GOOD NEWS! Men from Blackmore and Sparkford Vale charged with illegal hunting

Four men from the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt (BSV) – the very same hunt we have been asking The Newt in Somerset to ban from meeting on their land – have been charged under Section 1 of the Hunting Act 2004, accused of hunting a wild mammal with dogs.

The news comes just months after drone footage was aired on Channel 4 News, showing the hunt ripping up a fox. The exposé caused outrage as the nation was shown the gruesome truth about fox hunting.

Huntsman George Pierce was charged, alongside Conall McGrath, Freddie Osborne and Andrew Osborne, after North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs caught the pack chasing and killing a fox in Buckhorn Weston, near Gillingham, Dorset, on 4 December 2023.

The horrific incident was caught on North Dorset Sabs’ drone, and was subsequently broadcast to the nation. The footage showed a fox being chased and seeking cover in a barn, while hunt members and hounds surrounded the building. The footage then showed the fox running away, but quickly being caught by hounds and ripped apart. The hunt master and other staff watched on, doing nothing to call the hounds off. They retrieved the fox’s mauled body after the attack (presumably to get rid of the evidence), not realising they were being filmed.

North Dorset Sabs stated:

“The huntsman, whip and 2 terriermen are due in court at the end of the month. The hunt master has somehow got away with it, despite the police pushing the CPS to charge him.”

Suspension was a token gesture

Following the major negative publicity on Channel 4, all eyes were on hunting’s governing body, the British Hound Sports Association (BHSA), to take disciplinary action. It had no choice but to suspend the BSV in January 2024. But weeks later, in February 2024, it reinstated the disgraced hunt, saying:

As a result of a meeting of the BHSA with representatives of the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt, the hunt will be able to resume hunting activities for a probationary period with effect from Thursday, February 15.

The lack of significant action by the BHSA showed us all what we already knew: that the governing body is another smokescreen of the hunting industry, set up to try to hoodwink both the public and law enforcement that it takes the Hunting Act seriously.

And so it is down to Dorset Police and the CPS to try to get some justice for the fox who was brutally mauled and killed by the BSV, a hunt whose bloodlust and illegality seems to know no bounds.


44 foxes chased in just one season

Protect the Wild’s ‘Hunting: A Case for Change’ Report, which analysed the 2022/23 hunting season, shows that the BSV was caught chasing more foxes than any other hunt in the country. Hunt saboteurs documented and filmed the hunt chasing 42 foxes, and killing two more. These figures don’t include suspected kills or chases made when the hunt wasn’t being observed, so the number is likely even higher.

On top of this, the 2023/24 hunting season saw the hunt racking up a number of court appearances, much to the BSV’s discomfort. In October 2023, Steve Paul, terrierman for the hunt, pleaded guilty to assault after throwing urine into the face of a female hunt saboteur. North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs explained what happened:

“Earlier that day the sab had been seen by Paul unblocking a badger sett, and been threatened. Later as the hunt trespassed after a fox, he approached the sab as she filmed from a footpath and kicked and harassed her, before going after her on his quad and spraying urine in her face.”

In April 2024, BSV member Charlie Mayo – son of hunt master and BSV company director Anthony Mayo – was found guilty of assaulting a hunt saboteur and causing actual bodily harm. The saboteur was so badly injured that he was hospitalised. The assault took place in December 2021. North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs stated that Mayo struck the back of a saboteur’s head with the bone end of his whip. The sabs said:

“This caused a 3cm, full thickness laceration to the scalp that required glue and stitches at hospital.”

No justice for the 44 foxes

The criminal justice system must now successfully prosecute the BSV for killing the fox on 4 December 2023. It will not provide any justice for the 43 other foxes that the hunt terrorised in the 2023/24 season, but it will, hopefully, send a message to the BSV that it isn’t untouchable.

And it should also send a message to The Newt in Somerset – the so-called ‘world’s best boutique hotel’ – whose association with one of the most criminal hunts in the whole of the country becomes even more preposterous and untenable.

North Dorset Hunt Sabs are on the ground, exposing the BSV for the criminal hunt it really is. They deserve our gratitude. We can support them by donating here

  • Featured image by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs