Are the Atherstone Hunt spreading bovine tuberculosis?

– A third of all infected farms in the Atherstone Hunts area have allowed hounds on their property

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh published a report – An outbreak of tuberculosis due to Mycobacterium bovis infection in a pack of English Foxhounds on 31 July.

This led the RSPCA to call for regulation of hunt kennels after almost 100 hounds had to be put down after an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis due to dirty and overcrowded kennels. 

Sources from within the Atherstone Hunt have previously described to us the conditions of the hunts kennels as filthy. Given the recent report into the outbreak of bTb at the Kimblewick Hunt it is these type of “conditions that created an ideal opportunity for the spread of disease”. 

The report by researchers from the University of Edinburgh described some of the symptoms of the hounds. 

“The pack had experienced an outbreak of upper respiratory tract disease in the previous weeks, resulting in a number of individual hounds suffering from reduced body condition, lethargy and poor appetite.”

Similar symptoms were noticed in the Atherstone Hounds with several hounds looking extremely undernourished. Indeed we were so concerned about one hound that we took it to the local vets. (Cue accusations of us stealing hounds from the Atherstone Hunt). The Atherstone Hunt claimed these symptoms were the result of their hounds having had kennel cough. 

The Atherstone hounds have had kennel cough twice over the past few years, again the conditions of the kennels would make the hounds more susceptible to infection. But we only have the hunts word that it was kennel cough and not something else. 

Since we first started focusing on the Atherstone Hunt in 2014 there have been 77 outbreaks of bTb on farms located in the area that the Atherstone Hunt hunts in. Of those 77 farms 26 are farms that the Atherstone Hunt have either met at or accessed in order to hunt on their land. 

Whilst the government continues to wage a war against the country’s badgers the role of fox hunts spreading bovine tuberculosis is being overlooked. Hounds regularly come into contact with cattle and can travel through numerous farms and farmland during a day’s hunting. Over the course of a hunting season there is the potential for a hunt to spread bovine tuberculosis over a wide area. 

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have said that the risk of transmission from dogs to humans was “plausible and real”. This would be the hunts terriermen who have regular close contact with the hounds. The same terriermen who also regularly block badger setts. We covertly filmed the Atherstone Hunt’s terrierman blocking in a badger sett a few years ago. The implication being that by blocking setts and by digging them out the terriemen could also be infecting badgers. 

It’s astonishing that as the badger cull will be starting imminently in new zones around the country fox hunts are allowed to travel all over the countryside with no regulation.