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Foxhounds on a road with image of drone superimposed

HUNT HAVOC: Sab drone records moment hound almost hit on road

Surrey Hunt Sabs shared video filmed by a drone of hounds chasing what the group said was a fox. And it highlights why groups including Protect the Wild say the Hunting Act needs a recklessness clause.

On 4 February, Surrey Hunt Sabs shared footage filmed earlier that day by its drone. It showed hounds running along a road into oncoming traffic, forcing a van to make an emergency stop. The video showed no riders or members of the hunt near the hounds at the time of the incident.

The video can be viewed on Surrey Hunt Sabs’ Facebook page. It was filmed during a meet of the East Essex Hunt near Braintree, Essex, with North London Hunt Saboteurs also present.

According to North London Hunt Saboteurs, at the time of the pursuit, the hounds were on the line of a fox. The video shows the pack crossing the road once, with a van narrowly avoiding hitting hounds, then crossing the same stretch of road a second time just a few seconds later. The video’s caption says the fox escaped into a wood.

Cars kill hounds

Surrey Hunt Sabs’ footage illustrates how hunting is dangerous beyond just the threat it poses to quarry such as foxes, hares and deer. Hunt havoc is a persistent feature of all live quarry hunts due to the inability of huntsmen to know where a creature will run in order to make their escape. As a result, hounds may follow their quarry across a road – sometimes to their doom.

In February 2018, for example, Peterborough Hunt Sabs were present as a hound from the Fitzwilliam Hunt chased a fox across the A14 dual carriageway. Vehicles hit the hound, killing them. More recently, Calder Valley Hunt Sabs and Sheffield Hunt Sabs reported in December 2022 that a car killed a Grove and Rufford Hunt hound on the A614. Sheffield Hunt Sabs told Protect the Wild that it occurred after huntsman Ben Higgins lost control of the pack while hunting a fox in nearby Elksley Woods. These are just two of many more reported and, undoubtedly, unreported incidents.

Such deaths wouldn’t occur if hunts were trail hunting, of course, because hunts would lay a trail to avoid the danger of busy roads. There are no reports of vehicles killing bloodhounds or draghounds.

The recklessness clause

Nonetheless, the Hunting Act doesn’t recognise such hunt havoc as evidence of illegal hunting. Furthermore, with the huntsman and other hunts staff completely out of sight of the hounds, it exploits a loophole that says intent must be shown in order to prove guilt.

A hound from the Grove and Rufford Hunt after they were hit by a car, via Sheffield Hunt Sabs.

Calls for the Hunting Act to contain a ‘recklessness clause’ seek to remedy this problem. Anti-hunting group Protect Our Wild Animals (POWA) first called for such a clause in 2009, following the unsuccessful prosecution of three members of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds. The high court ruling against Maurice Scott, Peter Heard and Donald Summersgill established a legal precedent that said intent must be shown in order to prove illegal hunting. POWA then called for a recklessness clause in the Hunting Act that would:

“make it an offence for anyone to ‘cause or permit’ one or more dogs to seek out, chase, injure or kill a wild mammal.”

Other anti-hunting campaign groups have since taken up a similar position. Protect the Wild is demanding such a provision so that it would hold a person accountable for not properly controlling the hounds, thereby putting wild mammals at risk. In doing so, it would also reduce problems caused by the type of risk to hounds and members of the public seen in Surrey Hunt Sabs’ video by ensuring the huntsman is with the hounds and in control of them at all times.

Empathy

Hunts repeatedly show that they have little empathy for life, whether it is foxes, hounds or horses. And the drone footage of hounds from the East Essex Hunt is a reminder of how hunts exploit loopholes in the law to save their own skins – at the expense of other lives. We must shut down the hunting industry completely. But until then, a recklessness clause could save countless lives.

You can donate to Surrey Hunt Sabs via Paypal. You can help Protect the Wild demand a recklessness clause by sending an email through our website.