Fox hunt fundraising event shadowed by criminal court cases
Posted 20th January 2024
The Heythrop Hunt, notorious for employing a huntsman with a string of hunting convictions to his name, is due to hold an important point-to-point fundraiser this weekend.
Huntsman Chris Woodward was convicted three times last year for offences linked to hunting, including allowing his hounds to chase and kill a fox.
And among the sponsors of the Cocklebarrow Races in Gloucestershire, which directly funds the hunt’s continuing operations, is Jeremy Clarkson’s brewery Hawkstone.
The television presenter has also previously been photographed attending the annual event.
Emma Judd, head of campaigns at national animal charity the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “The veneer of respectability accorded to this fundraising event by hunt supporters masks a world of criminality and animal cruelty.
“The vast majority of the public are appalled by the brutal world of fox hunting and the attempts by fox hunts to deceive the public about their cruel activities are increasingly being exposed.”
Heythrop huntsman Woodward was convicted in October last year of hunting a wild mammal with dogs. The magistrate’s chairman, Nigel Gilkes, told Woodward he was an experienced huntsman who knew his pack and had "deliberately allowed them to pursue the fox" while he was in charge of the Wynnstay Hunt.
He was fined £525 and ordered to pay costs and a surcharge – a total of £1,375 for the incident which took place last January.
Woodward, 39, was also convicted in 2023 for blocking a badger sett, a practice which is used to prevent foxes fleeing underground so they can be hunted and which can result in badgers suffocating. He received a £500 fine plus £200 victim surcharge and £85 costs.
And he also admitted riding his horse at a hunt monitor and threatening to kill him, which resulted in him receiving 200 hours of community service, being fined and losing his firearms licence.
England’s most senior police officer in charge of fox hunting crime, chief superintendent Matt Longman has described illegal fox hunting as “prolific” and says the law needs “revisiting”. He highlighted that the excuse of ‘trail’ hunting used by hunts is a “smokescreen” for the continued illegal persecution of animals.
Emma, said: “Whether it be senior police officers or animal welfare charities the message is the same – it’s time for change and for hunting laws to be strengthened to end fox hunting once and for all.
“Strengthening the Hunting Act 2004 and tougher penalties for convicted fox hunters needs to be a priority for the next government.”
Notes to editors
A huntsman is the member of staff in the hunt who trains the hounds and controls them in the field.
The Hunting Act 2004 came into force in England and Wales in February 2005, and outlawed hunting with hounds. However, its many loopholes and the invention of so-called ‘trail’ hunting, described by the police as a smokescreen for illegal hunting, means it needs to be strengthened or replaced with more robust legislation.
Link to Chris Woodward conviction for illegally chasing a fox.
Link to Chief Superintendent Matt Longman comments.
For more information or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports Press Office on 07496 496454 (24hrs) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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 2004 and the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021. 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 wildlife reserves. Find out more about our work at www.league.org.uk. Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).