The brutal world of fox and deer hunting on Exmoor National Park

Exmoor National Park is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty, but it also has a much darker side which involves horrendous animal cruelty.

Deer and foxes are still being routinely chased by hunts with packs of dogs which are killing animals with impunity despite the hunting ban.

Many Exmoor residents despair at the brutal activities of these hunts but are scared to talk out for fear of being targeted by hunt supporters.

This blog features the stories of those who have bravely told me what they have seen but I have changed names to protect their identities – I’ve worked for more than five years to end fox and deer hunting for good and one of the most unsettling elements is the scale of fear hunts create in rural communities.

Hunts causing havoc is widespread across England and Wales, rampaging across roads and people’s gardens, intimidating and causing distress as they go, and Exmoor is no different.

Lucy lives in a village on Exmoor near the kennels of a local fox hunt. “I see them twice a week down my lane during the hunting season and first thing in the morning during the cub hunting season which precedes it, slaughtering wildlife.”

Lucy found the noise particularly disturbing. “The sound of yowling and their cruel and hideous activities.”

She described them a “public nuisance” and highlighted their “savagery.”

Holding them responsible for a loss of bio diversity on Exmoor where she has lived for many years, she said: “There’s nothing out there.”

She noted that it was ironic that during the foot and mouth disease lockdown that “wildlife came flooding back.”

Hunts in her words were composed of “very dangerous people. They are like the mafia round here – nasty, dangerous and scary.”

References to criminality are sadly commonplace. Susanne who also lives on the national park describes her local deer hunt as the “Exmoor Mafia.”

The Devon and Somerset Staghounds chase and kill hundreds of deer every year and speed around the local roads and countryside in motor vehicles such as quad and motor bikes, with at least one member of the hunt armed with a gun to finish off the deer.

She is also plagued by her local fox hunt who are operating “brazenly with terrier men on quad bikes, with their dogs and spades, clearly intending to dig foxes out.” which are then released simply so the hunt hounds can brutally tear them apart.

This clearly flies in the face of the subterfuge often used by hunts which is that they are ‘trail’ hunting, an excuse which is being used to deceive the public, police and courts.

And yet the Exmoor National Park Authority still licenses the Exmoor Foxhounds to trail hunt on their land – entirely inconsistent with their duty to protect nature and wildlife.

And what about poor Paula? She gets up early in the morning to “see if the hunt is around and check whether it is safe to let my house cats out”, after an incident in which hunt hounds tried to kill her cats.

A fox cub she was feeding every night has not been since the hounds from the hunt went into cry – the frenzied state they reach when on the trail of an animal – two weeks ago in the fields by her where it lived.

It really is time for change. It’s time for Exmoor National Park authority to stop licensing trail hunts and to put pressure on other landowners within the national park boundaries to prevent hunts from marauding there ever again.

You can do something to help end hunting on our national parks by taking the following action.

Mike Nicholas, senior communications officer, League Against Cruel Sports

The people affected by hunts reported their stories to the League Against Cruel Sport Animal Crimewatch service. Please get in touch if your lives have been impacted by a fox or deer hunt.

The Dulverton Farmers fox hunt on Exmoor National Park

The Dulverton Farmers fox hunt on Exmoor National Park

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