POLICE are investigating a fracas in which hunt saboteurs clashed with the Quantock Staghounds during a meet near Holford.

Saboteurs said they were trying to prevent a hind being killed above the village at Higher Hare Knapp on Monday afternoon when the incident occurred.

One of the saboteurs, who were from a group in North Dorset, was taken to hospital after suffering a head wound, and a camera which was being used to film the meet was damaged.

Staghounds chairman James Hawthorne, who was not present at the meet, said hunt members were increasingly facing ‘severe provocation’ during their meets.

Mr Hawthorne told the Free Press: “Because the police are involved, I do not want to say too much.

“I know it involved three balaclava-clad saboteurs and one of our members.

“The Quantock Staghounds called the police and we are working closely with the police with their inquiries.

“Our policy is always to ignore and walk away from these balaclava-clad intimidating people but clearly yesterday something was different.”

A police spokeswoman said: “We were called to Crowcombe Park Gate following a report of an assault.

“Officers attended shortly after receiving the call and engaged with people from both involved parties at the scene.

“We have received a counter-allegation in relation to the incident and both matters are being investigated.”

A head injury suffered by a hunt saboteur on the Quantock Hills.
A head injury suffered by a hunt saboteur on the Quantock Hills. (North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs)

The spokeswoman appealed for anybody who was in the area and witnessed the incident, or had any relevant footage, to call 101 and quote the reference 5223289951.

A spokeswoman for Action Against Staghunting (AAS) told the Free Press: “This attack has left the victims in hospital with awful injuries and personal effects destroyed.

“The attack came as a result of the Quantock Staghounds frustration at trying to kill a hind.

“Their activity is being scrutinised now more than ever with campaigns such as our own and the amazing work hunt saboteurs and monitors are doing.”

The spokeswoman said the incident came three months after another saboteur from a Mendip group was hospitalised with injuries suffered in an altercation on Exmoor, near Kinsford Gate, North Molton.

She said on that occasion a car was damaged and the people inside were assaulted and personal effects taken.

The spokeswoman said “This pressure is causing hunt staff and supporters to become increasingly violent.

“Unfortunately, local police do not seem to be progressing with prosecutions, despite the overwhelming evidence of illegal hunting and extreme violence.

“This is an extremely worrying situation, especially as the hunting takes place on land where a high volume of tourists frequent, such as the Quantock Hills and Minehead.

“A survey conducted by us showed that over 60 per cent of people would not visit these areas again due to the presence of stag hunts.”

She said despite the Hunting Act 2004 outlawing hunting, local stags and hinds were continuing to suffer ‘horrific levels of abuse’.

The spokeswoman said hunts were using exemptions within the law as loopholes and continued to commit ‘armed trespass’ on private land and that of the National Trust.

AAS recently lobbied the National Trust’s annual meeting in Swindon to uphold a ban on hunts on its land, for which its members had already voted.

Photographs and video footage of Monday’s incident was posted on social media, with the saboteurs saying the flashpoint came when they managed to stop hounds chasing a hind.