A professional huntsman and a volunteer helper today became the
first members of a stag hunt to be found guilty of breaking the ban on hunting
wild mammals with dogs.
Richard Down, an employee of the Quantock Staghounds in Somerset,
and Adrian Pillivant, a lorry driver who was acting as a volunteer "whipper-in",
were each ordered to pay a £500 fine and £1,000 costs.
A judge decided that the pair had used two pairs of staghounds to pursue red
deer for almost three hours and over 10 miles.
Down, 44, and Pillivant, 36, had argued that they were using the dogs to flush
deer out to three marksman - which can be exempt under the Hunting Act 2004 if
the animals are shot dead "as soon as possible". They also insisted that they
were hunting to control the deer, which compete with livestock for food.
But district judge David Parsons concluded that the purpose of the hunt was
"sport and recreation, preserving a way of life that the participants and the
defendants are not prepared to give up".
The judge, sitting in Bristol, added that the pair were "disingenuous in
attempting to deceive me into believing they were exempt hunting". After the
ruling, members of the tightly knit staghunting community expressed dismay and
They said they had taken advice from the police, lawyers and the pro-hunting
group the Countryside Alliance, which supported the defendants' case, and
believed that the Quantock Staghounds and the two other stag hunts that operate
in Somerset and Devon were operating within the law.
A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said that in the light of the
convictions the three hunts would have to consider carefully how to work in
The League Against Cruel Sports, which brought the prosecution, said the
convictions showed that hunts were continuing to break the ban, which came into
force two and a half years ago, and that the law, heavily criticised when it
came into force, could work.
The League brought the first successful case against a huntsman, fox hunter Tony
Wright, last year. The appeal against his conviction will be heard in Devon next
month. The first prosecution against a fox hunt led by the police and Crown
Prosecution Service is due to take place in the autumn.
On the day Down and Pillivant were judged to have broken the ban, the Quantock
Staghounds met at Crowcombe, near Taunton. At least 17 riders, including
children, followed the hunt, and others watched from quad bikes and four-wheel
As monitors from the League watched, groups of deer were flushed out on three
occasions over two and three quarter hours, and six animals shot. Four dogs were
used, two at a time.
Supporters of Down and Pillivant said what they did should be viewed as separate
events - deer were flushed and killed as soon as possible. But the judge said:
"This was a continual act of hunting over a period of two and three quarter
hours ... some of the deer found at the first flush were present at the final
flush ... the dogs may well have been deployed in relay to use fresh dogs to
chase the deer faster and harder, to tire them quicker and to compensate for
having to hunt with only two dogs."
It is some years since the clerk of the
weather has treated fox-hunters so kindly during November.
For, given a pack of hounds and a good supply
of foxes, sport is dependent on conditions of climate. It has been said of
November that, unless a man returns home from hunting plentifully bespattered
with mud - not the result of contact with mother earth - the chances are he has
not enjoyed much sport; the suggestion being that at this time of the year scent
lies best when the ground is fairly deep.
Something there may be in the idea, yet runs of the highest merit have occurred
frequently during the present month, and, unless it be in woodland rides, the
going is certainly not heavy.
On account of the Transvaal [Boer] war the usual hunt balls have been abandoned
in many countries, and funds, or a goodly portion of them, will go to swell the
subscriptions in aid of sufferers.
It is felt that public balls would be out of place while those who remain at
home are watching anxiously for news of relations and friends. Some hunts,
notably the Quorn, have started subscriptions for widows and orphans.
It seems that wire is gaining ground in the Cotswold country. A strong committee
was appointed to deal with the matter. It should be remembered that the farmer
uses wire mainly because it is cheap and convenient.
He has no desire to interfere with fox-hunting, and when the matter is
represented to him in a proper way by persons he likes and respects, he will
usually yield and at least take down his wire during the hunting season. This,
however, must be done without cost to the farmer.
Many brilliant runs were recorded on Saturday, none better than by the North
Cheshire - a pack, by the way, which has been rather fortunate of late in
escaping disaster from passing trains.
Brereton was the meet. Hounds were thrown into Union Gorse. A fox was soon away,
and, obligingly selecting a capital line of country, travelling with that long,
stealthy gait which looks so easy and yet is fast enough.
Middlewich was passed, then the hunt swept on at a clinking pace in the
direction of Coton. Only darkness deprived the pack of a well-earned meal, and
when they were whipped off at the end of an hour and forty minutes, a ten-mile
point had been reached.
On the same day I hear Sir Watkin Wynn's hounds showed good sport, sharp
handling a brace of foxes, each of which ran far and fast before being pulled
down. North-country packs have shared in the almost universal good sport.