A rider and terrierman stand with a pack of hunting hounds that have just killed a fox.

Police investigation launched into footage of hunting hounds killing a fox

Police confirmed they are investigating footage published online that appears to show hounds killing a fox. The incident occurred at Charleton Horethorne, Somerset, during a meet of the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt.

Police investigation

On 26 November, hunt monitor group Wildlife Crime Action published a video showing hounds huddled together, ragging something on the ground. A rider in hunting gear then appears with a second person on foot. As they move into the pack, the hounds move away to reveal the body of a fox. As a hunting horn blows off-screen, pulling the pack of hounds away from the scene, the person that arrived on-foot puts the fox’s body in a black bin bag. The person holding the camera can then be heard saying “they’ve killed”.

Avon and Somerset Police Rural Affairs Unit made a statement on 28 November saying it is “aware” of the video and that an “investigation is underway”. It went on to say that the unit has “been in contact with one person” over the incident and will arrange further voluntary interviews “in due course”.

Wildlife Crime Action’s report of the day suggested the same fox had been hunted throughout the day until it was killed. Dorset Monitor, speaking on behalf of Wildlife Crime Action on Twitter, welcomed the police statement, saying it acknowledged that the kill happened during “‘a hunt’ and NOT ‘a trail hunt’”.

The Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt told ITV News that it will “cooperate fully with any police investigation following this incident”.

Dangerous actions gone unchallenged

The Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt are known for aggressive and harmful behaviour. North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs published footage of a firecracker thrown at their group vehicle on 12 November. The group said it was thrown by a hunt supporter during a meet of the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt. At the beginning of this year, four hounds belonging to the hunt were killed by a train. It occurred during a New Year’s Day meet near Templecombe, Somerset. North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs said the deaths occurred while the hounds were chasing a fox.

Charleton Horethorne itself has also been the site of several high profile incidents. In 2019, monitors from Somerset Wildlife Crime and Hounds Off filmed the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt chasing a fox through a churchyard. Taunton Magistrates’ Court found huntsman Mark Doggrell not guilty of illegal hunting over this incident on 22 January 2020. A jury found Doggrell not guilty of grievous bodily harm after the huntsman trampled a sab in 2014. The incident, which occurred near Chorleton Horethorn, left the sab with seven broken ribs and a collapsed lung.

Dorset Monitor, following the most recent fox kill, lambasted the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt’s actions as well as “those who have let it carry on unchallenged for so long”.

Featured image via Wildlife Crime Action