Farmers against Fox Hunting and Trespass (FAFT) welcomes the outcome of the defamation case brought by two County Kilkenny farmers against a senior hunt official. On February 4th, Hubert and Norman Daniels were awarded in excess of 30,000 Euro against Mr. Edward Norris of the Kilkenny Hunt in Kilkenny Circuit.
Aside from the defamation issue, we note that Norman and Hubert Daniels, the farmers concerned, had been videotaping hunt activity for years in an attempt to deter incursion by hunts on their land.
FAFT would make the point that many other farmers around the country have similar concerns, and indeed have had extremely negative experiences involving foxhunts. Extensive damage is caused every year by hunts trespassing on land and wreaking havoc in their pursuit of foxes. We believe that foxhunting is the scourge of modern agriculture.
Farming is a business and a farmer’s land is his “workshop”. The arrival onto his land of scores of horses, hounds and hunt followers to cause mayhem and destruction is the exact equivalent of having a gang of vandals break into a factory and running riot…breaking machines and furniture, and frightening the living daylights out of the workers. Such an incursion would not be tolerated, yet farmers nationwide have to contend with the ever present threat of hunt invasion and vandalism.
Farmers have to observe certain rules of good farming practise. There are books to be kept and records of animals with correct dates, numbers, and tags. Every farmer is required not to spread slurry at certain times of year. He cannot leave land exposed in winter- fallow or poached. He has to keep his hedges stock proof. He has to avail of the latest electric fencing and numerous other expensive modern aids to prevent animals from straying onto roads that are busier now than at any time in history.
These requirements are enshrined in law, and any breach on the farmer’s part can result in severe penalties, including withdrawal or drastic reduction of monetary payments, impacting drastically on his income and livelihood, or, in extreme cases, forcing him out of farming altogether.
This is the background to the plight of the two farmers who found themselves in court in the defamation suit against the Kilkenny Hunt official. Their refusal to allow hunts on their lands has to be seen in the light of those factors. Like other farmers, they have to keep their fences stock proof, their animals safe; their land in proper condition to give early grass, and they must have sufficient winter fodder, to keep their animals well fed and bedded for winter.
How can hunts be allowed then to undermine or even destroy attempts by farmers to meet all these requirements and to comply with the various EU and IFA rules?
IFA rules state that hunts must seek permission before passing over their lands and cannot encroach on any property without such permission. In practise, however, hunts routinely flout these rules, damaging fences, tearing up fields of valuable crops, traumatising livestock and scattering herds of sheep and cattle in all directions. When challenged by farmers about this rural vandalism, the hunters haughtily laugh off the protests and look down their noses at the victimised landowners as if nothing had happened. FAFT sees this behaviour not just in terms of trespass and damage caused: We also regard it as a form of bullying. We assert the right of all farmers to stand up to the foxhunts, to the clear and present danger they pose to the interests and incomes of those who struggle to make a living off the land.
We have enough challenges facing us without the hunt “cavalry” visiting mayhem on our lives and legitimate enterprises. We urge Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to include a total ban on foxhunting in the Animal Health and Welfare Bill that is currently proceeding through the Oireachtas. Drag hunting could replace it, enabling an artificial scent to be laid so as to avoid farmland and all lands declared off limits to hunting.
Philip P Lynch
Chairman, Farmers against Foxhunting and Trespass
Tel: 056-77 25 309