Petition the newt Hotel tdemand they no longer host the BSV Hunt

TAKE ACTION: Tell the ‘World’s Best Boutique Hotel’ to disassociate itself from fox hunting

Yesterday we launched a petition to demand that The Newt in Somerset hotel stop hosting the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt. Over 5000 people have already signed. In the following post we give more details about why the petition was launched and why it is so important.

The Newt must disassociate from fox hunting

Hunts rely on the support of local businesses and landowners to carry out their criminal activities. The Blackmore and Sparkford Vale (BSV) is one of the UK’s most criminal hunts, yet The Newt – an establishment that prides itself on being the ‘World’s Best Boutique Hotel’ – allows it to meet on its premises. We are calling on the hotel to sever its ties with the hunt before its reputation is tarnished.

Protect the Wild and Action Against Foxhunting has launched a campaign, urging The Newt to confirm that it will no longer allow the BSV to use its land. We are asking our supporters and readers to make your voice heard and sign our petition, which will be sent to the business.


Risking backlash

The Newt is located in Bruton, Somerset. Last year it was awarded the World’s Best Boutique Hotel at The World’s 50 Best Hotels 2023. It has curated a wholesome image of a business that is respectful of the land; one that provides events and courses in beekeeping, pruning trees, seed saving, and foraging mushrooms. “Everything is rooted in a deep respect for the land, the locality and all creatures living on it,” the business writes on its social media. Its Instagram page is filled with photos of the stags and hinds living freely in its gardens.

And so it will come as a surprise to the public that this popular hotel supports fox hunting. Surely such a business should align its actions with the values that it preaches, and actively respect all living beings. The Newt risks alienating many of its customers by associating itself with the BSV and its murderous activities.

A disgraceful hunt

The BSV has had an eventful 2023/24 hunting season. Since the Hunting Act came into force almost twenty years ago, the hunt has mostly continued hunting and killing foxes with impunity. But this year has seen the hunt receiving a lot of media and police attention, as well as racking up court appearances – much to its dismay.

In October 2023, Steve Paul, terrierman for the hunt, pleaded guilty to assault after throwing urine into the face of female hunt saboteur. North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs explained what happened:

“Earlier that day the sab had been seen by Paul unblocking a badger sett, and been threatened. Later as the hunt trespassed after a fox, he approached the sab as she filmed from a footpath and kicked and harassed her, before going after her on his quad and spraying urine in her face.”

In January 2024, the hunt was suspended by hunting’s so-called ‘governing body’, the British Hound Sports Association (BHSA), after its hounds were caught tearing up a fox. We’ll speak in more detail about that later.

And in April 2024, BSV member Charlie Mayo – son of hunt master and BSV company director Anthony Mayo – was found guilty of assaulting a hunt saboteur and causing actual bodily harm. The saboteur was so badly injured that he was hospitalised. The assault took place in December 2021. North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs stated that Mayo struck the back of a saboteur’s head with the bone end of his whip. The sabs said:

“This caused a 3cm, full thickness laceration to the scalp that required glue and stitches at hospital.”


North Dorset Hunt Saboteur gets violently assaulted by BSV
A North Dorset Hunt Saboteur gets violently assaulted and is hospitalised by the BSV’s Charlie Mayo. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs


2023/24 figures

Protect the Wild’s Glen Black has analysed hunting practices during the 2023/24 season. By studying reports from anti-hunting groups, activist observations, and public records, he has reported these shocking figures about the BSV in just one season:

Foxes chased: 45

Foxes killed: 2*

Hares chased: 1

Hares killed: 0

Deer chased: 2

Dear killed: 0

Dig outs: 2

Traffic offences: 16

Road havoc: 22

Minor attacks: 32

Major attacks: 3

Trespass: 10

Sett interference: 5

Other non-quarry: 2

Police attended: 11

*This figure does not include suspected kills, so the actual number of foxes killed is, very likely, higher.


