Gloucestershire Council must ban hunting on its land

Gloucestershire Council is the latest council to consider banning trail hunting on its land. The county is home to some of England’s most notorious hunts, including the Cotswold Hunt which made news headlines when it buried a fox alive in March 2023.

The Heythrop Hunt also terrorises foxes in Gloucestershire. On 23 September 2023, Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs caught the hunt tearing up a fox cub. The Heythrop’s new huntsman is criminal hunter Chris Woodward, whose court appearances meant he was a regular in the dock in the 2022/23 season.

And the disgraceful Beaufort Hunt, which murders its own hounds, has its kennels in the county. A 2021 investigation, carried out by the Hunt Investigation Team (HIT) and supported by Protect the Wild, revealed harrowing undercover footage of four hounds being shot dead at the hunt’s kennels in Badminton.

Another HIT/Protect the Wild investigation in January 2022 exposed the Vale of White Horse Hunt (VWH) illegally hunting, with no intention to lay an artificial trail. The VWH hunts in both Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, and houses its kennels in Cirencester. We wrote at the time:

“VWH member and land-owner Verity Drewett can be seen visibly shouting and identifying the fox to the hunt so that the mammal can be hunted. She ensures the fox is unable to seek safety in the barn and she states how she ‘turned him’ before describing the whereabouts of the animal to Duncan Drewett, senior member of the VWH Hunt.”

The Drewetts were the first land owners ever to be charged under Section 3 of the Hunting Act, which criminalises landowners for knowingly permitting illegal hunting on their property. This was the first known case of a Section 3 charge as it relates to hunting with hounds. Tragically, a number of errors by Wiltshire Police and Wessex CPS meant that the pair walked out of court without the trial going ahead.


Fox running in footage from a case against the Vale of White Horse Hunt
A fox runs from the Vale of White Horse Hunt. Screenshot via HIT

The motion

Protect the Wild spoke to Wendy Thomas, the Labour councillor who brought the motion. She said:

“We brought the motion because of press coverage in the spring, when the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) issued a report on illegal hunts and hunt havoc, stating that Gloucestershire had the most incidents of these in England and Wales.”

Indeed, LACS reported that:

“In total, there were 135 incidents of suspected illegal hunting in Gloucestershire between cub hunting beginning in August 2022 and the end of the full hunting season in March 2023. These include 80 incidents of hunts wreaking havoc in rural communities, 55 cases of suspected illegal hunting, and 39 foxes seen being chased by hunts.”


Protect the Wild’s own tallying of figures from sab groups, monitors and reports from the public showed there were 19 reports of hunts chasing foxes in Gloucestershire during the 2022/23 season. The Cotswold Hunt and Ledbury Hunt were the most prolific offenders. Additionally, Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs reported witnessing the North Cotswold Hunt kill a fox near Wormington on 15 February 2023, and an attempted dig out by the North Cotswold Hunt on 28th December 2022.

Furthermore, foxes weren’t the only animals that hunts terrorised in Gloucestershire. At least three reports mentioned hunts chasing hares, two mentioned hunts chasing deers, and 18 reported hunts blocking badger setts. There were also at least three incidents of hunts spooking farmed animals such as sheep.

All of these figures are based on eyewitness accounts by people opposed to hunting. It’s likely the true number is much higher.

Thomas’s anti-hunting motion had been on the table to discuss back in July, but was way down on the list of topics to discuss, and was pushed back to September. Thomas told us:

“Our motion will now go to Corporate Overview and Scrutiny. I am vice-chair of that and I will do my best to ensure this isn’t a ‘long-grass’ situation. Our original motion called for a working group to be set up and that is what I will be pressing for.”

The working group would investigate acts of illegal hunting and instances of hunt havoc and report its recommendations back to the council.

Key 2022/23 incidents

There were a number of shocking incidents of animal cruelty and hunt-related crime in Gloucestershire during the 2022/23 season, including:

  • The Cotswold Hunt buried a fox alive: Channel 4 exposed harrowing footage of a fox, who had been bundled into a bag by the hunt and buried alive on 18 March 2023. The British Hound Sports Association (hunt’s governing body) suspended the hunt in March, but didn’t take any lasting meaningful action. And it took absolutely no action against huntsman Guy Fitzearle.


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
Two members of Cirencester Illegal Hunt Watch hold up a fox found in a bag inside an artificial earth during a meet of the Cotswold Hunt. Screenshot via Cirencester Illegal Hunt Watch / C4 News
  • Anti-hunting activists woke up to find their tyres slashed: On 15 March, Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs reported that someone had slashed the tyres on their group vehicle as well as on those of an independent monitor. They strongly suspected both incidents were connected to the Heythrop Hunt.
  • The North Cotswold Hunt killed a fox in front of sabs: On 15 February, Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs were following the North Cotswold Hunt from its meet at Manor Farm, Wormington, when hounds ‘chopped’ (killed without a chase) a fox in a hedge. The sab group shared a video of the moment the hounds killed as well as photos of the fox’s remains strewn on the ground.
  • A hunt saboteur caught the hunt digging out a badger sett: A member of Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs caught the Cotswold Hunt attempting to dig a fox out of a badger sett on 28 December 2022. The group said members of the hunt had already spent 10 minutes digging the sett out before it arrived.
  • Saboteurs filmed North Cotswold Hunt illegally encouraging hounds to hunt: On 29 October 2022, Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs covertly filmed the huntsman of the North Cotswold Hunt blowing his horn to encourage hounds onto the line of the fox. This is illegal hunting.
  • Cotswold Hunt caused chaos as it spooked a paddock full of horses: On 8 October 2022, the Cotswold Hunt was in the Charlton Abbotts area when its hounds ran through a paddock. This spooked the horses. As a result, several of the horses’ keepers had to run after them, catch them, and calm them down. Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs caught the incident on video.


This article covers just a handful of incidents that have taken place in Gloucestershire over the last couple of years. Councillors surely can’t ignore the damning evidence that has been laid out clearly. With the county housing the most prolific hunts in the country, Protect the Wild believes that the council has a duty to the public to ban illegality taking place on its land.