Eton College Hunt (ECH) is struggling to find a new kennel huntsman, and its beagles have been relocated, at least temporarily. Meanwhile, hundreds of Eton students protested this week, fearful that the school wants to shut down its archaic hunting society.

Activists have been celebrating the news. The Hunt Saboteurs Association said:

“Great news! The hare-killing Eton College Beagles may soon fold after the school failed to find a new kennel huntsman! Hunts are now universally struggling, but we won't stop until every one is shut down.”

Meanwhile, Action Against Hare Hunting said:

“We are very excited to hear this hare-killing crime gang could be shut down. Please contact @Eton_College and ask them to do it NOW before the new season starts this year.”

An outdated and cruel tradition

The ECH is one of 71 hare hunts that are still operating in the UK. It was formed in 1858, and is one of three public schools to still have a beagling pack. The ECH exposes impressionable children to hunting from a young age, normalising animal cruelty to them, attempting to prepare them to be the future generation of fox hunters.

Of course, like all hunts across the country, the ECH uses the guise of trail hunting to get away with real hunting. It claims to hunt within the law, but footage and photos caught by sabs on the ground have shown the ECH hunting hares, which of course, is illegal under the Hunting Act. The hunt was investigated by the police in 2016.

The country’s ‘elite’, who send their children to schools like Eton, can’t seem to let go of the outdated tradition. Rather than acknowledging that beagling is a senseless ‘sport’, they seem to take pride in the cruelty. Bloodsport magazine The Field even argues that beagling is being vital for our future leaders ruling the country. It says:

“[Beagling] packs are full of vitality and are essential for training the future generation – be they hunt staff, Masters or politicians. To take on a pack is a rite of passage. It teaches things an academic education cannot.”

A dying ‘sport’

The news that the ECH can’t fill its kennel huntsman position isn’t all that surprising, as we  are seeing more hunts struggling to survive. In October 2021, the Hunt Saboteurs Association reported that three hunts had folded over the summer of 2021 alone. On top of this, hunts across the country are finding it difficult to recruit staff. On 2 May 2022, the Daily Mail reported that:

“Trustees of the ECH, made up of former Etonians and the Hunting Office, claimed there is a national shortage of Kennel Huntsmen and seven other hunts have also been unable to fill the position.”

A quick look on the Hunting Office’s job vacancies list shows a number of hunt positions that need filling across the country.  

Rob Pownall, founder of Keep The Ban, said:

“You’ve got to ask the question why anyone would want to take up a position with a hunt in 2022. Not only are the social and financial incentives on the decline, but younger people are increasingly exposed to the realities of how hunts operate both in the fields and behind the scene.”

Indeed, these stark realities of how hunts operate was brought to national attention after leaked webinars exposed Mark Hankinson, the director of the Master of Foxhounds Association, encouraging senior hunters to evade the law. Hankinson was found guilty of encouraging and assisting people to evade the ban on fox hunting.

So while we see a number of teenage Etonians protesting for their right to hunt, it’s likely that there’s more of the the younger generation who are turning their backs on family ‘tradition’, and who are seeing hunting for the pointless, bloodthirsty activity that it really is.

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