I bit of a long post today but please bear with me as it needs a detailed write up to do the subject justice.

You may remember last October (see here) I reported on an incident where four hunt saboteurs were arrested for Aggravated Trespass whilst coming to the aid of a Roe Deer which had been attacked by the hounds of the Surrey Union hunt. The defendants only had the welfare of the injured animal at heart and so entered the private land to aid the animal as best they could however the deer was subsequently destroyed by a member of the hunt. The case was heard this week and before I give the outcome I thought it best to go over the evidence supplied by both the prosecution and the defense.

The original police statement at the time was as follows:

“Surrey Police officers attended a location near Ewhurst on Saturday 25 October where the Surrey Union Hunt were taking part in an organised trail hunt.

At around 1pm, a small number of protestors entered onto a field adjacent to the hunt which was on private land. The group were warned by officers that they were trespassing and although given a clear direction to leave, they remained on the land.

Three men and a woman were arrested at the scene of suspicion of aggravated trespass contravening section 69 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act and taken into custody. They were later released on conditional bail until November 21 and 22.

During the hunt, a deer was injured and subsequently had to be humanely put down. Officers at the scene investigated the circumstances and enquiries remain on-going. *The deer was discovered in a ditch which was bordered by brambles and barbed wire which early indications suggest may have caused the injuries it sustained.

There were no injuries on the deer or other evidence to suggest it had been attacked by the hounds. At this time no offences relating to the injuries sustained by the deer have been established.”

Before we cover the police statement which show’s a complete lack of knowledge and impartiality in it’s own right we’ll go over the statements provided. First of Mrs Dunsden (described in the statement as Hunt Leader) who states:

“The hunt was a trail hunt where a they had a previously scented trail for the hounds to follow. No live animals where to be hunted and if the hounds caught the scent of a live animal the master of the hounds would call off the dogs as per agreed procedure”. She goes on to note that “Protestors were present and some had their faces covered”. One particular part of the statement is quite interesting: “The hunts leader and members have provided statements confirming that hounds did not the hunt the deer and when they realised they had found a deer the hounds were called off”.

First off everyone knows the pre-laid scent trail story is nothing more than a cover to give an alibi for illegal hunting. It’s even been admitted as such by an anonymous huntsman in an article published by the Economist and the Surrey Union have killed again since this incident. This is why the hunting act needs to be strengthened to do away with this ridiculous situation and we need to have a police force which isn’t lead (or paid off) so easily by the hunts.

Regarding the second point and in terms of the case this is irrelevant and purely there to add a negative context with regards to the saboteurs.

Lastly the dog is a natural predator and a pack of dogs has a unique mentality which makes it more likely to want to hunt. Foxhounds are selectively bread to hunt, it’s their sole purpose in life and those that don’t make the grade are disposed off (usually a bullet to the head). Upon sighting or scenting a prey animal they will give chase, acting purely on instinct. I’ve seen fox hounds chasing deer many times, often beyond the control of the huntsman. I even supplied footage for the defense of this nature. But the question is, if the hounds weren’t hunting the deer why would they need to be called off? Surely if they weren’t hunting the deer it would have been ignored? Do we really think the hounds found a deer and then just stood there staring at it?

Hounds rioting on a Roe Deer

Foxhound, not chasing a deer.

This leads to the part of the statement by the police where they suggest the injuries caused to the animal were from barbed wire or brambles.

Well, the police are certainly not experts in this matter however Andrew Knight BSc. (Vet. Biol.), BVMS, CertAW, DipECAWBM (AWSEL), PhD, MRCVS, SFHEA – Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Winchester certainly is. In his independent report he states:

“The deer was also recumbent on its back. A large (approximately 4 cm) puncture wound was visible in the groin region, and the surrounding fur was matted with fluid and clearly bloodied, demonstrating marked, recent trauma. The large size of the puncture wound, and the amount of bleeding evident, were highly consistent with a dog attack.

The appearance of the skin and fur in this case were very strongly consistent with such causation. The likelihood of alternate causes such as fences, barbed wire or brambles vary from extremely unlikely to completely implausible”.

So the expert opinion clearly states that the injuries to the deer were not caused by any brambles or barbed wire. The negligence however doesn’t end there. The deer, now clearly in significant distress and unable to move is now subjected to considerable torment. Many sabs have wildlife care experience and those on the scene were the best placed to deal with the casualty before professional help arrived however, they were being arrested and the deer was left in the hands of possibly the least qualified person available, the hunts terrier man. These people deal in suffering, they care little for their own animals (who in their right mind would send their dog down a hole to fight another animal?) let alone a wild one in a state of severe distress and badly injured.

Having seen the police video of the incident I’m in no doubt all those present were grossly negligent and in no way acting with the best interests of the animal at heart. It was picked up by it’s legs, roughly handled, knelt on and at one point they also attempted to force it to run away. It was clear to anyone with half a brain that this animal was going nowhere and was showing all the signs of extreme stress.

Andrew Knight continues: “Additionally, it was clear at this stage, and shortly afterwards in the video, that the deer was unable to bear weight on it’s right hind leg. This occurred despite the close presence of humans, which would normally cause any wild deer capable of doing so, to flee. Such inability to weight-bear indicates very serious injury. When such injury has been inflicted from trauma, as in this case, the most likely cause is a fracture.

