Oliver Thompson, former huntsman of the Old Berks Hunt, tortures a fox cub while training a terrier

Freshly unearthed video shows former huntsman torturing a fox cub

On 21 June, the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) publicly shared footage of a man using a terrier to abuse a fox cub. It said the man in the footage was Oliver Thompson, the former huntsman of the Old Berkshire Hunt.

The mobile phone footage first shows the man using a spade handle to roughly remove a fox cub from a cage. A second part of the video shows Thompson gleefully holding the cub prostrate around their neck and repeatedly forcing them towards a young terrier.

Identifying the man as Thompson, the HSA said the video showed him โ€˜hardeningโ€™ the terrier. This is when a young terrier is trained to attack foxes that have gone to ground inside a hole, a key part of terrierwork. An HSA spokesperson expanded on the practice, saying:

โ€œWhat we have here is a young terrier being hardened to attack foxes, and undoubtedly this is for use on hunt days.โ€

After the HSA publicly revealed the video, the British Hound Sports Association (BHSA) issued a statement that was shared by sab groups. It said that it became aware that police were investigating Thompson over the footage on 28 April and suspended him from the BHSA the following day. It also said police then passed the footage onto the RSPCA.

As a result, Thompson resigned as huntsman of the Old Berks Hunt.

This video may have been connected to the series of raids that police across England carried out in January. They took place at a number of properties linked to hunts and terriermen, and the HSA said in May that the raids led to the โ€˜sackingโ€™ of Thompson amongst others.

Legal proceedings

Protect the Wild contacted the RSPCA for comment and whether it was engaged in legal proceedings. It said:

โ€œThis is an upsetting video but we cannot comment further at this time for legal reasons.

โ€œPlease do not call us about this video, unless you have first hand information about the incident as it could stop emergency calls about animals in need getting through to us.

โ€œIf you see this video on social media please report it to the platform immediately. Please do not share it or comment on it as it increases the chances of other people seeing it and being distressed.โ€

Protect the Wild also contacted Thames Valley Police about the video. It hadnโ€™t responded at the time of publication.

Too little, too late for the fox cub

Mark Hankinson, in the pivotal leaked Hunting Office webinars, described terriermen as the โ€œsoft underbellyโ€ of the hunting industry. That is because terrierwork is unnecessary for a hunt if it’s following a trail, so the presence of terriermen exposes a huntโ€™s true intent.

Rupert Evelyn of ITV News interviewing Mark Hankinson after he was found guilty.
ITV News reporter Rupert Evelyn with Mark Hankinson following his guilty verdict, via ITV News.

In the latest video, we can see why. The cruelty of terrier work extends to not just its activities during a hunt, but in how the terriers are trained as well. Thompsonโ€™s involvement also highlights how its not just terriermen that do the work โ€“ people at every level of the hunt are involved as well. It reinforces what was recently exposed by the sickening Avon Vale Hunt dig out footage.

The BHSAโ€™s response is enlightening as well. As with the Avon Vale Hunt and Seavington Huntโ€™s bagged fox incidents, the โ€˜authorityโ€™ was aware of the horrific acts long before they were made public. However, it didnโ€™t make a public statement until the HSA exposed the footage. This suggests the function of the body is to protect the hunting industry from public scrutiny, rather than to hold it accountable. As a result, its actions bring its role as a reliable arbiter into question.

Whether Thompson will face any form of accountability is currently unknown. So far, it appears the hunting world has simply let him walk away with a golden handshake. Yet whatever penalty he may receive, it could never be enough recompense for the cruelty and terror faced by the fox cub.

Read about Protect the Wild’s plan to end hunting for good here.

Featured image via screenshot from Hunt Saboteurs/YouTube

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