The main hunting season may be over in my part of the world but elsewhere animals continue to be pursued by hounds for hours and then when finally exhausted, killed.

Stag and Hind hunting in the south west of England has made the news recently with the footage and evidence being released by my good friends over at Hounds Off which clearly illustrates that it is very much business as usual for the wildlife abusers who are killing with impunity.

For a better understanding of how this type of hunting is being allowed to continue you have to understand how they operate and how they are circumnavigating the law.


Pre-ban image of a stag being shot after a long chase.

Prior to the ban, stags and hinds would have been selected from wild animals in the herd and singled out, then chased by a the pack of hounds over many miles until exhausted where the hounds would have been held at bay. At this point the huntsman would have approached and shot the animal. Sometimes these animals would have been captured before the hunt and then released into the hunting country, often a reserve animal would have been held in a horse box locally should the first escape, thus giving these psychopaths the maximum chance of a kill.

With the Hunting Act coming in to play in 2005 the hunts had to figure out a way to circumnavigate the legislation so they could continue to hunt, much like fox hunts did with the creation of “trail hunting”. There are several exemptions within the hunting act which will allow stalking and flushing out under certain conditions but all of these restrict the number of hounds to 2. This was clearly an issue for the deer hunters so they invented “relay hunting” where several pairs of hounds were used in relays to chase the quarry animal to exhaustion before being killed.

However the Quantock Stag Hounds fell foul of the law in 2007 when they were successfully prosecuted for breaching the Hunting Act while attempting to use this exemption and again in 2010 while claiming to “Rescue a Wild Animal (part 8 para 2).

From the point of view of the hunts there was clearly more work to be done in their efforts to avoid prosecution and for this they looked further afield for inspiration.

Commercial Whaling has been banned since 1986 and yet we’re still seeing these wonderful sentient creatures murdered in some numbers by countries who claim to be using the scientific exemption within the moratorium which allows the killing of whales for vaguely defined scientific purposes. Here was something the UK hunts could use as within the Hunting Act there existed a similar exemption, part 8, para 2;

Research and Observation

“The first condition is that the hunting is undertaken for the purpose of or in connection with the observation or study of the wild mammal”.

What has to be questioned here is what could possible be gained in terms of scientific knowledge by chasing a stag or hind for many miles before finally killing the animal and carving it up to be handed out as trophies? I’d argue with some certainty that we already know pretty much all we’re likely to about these native mammals and there can be no scientific justification for the hunts. However the CPS seem reluctant to take on these cases and the they have recently dropped several against the Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds.

What is abundantly clear is that hunting continues much as it did before the ban with the only change being the use of  2 hounds in relays. The Research and Observation exemption really needs to be challenged in the courts but for that to happen we need to be able to get it into the courts in the first place and for the CPS to grow some balls. It shouldn’t be too hard to disprove these nonsensical claims. Of course the best and final way to stop this hunting is a strengthening of the Hunting Act but that will probably also require a change in Government. Removal of these daft exemptions might not stop the hunting completely but it will certainly give the police and CPS a clear direction in prosecuting these criminals.


  1. Alison Howle says:

    How can a change of law be exacted, given how ingrained hunting is within the elite and higher echelons of society? It seems to be well documented that even with corroborated evidence, offenders fail to be prosecuted. Also, what are the guidelines/ restrictions if these barbaric acts take place in private land, which again is often either owned or put at the disposal of the hunting community. Thanks

    • A change in Government will be a start. Strengthening of the Hunting Act will allow it to be policed properly. Land ownership is not really relevant, we’ve gained 2 HA convictions and both offences took place on private land.

  2. Sally Kingham says:

    Did the CPS give their reasons for dropping the recent cases? What these people get away with is beyond belief. Apart from the obvious terrorizing and killing of animals they block public roads and absolutely refuse to move regardless of the amount of traffic being held up.

  3. I’m afraid the absurd ‘Research & Observation’ clause legalises what the Devon & Somerset Stag Hounds have been doing for years and the Quantock SH now do. The DSSH cite a ‘research project’ to justify what they do [which seems to consist of no more than drawing a vial of blood from the slaughtered deer] as justification for their hunting, but really they needn’t bother. The ‘Observation’ bit of the clause allows them to do what they’re doing for no better reason than that they want to see it. It would be interesting to see what a judge had to say about it, but I’ve very little doubt that they’d conclude it is permitted by the Act, however clear it may be that this is not what the legislators intended. POWA spotted the potential for this clause to be misused while the Bill was going through Parliament and it was one of several amendments we asked the Bill Committee to make, but it emerged unscathed. Perhaps this was part of the ‘sabotage’ of the Act that Blair confessed to in his memoirs.
    Can I ask where you got the thing about capturing a deer in advance and holding a reserve quarry in a horsebox from? I lived on Baronsdown for a couple of years in the 90s and helped monitor the deer hunts many times and I’ve never heard of this. It is standard practice in Northern Ireland to capture and release the day’s quarry, which they call ‘carted hunting’ but I’m not aware of this.being done here. I wouldn’t put it past them, they are total psychopathic bastards, but is there any actual evidence of this practice?

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