Investigation into the shooting of foxhounds at the Duke of Beaufort Hunt

In the summer of 2021, HIT conducted an ambitious investigation to document one of the darkest secrets of the hunting world: the shooting of unwanted hounds. HIT has again obtained ground breaking footage, never before seen in the UK.

The Duke of Beaufort Hunt is one of the oldest, biggest and most prestigious fox hunts in the UK. The hunt is the favoured hunt of the Royal Family. Princes Charles, William and Harry have all gone hunting with the Beaufort Hunt.

The Beaufort pride themselves on their hounds and their bloodline that stretches back hundreds of years. The hunt staff claim the hounds are ‘part of the family’, so says their Kennel Huntsman Nick Hopkins. The Beaufort’s annual puppy and hound show is the highlight of their social calendar, where hounds are paraded and have received awards. However, they do not show the reality behind this: the brutal execution of unwanted dogs.

The reality nationwide is that thousands of unwanted foxhounds are shot every year by hunts. The Countryside Alliance admits to 3000 dogs being killed but the campaign group POWA have calculated that the figure could be nearer 7000! The hounds have to be trained to hunt and kill foxes, which is not their natural instinct. If a hound is not deemed savage enough, the hunt will remove it from the pack and kill it.

Hounds are simply an accessory to hunters and are shot or clubbed to death without a moments thought when the hunt no longer has a use for them. A hound can live to be fourteen years old quite easily. However, few hounds belonging to hunts live much beyond five or six years of age. Hounds as young as one are also killed by the hunts for not showing enough hunting instinct, bloodlust or just not being sufficiently aesthetic! Hounds are also victims of foxhunting.

Acting upon reports of wildlife crime and cruelty, HIT assembled its biggest and finest team to date. We accessed the secretive Beaufort Hunt kennels at night and set up surveillance on the hunt by installing a network of covert cameras across the site. The Beaufort kennels lies behind a series of 20 ft high walls. These act as fortifications for the hunt and it was these very walls that gave our cameras the height and angles required to gather the evidence against them. What has gone on behind the walls for hundreds of years has remained hidden, until now.

The Hunt Investigation Team has filmed the killing of four hunting hounds in the period that we were present at the kennels. Some hounds were shot twice, the second shot fired minutes after the first bullet. The suffering of these hounds between the shots can only be imagined.

The first two hounds were filmed being executed at some distance. HIT sought legal advice and were told to move the cameras closer in order to obtain clearer footage. The execution of the subsequent two dogs at close range is harrowing to watch.

Several of the dogs’ tails continue to wag after being shot, even as they are loaded into a wheelbarrow for disposal. Hunt staff appear to show no regard for the fact these animals may still be alive and even in pain.

After watching HIT’s shocking videos, Mike Jessop, fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, said that from what he saw, he did not believe the huntsmen were professionally trained in putting animals down. He highlighted that hunt staff were not careful enough in checking the dogs were truly dead and asserted that the shot dogs could indeed have remained sentient and able to feel pain.

The callous shooting of these unwanted dogs shows the hunt’s complete disregard for the lives of these animals. Our powerful footage shows the utter betrayal by the hunt staff who are responsible for the welfare of these dogs. The brutal execution of unwanted hounds is yet another of the hunting industry’s shameful secrets.

The Hunt Investigation team will continue exposing wildlife crime and cruelty. We have recently forged a powerful alliance with Keep The Ban, one of the UK’s leading anti bloodsports groups. This will enable HIT to look deeper and stay longer on investigations. Please support Keep The Ban’s vital campaigns – take action here.

Thank you to the brave individuals and groups who have engaged with and supported this investigation. You all know who you are and our work would not have been possible without you.

To donate to HIT now and support our groundbreaking investigations – please visit our GoFundMe page. Thankyou.