Post courtesy of Wiltshire Hunt Sabs
We are popping corks over here in Wiltshire. The Avon Vale hunt are dead. One of the most disgusting and prolific foxhunts has ceased to exist, and they brought it all on themselves…well mostly. For decades hunts sabs from Wiltshire, Bath, Reading, Bristol, and many more, have sabbed this bunch of grubby vicious criminals.
At first we were reluctant to take any credit, after all it was down to one of their own, the whipper-in for the Berkeley Hunt, Harry Mayo. In December 2022 he filmed Huntsman Stuart Radbourne shrieking with delight as Whipper-in Aaron Fookes chucked a fox to the hounds, before sharing it around various social media chat groups – emboldened to do so by decades of being allowed to get away with it. But for the pressure of Hunt Sabs, who have kept their dirty little secrets in the spotlight for so long now, it is highly likely that this wouldn’t even have drawn any attention from the media at all, much less forced their governing body, the BHSA, to expel them permanently.
Where to even begin to write about the depravity of this hunt which spans decades. The interconnected web of deceit around illegal hunting spans across local politics, policing, business and government. Historically this hunt has counted amongst its membership Tory MP’s, Councillors, Police officers – including firearms, royal protection officers, even the close family member of a former Chief Constable – and high profile businessmen who have bankrolled them for decades.
Lets be 100% clear about this; “trail hunts” and specifically in this case, the Avon Vale, have been breaking the law and cruelly hunting wildlife for all this time; not one of those supposed “respectable or ‘elected’ members of society has ever so much raised an objection.
Even now, in the wake of the horrendous video, subsequent police investigation and banning of this hunt, there is not a whisper of condemnation from our supposed representatives. If only there was some kind of a clue that this hunt has always hunted foxes and dug them out, perhaps if only they had a huntsman, say Stuart Radbourne, or terriermen like Ben Pethers, both with criminal convictions for doing exactly this going back years. Imagine!
More recently terrierman Ryan Walpole-Johnsen was caught digging out a fox in January 2021. Sabs from Reading stopped the dig but it didn’t stop him attacking and hospitalising a hunt sab with a brain bleed. Then there’s Rob Page and Ashley Louth, who found themselves on the front page of the Daily Mail after they attacked Bath Sab’s landrover. Page and Louth – who breeds dogs which he sells to local police forces – are just some examples of the violent terriermen that this hunt employ to dig foxes and block setts for them on hunt days.
We need to take a closer look at all those who enabled and facilitated this hunt’s wildlife crimes all these years, and continue to enable the crimes of the remaining hunts. We need to hold these people accountable, but that is so difficult when they are the ones with the power, which they instead use to target sabs and others who fight back.
In the last couple of years, Wiltshire and Bath sabs have focused on this hunt as much off the field as on it. This tactic really started when we heard a certain foxhunting councillor; a former huntsman and master of this hunt, Jonathon Seed, attempted to instil himself in the cushty overpaid Police and Crime Commissioners seat a couple of years back.
Collectively at Bath and Wilts, we campaigned against his election and we dredged up all sorts on him – from his hunting reports when he was huntsman of the Royal Artillery Hunt, highlighting the depraved pleasure he took hounding foxes to their brutal deaths on Salisbury Plain throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, and onto the Avon Vale shortly before the Hunting Ban came into force.
We highlighted an uninvestigated firearms offence, when he shot his neighbours pigs some years ago, reportedly lending his shotgun to his neighbour – a man who should have been banned from possessing any such weapons due to his own previous animal abuse convictions. Wiltshire Police refused to explain why they didn’t act over this, citing to do so could cause harm to his ‘election campaign’.
We dredged up reports from his university days, showing the character of the man; boorish and aggressive, entitled and arrogant, traits that have seen him get away with the most unspeakable cruelty for much of his life. Sabs of old, namely Pewsey Vale sabs who had sabbed the Avon Vale pre and post ban, told us about being ridden at, attacked, and abused by this hideous red and puffy faced oaf of a caricature on top of a horse.
During the election he went around the county with newly printed cardboard propaganda election boards which he carefully zip tied and displayed on posts around farmers fields, which mysteriously all disappeared. Sabs walked miles to put thousands of leaflets through doors, and stood in town centres with our friends from Action Against Foxhunting talking to voters about him, as he cried to the media that he was being persecuted (oh, won’t someone please think of the poor fox hunters!) Yet still he was elected, which tells you all you need to know about the psyche of much of Wiltshire; a Tory stronghold riddled with corruption and normalised animal abuse. Eventually it took the deeply hidden convictions of drink driving and leaving the scene of an accident, that saw him disbarred before he could take up the role.
His PCC replacement, Philip Wilkinson, also a Royal Artillery officer, seemingly came without the hunting baggage, he barely scraped his win over the much more suitable independent candidate Mike Rees. But quickly this inept Tory chose to put himself in the pro-hunt camp.
Our work on him ousted him as an incoherent rambling liar who was clearly colluding with the Avon Vale after the hunt attack on peaceful protestors at the Lacock Boxing Day Hunt in 2021. We tied him up in so many knots, that he isn’t even allowed to access his own Twitter account anymore, with the Office of the PCC taking it over.
There are many cross overs between the Royal Artillery and the Avon Vale hunts; a recent conviction against RA rider, Georgina Price – a Veterinary assistant from Devizes, for public order offences when she attacked a Surrey Hunt Saboteur on Salisbury Plain, was made more interesting by the fact she is the ex-wife of Avon Vale Huntmaster Mark Broad, and the daughter of Ron Price, also an ex-Avon Vale master. Her own mother was with her during the assault and seemed to take sadistic pleasure in the fact her daughter is as vile as her father was.
