for 35 years. When the ban came in, it was my career and livelihood taken away from me. I didn’t know what I was going to do or how to carry on.”

Mr Reed, who still acts as hunt master, was able to continue partly because he claimed the controversy sparked interest from members of the public.

He said: “Actually the ban had a strange effect. We got huge interest from people wanting to support us or wanting to find out more about hunting because of their own personal reasons.

“I think people don’t know a lot about hunting and that’s why they don’t like it. I think we’ve done a good job educating people.”

Mr Reed lives within 50 yards of the hounds, which are cared for according to Masters of Fox Hounds Association guidelines.

He said: “They are fed on ‘fallen’ animals, cows or sheep that can’t be used for human consumption. I work with local farmers to provide it.

“It’s a big job and it’s a big part of my life. Because I live so close to them, I can hear everything that goes on, whether there’s a little niggle or the hounds start ‘singing’ to each other. 

“That feeling when you head out of the yard with 30 dogs next to you is lovely.”

Mr Reed has little patience for anti-hunt activists and said on at least one occasion, one of his associates was assaulted by a hunt saboteur.

He said: “It has never really crossed my mind fox hunting is cruel. I’ve never thought it was something I shouldn’t be doing.”

Mr Reed wants a return to the days where fox hunting was fully legal. He believes despite what critics say, fox hunting is an effective way of controlling the population.

He said: “When we set hunting trails, I use fox urine imported from America. That way we didn’t need to re-train the hounds and if the law changes we won’t need to re-train them then.”

Annie Maluver, 44, became an unofficial hunt “monitor” after the fox hunting ban came into force in 2005.

She has links to hunt saboteurs but has never interceded directly in a hunt, preferring to observe and document hunters to make sure they stay within the law.

She believes the legislation is not working because it is not enforced strictly enough.

She said: “All I do is follow the hunts, make notes of how they behave and how many hounds are out and see whether they are acting in line with the law.

“I don’t believe in violence. Some hunt saboteurs are very passionate, which is understandable, but violent behaviour doesn’t do the cause any good.

“I’m also a realistic person. I grew up in the countryside and I understand sometimes farmers might find it necessary to cull foxes, but there are far more effective and humane ways of doing it.

“A good marksman will kill a fox in seconds. That’s very different to flushing out a fox, chasing it six or seven miles across fields alongside 30 dogs, calling the hounds off to let the fox rest and then starting the chase again until it’s run so far and is so distressed its heart is about to give out and then tearing it to pieces.”

Ms Maluver also argues hunting foxes with hounds is “just a sport” and is not a practical way of keeping fox numbers down.

She said: “I have no objection to trail hunting. I used to follow aniseed trails [where hounds follow artificially placed aniseed] when I was younger and a member of the pony club and they are great fun.

“When you see a hunt in action, you are left in no doubt it’s the thrill of the kill that’s important. You hear people laughing about the kill and cheering. They think it’s great, but essentially it is animal cruelty of the highest order.”

Ms Maluver said that while hunting is illegal, it still continues, and she fears hunt participants are not often called to face justice.

She said: “It still goes on all the time and the law is not being enforced strictly enough.

“When it comes to violent clashes between hunters and hunt sabs, I can tell you that saboteurs have been assaulted by riders as well.”

Ms Maluver agreed many people who dislike the idea of fox hunting will be those who grew up in an urban environment, but added plenty in the countryside disliked the practice as well.

She said: “The idea of hunting animals for sport makes me feel very uncomfortable. 

“There are studies that suggest if someone is likely to hurt an animal then they are likely to be capable of hurting humans too.

“The argument it is traditional doesn’t hold much water for me. Traditions aren’t automatically good.”

Ideally, Ms Maluver wants to see lawbreaking “followed up on”.

She said: “I would like to see police enforce the ban more effectively. There have been stories recently where badger diggers have been prosecuted but that doesn’t seem to happen as often with fox hunting. I think the sport is still privileged in society.”

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