Videos and letters sent to the HSA show that on Thursday 18th March the Quorn Hunt travelled over 15 miles from their kennels to the home of Senior Joint Master Joss Hanbury at Burley on the Hill Leicestershire to celebrate his 70th birthday. Sources say that Joss used hounds formerly from the Atherstone hunt to illegally chase and kill three foxes. The incident has been reported as a crime to Leicestershire Police (1).
The video above, which was sent anonymously to the HSA by a disgusted hunter, shows Quorn Huntsman John “Ollie” Finnigan, Whipper In Chris Mardles and Senior Master Joss Hanbury encouraging hounds to disturb what appears to be a badger sett where it seems a fox has gone to ground.
The Quorn Hunt committee have suspended two of their masters and the Masters of Foxhounds Association have suspended one whilst an investigation takes place. The neighbouring Cottesmore Hunt are also said to be furious at this breach of etiquette, significant in ordinary times but even more outrageous in the midst of a global pandemic. Their breach of covid rules is even more shocking when you consider that the hunt received a £25,000 covid grant from Melton Borough Council.
Lee Moon, spokesperson for the Hunt Saboteurs Association, stated:
“The Quorn are self-styled as the most famous hunt in the world and whilst this might not be the case they’re certainly becoming one of the most infamous. It beggars belief that in the midst of a national lockdown they transported the entire hunt to the next county to celebrate someone’s birthday. Once there they engaged in illegal hunting and felt so confident they even filmed themselves doing it. Not only have they broken multiple laws but by crossing into another hunts country uninvited they’ve also broken their own association’s code of conduct.
Testament to the seriousness of their wrongdoing is that the Hunt itself has suspended two masters and the MFHA are carrying out an internal investigation. Even in the arrogant world of hunting their entitlement has shocked many.
It would be reasonable to assume that following the infamous Hunting Webinar exposé and with Hunting Office Director Mark Hankinson currently on police bail for his participation in them that hunts have been told to be on their best behaviour. Despite this many continue to behave exactly as they please, seemingly uncaring that they are effectively sabotaging hunting from within”
Senior members of the Countryside Alliance and Masters of Foxhounds Association were believed to have been in attendance including Andrew Osborne, Chairman elect of the MFHA and a former Master of the Cottesmore. Osborne was Master of the Sinnington Hunt in 1998 when they were exposed for keeping fox cubs in a cage to be hunted (2).
Joss Hanbury is Senior Joint-Master of the Quorn and is considered a leading figure in the hunting world. He has been Master of the Quorn since 1997 and prior to that was Master of the Cottesmore from 1981-90. He is a close friend of Prince Charles who used to ride with the Quorn (3). Hanbury’s son famously made £110 million by betting that Britain would leave the EU (4). In 2019 Hanbury attempted to broker a merger between the Quorn and the Cottesmore due to the Quorn’s perilous financial position. The Cottesmore declined the offer and this incident will further sour relations between the two hunts. Hanbury’s wife Nicky is also a Master of the Quorn and is accused of organising the birthday celebration for her 70 year old husband.
Ollie Finnegan is currently facing charges under the Hunting Act having been filmed illegally hunting on a golf course in February 2020 (5).
Chris Mardles was sacked by the Pytchley with Woodland Hunt in September 2020 after riding down a hunt saboteur who had to be airlifted to hospital (6). Mardles was then taken on by the Quorn as a Terrier Man and has recently been employed as Whipper In. His presence in the video dressed in his red hunting coat is proof if needed that the video is recent as he has only just been appointed to the position.
- Police incident number – 554 24/03/21