Avon Vale dig out

Avon Vale Hunt finally charged after digging out foxes

Three members of the Avon Vale Hunt have been charged and will appear in court in July. Footage, which shows the men digging out two foxes and throwing one to hounds, sparked national outrage when it was aired in February.

Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs announced on Facebook:

“Whipper-in Aaron Fookes charged under Animal Welfare Act and Hunting Act
Terrierman Alex Warden charged under Animal Welfare Act and Hunting Act.
Huntsman Stuart Radbourne charged under Hunting Act.
Others present on that day, watching and cheering such as Melissa Hyde, Danny Chenoweth, etc visible on the footage, Harry Mayo behind the camera are not facing any charges.
Huntsman Radbourne – was in charge of the hunt that day, also isn’t facing Animal Welfare Act charges.”

The three men have been charged with section 1 of the Hunting Act 2004 – hunting a wild animal with dogs – while Fookes and Warden have also been charged with causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal under section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act. Under Section 4 a person who is ‘responsible’ for an animal commits an offence if he causes ‘unnecessary suffering’ and an offence if he fails to act to stop another person from causing unnecessary suffering. Fookes and Warden became ‘responsible’ for the fox once the animal was in their ‘protection’.

Radbourne previously pleaded guilty in 2013 to interfering with a badger sett. At the same time, he was charged under the Hunting Act, along with four other Avon Vale members, including disgraced Wiltshire councillor and ex-Avon Vale hunt master Jonathon Seed. In that incident, Radbourne was seen “waist-deep” in dirt. The prosecutor at the time said:

“There had been considerable interference with the set, digging and filling in the entrances. In total there were 15 entrances to the sett, 11 of which had been blocked. RSPCA Inspector Ian Burns, who turned up at the site, described it as ‘the worst find he has ever witnesses in his 25 years of being an inspector’.”

Terrorising two foxes

This latest horrific footage, which was shared publicly by ITV News and the Hunt Saboteurs Association back in February, shows three men leaning into a freshly-dug hole. One of the men pulls a terrier out. Fookes then pulls out a fox and she is dropped into the pack of hounds to tear apart. A second fox then escapes from a hole, and some of the dogs chase her. The person filming shouts: “Brace! There’s a brace!” (a ‘brace’ refers to two foxes), while hunt staff laugh.

Wiltshire Hunt Sabs has described the Avon Vale as “the most violent and prolific fox hunt”. Hunt’s governing body, the British Hound Sports Association (BHSA), was forced to permanently expel the Avon Vale following the airing of the damning footage. It remains to be seen whether it will continue hunting as an unregistered pack, or whether its members will join other local hunts such as the Beaufort or the notorious Mendip Farmers, which is supported and hosted by Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and his family.


Fookes and Radbourne will appear in court on 5 July, while Warden will appear in court on 7 July. The Sentencing Council recently published new guidelines to magistrates who are sentencing people who have caused unnecessary suffering to an animal under the Animal Welfare Act. The new animal cruelty guidelines increased the maximum penalty from six months to five years custody. This could, at least in theory, affect the sentencing given to Fookes and Warden if they are found guilty. The criminal Radbourne, meanwhile, will get off with a fine if convicted under the Hunting Act.


Support those on the ground

While the Avon Vale no longer ceases to exist as a registered pack, its individuals are still free to terrorise wildlife in the southwest with other hunts. Hunt saboteurs will be out in force to try to prevent and film them from murdering more foxes. It’s essential we show them our support.

  • Donate to Wiltshire Hunt Sabs here. Donate to Bath Hunt Sabs here.


Featured image screenshots via Wiltshire Police