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Avon Vale Hunt laughing as two foxes ‘dug out’ and hunted

Footage purportedly showing terriermen involved in digging out a fox was published by the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) and ITV News on 8 February.

The video shows three men leaning into a freshly dug hole in a field, with one man pulling a terrier out. The video pans around to show hunt masters, staff and field riders present, just as another man pulls out a fox. The fox is dropped into the pack of hounds just as a second fox escapes from a hole, causing the pack to then chase after the second fox. This leads the person filming to excitedly shout: “Brace! There’s a brace!”, with ‘brace’ referring to two foxes. The other members of the hunt are then heard laughing.

It’s unclear how the video made it out to the public. However, the HSA and Wiltshire Hunt Sabs identified the hunt involved as the Avon Vale Hunt. The person filming appears to be a member of the hunt, possibly the whipper-in.

Digging out foxes is illegal under the Hunting Act.

“Bloodthirsty”

The HSA reported Wiltshire Hunt Sabs as saying:

“We routinely sab this particularly vile and vicious hunt, so we aren’t surprised to see them shrieking in delight as the whip chucks the first fox to the hounds as a second fox tries to flee.

“The Avon Vale are now truly exposed for the bloodthirsty criminals they are.”

Meanwhile, the HSA itself said the video:

“shows the full hierarchy of the criminal Avon Vale Hunt working in concert to torture animals.

“The fact that this video has emerged just a week before the 18th anniversary of the Hunting Act – proves, yet again, what we have been saying for almost two decades. Fox hunts are nothing more than rural [Organised Crime Gangs] who have been allowed to act with impunity for far too long.”

ITV News said the video was “recorded recently”, and that as a result the British Hound Sports Association had “immediately suspended” the Avon Vale Hunt. The news channel also said that a “pro-hunting insider” described themselves as “disgusted” by the footage. Meanwhile, in a video attached to the article, reporter Rupert Evelyn attempted to contact the hunt itself, but it didn’t respond.

Wiltshire Police confirmed to ITV News it will ‘review’ the footage and “investigate”.

Legacy of crime

The Avon Vale Hunt have a history of grubby practices. Most notably, it was caught up in the scandal of Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) candidate Jonathon Seed, who’d won the 2021 PCC election but swiftly stood down after a historic drink-driving conviction came to light. Seed was previously a master of the Avon Vale Hunt, during which time he went to trial in 2013 for his alleged involvement in digging out a fox. Seed narrowly avoided conviction after two others charged for the same incident plead guilty. It’s notable that one of the two that plead guilty, Stuart Radbourne, is identified by the HSA and Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs as appearing in the latest leaked video.

The same hunt also made headlines in 2021 following a heated Boxing Day meet at Lacock. It led to the conviction of three people, and the exposure of one attending officer on the day as a “fully paid up member of the Avon Vale Hunt”.

Protect the Wild’s Charlie Moores has outlined some of the problems that such close connections between Wiltshire Police and the local hunting industry has created.

And it’s for this reason that, in its condemnation of the leaked dig out footage, Wiltshire Hunt Sabs said:

“We hope Wiltshire Police do their jobs properly this time. For too long this hunt has gotten away with murder, largely because of the protection of Wiltshire Police who have had serving officers riding with this hunt.”

 

The story is fresh, so what happens next is unknown. The video clearly portrays not only criminal but deeply unethical activity, and yet again confirms what the anti-hunting movement have said about the hunting industry for decades.