Following the release of leaked accounts published by Hunting Leaks it has been revealed that the Oxfordshire based Heythrop Hunt claimed £25,000 in tax-payer funds last year. The hunt which former Prime Minister David Cameron has previously ridden with and is allegedly still a supporter of, claimed the funding through the small business Covid grant scheme designed to help struggling businesses hit by the impact of Covid-19. The Heythrop still decided to go ahead with taking the funds despite boasting a considerable number of paid up members and being in a fairly comfortable financial position based on the leaked documents.

The Heythrop are not the only hunt to have been awarded the funding. Following freedom of information requests conducted by Keep The Ban last year we foundthat upwards of £200,000 has been given to hunts across the country.

So far we know of at least 8 councils that have given out money – Shropshire County Council who gave out £50,000, Powys County Council and Rutland Council who both handed out funding to the tune of £30,000, Babergh Council and North Dorset District Council who awarded £20,000 – South Northamptonshire council, Somerset West and Taunton district council and the Isle of Wight council also handed out£10,000 each.

Many of the hunts that have been given funding have a history of killing wildlife. The most notorious hunt being that of the Cottesmore Hunt who were handed over£30,000 by Rutland Council. In 2019 a dead fox was handed over to the police during a Cottesmore Hunt and in 2018 a pack of 10 Cottesmore Hunt hounds were killed in a car crash in Rutland.

Why are hunts eligible for these grants?

 In April the Government launched its financial support for businesses during Covid-19. This meant that under government rules any business that occupies a property and receives small business rate relief or rural rate relief is eligible for a small business grant. The vast majority of hunts are classed as small businesses and so have been eligible for thousands of pounds of taxpayer money distributed by local authorities. It is highly likely that the true total figure is much higher than we already know it to be as many councils simply refused to release the information requested.

The discovery led to nationwide news and Rob Pownall of Keep The Ban spoke to BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today show about our findings. Below is an extract from this interview.

“Grants to help cope with the effects of Covid-19 have been vital for some rural businesses but some campaigners are criticising councils for giving money to hunts. A freedom of Information request by the anti hunting organisation Keep The Ban found that more than £180,000 has been given to hunts.”

The campaign group Keep The Ban isn’t happy about this use of public money. Their founder Rob Pownall was surprised how much is going to hunts.

“As councils got in touch with me over the weeks I found that it was a lot more than I thought it previously would be. What’s the problem with hunts receiving this Covid funding? I just don’t think its right that at a time where families across the country are suffering, there’s small businesses that are really struggling, that funds designed to be supporting small companies during these unprecedented times are being given to hunts. I just don’t think that money should be given to those who are continuing a barbaric pastime.

In a time where businesses are suffering more than ever due to the impact of Covid-19, it is disgusting that taxpayer’s money has been used to bail out those who go out to kill wildlife for the sheer fun of it. It is but another example of this Government being out of touch with the public and doing anything and everything to pander to the hunting fraternity.

Thank you to Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs for the use of title image.

Rob Pownall

Founder of Keep The Ban