Hunt Profile: South Herefordshire Hunt

Latest update re: animal cruelty case- 5 defendants potentially face trial in January 2019. A case management hearing will be held in December to determine if it can go ahead.

The South Herefordshire is a hunt based in the county of Herefordshire. The South and the North were once the same pack, but split in 1869 to form the two separate hunts. The Ross Harriers hunt share some of the same country as they are not a foxhound pack.

The hunt are currently not hunting as they have been suspended by the Master of Foxhounds Association whilst investigations continue into behaviour filmed in spring 2016 at their kennels (see below for more information). This would not prevent them from forming as an unregistered pack, but various groups are on-hand each time we hear that they may be planning to go out. At the end of the 2016 – 2017 we began to hear various reports that the hunt were due to merge with other hunts and a report that the hounds had been killed, other than some who had been given to the Ledbury Hunt as breeding hounds.

During the 2017 – 2018 season the Ledbury Hunt took on hunting the South Herefordshire country on Tuesdays and Saturdays in addition to their usual Monday and Friday meets. Spring 2018 saw the 5 defendents charged with animal cruelty.

The hunt were known for not even being sure of what their excuse was on a day-by-day basis for going out hunting, as can be seen in this video…

Article from June 23rd 2016 after arrests were made for animal cruelty

We’ve had the pleasure this last season of working very closely with the fantastic North Shropshire Sabs for about 10 of the hunt’s meets this season – thank you to North Shrops for helping us focus a lot more attention on them. In recent weeks hunt staff have been arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty. Footage appears to show fox cubs being kept in a cage at the kennels and taken into where the hounds are kept before being brought back out dead and thrown into a bin.

During these last two hunting seasons we’ve been building up a picture of a number of hunts in the three counties which we have previously spent less time with, as well as increasing our knowledge of hunts we regularly sab and monitor. For example, building on information gained during the badger culls in Gloucestershire, we’ve put a lot of energy into checking badger setts and gathering intelligence on hunts blocking setts to prevent foxes from seeking shelter in them on hunting days.

We’ve spent more time over the last two years looking at the Ross Harriers and the South Herefordshire hunts and trying to find out more about them. Both hunts have blatantly hunted foxes (and hares, in the case of the Harriers) in front of sabs and have not been too hesitant in trying to start physical confrontations. Two seasons back the Harriers, with Lee Peters as huntsman and master, repeatedly tried to provoke sabs into fights on different occasions and we caught them marking to ground at a number of badger setts.

Towards the start of 2015 when a couple of sabs turned up at a meet, the South Herefordshire Hunt terriermen assaulted one sab when she believed a dig-out was in progress after hounds had marked to ground in an area. Huntsman at the time, Mal Williams, to his credit on that day specifically, intervened to stop the assault from escalating and the police were informed about the incident.

Whilst the huntsman has since changed (Paul Oliver Esq. has now taken on the role from Mal) and one of the men involved in the assault (pictured masked up in the assault pictures and unmasked on his own above) is now a terriermen for the Ledbury Hunt, the attitudes of the hunt and their terriermen do not seem to have changed much, the illegal activities we suspect that they were involved in are suspected to have continued.

Supporter and terrierman Paul Standen (also connected to the Ross Harriers, in particular their ex-huntsman Lee Peters and ex-terriermen) was convicted in 2012 of assaulting a sab and was recently cleared of assaulting another sab during a separate incident. He can be seen in this video (watch this space – back online soon) pointing out to the hunt where a fox has run, along with Jack Gwillam, who is known for throwing engine oil over the windscreen of a 3C vehicle whilst we were driving along at the end of March 2014 while out with the Harriers.

This recent exposé of the hunt was released publicly on 23rd June 2016 by the independent group the Hunt Investigation Team.

BBC article by Tom Symonds – “Fox cubs filmed ‘being taken into hounds’ kennels'”

Hereford Times article

The Ecologist

The news had picked up on the situation a couple of weeks earlier, but details had not been released then.

