The battleground over fox and stag hunting in the West involved children this week after anti-hunt monitors controversially published a video of a child “playing” near a mutilated deer that it claims had just been killed by a Somerset hunt.
Meanwhile, the pro-hunt Countryside Alliance took its campaign to educate youngsters about fox hunting into schools, by publishing a new document tailored “especially” for children who are engaging in classroom debates about the controversy.
League Against Cruel Sports monitors said they filmed the video footage of a hunt chasing a deer while they stood in their own sanctuary land on Exmoor at Baronsdown. The video, posted online, shows a deer being ‘herded’ by crowds of foot followers away from the league’s land.
Later images show a dead deer with its hooves removed, and what the monitors said was a “young unidentifiable child” seen “playing with a ball beside the dead animal”.
It claims the footage was taken on April 18. For years, hunts have bitterly complained about anti-hunt monitors filming them, and in particular filming young riders following the hunt, or children following on foot.
A spokesman for the league defended its decision to film the child. “The camera was fixed on a tripod and the child, which cannot be identified, wandered into view when playing around the dead, mutilated stag which was being filmed,” he said.
“The child was not tracked by the camera coming into view nor leaving. The investigators openly filmed the scene from a public footpath in clear view of hunt supporters.
“The league finds young children being exposed to blood sports of great concern.”
Meanwhile, the Countryside Alliance said it was actively encouraging school pupils to get its side of the argument on hunting. Executive chairman Barney White-Spunner, from Dorset, said: “We have numerous requests for material from young people taking part in school or college debates on hunting and so have tailored a new document especially for them.
“There is a real thirst for information; it is up to us to provide the facts so that informed debate, and a healthy interest in the countryside, can follow,” he added.
He said the 16-page document was designed for the latter years of primary education, through to early secondary school. “Let’s celebrate and support teachers who encourage their pupils to debate and learn about these issues,” he said.
“Important, too, to encourage the younger generation’s curiosity and interest in the countryside, wildlife and managing it.”