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‘An incredibly vile sport’: Campaigns against Otter Hunting in Britain, 1900–39

  • DANIEL ALLEN (a1), CHARLES WATKINS (a2) and DAVID MATLESS (a3)

Abstract

Otter hunting was a minor field sport in Britain but in the early years of the twentieth century a lively campaign to ban it was orchestrated by several individuals and anti-hunting societies. The sport became increasingly popular in the late nineteenth century and the Edwardian period. This paper examines the arguments and methods used in different anti-otter hunting campaigns 1900–1939 by organisations such as the Humanitarian League, the League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sports and the National Association for the Abolition of Cruel Sports.

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References

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Notes

1. British Sporting Art, Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle. The Guardian, 9th May 2010. The painting is currently in store at the Laing Gallery, Newcastle http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/laing-art-gallery/collections.html

2. Donald, Diana, Picturing Animals in Britain 1750–1850 (New Haven and London, 2007), pp. 295–6; Ormond, Richard, Sir Edwin Landseer (London, 1981), pp. 184–7; Ormond, Richard The Monarch of the Glen: Landseer in the Highlands (Edinburgh, 2005).

3. Mackenzie, John M., The Empire of Nature (Manchester, 1988), p. 33 .

4. Allen, Daniel, ‘A Delightful Sport with ‘peculiar claims’: The Specificities of Otterhunting, 1850–1939’, in Hoyle, R. W., ed., Our Hunting Fathers: Field Sports in England after 1850 (Lancaster, 2007), pp. 143–64; Allen, Daniel, Otter (London, 2010); Allen, Daniel, ‘The Hunted Otter in Britain, 1830–1939’, in Middleton, K. and Pooley, S., eds, Wild Things: Nature and the Social Imagination (Cambridge, 2013); Watkins, Charles, Matless, David and Merchant, Paul, ‘Science, Sport and the Otter, 1945–1978’, in Hoyle, R. W., ed., Our Hunting Fathers: Field Sports in England after 1850 (Lancaster, 2007), pp. 165–86; Syse, Karen Victoria Lykke, ‘Otters as Symbols in the British Environmental Discourse’, Landscape Research, 38 (2013), 540–52.

5. The Masters of Otterhounds Association was formed on 9th February 1910. This official regulatory association was set up to standardise conduct in the field, eliminate internal squabbles over hunting countries and promote the otterhound breed.

6. Pring, Geoffrey, Records of the Culmstock Otterhounds, c. 1790–1957 (Exeter, 1958), p. 35 .

7. Captain T. W. Sheppard, ‘Decadence of Otter Hunting’, The Field, 20th October 1906, 658.

8. Bell-Irving, David Jardine, Tally-Ho: Fifty Years of Sporting Reminiscences (Dumfries, 1920), p. 120 .

9. Walter Cheesman and Mildred Cheesman, Diaries of the Crowhurst Otter Hounds, 1904, Unpublished, East Sussex Record Office, Reference AMS5788/3/1, p. 3.

10. This echoed broader concerns for non-human animals. The National Anti-Vivisection Society was founded by Frances Power Cobbe in 1875; the Plumage League was established in 1889 and became the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in 1904. See Kean, Hilda, ‘The “Smooth Cool Men of Science”: The Feminist and Socialist Response to Vivisection’, History Workshop Journal (1995), 40:1, 1638 ; Kean, Hilda, Animal Rights (London, 1998); Moore-Colyer, R. J., ‘Feathered Women and Persecuted Birds: The Struggle against the Plumage Trade, c. 1860–1922’, Rural History, 11 (2000), 5773 ; see also Griffin, Carl J.“Some inhuman wretch”: Animal Maiming and the Ambivalent Relationship between Rural Workers and Animals’, Rural History, 25 (2014), 133–60.

11. The League established a special department to deal with Sports in 1895.

12. Salt, Henry, Humanitarianism (London, 1891), p. 3 .

13. Salt edited the two Humanitarian League journals: Humanity, later renamed The Humanitarian (1895–1919) and The Humane Review (1900–1910).

14. Newcastle Daily Journal, 29th May 1914, cited at http://www.henrysalt.co.uk/friends/colonel-coulson.

15. Colonel W. Lisle B. Coulson, ‘The Otter Worry’, in Henry Salt, ed., British Blood Sports: ‘Let us go out and kill something’ (1901), pp. 33–6, p. 34.

16. Ibid., p. 33.

17. Ibid., p. 35.

18. Coulson, ‘Otter Worrying – A Protest’, The Humanitarian, August 1908, 61.

19. Mackenzie, Empire, p. 38.

20. Oliver, Roland, ‘Johnston, Sir Henry Hamilton (1858–1927)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [online].

21. Mackenzie, Empire, p. 211.

22. The latter formed a pack of Otter Hounds in Llandinam, Wales, bearing his name in 1906. This pack disbanded in 1919 when he became master of the Hawkstone Otter Hounds.

23. Sir Harry Johnston, British Mammals (1903), p. 140.

24. Ibid., p. 5.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid., p. 140.

27. Ibid., p. 141.

28. Ernest Bell, ‘The Barnstaple Cat-Worrying Case’, The Animals’ Friend (1906), 43.

29. ‘The Cheriton Cruelty Case’, The Field, 28th October 1905, 768

30. Smith, Virginia, ‘Bell, Ernest (1851–1933)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [online].

31. Ernest Bell, ‘Cat Worrying by “Sportsmen”’, The Animals’ Friend (1905), 182–3.

32. Ernest Bell, ‘The Barnstaple Cat-Worrying Case’, The Animals’ Friend (1906), 43.

33. Ernest Bell, ‘Cat Worrying’, pp. 182–3

34. J. C. Bristow-Noble, Madame, 22nd July 1905, 171, cited in Cheesman and Cheesman, Diaries of the Crowhurst Otter Hounds, p. 43 [Actually it was Mrs Kellogg-Jenkins, Battle, who had been born in San Francisco, 1911 census].

