U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s former fox hunting buddies have been convicted of breaking the law by riding out on a fox hunt.
Cameron used to ride out on the infamous Heythrop Hunt, but says he has desisted since a ban on fox hunting went into effect in 2005. The ban is routinely ignored, however, by those whom Oscar Wilde called “the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable.”
In this case, the hunt was videoed last February by the charity Protect Our Wild Animals, which gave the footage to Britain’s Royal SPCA. The RSPCA then launched a prosecution of the hunt and two of its leaders, both friends of Prime Minister Cameron.
On Monday, Judge Tim Pattinson fined the hunt and two of its organizers a total of $42,750. But he criticized the RSPCA for having spent so much (more than $400,000) prosecuting the case.
“These defendants were well aware that they were breaking the law in that their actions would lead to a fox being torn apart by dogs,” RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said. “No doubt the hunt will say that those involved have now left and they had no knowledge of this crime. But the evidence of the deliberate hunting of foxes with dogs on many occasions is crystal clear. The truth is this hunt believed that they were above the law. They were wrong.”
Grant added: “This law protects our beautiful wild animals. We will ensure that it is enforced as Parliament intended.”
The law was passed by the previous Labor government when Tony Blair was Prime Minister. But Cameron’s majority Conservative government is considering holding a free vote (no party whips) that might well overturn the ban and have dogs and horses chasing all over the British countryside tearing foxes apart.
Still, the conviction is an embarrassing black eye to Cameron and the so-called “Chipping Norton set” of wealthy and influential friends, of whom he is one. The set includes Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of News International and editor of The Sun and The News of The World, who is now awaiting trial on charges related to the phone hacking scandal, in which some of Cameron’s senior aides have also been implicated.
The Heythrop Hunt operates out of Chipping Norton, and has long been considered one of Britain’s most glamorous and celebrated fox hunts.