The BSV gathers in Milborne Wick, Somerset, on 25 November 2023. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs
The BSV gathers in Milborne Wick, Somerset, on 25 November 2023. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs


Foxes killed

Black reported that at least two foxes were killed by the hunt this season, but that a massive 45 were chased. Of course, these totals are likely to be higher: the ‘foxes killed’ figure only includes when a kill was witnessed or a body was found. On top of this, Black found that there were at least three suspected kills in the 2023/24 season. These were all during cubbing season – which is when the hunt trains its hounds by encouraging them to chase small fox cubs, in preparation for the main season. We imagine that it is only because of the work of hunt saboteurs on the ground that more foxes weren’t torn apart by BSV hounds.

In January we saw the BSV get suspended by the BHSA because of a fox death which caused nationwide outrage. North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs’ drone footage captured the moment the BSV’s hounds ripped up a fox on 4 December 2023. Channel 4 News broadcast the footage to the nation on the evening of 25 January, and the BHSA was forced to take action against its own.

The harrowing video shows the hounds chasing a fox. The terrified animal seeks cover in a barn while hunt members and hounds surround the building. The footage then shows the fox running away, but she is caught by the hounds and ripped apart. Hunt staff watch on and do nothing to call the hounds off. They make sure that they retrieve the fox’s mauled body afterwards – presumably to get rid of the evidence.

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


The second definite kill, on 24 August 2023, was during the cubbing season. Wildlife Crime Action filmed footage showing the kill, and wrote:

“Out covertly watching the BSV hunt this morning. Filmed this kill at a huge distance hence the poor quality but shows hounds breaking up a fox and huntsman “ragging” the body. Second supporter in white shirt to the left of screen appears to be stripping the fox’s tail.”

The monitor continued:

What amazes me is that all this happens in broad daylight with those involved having no concerns as to the consequences of their actions. They’ve been getting away with it for years…and simply don’t care.

Black said of the kills and attempted kills:

The BSV remains one of the country’s most egregious hunts. They featured heavily in Protect the Wild’s report for the 2022/23 season and our preliminary figures for the 2023/24 season show that little has changed. This is despite the fact the BHSA suspending the BSV for three weeks following a Channel 4 News exposé. Sab group Weymouth Animal Rights noted that this suspension lost the hunt 12 days of hunting. During the hunt’s first post-suspension meet North Dorset Sabs said the BSV chased two foxes while a representative of the BHSA was present. This illustrates not only the BSV’s brazen and vile attitude but how the BHSA is just another ploy to con politicians and the public.”


Attacks on hunt saboteurs

Protect the Wild’s preliminary figures for the last hunting season found that there were three major attacks carried out by the BSV or its supporters on hunt saboteurs or monitors, while there were a massive 32 minor attacks.

In November 2023, Weymouth Animal Rights reported that sabs were attacked as the BSV tried to prevent the group from moving in to prevent a kill. They said:

“Sabs were assaulted by two terriermen and a rider who was so desperate to prevent sabs from moving in, that he jumped off his horse and attacked one sab.”

Later on the hunt was seen causing havoc on the busy A357, with hounds all over the road. The sabs continued:

“One sab was injured, pretty seriously as they were mowed down and trampled on by a rider during this chaos and tempers began to flare from the hunt support as it was obvious now that they were being denied their bloodlust fix!”

In January 2024 Dorset Police arrested two men associated with the BSV after they assaulted hunt saboteurs in September 2023. Weymouth Animal Rights reported:

“…the ‘rent a thugs’ appeared, landing in by quad they attacked our Sabs . They made a particular beeline for our female Sab and attacked her from behind. They stole her camera and radio and knocked her to the ground several times. Our other Sab was also viciously attacked and beaten with a thick branch, they too had their body cam stolen along with a radio and Gizmo. It was an horrific ordeal! Luckily one Sab was able to retain an SD card and the footage is now in the hands of the police.”

North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs stated at the time that it was the “first charges from a string of offences by the BSV”.  Because they are the foxes’ only line of defence, they feel the hunt’s full wrath.

In February 2024, on the BSV’s closing meet of the season, hunt saboteurs’ lives were endangered by thugs supporting the hunt. Weymouth Animal Rights explained what happened:

“A massive crowd gathered as supporters, many of which wreaked of alcohol, attempted to steal equipment, made threats of an array of creepiness, and violently attacked sabs. As sabs were walking away, one was punched in the back of the head and knocked to the ground. This extremely dangerous and cowardly move resulted in a head injury that sent this sab to the hospital.”

