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Hunt monitors urge us to complain about Horse & Hound magazine

Hunt monitors are asking people to complain about Horse & Hound’s recent cover story, which misleads its readers about the criminal Wynnstay Hunt.

The ‘struggling hunt propaganda‘ publication’s feature article, written by Oliver Townend (whose website says he is the World Number One Event Rider and stresses the importance of his sponsors), waxes poetic about the hunt, its staff, and about hunting itself. But the magazine fails to mention the string of court cases and convictions that Wynnstay Hunt staff have recently faced. Cheshire Borderland Monitors, a group that regularly keeps tabs on the hunt on the ground, argues that Horse & Hound is breaching a publishing code of conduct. The monitors state:

Horse & Hound is regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), which means there is a strict code of conduct, namely ‘The Editor’s Code’, which they must abide by.”

Misleading by omission

While Townend romanticises his day of jumping metal gates with the Wynnstay’s new huntsman Henry Bailey, he keeps quiet about the hunt’s disgraced ex-huntsman Chris Woodward, who was convicted three times in 2023 because of his actions at hunt meets. In December 2023, Woodward was found guilty of hunting a wild animal with dogs in an incident which led the prosecutor to say:

“It was a thrill, an opportunity, and you allowed them to pursue the fox.”

Just months before that, in August 2023, Woodward pleaded guilty to interfering with a badger sett near Malpas, north Wales. He and whipper-in Charlie Young were caught on film blocking the sett so that foxes couldn’t run into them to escape being hunted. And in July 2023 Woodward pleaded guilty to causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress after he rode his horse at a Cheshire Borderland Monitors volunteer. On top of all this, the monitors say that the hunt is currently being investigated by the police for more crimes under the Hunting Act.

Cheshire Borderland Monitors argues that:

“These omissions clearly go against a number of points within the IPSO code pertaining to accuracy and public interest, and it could be easily argued that promoting the Wynnstay Hunt in the way Horse & Hound are doing are potentially attracting gullible and uninformed individuals – and even children – into a group regularly involved in criminal activity.”

Trail hunting…?

The Wynnstay’s hounds should be following an artificial scent trail laid in advance of the hunt rather than the line of a fox. Despite this, Townend repeatedly uses phrases that imply – although don’t explicitly say – that the Wynnstay hunts illegally. This is, perhaps, unsurprising since monitors consistently catch the hunt breaking the law, sometimes resulting in the convictions we mentioned above.

In his article, Townend refers to how he has been “autumn hunting with the Wynnstay a few times”. In more explicit language, ‘autumn hunting’ is simply ‘cubbing‘: the illegal practice of hunting young fox cubs. The author also talks about jumping a hanging metal gate onto a road, while photos show hounds running through floodwaters: not the kind of routes you would expect hounds to take if they were following a scent trail.

But most worryingly, the author writes:

“[Huntsman Henry Bailey] talked about the fact that, in his first season with [the Wynnstay], he wasn’t entirely tuned in to these hounds yet, and that he had to trust them to draw a covert properly and give them enough time to do it.”

In hunting terms, ‘drawing a covert’ is where the huntsman will put the hounds into a wood to pick up an animal’s scent. It is, of course, ludicrous that Bailey is using such terms when his hounds should be following a pre-laid trail. This quote also demonstrates how brazen the Wynnstay is as it continues to break the law.

Monitors urge you to write to the IPSO

Cheshire Borderland Monitors is asking wildlife defenders to take action. The group says:

“𝐏𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧. You can put in a complaint to IPSO about Horse & Hound and their lack of transparency and honesty while actively promoting the Wynnstay Hunt via IPSO’s online form here. You can find more details about how to lodge a complaint here.”

Indeed, included in the IPSO’s Code of Practice is the clause of accuracy:  that the Press “must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images…”

But the IPSO has stated to at least one complainant that the concerns raised by Cheshire Borderland Monitors:

“falls outside the remit of IPSO.”

The body states that this is because:

“IPSO considers the selection of material for publication to be a matter for individual editors to decide, as long as the Editors’ Code has not otherwise been broken. The prominence of coverage of a subject is also a matter for editors to decide.”

It went on to say:

“However, if you believe that a specific Clause (rule) of the Editors’ Code has been broken and want IPSO to consider a complaint, we require a copy of the article and an explanation of how you think it breaches the Code.”

 

The Wynnstay has likely been suffering as a result of 2023’s multiple court cases, as well as the resulting negative press and social media coverage. As the hunt attempts to save face and change the narrative, a feature in the pro-hunting magazine Horse & Hound – which neglects to mention criminal convictions – is timely, to say the least.

Whether Horse & Hound has broken the IPSO Code of Practice or not, the publication has promoted a hunt whose staff repeatedly appeared in court last year and appears to be supporting an illegal activity – cubbing.

 

Support for hunting in the UK is waning fast – and it will take more than a dissembling Horse & Hound propaganda piece to save the Wynnstay as it faces yet more police investigations  (and which fewer than half the number of people will read than will read this article) but whenever hunting lobbyists are being “economic with the actualité” we need to call them out for it.

 

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  • Cheshire Borderland Monitors is asking us all to complain to the IPSO via its online form. There are more details about how to lodge a complaint here. The monitors have helpfully scanned the Horse & Hound article (see here).