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Quantock Stag Hounds load murdered stag onto quad bike

Gruesome footage highlights the criminality of England’s stag hunters

Quantock Staghounds (QSH) is one of the UK’s most brutal hunts. It continually murders Somerset’s stags with impunity, despite being caught on film. Now, recent footage – caught by North Dorset Hunt Sabs – is a stark reminder of just how criminal this hunt really is.

The sabs’ footage – which you can view here – was filmed on 6 April 2023. It shows a QSH huntsman galloping towards a herd of deer in an attempt to separate the stag. The stag goes into hiding, and the riders plot how they are going to force him out. The stag is then flushed out, and manages to join another group of stags. As they run away, they’re stopped by QSH riders.

North Dorset Sabs described what happened next:

“A short while later a shot was heard north west of Lady’s Edge. A sab ‘waded’ through the waist high gorse and heather to find stationary riders, some off their horses. A quad was heard coming to the area, so the sab now knew the stag, exhausted beyond belief, was dead…

The dead stag already with its throat cut and mouth gaping open eventually was loaded and taken away. The ‘gunman’ slipped away, folding shotgun by his side.”

The sabs continued:

“This spring stag was hunted and killed simply because, for his age, he had a good ‘spread’ of antlers. If left for a few years he would have been a magnificent mature stag to be seen and enjoyed by all who walked the hills. Alas a group of humans who it appears have nil empathy decided to get their enjoyment by reducing the stag so he could no longer stand.”

 

Quantock stag hounds plots to kill stag
North Dorset Sabs film the Quantock Staghounds’ riders as they plot to kill the stag. Photo taken from footage by North Dorset Sabs

 

Quantock stag hounds murders a stag
Quantock Staghounds loads the murdered stag onto a quad bike. Photo taken from footage by North Dorset Sabs

 

Somerset’s very own trophy hunting

The stag will have then been cut into pieces, his various body parts given to riders as ‘trophies’. The head, with its antlers, is worth a lot, but the hunters don’t stop there. They also take his slots – the hooves and the bottom part of the leg – which they chop off and mount on a wooden plaque. Even the teeth are taken as mementoes. Somerset Wildlife Crime’s Bobbie Armstrong described stag hunting as “Somerset’s very own trophy hunting”. She explained:

“The animal is butchered. The landowner whose land the stag came from generally gets the heart. The hounds get the entrails. They hack the stag up and dish it out. The huntsman is there, up to his elbows in blood, and they’re all there salivating, delighted at taking part and enjoying their spoils. And they don’t like being filmed. They don’t like being caught at the carve up.”

Just one of many murders

This brutal murder isn’t an isolated incident. Hunt monitors and saboteurs have continually filmed stags being pursued to near-death exhaustion and then killed by the QSH. Just days after this latest killing, QSH was out in force again on 11 April 2023. Mendip Hunt Sabs were on the ground, and said that the hunt “terrorised” stags that day. Thanks to the sabs, there was no kill. And back in April 2022, Protect The Wild reported that the same hunt murdered three stags in the course of just one month.

QSH is one of three staghunting packs in England, all based in the southwest. The other two packs are Tiverton Staghounds, and Devon and Somerset Staghounds. On 8 April 2023, North Dorset Sabs sabbed a Devon and Somerset Staghounds meet, reporting that more than 100 riders attended the meet, driven by bloodlust. The fate of a stag from that day is unknown.

 

exhausted deer hunted by quantock stag hounds
This exhausted stag, crops tangled in his anters, was hunted down by Quantock Staghounds in November 2021. Photo by Somerset Wildlife Crime

 

Help prevent stag hunting

Despite stag hunting being illegal, hunts continue to get away with murder, with very little consequence. When the Hunting Act was brought in, staghound packs were forced to change tactics, reducing the number of their hounds to just two. According to the law, a stag can only be ‘flushed’ out by up to two dogs and shot to protect crops, or to relieve him of suffering. He can also be killed in the name of ‘research‘. The hunts compensated for the lack of dogs by increasing the number of hunters on the ground, who follow the stags in 4X4s, and on quad bikes and motorbikes. This coordinated attack by people on both horseback and in vehicles means that a stag often has nowhere to escape.

Of course, these brutal murders don’t constitute as legally flushing the animal out, nor do they count as any kind of research. Like their fox hunting friends, if challenged about chasing a stag, hunters also rely on the argument that they were trail hunting: that their hounds were meant to be following an artificially-laid scent and not a real stag.

It’s clear that the police and the legal system continue to fail England’s stags. QSH’s criminality is widely-known, and yet it hunts with impunity. Hunt saboteurs and monitors are, therefore, the best line of defence for our stags. Please show the sabs your support.

 

Featured image via North Dorset Hunt Sabs