Hunt saboteurs have stated that they have been ambushed and chased by thugs associated with the Royal Agricultural College (RAC) Beagles. The pack belongs to the Royal Agricultural University, where students are trained – through hunting hares – to become prominent names in the fox hunting industry after they graduate.
On 3 February, three members of Severn Vale Hunt Sabs pulled over in their car to film the RAC Beagles in Culkerton, Gloucestershire. The sabs explained what happened next in their report on Facebook:
“In what was clearly a pre-planned operation, one four wheel drive full of now red-faced young men blocked us in behind while another equally packed truck blocked our escape to the front. Recognising the danger we immediately called the police. By a quirk of fate, an innocent member of the public pulled up behind the rear vehicle and the thugs’ plans had to be abandoned.”
But the harassment and intimidation didn’t end there. The sabs continued:
“The vehicle in front pulled out of the way and we drove out of the ambush only to find ourselves being pursued by two trucks full of some extremely angry hunt supporters. Fists were waved at us and their intent was clear, a cudgel clearly visible on the dashboard of the lead vehicle. We drove past the meet, spotting an ashen-faced hunt chairman Mark Hill, and were chased at speed through Tetbury and onwards towards Malmesbury.”
Twenty-mile high-speed chase
As they were being followed, the sabs were on the phone to Gloucestershire Police, who arranged for the hunt thugs to be intercepted further down the road. The sabs continued:
“After a 20 mile high speed chase we watched as a police truck pulled in front of the lead vehicle and were gobsmacked to be informed that the other car had been stopped by an armed response unit with guns drawn!
This is unprecedented. The RAC Beagles, and the Beaufort and Vale of White Horse foxhunts whose country they share, have long believed themselves to be untouchable and above the law, free to slaughter our wildlife, assault those that oppose them and that the police are their servants, to be told what to do and when. Today proved that this is no longer the case. We spoke to the officers involved afterwards and it is clear that Gloucestershire Police are intent on pursuing the wildlife criminals that infest the county. We can only hope that other forces follow their lead.“
Royal Agricultural University: where future fox hunters are bred
Beagling is an extremely cruel ‘sport’ where hunters – who are on foot – pursue hares in open fields. A hare is much faster than the beagle pack of dogs that chases her, but she is driven to exhaustion as she tries to get away. The hounds kill her when she is on the brink of collapse.
The Royal Agricultural University (formerly Royal Agricultural College) is one of just three universities in Britain to have its own beagle pack. RAC Beagles was founded in 1889, and is run by students. Like other hunting packs, the RAC Beagles has ignored the Hunting Act since it came into force in 2005, its students continuing to terrorise and kill hares despite it being against the law.
It is, of course, disgraceful that almost twenty years after hunting with dogs was made illegal, the Royal Agricultural University not only continues to celebrate the pursuit of Gloucestershire’s wildlife, but actively encourages its own students to train in such blood sports. Indeed, a stint in the RAC Beagles is an important stepping stone for teenagers who strive for a future murdering foxes. According to a 2021 article in Horse & Hounds, the RAC Beagles, along with Stowe Beagles, have produced the greatest number of huntsmen and hunt masters of foxhounds in the past 50 years. The publication states proudly:
“For generations, “young gentlemen” (and now some ladies) have followed the well-worn path of masterships from school beagles to college beagles before taking a pack of foxhounds.”
Tarnishing its reputation even further
It is also disgraceful that the Royal Agricultural University continues to be associated with a hunt with violent thugs as supporters. These supporters are willing to risk lives by chasing hunt saboteurs at high speed for twenty miles. And according to Severn Vale Hunt Sabs, these same supporters were armed with a cudgel. This is surely not the reputation that the university wants to be cultivating for itself.
But it is, perhaps, unsurprising. This is the same hunt that in 2015 was reported by the HSA to have smashed the windscreen of a Land Rover belonging to sabs before a “dead rabbit was thrown onto the bonnet”. And it is of course the same university where its students made national headlines when they strapped a dead fox to the top of a vehicle for a fundraising event. Later, it emerged that more dead animals were strapped to vehicles during the event, including a stag. The university was quick to disassociate itself from these disgusting actions as soon as there was public outrage, saying, “We condemn this behaviour.” The students involved were suspended, while the police investigated. No doubt the university was concerned about the damage such a stunt would do to its reputation.
As Protect the Wild’s Charlie Moores has previously pointed out, the Royal Agricultural University’s alumni include “some heavyweight estate owners and lobbyists for hunting and shooting.” Moores continued:
“As well as actively being part of blood sports, alumni are well-placed to ensure the killing goes on… Foxes have actually never been classified as vermin, but it is legal to kill them all year around – and that’s down to landowners and farmers who make and pass legislation in the Houses of Commons and Lords. And the RAU can count on a raft of relatively recent graduates to allow the ‘fun’ to continue…”
Much like the Tory government, which claims to care about the conservation of the UK’s wildlife while driving badgers towards local extinction and allowing water companies to destroy rivers, the university is keen to cultivate a facade of a reputation, stating to the public that it “[enables] communities locally, nationally and across the world to thrive in harmony with nature.”
- The establishment’s motto is Arvorum Cultus Pecorumque‘ – ‘Caring for the Fields and the Beasts’. But as the university repeatedly shows, its students and graduates are grave dangers to nature, not the guardians they want to depict themselves to be. While the university churns out graduates like the ones discussed here, Britain’s wildlife will never be truly safe from harm.