Stag hunt draws fierce criticism for its large gathering during Covid-19 crisis The Devon and Somerset Staghounds has caused outrage after more than a hundred hunters and followers met last week to take part in and watch the suspected illegal activity of hunting deer, despite the risk large gatherings hold in spreading disease during the Covid-19 crisis. The hunt was witnessed close to the League Against Cruel Sports Baronsdown Sanctuary in Somerset with an estimated 130 people comprised of 30 hunters on horseback and 100 followers in vehicles including cars, motor bikes and quad bikes. Both the hunters on horseback and the followers were seen mingling and failing to socially distance despite Government guidance on the issue. Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “That over a hundred people were hunting or watching the hunt chase a distressed deer for many miles, makes a mockery of the sacrifices being made by the vast majority of the British public to avoid large gatherings and to stop the spread of disease during the Covid-19 crisis. “Hunting deer with dogs was made illegal in 2005 but the Devon and Somerset Staghounds still meet three times a week and are followed by large numbers of supporters who pay to view the grotesque spectacle – it’s bizarre that this cruel spectator sport is allowed to continue.” The League’s Paul Tillsley, head of conservation and education, witnessed and photographed the hunt as it chased a mature stag across the countryside. Hunts often chase exhausted stags for miles with their hounds before killing it with a shotgun. Thankfully on this occasion the deer got away. Paul said: “Many of the hunters and followers were elderly, so vulnerable to coronavirus. It’s ridiculous – we can’t meet more than six people in our gardens but if you’re on horseback hunting or following the progress of the hunt it’s fine.” Another eye witness, the League's conservation and education officer Graham Floyd filmed the stag as it ran for its life to escape the hounds and the hunters. Graham is one of our most experienced and knowledgeable staff members having followed the activities of the brutal deer hunts for over 21 years at the League. The issue was covered by the media, appearing in an Independent article and then getting picked up by Unilad. Three hunts still continue to chase and kill deer in Devon and Somerset – the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, the Quantock Staghounds and the Tiverton Staghounds. The Devon and Somerset Staghounds recently received a £10,000 grant and £50,000 loan from taxpayer backed coronavirus schemes. ENDS Notes to Editors 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 www.league.org.uk. Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).