Devon and Somerset Staghounds filmed cracking whip over a deer’s head

Who is it that says on their website that, “There are now more than 2500 deer on the moor, which makes the south west herd of red deer much the largest in England and they are readily visible to deer watchers, tourists and local people who love their deer.”?

Who also says that, “The moor, the red deer and local hunting people combine to welcome you to the culture and beauty of the moor and the Exmoor National Park“?

Who also (in a disingenuous nod to the law) says that, “Although staghunting, as it was practised, was banned by the Hunting Act 2004, the D.S.S.H, with the support of the farmers and landowners of the moor have continued to meet 3 times a week during the season to manage the deer on their behalf, monitoring the numbers, distribution and health of the herd and operating within the restrictions imposed by the act. [EDIT: our highlighting]”

From ‘Gallery’ of The Devon &
Somerset Staghounds

Yes, these would all be quotes from the homepage of the animal lovers otherwise known as The Devon & Somerset Staghounds (DSSH), painting themselves as part of some sort of welcoming committee to an area of England (given that it’s a ‘national park’) where animals might be allowed to live out their lives in relative safety.

Only of course, animals are not safe here (our ‘national parks’ are actually managed in large part for shooting and hunting) and the DSSH are not ‘animal lovers’, they are – going on evidence collected by groups like the League Against Cruel Sports over many years – animal abusers whose disrespect for wildlife is total. How else to explain the footage taken by the League on Exmoor last week which shows sickening scenes of animal cruelty with hunters chasing an exhausted stag, surrounding it and tormenting it, in a bid to either hold it down and shoot it or steer it to where it could be shot?

The League’s investigators also took photos and video showing two hunters using a whip to force the stag to continue running so they could enjoy prolonging the ‘chase’. That’s the ‘culture’ and the ‘beauty’ of Exmoor – and of hunting – which these people are supposedly welcoming us to? Unsurprisingly, nobody who loves wildlife wants any part of it…

Bear in mind that not only were these people inflicting deliberate cruelty on a wild animal, but this Devon and Somerset Staghounds hunt on Exmoor involved between 30-40 riders and 70-100 vehicles with hunt supporters despite the restrictions on gatherings due to Covid-19. Does that demonstrate a ‘culture’ of breaking the law?

Remarkably, the Devon and Somerset Staghounds recently received a taxpayer-backed £50,000 Government coronavirus loan and a £10,000 small business grant by the local district council. Might that suggest a ‘culture’ of the privileged on the make?

And, amazingly and depressingly, the Devon and Somerset Staghounds meet three times a week and are the largest of THREE deer hunts operating in the west country. That points to a pattern of animal abuse that should be impossible to ignore by any advanced culture that claims to have a love for wildlife at its heart.


In the League’s video (which is deeply unpleasant) the deer is seen hurtling across a road to escape the riders despite the screams and hollering of hunt supporters trying to head it off. The stag is believed to have been shot shortly afterwards. Judge for yourself the ‘culture’ that drives and motivates these killers…

Copyright League Against Cruel Sports


As a final thought, these ‘hunters’ have been recorded on numerous occasions hunting deer on Exmoor on land owned by the National Trust, despite the NT’s so-called ban on deer hunting.

In 2018 the League recorded this same hunt chasing deer across the Holnicote Estate, a historic Trust estate consisting of 12,420 acres of land, much of which is situated within the Exmoor National Park and described by the Trust as “varied landscape of moorland, woods, farms and coast, rich in wildlife.”

At the time Chris Luffingham, League Against Cruel Sports director of campaigns, absolutely correctly said:

The National Trust need to work out if they really care about nature or not. Not for the first time, a hunt – which we believe to have been illegal – took place on National Trust land, causing massive disturbance to not only the deer but the whole area. And not for the first time, We’ve got evidence that National Trust staff witnessed the whole thing – and did nothing to stop it.  

“If Hilary McGrady [Director-General of the National Trust] is sincere in her bid to make the National Trust more nature friendly, then she needs to get a grip on the illegal and disruptive activity which is taking place on their land on a frequent basis.

Get a grip on the illegal and disruptive activity which is taking place on their land on a frequent basis.” Instead, the Trust are still giving licences to hunts while pretending to themselves that these criminals are following ‘scent trails’. We suggest that the Trust wake up and smell the bloody coffee…


[EDIT Dec 2020: Following on from the explosive ‘smokescreen’ Hunting office webinars which are currently being investigated by the police, major landowners – including the National Trust – have suspended the licencing of so-called ‘trail hunting‘ until the end of the ‘season’. Notably, though, the Exmoor National park authorities are holding firm to their commitment to animal abusers like the Devon & Somerset Staghounds. In a fantastic piece of (intentional?) irony dated 30 Nov 2020, the Park says on their website that theydon’t feel it’s appropriate to stop trail hunting on our land unless there is a confirmed legal basis for doing so” and that licences “require that activities are legal, responsible and in line with our statutory responsibilities towards the National Park, as we would for any other organised activity taking place on our land“. With due lack of respect, what a load of crock…]