On Wednesday 21 July 2021 the ‘Festival of Hunting’ takes place at the East of England Showground in Peterborough. The event has been backed and promoted by the millionaire Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland and involves hunts parading their hounds to spectators. It is also sponsored by the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance and led to groups such as Peterborough Hunt Sabs and Grantham Against Blood Sports backing a demonstration against the event.

What is the Festival of Hunting and why is it an issue?

The Festival of Hunting is an event put on to romanticise and glamorise the world of hunting. Hunts from various different packs compete in competitions such as ‘Best couple of entered hounds’ and ‘Best brood bitch’. In 2019 the Festival of Hunting saw entries from hunts across the country such as the North Cotswold Hunt, Old Surrey Burstow, West Kent Hunt and the Fitzwilliam (Milton) Hunt. However, the reality is that the hounds used by hunts are nothing but a tool, trained to kill, and pitted against wild mammals. Events such as the Festival of Hunting try and paint the picture that the hounds are loved and taken care of but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

As reported by The Canary, in 2018 a hound belonging to the Fitzwilliam Hunt (the same hunt that was awarded second place in the ‘Best couple of entered hounds contest at the 2019 Festival of Hunting) was killed on a busy A road on 8 December. A public statement by the hunt said it happened while “pursuing legal activities”. But hunt saboteurs present claimed otherwise. The reality is that the hunts couldn’t care less about the hounds that they use for their sordid entertainment.

Hounds are bred and kept for the predominant use of hunting. They are kept in kennels outside in undesirable conditions, and given no sort of affection, love, or even basic respect that most domestic dogs across the country get. The cruelty lies more so in how disposable these hounds are to the hunt. It has been reported that even the smallest of mistakes from a ‘working’ hound can lead to severe discipline that goes beyond any sort of normal dog training. 

The hounds are ticking time bombs in terms of how long they are regarded as useful by the hunt. Once they are no longer productive, often at the end of a hunt season, they will be shot/killed to ensure only the strongest are left in the pack for the next season. Rather than be re-homed, they are disposed of like rubbish. There is no real figure for the number of hounds killed each year, but the 1999 Burns inquiry into hunting estimated that around 3,000 are killed per year.

Ex-hunter Clifford Pellow, as reported by The Mirror, states;  

“I have seen hounds being whipped quite frequently. They wallop them with a whip crop. The hounds flinch, yelp and cower.” 

Various hunt saboteurs from across the country also report the poor condition hounds are in when they encounter them out on a hunt.  

There have been public incidents involving hounds, such as when a hound chased a fox onto a busy dual carriage way and was killed by on-coming cars. This was not just irresponsible through putting the hound and the general public at risk, but it was also a real reflection of the selfishness of the hunt and how little they care for their hounds,or anyone else.The photo that got a lot of press attention of the two huntsmen carrying this dead hound off the road is a real reflection of how disposable these dogs are.  

Picture: Beds & Bucks Hunt Sabs

Another public incident with hounds is the cat Mini that was recently killed by out-of-control hounds in a residential area. Again- it is very easy to blame the hounds for this as it was their physical doing, but it goes so much deeper than that as they have been trained by the hunt to chase and kill wildlife,and so are doing what they are forced to do, if they don’t then they are reprimanded or killed. It’s effectively ‘kill or be killed’, and is no way for an innocent animal to spend its life.  

This treatment of hounds is an important point to know within the anti-hunt movement, because it shows the level of disregard the hunt has for animals in general. It’s not just foxes that they are getting rid of for the pure joy or pretending to cull for ‘pest-control’ reasons, it’s also their own dogs that that are being neglected and murdered by them, in what appears to be a brutal and barbaric ‘sport’ where there is no regard for any other living thing. 

The hounds are just as much victims as the foxes; they are trained to be blood thirsty rather than born that way, and they are often starved in the lead up to a hunt to increase their level of thirst for when they encounter a fox. Dogs and foxes come from the same line of canine species, and left alone would no doubt get along well, yet these dogs are being trained and taught to kill.

Rob Pownall

Founder of Keep The Ban