Stephen Hutchinson, head of Tayto crisps and member of South Tyrone Foxhounds

Northern Ireland crisps boss loves hunting foxes

UPDATED 26/03/23: This article originally contained an image of packaging from the Republic of Ireland-based Tayto, a separate and unconnected brand. The image is replaced with a photo of Tayto castle, home of the northern Irish company.

The boss of world-renowned northern Irish crisp producer Tayto is a “devoted” foxhunter. And local hunt saboteurs have called for a boycott of the company’s products.

The Belfast Telegraph published an article on 19 March that said Stephen Hutchinson, head of the Tayto crisp company, is a member of the South Tyrone Foxhounds. It said that he was once chairman and master of the hunt, and his company business address is listed in the Irish directory of hunts.

Tayto describes itself as “NI’s leading crisp brand” and exports to the US, Canada, Germany, Japan and other countries. It is one of the UK’s largest snack brands and owns a number of household names including Golden Wonder, Real Crisps and Mr Porky. Its 2019 revenues – the last year for which figures are publicly available – were nearly €100m. Hutchinson himself pocketed a share of the £1.5m paid out to four directors in the same year.

The Belfast Telegraph described Hutchinson as a “devoted fox hunter” and a “veteran” of fox hunting.


Ban Bloodsports, an Ireland-wide campaign group, first publicly revealed Hutchinson’s connection to hunting in March 2022. In a post on its website, sharing information from a report of a recent meet, the group said:

“The sickening Irish Field report describes how foxes ran for their lives from a pack of 43 hounds during the recent [South Tyrone Foxhounds] hunt which began at Castlebay.

“Don’t support companies connected to fox hunting. Boycott Tayto Group Limited products – Tayto Cheese and Onion, Golden Wonder, Ringos, Mr Porky, REAL handcooked crisps, Midland Snacks and The Real Pork Co products.”

Given hunting’s historic role within affluent communities, his participation is little surprise. South Ulster Hunt Saboteurs said on Facebook that:

“Staff inform us that throughout Tayto castle [where the crisps are produced], there are paintings of fox hunting scenes and photographs. This is something that runs through the entire family and taints the entire business.”

Moreover, it said that a year’s supply of Tayto crisps is a prize in a fundraising raffle held by the Iveagh Foxhounds. As a result, South Ulster Hunt Saboteurs echoed Ban Bloodsports’ call for people to boycott Tayto and its subsidiary brands.

Tayto castle
Tayto castle, via Geoff McHugh/Flickr.

The fight is on

The Belfast Telegraph reported that:

“When Sunday Life asked Mr Hutchinson to comment on his involvement in fox hunting and if he continues to support bloodsports, he declined to discuss the matter.

“A spokesperson for the company said: ‘Tayto Group Ltd has no involvement in any bloodsports.’”

Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK where hunting is still legal. However, polls show the activity is widely opposed by the public. An April 2022 poll by the League Against Cruel Sports showed 73% of respondents wanted a ban on fox hunting, while 79% wanted a ban on deer hunting. So, while it is a legal activity, this may explain Hutchinson and Tayto’s attempts to distance themselves from hunting.

Meanwhile, the campaign to end hunting has the backing of animal welfare groups in the nation. Protect the Wild previously reported on the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (USPCA) call to ban hunting in order to undercut badger baiting in northern Ireland. And following a failed attempt to introduce anti-hunting legislation in 2021 through MLP John Blair’s private members bill, Blair has formed a new cross-party parliamentary group to try bring the issue back to the table.

In the meantime, in northern Ireland as in the rest of the UK, direct action will remain foremost in tackling the nation’s hunting industry.

Follow South Ulster Hunt Saboteurs on Facebook.

Featured image via Pololine TV/YouTube

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