Hunt damage to Rathfriland farmerís land.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Hunt damage to Rathfriland farmerís land. thumbnail Tracks down field through pregnant ewes.

"I CAN assure you it won't happen again on my watch."

These were the reassuring words from a master of the County Down Stag Hounds to a Rathfriland farmer who hit out after members trespassed on to his land leaving behind a trail of destruction.

Organic poultry farmer David Hall said the damage was caused to his land after members opened one of his gates and entered the field at approximately 1.20pm last Tuesday (30 January).

"I have two alpacas which tend to keep an eye on the hens and I noticed them rounding up the hens and that is when I realised something was up," he said.

Mr Hall recounts that shortly after this, his neighbour contacted him to tell him that the huntsmen had gone into his field.

"I was in the house at the time and I looked out of the window to see two hounds bypassing the hens and going into the yard. With roughly 9,000 hens here, the hounds were most likely following a fox scent.

"The poultry were not amused and most of them were out in the fields at the time. My place is fenced for keeping dogs out so I wondered how they would have gotten in to the area.

"After seeing the dogs, I said to my wife 'what will we do?' she said 'go and get the gun before any damage is done'." Mr Hall said he fired a couple of warning shots into the air to warn the dogs off.

"After this I walked up to the top of the hill and there in the next field were about 10 members from the County Down Stag Hound. I told one of the men to get off my property but he just shrugged his shoulders at me."

Mr Hall, who partakes in hunting himself (not stag hunts), said "it is the fact that no one was controlling the hounds and that they trespassed on to my property. This is my livelihood and they made a complete mess of the field".

"In order to get into the field, one of the men would have had to get off their horse and cut the rope, they did however close the gate again after them, I'll give them that much.

"This is a working farm here, it's my livelihood, and like many other farmers we are under caution for influenza. I don't know what biosecurity the horses or the dogs have, if any at all.

"If I went into someone else's field on a quad for example it wouldn't be right so I don't see how they think they have the right to come into my field.

"I never saw the stag, but after the confrontation they headed off in the direction of Ballyroney.

"Thankfully nothing did happen, but if it had of, there would have been a bloodbath here with the hens." And this isn't the first time Mr Hall has encountered the County Down Stag Hounds. Approximately 15 years ago they came on to his land.

"The stag had somehow got into one of my fields where I had ewes and the men were just about to let their dogs into the field before I came.

"Yesterday morning my fields were full of hens and today the majority of them are staying inside. I take my livestock off the land in the winter and plough through the middle of the field, the area which is damaged is the area that I would be taking the trailer through."

The day after the incident, Mr Hall received a phone call from a farmer who keeps sheep on some of Mr Hall's fields.

"He keeps his sheep in two of my fields," said Mr Hall, "and was planning on lambing the ewes at the weekend, but there has been major damage caused by the horses to the hedge and the fence, the fence has been completely wrecked at one end of the field he told me."

Mr Hall reported the damage caused to the fence to the police and they informed him that they were aware of the hunt and had received several complaints from other landowners.

Mr Hall said he didn't recognise any of the members but as they fled they said to him they would be in touch if any damage was caused.

And they remained true to their word.

"On Thursday morning one of the masters along with some others came and fixed the fence, apologising for what happened and compensated me for the damage caused, they also offered to roll out the ground which was poached. I really was not expecting this to be honest and of course I was very surprised that they had resolved the issue so quickly.

"We parted on good terms," said Mr Hall, "and they explained that the stag had gone the wrong way meaning the group got split with fragmented groups of horses resulting in some going the wrong way."

Mr Hall added: "I am happy with their explanation and the apology but I still do not feel that what they are doing provides any service to us farmers."

Meanwhile, the County Down Stag Hounds didn't wish to comment further on the incident.


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