The footage also showed this deer displaying open-mouthed breathing and rapid breathing. These signs indicate a very high level of distress. Given the deer’s physical state the most likely cause of this would have been extreme pain. Due to the large number of pain receptors in the membrane immediately adjacent to bone, fractures are extremely painful. Another likely cause would have been extreme fear in the close presence of people whom the deer could not escape, which would have been even greater had the deer been recently attacked.

Despite the deer’s obviously severely injured and distressed state, there were several instances of inappropriate handling which would have worsened its condition. At one stage the deer was moved by being lifted by its legs and subsequently hung by its limbs. This would have been intensely painful if a fracture had been present, and would have probably added to the deer’s injuries, through tearing, stretching or weakening ligaments and muscles, and potentially further displacing bones or bony fragments. It would also have worsened the deer’s respiratory difficulties. In another example a person restrained the deer by kneeling on its chest, which would have been very distressing and may also have interfered with breathing, which was clearly already taxed.

The unfortunate deer

The unfortunate deer, note the blood and fur at the scene.

This deer was obviously severely injured. It should have been gently approached, and the eyes covered to simulate darkness. Noise should have been kept to a minimum. The deer should have been maintained in a natural position and gently covered with an appropriate material to maintain warmth, whilst awaiting veterinary attention. Should movement have been deemed necessary the deer should have been gently moved into sternal or lateral recumbency (ie, lying on its belly or side), and gently carried, perhaps on a stretcher. None of these steps were implemented in the video footage I viewed, and veterinary attention did not appear to have been requested by phone or in any other way.

Instead, medical assessments appear to have been made by a person described in the video as a terrier man. Without any reasonable attempt to examine the deer, such as gentle palpation, and apparently based on visual examination alone, this person attributed the deer’s obviously distressed state to it’s being “tired,” and declared the deer to be “unfit.” “I think the easiest option is to dispatch it,” he said. This was indeed one of the easiest options, but it was certainly not the best option. Far from being unfit, this deer appeared to be in good body condition. It is entirely possible that after appropriate veterinary attention this deer might have eventually recovered from its serious physical injuries, allowing its release back into the wild.

Instead of giving the deer this chance, it was shot with a captive bolt pistol. In such animals the target area containing the brain is quite small, and the correct location is sometimes misunderstood. If the target area is missed, extreme pain and a prolonged death can result. Accordingly, immediately after use of a captive bolt pistol, death should be confirmed via a stethoscope (detecting the absence of a heartbeat), and by confirming signs of death such as lack of breathing, pupillary dilation, and lack of ocular reflexes. No attempt was made to conduct any such examination in this animal. Instead, only seven seconds after being shot, the deer was once again hung by its legs and moved. If the deer had in fact remained conscious at this point, this experience would once again have been extremely distressing”.

So we have an animal that may have been destroyed unnecessarily, that was handled very badly by an unqualified person after being attacked by dogs which was being denied by the hunt. The situation doesn’t get any better.

Having read through all the witness statements including those from the police and spoken at length with the defendants one thing becomes abundantly clear. The police were acting on claims from the hunt and ignoring all word from the saboteurs present about the situation that had arisen. The police took the hunt at their word and failed so completely in seeing the bigger picture that a sentient mammal suffered the most unnecessary of ends. Yes the defendants were on private land and yes they had been asked to leave however the hunt were clearly acting in contravention of the Hunting with Dogs Act 2004 and an animal had clearly been attacked by the hounds of the hunt. For a Section 69 to be applicable you have to be interfering with a legal activity and this obviously wasn’t the case. Coming to the aid of an injured animal could also in no way be construed as unlawful interference, the hunt were obviously clearly aware of what had transpired and were desperate to cover it up and so the best way to do this was with the aid of the police present at the scene. With only the welfare of the animal in their minds the defendants ignored the warnings issued by the police to leave in an attempt to attend to the injured animal and were subsequently arrested.

Pro hunt comments on Facebook

Pro hunt comments on Facebook

As the defendants were being arrested they were cuffed and paraded in front of the hunt support where they were photographed by a hunter who passed them on to a certain Joanna McCarthy with a message to share them far and wide. She then proceeded to published them on social media in a pro hunt group and the usual barrage of insults and threats towards those being arrested was soon to follow. This kind of totally unprofessional policing once again implies the police are indeed way too close to the hunt and acting on their behalf regardless of the evidence in front of them and as you can see from the comments in the image above, the pro hunt lobby are showing their true light.

The case was heard over the 24th and 25th of March.

I can now confirm that all the defendants were acquitted. It was also noted in court that had the defendants been allowed access to the animal the outcome may have been significantly different.

Judge Turner concludes:

“All of you contribute immensely to society not only in the working lives but in your free time. [on the day] You deserve high praise for managing yourselves and your behaviour.” and “(name removed)”: you are a remarkable man.” ALL NOT GUILTY

This is of course excellent news but the fact it actually made it to court is, too the say least an unnecessary waste of time and money. Perhaps in the future the police will listen to the right people and more importantly than any costs incurred, animals lives can be saved.


  1. mike says:

    All hunting should be band if they must hunt then hunt each other that way there would be less scum around

  2. Clued-Up says:

    Please tell me the sabs and / or their lawyers have now submitted a formal complaint against Surrey Police and individual officers over this incident? They have the court transcript and judge’s comments to support such a complaint.

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