One Less Somerset Hare Hunt

Sabs close in on the Ilminster Beagles during their 2019 hare hunting 'festival'
Sabs close in on the Ilminster Beagles during their 2019 hare hunting 'festival'
Sabs close in on the Ilminster Beagles during their 2019 hare hunting ‘festival’

Somerset will have one less hare hunt next season, as the West Somerset Beagles are to merge with the Ilminster Beagles to become the Ilminster & West Somerset Beagles.

The hunt will be kennelled at the current Ilminster Beagles kennels in Henlade, near Taunton, which also houses the Taunton Vale Hunt.

Beagling is a bloodsport that takes place on foot, with a pack of beagles hunting hare. This was also made illegal by the Hunting Act 2004, however similarly to fox hunting – these packs still regularly break the law!

Still at it - Severn Vale Beagles filmed chasing a hare in 2022
Still at it – Severn Vale Beagles filmed chasing a hare in 2022

The hunts in question are no strangers to mergers in recent decades. The West Somerset Beagles were themselves formed from a merger of the Crowcombe Beagles and the Beacon Beagles in the mid 90s, and they also swallowed up some of the former country of the Holcombe Rogus Beagles when they folded in the early 2000s.

In the mid 90s the Ilminster Beagles previously took over another hunt that no longer exists, the South Somerset Beagles.

At one time there were 5 hare hunts operating in this area, now there is just 1.

This picture is mirrored across the country – beagling is in terminal decline. More and more packs are merging, or are ceasing to exist completely, faced with dwindling support, finances and an increase in attention from saboteurs.

In the west, the Severn Vale Beagles have faced consistent sab pressure during the last couple of years, while in the east a number of beagle packs have faced increasing sab activity recently. In October 2021, the prestigious and secretive Northumberland Beagling Festival was stormed by saboteurs from across the country, which led to it being abandoned after the first day.

The Ilminster themselves are no strangers to sabs. Both this year and in 2019, hunt saboteurs stormed the ‘Ilminster Hare Week,’ an annual ’festival’ hosted by the hunt which sees other packs travel to the area to hunt hares.

Beagling fanatics left with nothing to do but stand around as sabs scupper 'Ilminster Hare Week'
Beagling fanatics left with nothing to do but stand around as sabs scupper ‘Ilminster Hare Week’

As a Hunt Saboteurs Association spokesperson said:

“If the Ilminster and West Somerset Beagles think an amalgamation is the solution to all of their problems, then they should think again.

They are already firmly on our radar with sabs shutting down their attempted hare killing festival twice in recent years. The West Somerset Beagles were also regular hosts to beagles packs who travelled from across the country, with the appeal of unseen illegal hare hunting on the expanses of Exmoor. But as they should know by now, there’s really nowhere to hide from saboteurs nowadays.”

Get involved!

Find out how you can be part of our campaign to strengthen the Hunting Act

Spread the word!

Please share our news

Sign up for our Newsletter

* indicates required