Unfortunately it hasn’t come as a massive surprise to find out that this was what the hunt are up to. The Ross Harriers terriermen convicted of having a live fox in a bag during 2015 were once terriermen for the South Herefordshire before moving on to the Harriers. It is strongly believed that such incidents are not exclusive to the Harriers and that the men involved were not new to such activities.

We also suspected that the South were using bagged foxes (foxes caught or kept for releasing to the hounds on a hunt) based on their behaviour at a couple of meets during the season, including this one when they held a joint meet with the Crawley and Horsham Hunt in December 2015.

On this day, 3C sabs had split into 2 separate groups. Bristol, Bath and South Wales sabs had come over from a cancelled meet of the Ross Harriers to help us out and we were keeping an eye on various groups of hunt supporters, the hunt itself and the terriermen. The 3C driver radio’d through to a team on foot that she suspected the terriermen were up to no good as they had clearly asked hunt supporters in a vehicle to slow down the sab car on the road. At this point, the foot team watched as the other quadbike sped off from the back of the field (the riders out with the hunt), scaring some of the horses as they did so. The sabs ran to catch up as best as they could. As they came into sight of the hunt a couple of minutes later, a repeated whistle could be heard (whistles have been used for many years in place of the traditional ‘holloa’ at some hunts to indicate that a fox has run in that direction – whistles are often used instead of holloas as hounds will not react to them and lift their heads – it is a way of communicating with the hunt staff without distracting the hounds themselves).

The foot sabs radio’d through about the whistles. Meanwhile, the 3C driver had left the car as hounds had been in a small wood near to her – as she walked through the wood, hounds now in full cry, she spotted a man she believed to be a terriermen shoving something like a sack up his jacket and she followed him. The man and his buddy are both shown in the video, his buddy carrying something which looks a lot like cut cable ties in his hand…

Back with the hounds and foot sabs were about to run back down the road, believing hounds were heading further away when a fox ran behind them, head and tail up – one foot sab spotted him just metres away from them and the other sprayed the road. Bristol, Bath and South Wales sabs had deployed a foot team into the fields and the fox ran through a field near to them, sabs covering his scent in the area with citronella, the hunt calling off the chase when hounds lost his scent. An experienced sab of many years asked if anyone else thought the fox seemed lost, head up, hair on end… the typical look for a bagged fox dumped in unfamiliar territory. It was just as we were talking about this that we received a call from our driver about the terriermen with the sack and cable ties…

‘Major Patrick James Auchinleck Darling is quite an eloquent person whilst pushing people down banks and calling us peasants and lowlife and we’re wondering how he’s going to try and justify this latest exposé…

In addition to the suspected use of bagged foxes and the more recent information which has come to light, we also suspect that the hunt have blocked badger setts in the areas in which they hunt. Hounds marked to ground at a partially-blocked badger sett on New Year’s Day 2015, ex-master Patrick Darling (whose land this incident took place on) proceeding to push the 3 sabs downhill after the hunt had to call hounds back.

On 14th March 2015 sabs attended Mal William’s last meet with the hunt at the Black Swan (see list below for more of the hunt meet venues and their contact details). With sabs coming over from the South Wales, Bristol, Bath and Southampton groups, the hunt did a quick disappearing act into one of their favourite haunts, the Mynde Estate. Throughout the day hounds were called off foxes (and deer) before hunt supporters blocked in some sabs and punched one of them in the face. A fox, frozen solid, was then discovered on a grit bin nearby, bite marks clearly visible on his body – he’d been put in a freezer by someone then left for us to find.

We wonder what the Masters of Fox Hounds Association will say about this – the first of their 3 ‘Golden Rules’ for anyone going hunting (in their Code of Conduct) is that foxhunting is the hunting of a wild animal in its wild and natural state and nothing must be done which compromises this concept. Rule 3 of 3 is that the masters of hounds (or appointed deputies) are solely responsible for the conduct of each day’s hunting – wonder if they’ll extend that to include the conduct of the hunt at kennels too. The Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management agrees with foxhunting as a means of managing populations and states that foxes are hunted in territory which they are familiar with, thereby giving them the best chance of escape. The use of bagged foxes and the feeding of foxes directly to hounds surely does not fit in with this statement.

Some of the venues which the hunt hold their meets at during the hunting season are listed below. If you contact them about their support for the hunt, please keep all communications polite.

The Shirehall – St. Peters Square, Hereford HR1 2HX, 01432 260256 / 01432 260127 – Shirehall have also hosted the hunt ball
The Kilpeck Inn – Hereford HR2 9DN, 01981 570464
Garnons Estate – Byford, Herefordshire HR4 7JX, 01981 590235 – host the hunt’s Point-to-Point
The Black Swan – Much Dewchurch, Hereford HR2 8DJ, 01981 540295
The New Harp Inn – Hoarwithy, Hereford HR2 6QH, 01432 840900 *The New Harp have now said they want nothing to do with hunting
Castle House Hotel – Castle Street, Hereford HR1 2NW, 01432 356321
The Garway Moon Inn – Garway Common, Garway, Hereford HR2 8RQ, 01600 750270
Church of St. Lawrence – Upper Weston, Weston-under-Penyard, Ross-on-Wye HR9 7QA, 01989 564584

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While the following articles do not refer to the South Herefordshire itself, they highlight the fact that incidents such as those shown in the recent expose, as well as the use of bagged foxes, have been going on for many years (and do not seem to have ceased despite the Hunting Act coming into force in early 2005).

Clifford Pellow – Daily Mirror and Wales Online

More information about the use of bagged foxes can be read in this article from the League Against Cruel Sports in April 2004 when they investigated the Croome and West Warwickshire Foxhounds who hunt in the 3C area.

“One of the Midland’s most recognised fox hunts has been secretly filmed holding a fox captive in a specially designed chamber before subjecting it to a prolonged ‘dig out’ involving a huntsman, hounds and terrier men armed with spades, pitchforks and drain rods”

Even hunt staff and supporters themselves write about badger setts and badgers in relation to hunting – our article Hunts vs Badgers covers a number of different examples, as well as mentioning our own personal experience with hunts mainly in this last season when we’ve started to focus more on the link between badgers and hunting.

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If you can help to support our continuing work against the hunts in the three counties, gathering evidence against them and intervening when possible to stop wildlife persecution, there are a number of ways you can get involved.

– Financial support is vital to our continuing efforts – our current appeal is on gogetfunding although our costs are ongoing throughout the year. If you can donate or spread the word about what we do, please keep an eye out for our appeals or share our paypal details to others who can help out with funds – paypal.me/threecountiessabs

– We have a facebook page as well as a website (plus a vimeo page for videos). Both have a blog where we post our reports, news and appeals, but the website also includes ‘static’ pages where we share articles and information about hunting, culls and our tactics as well as links to other groups and resources. It’s a work in progress at the moment, but feel free to share any information, pictures and videos in order to raise awareness of these issues and suggest ideas of what we could include on our website and what you would like more information about – our email address is threecountiessabs@live.co.uk

Please contact us with any information about hunts, culls, shooting and other wildlife abuse, anonymously if you would prefer, as all information, however small, helps us to build up a picture of what is going on in the three counties. We can also pass on information to other groups about hunts in other areas, etc. Meet cards (fixture lists) of dates and locations of hunt meets are greatly appreciated and extremely useful, but so is information about past meets and sightings of hunts on the day. You can call us on 07891 639803 or 07954 404702 or contact Three Counties Wildlife Crime Watch (facebook) on 07561 137950 as all information on hunting is shared between the groups as necessary. You can also email us or contact us on facebook