South Dorset Hunt catapulters

Hunt supporters attack a man in his seventies using a catapult and ball bearing

A hunt monitor in his seventies has been attacked by South Dorset Hunt supporters. This is the second time in less than a month that a monitor has been targeted by followers of the hunt.

Protect the Wild spoke to North Dorset Hunt Sabs, who said:

“We were sabbing the South Dorset Hunt at Tadnoll, working alongside Weymouth Animal Rights and experienced independent hunt monitors. One monitor was peacefully filming the hunt when he was hit by a ball bearing, fired from a catapult, by aggressive hunt supporters. Thankfully it hit his jacket, as if it had hit his head it could’ve done serious damage.”

The sabs continued:

“This is not dissimilar from the incident a few weeks back, when another monitor in his 70s was hospitalised by the same hunt.”

That time, a monitor from Weymouth Animal Rights was attacked by two masked up men, who repeatedly beat him with a metal bar over his head and body. The monitor had lacerations that were stitched and glued by hospital staff.

You might think that since the monitor was hospitalised, Dorset Police would be responsive when notified of yet more violence. But North Dorset Sabs said:

“Several 999 calls were made and Dorset Police did attend, but they didn’t pull over, search, or even speak to the people who did it.”

Hunt violence

Monitors and sabs on the ground are crucial for catching hunts in action as they break the law, and usually it is their footage which ensures that hunt staff go to court. In October 2022, Mark Pearson, huntmaster of the same South Dorset Hunt, was found guilty of illegal hunting after the hounds killed two foxes in November 2021. Monitors’ footage was used as evidence to convict him.

So when hunt supporters are attacking monitors who are filming, it is a calculated action to try to stop them from capturing incriminating footage, and to intimidate them so that they won’t continue their roles.

Protect the Wild asked North Dorset Sabs just how violent the South Dorset Hunt is. They replied:

“Violence is not uncommon at the South Dorset Hunt, with them employing staff with convictions for violent crimes. Due to the ongoing campaign by Weymouth Animal Rights [against them], violence has been a ‘default setting’ this hunt return to in order to protect themselves.”

Indeed, the South Dorset Hunt employs terriermen that are renowned for being violent, and who have convictions. Lewis Longstaffe has been convicted of a string of wildlife crimes, including using a catapult to steal pheasants from a pen. He was also found guilty of burglary at a farm in Dorset. Longstaffe has a Criminal Behaviour Order, and two conditions are that he must not be on private land without written permission by the owner, nor must he be in possession of dogs on private land. And yet he is still employed as terrierman for the hunt. On top of this, he has also previously found himself in court for using threatening words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress against hunt monitors. Another South Dorset Hunt terrierman, Edward Doggrell, pleaded guilty to affray following a fight outside a Wetherspoons pub in 2019. The Hunt Saboteurs Association said at the time:

“Violence is a way of life for the Doggrells. They’re used to violently chasing and killing foxes and violently assaulting anyone who opposes them.”

Support those on the ground

It’s vital that those on the ground are supported for their work as they oppose the South Dorset Hunt. The sabs told Protect the Wild:

“Sabs and monitors from all groups in Dorset remain undeterred and will continue to hit the South Dorset until the hunt packs up for good.”

You can donate to North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs here. Donate to Weymouth Animal Rights here

Featured image of men seen in the area at the time the assault took place. Photo provided by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs