The Blackmore and Sparkford Vale hounds kill a fox. Drone footage by North Dorset Sabs

Suspension of disgraced hunt just token gesture

On 26 January, we reported that the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale (BSV) Hunt had been suspended by hunting’s governing body. But it’s now been revealed that the British Hound Sports Association (BHSA) has only banned the hunt for a total of three weeks. The BSV is now continuing to hunt until the end of February.

The BSV was supposedly suspended after Channel 4 News broadcast footage to the nation on the evening of 25 January. The video, captured by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs on 4 December 2023, shows BSV hounds chasing a fox and ripping her apart. The hunt master and other staff watch on, doing nothing to call the hounds off. They make sure that they retrieve the fox’s mauled body afterwards.

Six men were interviewed by the police in relationship to the fox’s murder, but none have yet been arrested.

In response to the footage, the BSHA told Channel 4:

“the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt and all BHSA members within the hunt were suspended from all hunting activities on the 24th January pending further investigation. The incident has been referred to the Hound Sports Regulatory Authority who will open a disciplinary inquiry.”

‘A token act of damage control’

On 9 February, North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs wrote on X/Twitter:

“Rumours are circulating that following a “hearing” with the BHSA the BSV have been permitted to continue hunting foxes following the recent damning drone footage shown on @Channel4News @alextomo clearly the suspension was just a token act of damage control.”
Then on 13 February, the Dorset Echo confirmed these rumours when it reported that the BSV was “back in action.” Two hunt masters will, apparently, remain suspended until the conclusion of an investigation by the hound sports regulatory authority. But the BHSA said:

“As a result of a meeting of the BHSA with representatives of the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt, the hunt will be able to resume hunting activities for a probationary period with effect from Thursday, February 15.

The hunt will be restricted to four days of trail hunting during this probationary period, which lasts until the end of their trail hunting season on February 24.”

Principles… What principles?

The BHSA then stated that the BSV will have to apply for accreditation for the next season “to satisfy the relevant criteria and conduct their activities in accordance with the BHSA’s core principles.”
If we look at these core principles, it is unclear how the BSV could ever fulfill the criteria to be deemed eligible to hunt again (if the BHSA were actually to do its job). Some of these principles are:

to ensure the highest standards of conduct by all those participating in any hunting activities or activities relating to a Recognised Hunt…

to operate to promote hounds, hunting activities and the hunting community and to instil confidence in hunting…

to ensure that hunting is not brought into disrepute.”
Of course, hunting animals with hounds was made illegal when the Hunting Act came into force in 2005. No hunt should ever be killing foxes, yet packs terrorise the UK’s wildlife week in, week out. Due to the Channel 4 coverage, it is the BSV that has brought hunting into disrepute. Such coverage ahould have made the nation lose any last remaining shred of confidence in the hunting industry, too.

Hunters governing hunting

The BHSA was set up in 2022, replacing the Hunting Office. Back then, Protect the Wild wrote that this rebranding of the Hunting Office was an attempt at damage control after two years of PR disasters for hunting. Public trust in hunts had hit an all-time low, and with the largest landowners turning their backs on hunts, the hunting industry was desperate to change the narrative. It was keen to create a facade that this so-called ‘governing body’ would take illegal hunting seriously.

But since its inception, there have only been a couple of disciplinary actions taken against individual hunts. These actions have only occurred because the mainstream media has covered incidents of foxes being killed (or buried alive), making them national headlines that the BHSA could no longer ignore.

In 2022, we commented on how the first Chairperson of the BHSA was to be William Astor, a viscount and member of the House of Lords, and former Master and Chairman of the Old Berkshire Hunt. Astor was the former director of the powerful pro-hunting lobbying group Vote-OK, and he was instrumental in an attempt to get the Hunting Act overturned.

This latest non-ban of the BSV shows us all what we already knew anyway: that the BHSA is yet another smokescreen by the hunting industry, as it attempts to hoodwink both the public and law enforcement that it takes the Hunting Act seriously.

But hunt’s ‘governing body’ is culpable for the deaths of all of the foxes killed on its watch. It is not only enabling hunts to continue killing as usual – it is emboldening them.


  • As North Dorset Hunt Sabs bear the brunt of the BSV Hunt’s anger for exposing its crimes, it’s vital that we show them our gratitude. We can support the sabs by donating here
  • Featured image via North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs