Four hunting hounds from the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt in Somerset have been struck and killed by a train after running onto a railway line during a so-called 'trail hunt' on New Years' Day.

In responding to the incident, Network Rail gave the following statement:

“The driver of a train reported seeing a pack of dogs. Sadly, the train collided with four dogs near Templecombe, Somerset.

"As a result, we had to run trains at a reduced speed until we could confirm it was safe.”

The organisation added: “Trespassing on the railway is not only incredibly dangerous, but it’s also illegal.

"It risks terrible injuries to the people and animals involved, as well as causing unnecessary delays to passengers.”

A Network Rail manager sent to ensure the safety of the line discovered that “the dogs were gone" and they "expect they had been retrieved by their owners”.

This hunt along with other so-called 'trail hunts' across the country couldn't care less about the wellbeing of their poor hounds. Several major questions arise from this tragic incident (which has happened several times in the last few years).

  1. If this hunt did lay a trail (which they obviously didn't and never have done) why would it have been laid anywhere near a railway line?
  2. How can we know this will never happen again? Why are hunts continually allowed to run rampage across the countryside?

Of course we have known for years that these poor animals are nothing but tools used by the hunts to kill wildlife. And when they are deemed no longer fit or strong enough for chasing wildlife then they are simply disposed of like rubbish, often shot in the head at half their life expectancy. Read more below about our major investigation in 2020 in which we exposed the "prestigious" Beaufort Hunt shooting dead several of their hounds.

Following a long running investigation carried out by the Hunt Investigation Team, supported by Keep The Ban, harrowing undercover footage has been released showing the Duke of Beaufort Hunt shooting dead several of their hounds.

The shocking videos were acquired through a covert operation in which cameras were hidden within the kennels of what is one of the oldest and most prestigious hunts in the country. In the sickening footage, members of the hunt can be seen firing bullets into four hounds with one of them needing to be shot again after showing signs of life. One of the hounds is then shown being picked up and dropped onto a wheelbarrow to be wheeled away. The footage secured from the investigation is the first time that a hunt has ever been caught on camera shooting their hounds, but this is not to say that the incident is a one off. Although it may be the first time they’ve been caught out, hunts across the country routinely kill their hounds before the start of each hunting season. It is estimated that up to 7,000 hounds are unnecessarily killed by hunts every year and very few make it past the age of five or six despite having a life expectancy of around fourteen. Hounds like the ones shown mercilessly killed by the Duke of Beaufort Hunt are often deemed worthless for not showing enough hunting instinct or blood-lust. It is worth remembering that hounds are taught to kill and the barbaric pastime of cubbing plays a key role in ensuring hounds get a taste for blood.

Picture: Still taken from undercover footage of the Duke of Beaufort Hunt kennels in Spring 2021

The notion then that the Duke of Beaufort Hunt and the other 300 registered hunts across the country carry out “trail hunting”as opposed to hunting foxes and other live mammals is absolutely farcical. If hunts genuinely were following artificially laid trails as opposed to hunting foxes,then why would they need to kill their hounds prior to the start of the hunting season? Of course, the reality is that “trail hunting” is nothing but a smokescreen for illegal fox hunting and this investigation provides yet more irrefutable evidence that this is the case. The Duke of Beaufort Hunt are not unique in the fact they couldn’t care less about the hounds they claim to love. The vast majority of so-called “trail hunts” treat their hounds as nothing more than disposable tools trained to kill wildlife.

Image: One of several hounds shot dead by the Beaufort Hunt

In 2019 Matt Ramsden, Joint Master and Huntsman at The Beaufort Hunt claimed that anti-hunt protesters didn’t have “the first idea about what’s going on”. Well now not only do anti-hunt protesters know what’s going on behind closed doors but their sickening practices have been exposed to the British public. The next time this hunt and others parade through the streets on Boxing Day claiming to love their hounds, remember the fact that they dispose of them as if they are rubbish. We would ask Mr Ramsden how he can continue to still feasibly claim that they are in fact “trail hunting” and whether he would like to defend the actions of his hunt staff that shot dead the seemingly healthy hounds.

Shockingly in the same year (2019) the National Trust gave licences to the Duke of Beaufort Hunt to use their land despite ongoing calls from Keep The Ban for these licences to be permanently ended. We have been campaigning on this issue since 2017 and now more than ever it is time for organisations such as Forestry England and the National Trust to stand up against the hunts and protect wildlife. If like us you’re sickened by the shooting of the hounds and you want to take action then please support our campaign to end hunting licences given out by major landowners. You can add your name to our open letter to Hilary McGrady, Director of the National Trust and Mike Seddon, Director of Forestry England asking that all licences be permanently scrapped.

The charade that is “trail hunting” has been well and truly exposed and we will not sit by and watch as our wildlife is chased and killed for entertainment. The is the beginning of the end for foxhunting in this country. Be a part of the movement and help us consign this barbarism to the history books.

Rob Pownall

Founder of Keep The Ban

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