Chris Woodward

Heythrop Hunt hounds tear up a fox in front of hunt saboteurs

Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs caught the Heythrop Hunt tearing up a fox cub on 23 September. Gloucestershire Police says it is investigating, but it remains to be seen whether the force will take action. The Heythrop’s current huntsman is criminal hunter Chris Woodward.

The sabs recalled the events of the day in their report on Facebook, and said:

It was noted that for the second day in a row professional huntsman Chris Woodward (who was huntsman at the Wynnstay in Cheshire) was hunting hounds…

By 07.30 a young small fox had run from hounds and been turned back by mounted followers shouting at him. He was torn apart in front of us.”

They continued:

“We went back later to where they killed to get a precise location and found the remains of the fox, intestines, fur, blood, a kidney.”

Indeed, the sabs took photo evidence of the remains of the fox.

A criminal hunt…

The sabs stated:

“The Heythrop are the only hunt to be convicted as a corporate body in 2012 following a prosecution by the RSPCA.”

Indeed, the hunt pleaded guilty to four charges of intentionally hunting a fox with dogs in the Cotswolds, while ex-huntsman Julian Barnfield and ex-hunt master Richard Sumner also pleaded guilty to the same charges. The hunt and the individuals were all fined. This led to the National Trust banning the Heythrop from hunting, long before major landowners banned so-called ‘trail hunting’ on their land.

…And a criminal huntsman

As the sabs pointed out, the Heythrop’s current huntsman is the criminal Chris Woodward. As huntsman for the Wynnstay, he was caught numerous times hunting foxes, harassing hunt monitors, and blocking badger setts. He is now a regular in court, having been on trial for the following:

  • August 2023: Woodward pleaded guilty to interfering with a badger sett on 3 February 2023. Footage, released by the Hunt Saboteurs Association, showed two men escaping on a quad bike after they were confronted by sabs. One man was identified as Woodward.
  • July 2023: Woodward pleaded guilty to causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress. The hunter rode his horse at a Cheshire Monitors volunteer during a fox hunting meet on 7 January 2023.
  • December 2022: Woodward was found not guilty of illegal hunting after the CPS dropped a hunt monitor’s video from the evidence bundle at the last minute. Footage showed the huntsman riding behind a pack of hounds as they chased a fox, and taking no action to stop them. At the same time, he was on trial for another incident of illegal hunting after North Wales Police officers witnessed him chasing a fox on a different date. But he was found not guilty of this charge, too.

Before the 2023/24 season began, Protect the Wild wrote:

“It is, perhaps, a foolish move on the Heythrop’s part to employ a volatile character such as Woodward. Under his command, it will only be a matter of time before we see reports of the Heythrop interfering with badger setts and deliberately chasing foxes.”

Let’s hope Gloucestershire Police takes this latest incident seriously, and that Woodward finds himself in court again.

We need a true hunting ban

However, even if Woodward is prosecuted again, it won’t be justice for the young fox who lost her life last weekend. If Gloucestershire Police does prosecute, and if the huntsman is found guilty, he will only receive a fine and will be free to continue hunting. As we’ve seen, this man seems to be employed because of his willingness to break the law, not in spite of it.

This is why Protect the Wild is campaigning for the Hunting Act to be scrapped, and for a true hunting ban to replace it. Under the current Act, those found guilty face no serious consequences. And hunts continue to operate, creating havoc and ignoring the law by chasing and killing wild mammals under the guise of ‘trail hunting’, using loopholes and exemptions in the Hunting Act to evade prosecution.

Protect the Wild commissioned Advocates for Animals to help us develop new legislation – The Hunting of Mammals Bill. It is based on the understanding that until the loopholes and exemptions inserted into the Hunting Act are removed, and legislation banning hunting is absolutely clear, wildlife will never be safe from the hundreds of packs that still go out thousands of times a year.

Our new Bill would see hunts themselves liable for crimes on the ground, not just the huntsman in charge that day. It would give courts the powers to ‘deprive’ hunts of any horses or dogs used to commit hunting crimes. It would also enable courts to ‘disqualify’ individuals committing hunting crimes from owning or transporting animals used in hunting or making any arrangements in connection with hunting.



The Hunting of Mammals Bill will stop hunting in its tracks, and finally give wildlife much-needed protection from illegal hunting. Nearly 30,000 people have already signed. Please support it and help us make it law. You can read the Bill in its entirety by downloading a pdf version here. And you can sign our petition for a proper ban on hunting here

  • Finally, please support the sabs on the ground who are catching the Heythrop red-handed. Donate to Three Counties Hunt Sabs here.
  • Featured image Chris Woodward pictured when  working for the Wynnstay Hunt by Cheshire Borderland Monitors