The Duke of Beaufort’s hunt have suspended their fallen stock service in protest at the proposed hunting ban. They have notified farmers, and report that their response has been “brilliant”.
“This is an effective way to protest, because you can’t explain the service hunts provide until it isn’t there — then people have to work out how to cope,” says kennel huntsman Tony Holdsworth.
“We haven’t had one complaint from our farmers, a lot of whom are non-hunting. They’ve been ringing DEFRA, which has been asking them to try other hunt kennels.”
Alastair Jackson, director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, says: “It’s good to flag up the importance of the fallen stock service and the fact that DEFRA relies heavily on hunts to collect fallen stock, yet is trying to ban hunting.
“Other hunts may follow, but we’re not going to tell hunts what to do: each hunt’s relationship with its farmers is a very personal thing.”
The problems that a lack of fallen stock service by hunts would create was illustrated when a riding school horse at Barton End Stables near Stroud, died of a heart attack during a hack. The insurance company required a post-mortem on the carcase, which lay on a public right of way, and riding school staff set about arranging it.
Samantha Skowron, yard manager, says: “Our vet needed to do the post-mortem under cover, so we had to move the horse, which was around 17hh. Normally, post mortems are done at the kennels. As the Beaufort weren’t picking up, we called DEFRA, who gave us the numbers of two other hunts. But they didn’t pick up this far outside their countries. Our nearest knacker yard would only take the horse to be incinerated, which wasn’t any good because we needed the post-mortem.”
A neighbouring farm worker moved the carcase to the stables, and eventually Samantha contacted a knackerman who agreed to make an 80-mile round trip to transport it to the vet, wait during the post-mortem and take it away for incineration.
“The bill was £200,” says Samantha, “but he only came because he had other business in the area. We were lucky to know a farmer who could move the carcase. If we hadn’t, DEFRA would have called the horse ambulance, but the horse was in the middle of nowhere, so it would never have got there.”
Bridget Middlebrough, an NVQ assessor who was at the stables that day, says: “If there’s no hunt to pick up fallen stock, what can people do? When all DEFRA can do is give you the number of the hunt kennels, it’s a joke. A hunt ban will cause chaos.”