Investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports filmed two hunters from the Devon and Somerset Staghounds using whips to force a red deer stag to carry on running to allow them to continue having their fun before shooting the animal.
In defence, when the Countryside Alliance were presented with the video by The Times newspaper they said that the hunt was operating within the law. They said that the hunt found an injured stag that “required immediate euthanasia”. They said that the hunt members facilitated the euthanasia of the animal by stopping it from running and shooting it (by a licensed marksman).
Paul Tillsley, head of conservation at the League Against Cruel Sports said that if the hunt was concerned with controlling the deer population size they could have shot stag when they found him but that wouldn’t have been so much fun.
He said that two of its investigators went to the hunt meeting at 11 am at Withypool, Devon and filmed the hunting three hours into the chase as the stag crossed a road near Landacre Bridge.
It is clear in the footage that huntsmen or women are seen cracking a whip about five or six times beside the stag. Spectators were shouting to keep the stag running.
Comment: it appears that there is hard evidence to support the fact that the hunt members wanted to force the stag to keep running and that the Countryside Alliance’s description of the event is incorrect but of course they are expected to defend hunts.
It appears that the law is poorly enforced. The Hunting Act 2004 banned mammal hunting with dogs but it allows two dogs to locate a wounded deer and to flush the animal from undergrowth to be shot. Animal advocates say that there are no public records of studies for the 15 years that the act has been in force.
Countryside Alliance said that the Devon and Somerset Staghounds have successfully managed the deer population on Exmoor for over a hundred years. They claim that the deer population is the healthiest in the country. But they declined to comment when asked by The Times newspaper.