35. ‘Correspondence. Should Otters be Hunted?’, Madame, 9th September 1905, 515, cited in Cheesman and Cheesman, Diaries of the Crowhurst Otter Hounds, p. 44.

36. Ibid., p. 44.

37. Ibid., p. 44.

38. Ibid., p. 75.

39. ‘Spurious Sports – “Sport with an Otter”’, The Humanitarian, October 1906, 75.

40. Ibid.

41. Stephen Coleridge was the second son of Lord Chief Justice of England, John Duke Coleridge, and great nephew of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Reverend H. C. G. Matthew, ‘Coleridge, Stephen William Buchanan (1854–1936)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004).

42. Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 1906 Annual Report (1906), p. 127.

43. Ibid., p. 128.,

44. Ibid.

45. Daily Mail, 23rd May 1906, cited in Downing, Graham, The Hounds of Spring. The History of the Eastern Counties Otter Hounds (Powys, 1988), p. 24.

46. ‘The RSPCA and its Objects’, The Animal World, July 1906, 154.

47. Ernest Bell, ‘The RSPCA’, The Animals’ Friend (1906), 169–170; Reverend Joseph Stratton, ‘The Abdication of the R.S.P.C.A.’, The Humanitarian, August 1906, 59.

48. Salt, Henry, Seventy Years Among Savages (London, 1921) p. 141 .

49. Joseph Collinson, The Hunted Otter (1911), p. 19.

50. Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler: Or the Contemplative Man's Recreation (1653), Chapter 2.

51. Collinson, The Hunted Otter, p. 6.

52. L. C. R. Cameron, Otters and Otter-Hunting (1908), cited in Collinson, The Hunted Otter, p. 6.

53. Ibid., p. 14.

54. Ibid., p. 17.

55. Ibid., p. 3.

56. Ibid., p. 20. A part of this pamphlet, which included this quotation, was reprinted in Cruel Sports magazine in 1929. Covering two pages (81–2), it was retitled ‘“Sport” and the Otter.’

57. Coulson, ‘Otter Worrying – A Protest’, The Humanitarian, August 1908, 60–1.

58. George Greenwood, ‘Chapter 1: The Cruelty of Sport’, in Henry Salt, ed., Killing for Sport (1914), p. 6.

59. ‘The Otter Worry’, The Humanitarian, September 1907, 164.

60. Rogers, W. H., Records of the Cheriton Otter Hounds (Taunton, 1925), p. 225 .

61. Cameron, L. C. R., Rod, Pole and Perch: Angling and Otter-hunting Sketches (London, 1928), p. 52 .

62. Humanitarian, April 1918, 100, cited by Tichelar, Michael, ‘“Putting Animals into Politics”: The Labour Party and Hunting in the First Half of the Twentieth Century’, Rural History, 17 (2006), 213–34, 219; see also Tichelar, Michael, ‘“A blow to the men in Pink”: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Opposition to Hunting in the Twentieth Century’, Rural History, 22 (2011), 89113 .

63. The League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sport, Annual Report (London, 1926).

64. The group's membership steadily grew from over 300 in 1925, to over 2000 in 1929, and 3000 in 1938.

65. Williamson, Henry, Tarka the Otter: His Joyful Water-life and Death in the Country of the Two Rivers (London, 1927); Rogers, William, Records of the Cheriton Otter Hounds (Taunton, 1925).

66. ‘Demonstrations at a Meet of the Bucks Otter Hounds’, Cruel Sports, June 1931, 51,

67. The League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sports, Annual Report (London, 1931), 34. This is likely to be a ban by local landowners.

68. ‘Leeds Women Protest at an Otter Hunt’, Cruel Sports, August 1935, 59.

69. Ibid., 3.

70. On occasions deer-hunters hunted and killed hinds-in-calf.

71. ‘Otter-Hunting’, Cruel Sports, August 1939, 58.

72. In February 1918 the Representation of the People Act gave all women over the age of thirty the right to vote. It was not until July 1928 that the age was lowered to twenty-one.

73. This is not to say that those within the League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sports subscribed to this notion. A high proportion of the League were women.

74. ‘About Otter-Hunting’, Cruel Sports, July 1928, 85.

75. ‘“Sport” and the Otter’, Cruel Sports, June 1929, 81–2; this had first appeared in The Western Mail, 1st June 1929.

76. Justice for the Animals, ‘Otter-Hunting’, Cruel Sports, October 1929, 128.

77. ‘The Spirit of Otter-Hunting’, Cruel Sports, August 1939, 62.

78. ‘About the Otter’, Cruel Sports, June 1928, 73.

79. ‘Brutality of Otter-Hunting’, Cruel Sports, June 1928, 74.

80. H. E. Bates, Otters and Men (1938), p. 1.

81. Ibid., p. 1.

82. Ibid., p. 2.

83. Ibid., pp. 2–3.

84. Ibid., p. 3.

85. Ibid., pp. 3–4.

86. Hopkinson, T., ed., Picture Post 1938–50 (London, 1970), p. 8 .

87. Varndell became huntsman in 1904. The following year he became joint Master with Mrs Mildred Cheesman who had been celebrated as the first lady master of otter hounds in the Daily Mail in 1905, as discussed earlier in this paper.

88. Osman, Colin, ‘Man, Felix Hans (1893–1985)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 .

89. Douglas Macdonald Hastings, ‘Hunting the Otter’, Picture Post, 22nd July 1939, 52–56, p. 52. Hastings (1909–82) became a leading war reporter for Picture Post.

90. Ibid., p. 53.

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