Two members of Cirencester Illegal Hunt Watch hold up a fox who'd been found in a bag inside an artificial earth during a meet of the Cotswold Hunt

Cotswold Hunt sanctions aren’t enough: it needs to be shut down

Hunt’s governing body, the British Hound Sports Association (BHSA), has failed to take any meaningful lasting action against the criminal Cotswold Hunt.

The BHSA suspended the Cotswold Hunt in March after Channel 4 exposed harrowing footage of a fox, who had been bundled into a bag by the hunt and buried alive. But a BHSA panel, which met on 28 April 2023, failed to expel the hunt. The body’s lack of action shows what we all knew already: that the hunting industry can’t be trusted to investigate itself, and will do its utmost to look after its own.

The BHSA released a statement, saying that “the evidence revealed serious breaches of the Core Principles and Rules of the BHSA”, but that:

“no one involved in the management of the Hunt had prior knowledge of the fox being placed in an artificial earth, or would have condoned such conduct.”


The BHSA has said that the Cotswold Hunt can apply for reaccreditation before hunting again. The hunt has also been fined £5,000, to be paid within 28 days.

The BHSA announced other ‘sanctions’:

  • The Chairman and Joint Masters to be suspended from membership of the BHSA for two years.
  • The Huntsman to receive a written reprimand and reminder of his responsibilities as a Huntsman to ensure the good conduct of all those over whom he has authority.
  • The Hunt may not carry out terrier work on hunting days and must ensure appropriate supervision of its followers and supporters, in particular those on quad bikes.


But these sanctions are, quite frankly, ridiculous. Why did huntsman Guy Fitzearle only receive a “reminder of his responsibilities”? He is still free to continue terrorising foxes, and moves to another hunt for the new 2023/24 season. Cirencester Illegal Hunt Watch, whose footage captured the vixen being buried alive, is rightfully disgusted by these so-called ‘sanctions’. It said:

“Guy Fitzearle was in charge of the hunt that day and in the wood hunting when the fox was found. Just a telling off for him and a new hunting job to go to with Kimblewick Hunt.”

Meanwhile, Three Counties Hunt Sabs said:

“The Cotswold Hunt themselves have already agreed upon a new set of masters for the coming season. This was sorted out over a week ago, so they clearly knew well before now that they were going to be allowed to continue and, as you may remember from our post on Monday, Anthony Axel-berg will be moving over to the Cotswold as huntsman, having previously whipped-in for their close pals the Vale Of White Horse Foxhounds (whose huntsman, Philip Hague, is on the board of the BHSA).”


Investigating its own

The BHSA has known that all eyes were on it to take meaningful action against the Cotswold. It obviously hopes that these ‘sanctions’ will appease the public, fooling them into thinking that it wants to punish illegal hunters.

It is less than one year since the BHSA rebranded itself, changing its name from the Hunting Office in a bid to restore public faith in the hunting industry. The BHSA continued to try to win both the public and land owners over when it was forced to expel the Avon Vale Hunt, after that hunt was caught on film, digging out two foxes.

But this lack of action against the Cotswold Hunt, and absolutely no action against huntsman Fitzearle, shows what we all already knew: that the BHSA is keen to look after its own. An investigation into a hunt can’t be taken seriously if the hunting industry is, effectively, investigating itself.

Feeling the pressure

Despite this, the BHSA will be feeling the pressure, especially since Channel 4 has started taking an active interest in investigating fox hunting, continuing where ITV left off, and exposing some of the illegal acts that hunts carry out.

The hunting industry in England and Wales will also be worried since Scotland changed its law, banning hunting with dogs in all forms, including trail hunting. Scottish ministers recognised that trail hunting was just a smokescreen for illegal hunting, and legislated against it. Organisations such as Protect The Wild, along with activists around the country, are demanding a change of law in England and Wales, too.

Meanwhile, Fitzearle and others might rotate hunts, but they can’t escape being watched. Hunt saboteurs and monitors on the ground will continue to expose these hunters for the criminals they are.

And as for the Cotswold Hunt, the police are still investigating the incident of burying a live vixen in a sack. Time will tell whether they take this unspeakably cruel act more seriously than the BHSA has.

Take action

  • You can donate to Cirencester Illegal Hunt Watch, which exposed the Cotswold Hunt, by PayPal here, or by Ko-fi here.
  • Support the Vale Wildlife Hospital, which rescued the fox that day, and is on call to help wildlife 24/7. Donate here.
  • Urge businesses and landowners that sponsor the Cotswold Hunt to cut ties with the hunt. Three Counties Sabs has made a list of those associated here.The sabs urge you to be polite if you contact the businesses.
  • Read the Hunting of Mammals Bill. Commissioned by Protect the Wild and prepared by Advocates for Animals, the Hunting of Mammals Bill would permanently ban hunting in England and Wales.
  • Sign the petition for a proper ban on hunting here.