Whipper-in Hartley Crouch looks directly into the camera, held by a sab with Hertfordshire Hunt Saboteurs

Whipper-in convicted of kidnapping fellow hunt member’s sheep

Northamptonshire Police said on 17 January that courts had found Hartley Crouch guilty of theft after stealing and killing a sheep. The incident occurred on 13 March 2022. Crouch was, at the time, a whipper-in for the Pytchley with Woodland Hunt.

The police stated that Crouch had taken the sheep from another member of the hunt, who was keeping the sheep as a domestic rather than farmed animal. After kidnapping the sheep, the whipper-in then killed and skinned them before feeding their body to the Pytchley with Woodland Hunt’s hounds.

Northampton Magistrates’ Court found Crouch guilty of “theft” on 11 January. It then sentenced him to 12 months conditional discharge and ordered to pay a total of £947 in fines and costs. The Pytchley with Woodland Hunt also fired Crouch after the incident came to light.

A public post by Tracey Murray, who’s connection to the hunt and incident is unclear, said Crouch’s actions had “haunted” her for nearly a year. She also claimed that Crouch was “drunk” during the incident. Nonetheless, she said said she “can’t explain how happy” she is with the outcome.

Unsavoury actions

However, as Hertfordshire Hunt Saboteurs explained, Crouch hasn’t left the hunting industry. Instead, he is now a whipper-in for the Cottesmore Hunt.

Murray said in her post that she doesn’t know “of a single hunting person who would condone or even understand” Crouch’s actions. But the Cottesmore Hunt’s welcoming back (he was previously a whip for the hunt in 2017, Hertfordshire Hunt Saboteurs said) of Crouch into its employment suggests it is happy to associate with someone that has such a background. Whether it will now drop him following a formal conviction, we will have to see.

The hunt nonetheless has a history of association with unsavoury incidents. Protect the Wild previously reported on the hit and run of a Northants sab by a follower of the hunt in November 2022. As that article also highlighted, it also has a history of aggressive attacks on hunt saboteurs. The hunt made national news in November 2021 after Hertfordshire Hunt Saboteurs filmed field rider Sarah Moulds punching her horse. And it also had the temerity to apply for a taxpayer-funded Covid-19 grant from Rutland Council, receiving £25,000 – the maximum available.

Despite Crouch’s actions, then, it seems he is in good company.

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Featured image via Hertfordshire Hunt Saboteurs