UK’s pro-hunting group drops its members right in the sh*t after ‘savage’ video emerges

Riders from Devon and Somerset Staghounds chase a deer across Exmoor
Tracy Keeling

The UK’s pro-hunting group rushed to defend its members after a ‘savage’ video of a deer hunt emerged. Unfortunately for hunters, the Countryside Alliance’s defence of the horrifying scene that unfolded in the video has only dropped its members further in the shit.

“Blatant cruelty”

As the Times reported, the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) captured the incident on 1 October. The video shows hunters from the Devon and Somerset Staghounds (DSSH) pursuing a red deer across Exmoor. Describing the scene, LACS chief executive Andy Knott asserted:

This is animal cruelty at its most shocking. The stag is clearly exhausted and suffering. It would have been running for miles. The film shows the hunt cracking a whip over its head, urging it on while baying supporters stand in the road to harass and confuse the stag some more to prevent it from escaping. All of this just so they can drag out the chase and the stag’s suffering for longer.

The Times confronted the Countryside Alliance, the industry’s campaigning organisation, with the footage. It argued:

The Devon and Somerset Staghounds were conducting legal hunting activities on Thursday, October 1, in compliance with the Hunting Act, when a stag was located that displayed obvious signs of injury and required immediate euthanasia.

Members of the hunt attempted to facilitate this as soon as possible to minimise the suffering to the stag.

Asked by the Times why hunters had to chase the stag in order to euthanise him, the group claimed:

The stag was stopped from running into cover and was shot by a licensed marksman.

There are numerous issues with this defence. First, the video shows that the riders had the stag surrounded at points. Second, it also appears to show little cover to run to, with the situation happening on open land, bar the odd tree dotted here and there. So there’s giant holes in the argument that a chase and whipping had to occur in order to stop the stag “running into cover”.

The DSSH declined to comment on the video, the Times said.

Legal savagery

The Countryside Alliance’s claim that the hunt was operating ‘legally’ is also problematic. As the Times explained, the 2004 Hunting Act “outlawed the hunting of mammals with dogs”. But it does allow hunters to use two dogs to find wounded deer, and flush them out from undergrowth if necessary, as long as they’re shot “as soon as possible” or for “research and observation”. As we’ve seen with previous “shocking footage” of stag hunts, these loopholes mean that hunts may well be operating within the law, even though their actions, as Knott says, involve blatant “animal cruelty”.

This begs the question as to whether the UK’s current laws are strong enough. Are they consistent with what the British public deems acceptable and right? The reaction to a tweet from conservationist Chris Packham highlighting DSSH’s “savagery” suggests the answer to that is a resounding no:

So although the Countryside Alliance attempted to come to the hunters’ defence by brandishing the practice’s legal status, it only dropped its members further in the shit. Because it highlighted that there’s a vast distance between what the British public believes is acceptable and what the law says is acceptable. To deliver on the will of the British people, these loopholes need to be closed now.

Featured image via League Against Cruel Sports / YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t the hunting set which is responsible for some of the big cat sightings we get in Britain. Hunting foxes is one thing but hunting exotic game is another. Have they released big cats in the past for more exciting sport, only to have the cats outsmart them and escape into the wild? They are arrogant enough to behave so irresponsibly, and for all their talk about “rules” they’re some of the most incorrigible miscreants around.

      Their money just means they’re a better class of right b***t***s.

    2. I’ve never hunted, but when I was fit enough, I used to ride. None of my horsey friends hunted either, but it bothers me that all riders are tarred with the same brush.
      My in-laws used to run a hunt in Somerset – I wasn’t a welcome visitor. I simply don’t understand the impulse to gather together with many others to harry and torment a harmless animal just for the pleasure of chasing it. There’s no bravery involved, and the only risk to personal safety is the rider’s own arrogance and stupidity.
      Drag hunting would be fine, if it could be guaranteed that it was only done to maintain the horses’ fitness and provide amusement for the riders. But despite what hunters maintain, it is impossible to guarantee that hounds can be prevented from pursuing live prey if a drag hunt raises one – or an innocent pet that gets caught in the cross-hairs.
      Forcing an already exhausted animal to flee just to satisfy the desire of hunters to pursue is despicable in the extreme. These people should not be allowed to breed.

    3. On a side note to this.
      It always makes my blood boil when you see Prince Egghead (William) spouting on about how he cares about wildlife; like today on the Beeb; yet he’s happy to condone Grandma’s grouse shoots on “her” buzzard and mountain hare cleansed Scottish estate.

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