hunt sab knocked down by supporter of Cottesmore Hunt

The Cottesmore Hunt car attack and other violence

The Cottesmore Hunt car attack and other violence – has failure to act given green light to violent hunt supporters?

Footage shared by Northants Hunt Saboteurs shows a car hitting a member of its group during a Cottesmore Hunt meet on 25 October. The group has since told local paper Leicestershire Live that the struck sab is “in shock” but “didn’t break any bones”. Nonetheless, Leicestershire Police said on 27 October that it arrested a woman on suspicion of attempted wounding with intent, an indictable offence with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Protect the Wild contacted the Cottesmore Hunt for comment and it said:

“The Cottesmore Hunt are aware of a horrific incident involving a hunt saboteur and a member of the public on private property on Tuesday, and understand that a Police Investigation is ongoing.

“The incident did not involve any member of the Cottesmore Hunt.

“We will of course help Police with their ongoing investigation and wish the injured person a speedy recovery.”

Protect the Wild also contacted Ladywood Estate, where the meet was held, for comment. It hadn’t responded at the time of publishing.

      Cottesmore Hunt supporter assaulting a hunt sab as hunter stands by. Oct 2022. Image Northants Hunt Sabs

Cottesmore Hunt: A History of Violence

The Cottesmore Hunt has distanced itself from the suspect in the 25 October case. And that’s no surprise given the history of violent incidents occurring at its meets.

Roughly a year later, on 18 September 2021, Broughton was again attacked during a Cottesmore Hunt meet. He was “hurled” from a gate and the group reported it resulted in two broken ribs. Leicestershire Police dropped the case in November of that year, citing “evidential difficulties”.

Even the high-profile car incident, which made national news, didn’t give people associated with the hunt pause for thought. Later the same day, sabs faced further attacks. “I got put in a choke hold,” a spokesperson for Northants Hunt Saboteurs told Protect the Wild. “I ended up on the floor, the terrierman was on top of me and he punched me straight in the side of the head and smashed the camera.”

Then, just four days later, at another Cottesmore Hunt meet, Northants Hunt Saboteurs reported further attacks against its members.

Although quick to distance itself from any specific instance, there appears to be a clear pattern of aggressive attacks on hunt saboteurs at Cottesmore Hunt meets.

“I think the Cottesmore, especially with this latest incident, and all the other smaller incidents over the years… they’ve promoted themselves to the most violent fox hunt in the country,” said Northants Hunt Sabs.

                                Middleton Hunt assaulting sab. March 2017. Video still Sheffield Hunt Sabs

Sabs, fights and video tape

Saboteurs and monitors have faced violent attacks while defending wildlife from the very start. But in recent years hunt members and followers have not been held accountable for violent attacks even with clear video evidence available.

On 18 March 2017, people from the Middleton Hunt assaulted members of Sheffield Hunt Saboteurs, West Yorkshire Hunt Saboteurs and East Yorkshire Coast Hunt Saboteurs. Body camera footage showed multiple people engaged in prolonged attacks on sabs, including one man sitting on top of a sab and repeatedly hitting them. Despite multiple cameras showing the incident, the CPS offered no evidence against four defendants, thereby causing the case to collapse.

Another notable incident was Mark Doggrell’s trampling of a sab in 2014. Video footage showed the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale huntsman riding into a member of Dorset Hunt Saboteurs from behind before galloping away. The sab, Nid, suffered a collapsed lung and broken ribs. The CPS dropped charges against Doggrell, citing “insufficient evidence that the incident could have been foreseen”.

                            Mark Doggrell trampling a Dorset Hunt Sab. August 2014 (Dorset Hunt Sabs)

Going further back, Northants Hunt Sabs pointed out the danger that sabs have always faced around hunt vehicles. “The two hunt saboteurs that were killed in the 1990s, they were both killed in incidents involving vehicles,” said the group. Nobody was held legally accountable for the deaths of Mike Hill (1991) or Tom Worby (1993).

There have been successful prosecutions of attackers associated with hunts. Luke Saddington, for example, plead guilty to ramming a sab vehicle during a meet of the Grove and Rufford Hunt. And notorious hunt thug Sean Stacey was eventually convicted of assaulting sabs. However, the majority of attacks go unaccounted for – even if there is clear video evidence available.

“If [the legal system] continues to fail to act on this stuff… then, personally, I think that’s going to give the hunts and their hired stewards quite a lot of confidence to do as they wish,” the sab group said. “When Mel had his ribs broken… when that was given a no further action, we wrote [at the time] that it effectively gives these people a green light. And that is a danger.”

                                Hunt Sabs Mike Hill (killed in 1991) and Tom Worby (killed in 1993)

(Header image: Northants Hant Sab run over at Cottesmore Hunt meet. Image Hants Hunts Sabs)