Severed stag-head presented as country show ‘prize’ by controversial deer hunting pack.

The presentation of a severed stag’s head by the Devon and Somerset Staghounds as a ‘prize’ at the Dunster Show on Friday has been slammed as ‘macabre’ by a leading animal welfare charity.

The stag’s head was presented to the winner of the ‘Hunters Horse Trial Championship’. However, despite being promoted in the show’s programme, the awarding ceremony was performed out of view from ordinary show-goers, in what appears to be an attempt to maintain secrecy around the killing of wildlife still performed by the Devon and Somerset Staghounds.

Chris Luffingham, Director of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, says:

“Surely we’re not the only ones who think that presenting the severed head of a stag as a prize at a country show is, at best, inappropriate, and worst, sick and macabre?

“In the past week alone, a member of the League’s staff has twice witnessed majestic stags being chased across Exmoor to exhaustion, followed by a group of baying huntsmen and their hounds from the Devon and Somerset Staghounds. Sadly, scenes like this are not uncommon, despite overwhelming public opposition to hunting with hounds.

“To think it could have been the head of one of these stags, which almost certainly met their bloody fate at the end of a huntsman’s shotgun before being carved up and reduced to a mere ‘prize’ is chilling. The organisers must ensure this annual, grisly spectacle is never repeated and the invitation for the Devon and Somerset Staghounds to parade around the grounds not re-issued.”

The League Against Cruel Sports, which monitors illegal hunting activity in the region, has called on show organisers for the annual spectacle and accompanying hunt parade to be pulled from all future events.

285 red deer killed annually

The hunt which attends the show every year to present a stag’s head ‘prize’ actively pursues at least 285 red deer to the point of exhaustion with stag hounds, across the Exmoor countryside each season. This seasonally includes exceptionally vulnerable wild animals, such as those which are young or pregnant. Once the lengthy pursuit has come to an end, each of the deer receives a bullet through the head from a shotgun-wielding huntsman, before the animals’ limbs and innards are carved up and handed out as trophies.

Whilst such practices would normally be illegal under the Hunting Act 2004, the Devon and Somerset Staghounds exploit a loophole in the legislation 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.


If you want to see an end to the killing of animals by hunts in the UK, please sign the League’s petition, stop the killing of animals by hunts, here.

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