Punching a horse is atrocious, but so is murdering fox cubs

Most people reading Protect the Wild already know this, but it bears being said. The media circus around Sarah Moulds highlights Britain’s broken relationship with other animals.

When Hertfordshire Hunt Saboteurs filmed Moulds attacking a horse in November 2021, the footage went far and wide. Not only across anti-hunting social media but across the headlines of national papers too. As a result, Moulds’ identity was exposed and she lost her job.

Now her story is back in the public’s mind again. The RSPCA brought two charges of animal cruelty against the former teacher and after nearly two years, she finally stood trial at Lincoln crown court. At the time of writing, the jury had just retired to consider its verdict.

Much like the original incident, Moulds’ trial has made headlines across the board. Meanwhile, social media is filled with venom for her, not just from people identifying themselves as vegan or into animal rights.

Yet Moulds’ trial comes at a particularly crucial time of year, at least as it relates to the hunting and shooting industries. And the disparity between the coverage of that and Moulds’ trial is revealing.


In July, Eliza Egret wrote for Protect the Wild an article about exactly this. She pointed out how the UK, as a nation of alleged animal lovers, nonetheless maintained systems of oppression that hurt and kill different creatures in different ways.

People will love their ‘pet’ dogs but turn a blind eye to the suffering of hunting hounds, horse racing and live animal testing. There are even laws that institutionalise this hypocrisy – such as laws that protect the badger while other laws permit their wholesale massacre through culling.

Egret summarised this, saying:

“Loving one animal, while being apathetic about the mistreatment or murder of another – is called speciesism.”

Moulds’ case has provided another insight into this issue.

grouse shooting

Lack of awareness

The trial began on 22 August, right in the middle of the most critical time of year for the hunting and shooting industries.

The start of the grouse killing season – known by shooters as the Glorious Twelfth – occurred just ten days previous. At the same time, fox hunts start their season off with a period of cubbing, during which new hounds are taught to hunt by killing fox cubs. Meanwhile, deer hunts are beginning their season by chasing, exhausting, and then brutally murdering mature stags. And the ‘summer sport’ of mink hunting is still going, though coming to the end of its season.

All of these are happening right now. Shooters are killing thousands of birds and hunters are killing hundreds of mammals as I write. Hunt saboteurs were even hospitalised and had their vehicle smashed up while monitoring a stag hunt on the same day Moulds’ trial began. But it is the spectacle of a woman punching a horse that has made national headlines.

This is not to minimise Moulds’ actions, nor to chastise people for their response to the footage. No doubt most of those horrified by the attack on the horse are equally disturbed by everything mentioned above – or they would be if they knew about it.

For example, a poll commissioned by Protect the Wild showed that nine out of ten members of the public had never heard of cubbing. However, once the activity was explained, more than two-thirds said they were against the practice.

This highlights that often the problem isn’t ethics but awareness.

The strength of media

How would that change if the media provided similar coverage to the wholesale slaughter of birds and mammals that it has done to Moulds’ incident and subsequent trial? We can draw some lessons from the accelerated coverage that mainstream news channels – Rupert Evelyn and ITV News in particular – have given to the hunting industry over the past three years.

Since the Hunt Saboteurs Association shared private Hunting Office webinars in November 2020, the hunting industry has been in “free fall”. A big part of this is down to a decision by ITV News to prioritise hunting-related stories. The hunting industry loves controlling the narrative around it, so when someone starts spreading its grimy insides all over the country, that becomes a major problem.

Sab and monitor groups are on the ground nearly every day at the moment exposing cubbing, stag hunting, and grouse shooting. Despite Moulds’ trial being adjacent to all of these in its subject matter, the media has all but turned a blind eye to them. Yet it could do wonders in exposing – and thereby helping to stop – such cruelties.

A court case about attacking a horse is the easy route, though. Horses are generally beloved by the British public (though not enough to put an end to horse racing, of course). There was a very blunt and explicit video of the incident. And court cases provide a ready-made narrative for reporting.

It’s understandable but it’s wrong. Such priorities reveal the speciesism of public discourse. And it shows why we need to make and share our own news.

Featured image via Mike Baird/Wikimedia Commons

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