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VICTORY! Hunting dying out as more hunts forced to merge

As 2022 draws to a close, there’s news that two more hunts are amalgamating. The Puckeridge is merging with the Essex with Farmers and Union for the 2023/2024 season, becoming the new Puckeridge and Essex Union Hunt. This is yet another indication that the hunting industry is struggling.

Both hunts have had their own scandals in 2022. The Puckeridge was in the news this year after huntsman Arun Squire was charged under the Hunting Act. Hunt saboteurs recorded drone footage of the hunt chasing and killing a fox at its delayed Boxing Day meet on 27 December 2021. The video shows the terrified fox running for its life through a field, while the Puckeridge’s pack chases her. The chase continued for a number of minutes over several hundred metres, before the hounds were filmed piling on top of the fox in woodland.

When Squire was charged, North London Hunt Saboteurs reported that the kill

“happened right under the huntsman’s nose. Unfortunately for the hunt, it also happened right underneath our drone’s nose. So we can still expose their disgusting behaviour, even if we couldn’t save the fox.

Frustratingly, saboteurs from all groups were on the scene within a minute, but it was too late. The huntsman ran away, like the coward he is. Leaving us to retrieve the body and report the incident to the police.”

Squire pleaded not guilty to illegal hunting, and will face trial in 2023.

Racial abuse

Meanwhile, on Saturday 17 December, North London Hunt Sabs filmed the two hunts as they were coming out of the Rose and Crown pub in Ashdon, Essex. Footage shows hunt staff racially abusing a saboteur of colour. One man says “roll another spliff”, while the Puckeridge hunt master asks the sab if “there is a zoo around here”.

The hunts then drove to a woods to begin hunting, but hunt saboteurs caught up with them. North London Hunt Sabs reported that:

“A frustrated member of the Essex Farmers, George Smith, took it upon himself to assault one of our group and steal a camera. Happily for us, another camera caught the assault. Just as happily for us, the disgusting racist abuse dished out by this hunt was also caught on camera. All three incidents will be reported to the police in due course.”

The sabs continued:

“The racism, assault and theft did nothing to deter us from stopping illegal fox hunting. We did not allow them to hunt and duly escorted them back to their meet.”

A number of hunts have amalgamated in 2022

Of course, the news that the two hunts are merging is a definite win for all of us who want to stop hunting. 2022 has seen a number of other hunts amalgamating, indicating that they are struggling to stay afloat. And, of course, less hunts means less packs on the ground murdering wildlife. This year, other hunts to merge have been:

  • Blean Beagles with the Brighton, Storrington, Surrey and North Sussex Beagles. They have become the Downland Beagles.
  • Herefordshire and Clifton Hunt with the Worcestershire Hunt.
  • West Somerset Vale with the Weston and Banwell Harriers.
  • Badsworth and Bramham Moor Hunt with the York and Ainsty South Hunt. They have become the Badsworth, Bramham, York and South Hunt.

What happens to the hounds?

Worryingly, we don’t know for sure what the fate is for the hounds when a merger takes place. When it announced that it was merging with the Worcester Hunt, the Herefordshire and Clifton Hunt announced:

“The Herefordshire hounds were moved to the Worcestershire kennels a few weeks ago, and sadly it is inevitable that the newly amalgamated hunt will not be able to afford to keep two packs of hounds.”

Protect the Wild has already reported on hunts shooting the hounds that they deem unnecessary to them. In October 2021, Protect the Wild published covert footage from the Duke of Beaufort Hunt’s kennels. The videos show men shooting hounds and then throwing them into wheelbarrows to dispose of their bodies.

Of those killed across the country annually, Glen Black previously reported:

“Protect Our Wild Animals’ calculations suggested between 4942 and 7302 foxhounds killed per year across 195 packs, with approximately 3250 to 4500 of those in English and Welsh hunts. These approximate to 15% of hounds killed per pack. For one specific example, Hunting Leaks’s 2020 documents from the Mendip Farmers Hunt describe the hunt having killed 6.5 couple, or 13 hounds, between April and June of that year. This translates to roughly 16%.”

So it begs the question, what is the new Puckeridge and Essex Union Hunt doing with its unwanted hounds? Is it making efforts to rehome them? Or are their hounds the latest victims of this cruel bloodsport?

As we move into 2023, we can all celebrate the fact that there are less hunts existing across the country than previous years. Covid and Brexit have both taken their toll on the hunting industry, along with a substantial loss of land after many of the biggest landowners permanently banned hunting. On top of this, a number of hunt staff across the country are facing charges of illegal hunting thanks to saboteurs’ and monitors’ footage. 2023 is going to be another tough year for hunts as they struggle to survive.

Please consider supporting North London Hunt Saboteurs, who are fundraising for a new camera after theirs was stolen by an Essex Farmers member.