Stag killed by the Quantock Staghounds

Hunt sabs publish ‘unique’ footage of stag hunted to exhaustion

Hunt saboteurs published footage of a stag that was so exhausted he laid down and allowed a human to sit next to him. The Quantock Staghounds had hunted the stag for several hours through the day. And this “unique” footage reveals the brutality of stag and deer hunting.

On 17 April, North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs and Mendip Hunt Sabs attended a meet of the Quantock Staghounds at the hunt’s kennels in West Bagborough, Somerset. The two group’s reports tell of the hunt releasing the stag to hounds and chasing him “for hours” before executing him.

The two groups’ videos include footage of the stag, exhausted, collapsed amongst the roots of a tree. His head and ears twitch as he sits on the ground, so tired that a sab is able to approach and sit next to him without the stag taking flight. North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs explained that hunt staff and supporters then approached the sab, accusing them of trespassing, before:

“scaring the stag into one last desperate run for his life.

“He was uninjured but his body was giving out after hours of running. He collapsed again, trapped against a fence and was illegally shot from the roadside.”

North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs said the footage is “unique”, as it is the first time a stag was hunted to the point where “he let’s a human walk right up to him”. And it reveals the brutality of a niche but ongoing corner of the hunting industry.

How the Quantock Staghounds get away with it

Today, there are three registered staghound packs in the UK. The Hunt Saboteurs Association said that there are also “at least two pirate [unregistered] packs that target roe deer”. And the video by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs and Mendip Hunt Sabs captured a text book example of this horrible activity.

The hunt and hounds can pursue a deer for several hours before the deer becomes too tired to run. At this point, the huntsman will shoot the creature before they are ‘carved’ up, with different parts of the body given to different members and supporters of the hunt.

All three hunts do this openly, and rely on different excuses for their activity. The Devon and Somerset Staghounds famously rely on the Hunting Act’s research and observation loophole – research that has yet to produce any public results more than a decade later.

However, the Quantock Staghounds take a different approach. Instead of claiming it’s conducting research, anti-hunt monitors say the hunt switches between claims of trail hunting and the ‘stalking and flushing out’ exemption of the Hunting Act. This was the case in the 17 April incident. North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs said the hunt claimed it hunted the stag because he “had TB”. This exploits Schedule 1.2(a) of the Hunting Act, through which the hunt can use two hounds to flush out a mammal that might cause “serious damage” to livestock.

“Extreme exhaustion”

It goes without saying that the Quantock Staghounds’ excuses are no more true than any other smokescreen. And even if it were true, then chasing the stag for hours is one of the cruellest ways that concerned farmers could murder a stag.

This was shown in Behavioural and Physiological Effects of Culling Red Deer, a landmark study better known as the Bateson Report. Hounds Off explained the report was commissioned by the National Trust following its members’ concerns over the welfare of hunted deer on the Trust’s land. It was published on 11 March 1997, and its finding led the National Trust to banning stag hunting from its land the next day.

The study drew blood samples from 64 red deer hunted by the Devon and Somerset Staghounds and the Quantock Staghounds. Blood was also taken from a control group of 50 red deer murdered by stalkers. The Bateson Report concluded that:

“the exertion associated with hunting with hounds resulted in marked physiological disturbances of red deer, including muscle damage and pronounced intravascular haemolysis. We do not believe that these changes merely occurred at the ends of the hunts.

“this study provides the first quantitative evidence that the physiological effects of hunts of even a relatively short distance and duration are severe, while longer hunts are characterized by signs of extreme exhaustion.”

Of course, the stag in North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs and Mendip Hunt Sabs’ video shows clear signs of such “extreme exhaustion”.

Turning the tide

Unfortunately, misery for stags didn’t end on 17 April. A ‘mass sab’ of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds on 22 April led to one member of Devon County Hunt Saboteurs capturing the moment a hunt member shot an exhausted stag. The staghound season will continue for another week, until the end of April, before starting again in early August. These hunts chase and murder deer for nine months of the year.

North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs has led an incredibly successful campaign to expose and disrupt these staghound packs over the past two seasons. It has built on, and continues working in tandem with, monitors who have been crucial in keeping deer hunting in the public eye for many years. Their efforts have broken through staghound packs’ veil of secrecy and once again expose why we need to do away with all hunting, forever.

Please donate to North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs and Mendip Hunt Sabs to support their ongoing campaign against deer hunting.

Featured image via North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs