The BBC has sparked outrage among animal lovers after this evening’s episode of ‘Inside Out’ saw a stag hunted down by hounds and shot. Animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports said the programme, shown in the South West and across the country on BBC HD, makes a mockery of the hunt’s regular excuse that they are undertaking ‘scientific research’.

Devon and Somerset Staghounds chased a red stag across nine miles of moorland before shooting the animal in an Exmoor river. The scenes were captured on film by professional investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports accompanied by BBC journalists. Footage captured after the chase shows huntsmen dragging off the lifeless corpse of the stag, whose body was later carved up and innards thrown to the hounds.The hunt normally claims that it chases and kills stags in the name of 'research'. During the programme, they are asked if that's what they were doing this time. They said no - but wouldn't explain what they were doing.



Martin Sims, Director of Investigations at League Against Cruel Sports, and former-Head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit and serving police officer for 31 years, said:

“The BBC is to be commended for bringing the brutal reality of stag hunting into the living rooms of viewers across the country. Alongside the BBC’s reporters we witnessed a magnificent creature being hounded for nine miles across the Exmoor countryside, before being shot, carved up and innards thrown to the hounds.

“There is no excuse for this majestic creature’s death and sadly scenes like this are going on week in, week out for most of the year. Hundreds of deer are being killed by hunts each season, in a cruel and barbaric fashion which has no place in a modern and progressive society.”

The hunt actively pursues at least 285 red deer to the point of exhaustion with staghounds each season. This includes exceptionally vulnerable wild animals, such as those who are young and pregnant. Once the lengthy pursuit comes to an end, each of the deer receives a bullet from a shotgun-wielding huntsman, before the animal’s head, teeth, limbs and innards are carved up and handed out to spectators as trophies.

Whilst such practices would normally be illegal under the hunting ban, the Devon and Somerset Staghounds exploit a loophole in the law to conduct deer hunting under the guise of ‘scientific research’ – much like the Japanese whalers who receive international condemnation for killing wildlife under the same implausible excuse, the League adds.

Martin Sims added:

“It is ludicrous that this hunt claims to be undertaking research and observation – it is simply illegal hunting, but with a lame excuse not dissimilar to the Japanese Government’s rationale for butchering whales. Stag hunting is a cruel and unnecessary spectator sport, with wild animals chased down and their severed body parts dished out to bloodthirsty fans as trophies.”

The League has called on the government to strengthen the hunting ban to stop stags and other wildlife being killed for ‘sport’. Its call has received considerable support, with over 100,000 people signing a petition to end the killing of animals by hunts and politicians speaking out.

Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West and Patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, is one of those and said in response to the footage:

“I am appalled to see the hunting of deer with hounds still taking place across the British countryside. The pursuit of deer to exhaustion, ending with a bullet to the head and being carved up as trophies, is truly shocking and the public expect such cruel and macabre bloodsports to be consigned to the history books. The Hunting Act must be strengthened as a matter of urgency, including by removing the ‘research and observation’ exemption, so that there can be no cover for this cruelty.”

Help the League stop the killing of animals by hunts in the UK by signing our petition. Thank you.


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Embargoed broadcast-quality footage and print-quality photographs are available on request. For more information or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports Press Office on 01483 524250 (24hrs) or email [email protected]

The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act. We carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. We work to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife. Find out more about our work at league.org.uk.

Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).