These incidents are just three of almost 40 attacks on those who tried to monitor or prevent the BSV from killing foxes during the 2023/24 season. Others include two female sabs being attacked by three masked men in October 2023, while in the same month sabs’ homes were targeted, as well as their car windows broken and tyres slashed.

Hunt saboteurs' cars are targeted by BSV thugs. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs
Hunt saboteurs’ cars are targeted by BSV thugs. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs


Hunt havoc

Protect the Wild’s figures show that the BSV carried out at least 22 incidents of road havoc, the hunt committing 16 traffic offences in the 2023/24 season. Meanwhile it trespassed at least 10 times. One notable incident took place in November 2023, when the BSV’s hounds ran onto railway tracks. North Dorset Sabs said that this was very close to the location where four of the BSV’s hounds were killed when struck by a train in 2022. Of course, by trespassing onto the railway line, the hunt is not only putting its hounds in imminent danger but also the public using the trains, too.

Another notable incident took place in February 2024, when the BSV brought the hounds out onto a bend of the busy A30. Weymouth Animal Rights videoed the incident, and reported:

“Apart from total disregard for their animals’ safety, it’s got to be tantamount to reckless endangerment as far as drivers are concerned!”


A BSV hound is photographed on a railway track on 25 November 2023. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs


Dig outs

Protect the Wild’s figures have found that the BSV were guilty of two instances of digging out foxes, and five instances of badger sett interference in the 2023/24 season. Hunts dig out either badger setts or fox earths if a fox has hidden underground. Then terriermen put two terriers into the hole to prevent the fox from escaping. They might also put nets across the holes. The men will then use spades to dig down to the terrified fox. Terrier work is always illegal when carried out by hunts, while the Hunting Act made it completely illegal to interfere with badger setts no matter what the circumstances.

On 21 September 2023, North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs caught and filmed the BSV in the process of a dig out. The sabs reported:

“This is what we arrived to at the BSV on Thursday evening – The huntsman off his horse holding back the pack of hounds while a terrierman can be seen digging in front of them. With no time to stop and film this disturbing scene we quickly closed in on them, hoping to prevent them getting to the fox.”

The sabs were stopped by riders using their horses to push them back. They stated:

“Then there came the high pitched “holloa”s that indicate the direction a fox is running.

Bloodlust overcame our assailants, as they raced off to join the chase. We were too late, the fox had been bolted/extracted and thrown in front of the hounds. Hounds went into full cry heading for the farmyard. We cautiously moved closer, not wanting to scare the fleeing fox back towards hounds. By some miracle we saw a flash of red as the terrified fox managed to slip past and down into the nature reserve.“


The sabs also caught the hunt trying to dig out another fox just days later, on 25 September. When a similar scene of the Avon Vale Hunt digging out two foxes was broadcast on ITV News in February 2023, there was, rightly, outrage. The nationwide publicity forced the BHSA to permanently expel the hunt. Yet the BSV has the audacity to think that it can act above the law with total impunity. And it is, largely, correct: the hunt was only suspended for a couple of weeks after the Channel 4 exposé showing the BSV killing a fox was broadcast to the public.

A BSV terrierman can be seen just to the right of the huntsman, digging out a fox on 21 September 2023. Photo taken from footage by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs


The Newt must disassociate itself

It is clear that if The Newt continues to allow the BSV to use its land, the hotel will suffer from reputational damage, and, likely, declining membership numbers. On top of this, the business risks prosecution under Section 3 of the Hunting Act as a complicit landowner.

Even local authorities have taken action against the BSV. After campaigning by Action Against Foxhunting and a petition signed by over 100,000 people, the BSV were told by Castle Cary Town Council that they could no longer use their facilities. Protect the Wild urges The Newt to do the same. The business has an opportunity to set an example to other landowners and sever all ties with the BSV with immediate effect.

  • Sign our petition here, urging The Newt to confirm in writing that it will no longer allow the BSV to meet on its land.