More hunts have folded and the season’s barely begun

The hunting season is just getting underway and anti-hunting activists have already announced the end of several packs across England and Wales.

On 28 August, the newly formed Kent Hounds announced its arrival on Facebook by uploading a logo. The notable thing about this logo is that it contains the names of four hunts around its circumference: East Kent, Ashford Valley, West Street and Tickham. That’s because the Kent Hounds is an amalgamation of all four hunts into a single pack.

This news was already known back in July. At the time, West Kent Hunt Sabs said at the time that:

“The victory here for us is at a scale we could only dream of but have spent years fighting for.”

However, the 28 August public announcement by the hunt itself functioned as official confirmation of the merger. West Kent Sabs celebrated the ‘official’ announcement by saying it had “worked tirelessly” towards the moment, and that it meant just one foxhound pack is kennelled in the entire county.

In a press release, the sab group said:

With only one fox hunt remaining in Kent and the sole attention of two thriving sab groups, the writing is on the wall for fox hunting in Kent. It really is a case of when not if fox hunting ends in Kent and we will do everything in our power to expedite this as fast as possible.

Abandoned and folded

That’s not all the good news, though. On 29 August, North London Hunt Saboteurs said it had recently visited the kennels of the East Essex Hunt and found:

the property… abandoned. No hounds, no huntsman, no staff or horses.”

The East Essex Hunt rapidly changed from a thriving fixture of hunting in the county to a zombie pack after North London sabs caught its terrierman torturing a fox. Footage captured by the sab group’s trail cameras in December 2021 caught Paul O’Shea using a pitchfork to torment a fox over a prolonged period. A judge handed O’Shea a suspended 18-week jail sentence for animal cruelty offences.

North London Hunt Saboteurs maintained pressure on the East Essex Hunt following the prosecution. As a result, the hunt appears to have buckled. The sab group said it was “proud” to have put the hunt out of business.

Then, on 30 August, the Llandeilo Farmers Hunt announced its closure. This occasionally-sabbed hunt attributed its demise primarily to financial problems. However, it also said that:

financial pressures are making it increasingly difficult for small packs to remain viable. There are also pressures on our country – although we still have wonderful areas of country open to us, these are becoming more fragmented, meaning more and more road work. Like other Welsh packs we are also grappling with changing land-use – tree planting, holiday lets and different ways of managing farmland.”

And South Wales Hunt Saboteurs, the group most local to the hunt, said of the news that it is “glad to see the back of them”.

Not fit for the world

Packs have always come and gone. The hunting industry’s history is littered with the bones not only of murdered wildlife but of hunts that tried and failed. There is something different today, though. While hunts are folding, no new packs are taking their place. That means, while the total number of packs remains in the hundreds, this figure is only dropping.

The reasons for this are made explicit by the Llandeilo Farmers Hunt itself. The contemporary world is abrasive to the hunting industry. Access problems, expanding road networks, changing land use and dwindling interest mean a majority of hunts face compounding financial pressures. In other words, hunting is not suitable for the modern world.

We knew that all along, of course. Hunting is a practice out of time and place. Those involved should have recognised that decades ago and consigned themselves to the dustbin of history. However, most didn’t, so they now face a long and slow bleeding out by anti-hunting activists until the industry is drained completely.

Read Protect the Wild’s plan for a proper ban on hunting.

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