But back to Wiltshire Police’s collusion with this hunt, anyone that follows the local groups sab pages, will know how deep this goes, but briefly, the Lacock attack on anti-hunt protestors which was policed by Avon Vale member PC Laura Hughes drew shockwaves across the media. Her own colleague on the day said, when questioned on her bias , “what do you expect, this is her community”.
Also present on that day was the MP for North Wiltshire, James Gray, also an ex-Avon Vale hunter, whom we also caught hiding behind a hedge in support of a Beaufort Hunt meet, earlier this season. He lied to suggest he wasn’t present at the violence, but we went through every piece of footage we had been given, and alas there he was right as the punches were flying. He was subsequently ousted on ITV for his lies.
Don’t expect to fair any better with any of the county’s other Tory MP’s, all have declared themselves in favour of criminal hunting at one point or another. Michelle Donelan MP for Chippenham even employs an Avon Vale and Beaufort criminal as her Parliamentary Assistant in her constituency office, no doubt tasked with responding to the millions of emails from constituents complaining about her and her friends trespassing after a fox is hunted through their gardens. We bet we know where those emails end up.
We also identified a hare hunting former Chippenham based DCI supporting the Avon Vale at Lacock. We campaigned again and forced an investigation, into the hunt violence as well as police behaviour.
Unsurprisingly, the whitewash of an internal investigation which ensued saw police bosses admit they knew nothing of their officers affiliation with the hunt, but did not care about it either way.
Our sabs trawled hours upon hours of footage and cross referenced it with other videos taken at other meets. We identified dozens of the thugs attacking sabs, most of whom were never ever sought by police to this day, for assaults as well as public order offences. The criminal investigation saw them charged (and subsequently convicted) three hunt scum who attacked protesters, they also tried a bit of ‘appeasement’ policing by charging two bystanders who were attacked by the hunt scum. Again we trawled through identifying the supposed hunt ‘victim’ in one case was the same person in different clothes who earlier had been goading protestors and police alike. We highlighted their networks, businesses and associations of these violent scum. The two innocent bystanders had their day in court however, the case dismissed against them, and a scathing judge questioned how on earth Wiltshire Police brought this case at all.
Then there was the ridiculous decision by Wiltshire Police in Feburary 2022, following Lacock 2021 and the assault on a sab in January, to engage in a police operation targeting hunt sabs, which lasted all of about a month. But in that month they deployed dozens of officers and resources, including the helicopter, drones, riot vans to police sabs who were literally stopping the Avon Vale chase foxes right in front of police officers who had their cameras trained on us. The Avon Vale final meet, which Wiltshire and Reading sabs attended, saw over 50 officers follow us around helping terriermen block footpaths and turning their faces as we were assaulted.
Lacock really was a problem for the Avon Vale, for their Boxing Day meet in 2022 they were forced to adopt a range of measures and engage with Wiltshire Council and Police for the event to go ahead. This included a change of where they meet, no longer the prestigious spot outside the Red Lion, which itself would now be closed until after they had left, to using CSAS approved stewards to cross roads (which they failed to do on the day). Who knew, as we stood there protesting their Boxing Day meet on the 26th December, that only 6 days earlier they were filmed by Harry Mayo digging out a brace of foxes to be thrown to hounds and hunted respectively. The irony of Wiltshire Police facilitating this meet for them, just days after the disgusting video was filmed, is not lost on us.
You can not actually write about the Avon Vale Hunt without also writing about Wiltshire Police, because often it turns out, they are actually the same people. A long history of hunting police officers, but most recently we have uncovered a side saddle riding PCSO who rides with them, as well as the most publicised case of a police officer appointed to the Rural Crime Team who has hunted with both the Avon Vale and Beaufort Hunts – join us and protest against this appointment on 5th March, 1pm, at Wiltshire Police HQ, London Road, Devizes SN10 2DN. Follow the event on Facebook for updates.
But it isn’t just the police, how did the Avon Vale manage to attract so much support? Some of the clue lies in Radbourne himself, by all accounts from reports we have been given, his livery and equestrian center near to the kennels, is quite the draw, particularly for young female riders. A string of relationships with these young riders, made Stuart quite the cult leader at Abbotswood. His livery of course houses many of the hunt horses, which are used as hirelings, undoubtedly he doesn’t operate as a charity, with his hunt funding his recently purchased mortgage on his farm.
The Avon Vale is a limited company, but it isn’t really that wealthy considering it owns its own kennels…but do they? According to land registry reports the kennels are in fact owned by four Wiltshire businessmen; Charles Bartholomew – ex huntmaster, and Chairman of Wadworth Brewery, Sir James Fuller, of Neston Park – owner of the Fullers pubs and hotel chain; Robert Charles Floyd (also a member of the Fullers) of Great Chalfield Manor, whose house is actually subsidised by the National Trust, and Robert Mervyn Fear, a farmer from Wingfield.
Wiltshire and Bath sabs have visited the kennels often with drones, and captured a multitude of breaches to health and safety legislation, DEFRA regulations and council planning laws. All footage sent to the relevant prosecuting authorities, with little to no action ever taken. Even the Council Planners admitted that buildings were erected in breach of planning regulations, but said they would take ‘no action’ against the criminal gang of foxhunters.
All of this followed of course, the Ecotricity secret filming of the kennels, which saw multitude of offences relating to Cat 1 waste, firearms offences, and disgusting behaviour like the kennelman riding quads over the dead carcasses of cows.
So all in all, to the Avon Vale we say good riddance – you scummy bastards have gotten away with murder for so long, we truly delight in your downfall. But we don’t stop here, we want to see all of those who have enabled your crimes over the years answer for their own behaviour. We know many of you will simply jump to a different ship, but rest assured we will be waiting for you there too.