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Falconer cleared of hunting charge because he uses golden eagle to hunt foxes

Falconer cleared of hunting charge because he uses golden eagle to hunt foxes

Afalconer has been cleared of breaching strict hunting laws because he hunts foxes using a golden eagle.

John Mease, 45, was found not guilty after a court heard he used the bird of prey to catch animals as opposed to a pack of dogs.

He was further cleared of causing unnecessary cruelty to an animal despite “dispatching” a fox by driving a knife through its eye after it was caught by his raptor in 2013.

George Adams, 66, a co-accused Fitzwilliam huntsman, was convicted of using hounds to kill a fox on January 1 2016.

Peterborough Magistrates Court was filled with supporters of the huntand hunt saboteurs during the two-day trial.

Magistrates heard that the hunt’s hounds were used to flush the fox out into the open before the eagle was meant to be released to catch the fleeing mammal.

Video footage filmed by Stephen Milton, a hunt saboteur, showed the 40-hound hunt in a field near Wansford, Cambs, and picked up the sound of a hunting horn.

Mr Milton said he did not hear anyone from the hunt calling the dogs off the fox after they picked up its scent.

The fox was killed by the pack of hounds and Mr Mease’s golden eagle was not released.

Adams, who joined the Fitzwilliam Hunt in 1981 and became a huntsman in 1984, said he had not seen the fox before it was killed.

When asked if it was his intention to kill the fox with hounds, he said: “Absolutely not. We wanted to flush it out for the bird of prey.”

Mr Mease told the court there was no chance for him to release his golden eagle because the saboteurs were in the field.

Asked why he did not radio Adams to call the hunt off, he said: “A hunt is a fluid thing. It was changing minute by minute.

“It was the heat of the moment and it was the first time I had come across saboteurs in my 11 years.”

He told the court he was in charge of the bird but had no control over the pack of hounds, which was Adams’ responsibility.

The court was also shown headcam footage from Mr Mease taken in November 2013, when he used the golden eagle to catch a fox.

He then used a falconers knife to kill the animal by driving the spike through its eye.

It took him 47 seconds to kill the fox from the moment it was caught by the eagle.

Mr Mease said: “No-one else could have done it quicker.”

He denied hunting for sport and described himself as a pest controller.

District Judge John Woollard said he had heard no evidence the hunt had made any changes to their activities – other than using the falconer – since the hunting act was introduced in 2005.

Joe Bird, prosecuting, alleged that the eagle was used as a “smokescreen” to allow the hunt to continue as it had before the law was changed.

He said: “The set up was never going to work. It was a smokescreen.

“There were so many occasions when they would not have been able to fly the eagle.”

Stephen Welford, defending both men, said: “There is video footage of Mease using his eagle to kill a fox. That would not exist if it was a smokescreen.”

Judge Woollard said it was clear Adams had no control over the hounds during the hunt.

He was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge and £930 costs.

Hunt Saboteurs Association spokesperson Lee Moon said after the trial: “To anyone who witnessed the events on the day in question it was abundantly clear that a wild mammal was hunted and killed illegally, in a most gruesome manner.

“The loopholes and exemptions in the current act have always been cynically exploited by hunts in order to operate much as they would have done prior to the ban.”

Adrian Simpson, from the Countryside Alliance, said they believed the judge had made the wrong decision, and said Adams was planning to appeal.

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