Southdown and Eridge Hunt parade through Lewes on Boxing Day

It’s official – more hunts merge!

The British Hound Sports Association (BHSA) – hunting’s self-titled ‘governing body’ – has officially confirmed that the Southdown and Eridge Hunt is merging with the East Sussex and Romney Marsh Hunt. This welcome news shows that hunts are really struggling to stay afloat.

The news came on 17 January, when the BHSA announced that it was advertising for a new huntsman for the newly-formed pack, which is now called the Southdown & Eridge Hunt with East Sussex & Romney Marsh. This ridiculously long moniker is a consequence of the Southdown Hunt having already merged with the Eridge Hunt, and the East Sussex having merged with the Romney Marsh Hunt.

Back in July 2023, West Kent Hunt Sabs wrote that East Sussex and Romney Marsh Hunt’s kennels were for sale. Then in September 2023, the Hunt Saboteurs Association stated that the merger was, indeed, happening. Now this official news means that there are only a few hunts left in Sussex, and one hunt left in Kent, signalling the almost-total demise of fox hunting in the south-east of the country.

So many mergers!

This is very positive news for the start of 2024. Let’s hope this year continues the way that 2023 did – with hunts merging or (better still) folding as public and land owner support for barbaric blood sports continues to wane.

Protect the Wild previously summed up the state of hunting in England when we summarised what a good year 2023 was:

“In January, the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) shared news that the Airedale Beagles was disbanding. Beagling is hare hunting with hounds carried out on foot. And then in February, the British Hound Sports Association permanently expelled the Avon Vale Hunt, meaning that the pack was no longer free to terrorise foxes. In March, news came in that the Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt was folding. And in August, North London Hunt Saboteurs said it had visited the kennels of the East Essex Hunt and found the property abandoned.

And then there were also hunt amalgamations in England. Each merger is a sure sign that the hunting industry is struggling. In April, the HSA said that the Ilminster Beagles and West Somerset Beagles would merge for the coming season. The new pack was to take the name Ilminster & West Somerset Beagles. In July, hunt saboteurs in Kent celebrated the news that there would only be one hunt left – the newly named Kent Foxhounds – in the county for the 2023/24 fox hunting season. The Puckeridge also merged with the Essex with Farmers and Union for the 2023/2024 season, becoming the new Puckeridge and Essex Union Hunt.”

Hunting is on its knees

Hunt saboteurs and monitors on the ground must take much of the credit for exposing hunts for what they really are: organised criminal gangs who will stop at nothing to continue murdering wildlife. It is through the sabs and monitors’ footage and eye-witness accounts that hunting makes mainstream news headlines. The more negative exposure a hunt gets, the more difficult it becomes for the hunt to make enough money to survive.

Protect the Wild argues that the final nail in hunting’s coffin will be replacing the Hunting Act with a much more robust law – drafted by Advocates for Animals – called the Hunting of Mammals Bill. Under the new bill, there would be no room for loopholes. If a person is illegally hunting mammals with dogs he will be breaking the law and will face proper consequences. The legislation would also ensure that hunts themselves can be prosecuted and penalised – not just individuals working for them.

  • Join more than 60,000 supporters and sign Protect the Wild’s petition to introduce the Hunting of Mammals Bill, which aims to do the job the Hunting Act never did.