Hunt saboteurs ‘seriously assaulted’ while monitoring a deer hunt

Hunt saboteurs in the southwest have said that hunt followers “seriously assaulted” two members during a deer hunt. The attack hospitalised one sab and smashed up a vehicle.

The Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) said on 22 August that two sabs were assaulted while following the Devon and Somerset Staghounds. One was a member of Devon County Hunt Sabs (DCHS) and the other was a member of Mendip Hunt Sabs.

The attack hospitalised a member of DCHS with a broken nose and smashed up Mendip Hunt Sabs’ vehicle. DCHS later said the attackers also stole a raft of equipment including mobile phones, camcorders and radios. Mendip Hunt Sabs said “over a thousand pounds” of items were stolen.

Devon & Cornwall Police issued a statement about the incident and appealed for witnesses. It said the incident occurred on a road between Brayford and Simonsbath, Devon, at around 10.20am that morning. At the time of publishing, it has not yet arrested anyone.

Deer hunting: the ‘research’ loophole

DCHS and Mendip Hunt Sabs were monitoring the Devon and Somerset Staghounds at the time of the attack. It is one of the last deer hunting packs in the UK and exploits a loophole in the Hunting Act to conduct its activity out in the open.

As Protect the Wild previously outlined, the research and observation exemption allows hunts to claim that their hunting is for scientific research. There is no obligation to publicly disclose the data of this alleged research. The League Against Cruel Sports has twice tried to bring a legal challenge against this loophole but both attempts failed.

In recent years, monitors including Somerset Wildlife Crime and Kevin Hill have attempted to expose the cruelty of deer hunting. Then, on 27 April 2022, North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs joined the monitors to give more energy to the campaign. Since then it and other sab groups – DCHS and Mendip Hunt Sabs in particular – have continued taking action against the three deer hunts in the southwest.

As a result, the HSA said of the 22 August attack:

“This cowardly attack is the all-too-predictable response of a gang of thugs who don’t like their sick past time being exposed.”

Violence isn’t a deterrent

Deer hunting is limited to just three registered packs and possibly one or two unregistered packs. All of them are confined to the southwest. While they appear to enjoy strong local support, their limited numbers mean they are vulnerable to serious challenges.

The 22 August attack on DCHS and Mendip Hunt Sabs is the first serious attack since sabs started taking organised action against deer hunting. However, the threat they pose to deer hunts means it’s sadly unlikely to be the last. However, as the sabs themselves have said, attacks won’t deter the ongoing fight to end all hunting.

Please donate to Mendip Hunt Sabs and Devon County Hunt Saboteurs.

Featured image via Gareth James/Geograph