Atherstone hunt staff hands dead fox over to master.

A new housing development is the final nail in the coffin of a once prestigious hunt

A developer has applied to build a 50-house estate on the Leicestershire-Warwickshire border. If permitted, it will usurp land previously owned by the Atherstone Hunt. And the news marks an epilogue to one of the most successful hunt saboteur campaigns in recent history.

The Leicester Mercury reported on 24 December that Hollins Strategic Land LLP applied to Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council for permission to develop land in Witherley. The outline application contains plans for 50 houses on the site. And it comes after the council approved an application containing plans for eight houses on the southern side of the same site in January.

What makes this significant is that the land was previously home to the Atherstone Hunt. This hunt was the target of an ambitious and ultimately successful campaign by West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs. On 8 October 2019, the sab group said that:

After six long years of an unrelenting and unstoppable campaign by West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs the 200 year old Atherstone Hunt have finally thrown in the towel and folded.

For six years the Atherstone Hunt have been completely sabotaged and as a result they have now folded. This means that for now the 908 km² area of West Leicestershire and North Warwickshire are completely hunt free and hundreds of foxes lives will now have been saved.

Google Streetview screenshot of former Atherstone Hunt kennels.
The former Atherstone Hunt kennels, via Google Maps.

Whilst other local packs including the Quorn Hunt have since started using some of the country formerly hunted by the Atherstone Hunt, its former kennels remained empty. The hunt’s limited company declared insolvency in April. But the development of its kennels into housing is a headstone for what was once one of the most prestigious hunts in the UK.

Relentless sabbing

The Atherstone Hunt formed in 1814. During its lifetime, it became one of the country’s most famous hunts alongside neighbouring packs such as the Quorn and Belvoir hunts. The campaign against the Atherstone Hunt was a difficult road for West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs to tread. The group said in its post announcing the end of the hunt that:

We have faced harassment, extreme provocation and regular violence from those associated with the Atherstone Hunt. We’ve received death threats, had our tyres slashed, cars burnt out and have been hospitalized. We have also faced a hostile campaign of police harassment from Leicestershire Police who have actively sabotaged investigations against the Atherstone Hunt whilst constantly seeking to prosecute members of our group at all costs.

However, the sab group pursued the hunt relentlessly. It said it had been at “almost every single meet” of the pack during the six-year campaign. Several notorious videos and images went viral as a result. This included the moment one supporter simulated sex with a dead goose in 2015, and the moment sabs rushed into the pack of hounds on a road to recover the body of a fox in 2017.

A steward for the Atherstone Hunt spins the head of a dead goose around while pretending to have sex with the body.
An Atherstone Hunt steward simulates sex with a dead goose, via West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs.

Nonetheless, constant disruption by West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs not only hampered the hunt’s ability to pursue and kill foxes but also led to a string of cautions and convictions against people involved with the Atherstone Hunt. The end of the hunt was hailed by the Hunt Saboteurs Association as a “testament to what direct action can achieve”.

A spokesperson for the hunt told the Daily Mail in 2019 that, following its dissolution, it was discussing a “possible…sharing of kennels”. However, this never materialised.

Bittersweet monument

The end of the Atherstone Hunt could be seen as the first blow in what is increasingly looking like the final days of the hunting industry. The new housing estate will therefore stand as a bittersweet monument in this history. Bitter because new housing estates are often detrimental to local biodiversity, but sweet because it is reminder of what hunt saboteurs and the wider anti-hunting movement can accomplish.

West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs are now taking on the Warwickshire Hunt. You can donate to their efforts via Paypal.

Featured image via West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs