West Country hind hunt exposed

Female deer being chased and killed by Devon and Somerset Staghounds

A hunt has been witnessed chasing female red deer with hounds in a bid to kill them.

The Devon and Somerset Staghounds was exposed hind hunting by the BBC Radio 4 PM programme after a journalist accompanied League Against Cruel Sports professional investigators monitoring their activity.

The BBC programme aired this evening and showed for the first time the illegal hunting of hinds which is still taking place in the West Country despite the ban on hunting with dogs which came into force in 2005.

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

“It’s sickening that female deer are being targeted through the winter months by this hunt who we believe are still killing illegally and indiscriminately.

“For much of the year, stags or male deer are the target, shamefully attracting spectators drawn by the long chase, but in winter the hunts switch to hinds. Considered less popular, hind hunting is an issue which has until now slipped below the media radar and is far more shadowy, yet it is sadly still going on and remains one of the hunt’s dirty secrets.”

Hind hunting involves people on horseback and hunting hounds chasing female red deer over shorter distances than stag hunting. The hinds may be pregnant at this time of year and accompanied by a calf. After a chase the hinds are shot by a huntsman wielding a shotgun. The calves are sometimes also shot but if they survive will likely die from starvation or disease due to malnourishment.

The hunting of deer with dogs was banned in England and Wales by the Hunting Act 2004 and yet three red deer hunts are still chasing and killing their victims in the West Country – the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, the Quantock Staghounds and the Tiverton Staghounds.

The League Against Cruel Sports employs a team of professional investigators who monitor the hunts with a view to gaining prosecutions in the courts or to expose their activities in the media.

The Devon and Somerset Staghounds are the largest and most well supported deer hunt. Although not as popular a spectator support as stag hunting, there will normally be between 20 and 50 supporters on horseback and as many followers in cars and on quad bikes, following the Devon and Somerset Staghound hunting hinds, which they will be doing three times a week during winter. In March they will switch their attention to young stags.

According to the Horse and Hounds magazine from Spring 2018, research commissioned by Exmoor National Park in 2009 showed that the Devon and Somerset Staghounds alone killed 185 deer every season, despite the ban on the hunting of deer brought in five years earlier. A further 85 deer are listed as ‘casualties’ which the hunt is called upon to despatch, an extraordinarily cruel way to ‘manage’ injured wildlife.

These figures do not include the deer being hunted by the Quantock Staghounds and the Tiverton Staghounds.

The Devon and Somerset Staghounds have used something called the ‘Research and Observation’ loophole in the past to justify its killing of deer. This involves the claim the hunt is chasing deer for research purposes, although no research has ever been published.

Chris Luffingham added:

“The Devon and Somerset Staghounds claims it is undertaking scientific research – in much the same way Japanese Whalers do to justify their butchering of whales – but this is nonsense. There is no credible research – it is simply a bloodthirsty spectator ‘sport’ and cover for cruelty.

“The hunting ban needs to be strengthened with research and observation loophole closed and proper deterrents introduced to stop the barbaric activities of the hunts – there is no place for their sickening activities in a modern and compassionate society.”


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