On 18th October 2022, Mark Pearson, the joint Master of the South Dorset Hunt, England, was found guilty of illegal hunting a fox with dogs, an offence under the Hunting Act 2004. On 13th December 2021, Pearson was leading the South Dorset Hunt around Bere Regis when monitors and hunt saboteurs from Weymouth Animal Rights recorded him encouraging his hounds to kill a fox. He was observed to shout “carry on” and “hunt on” at his hounds after they chased and attacked the animal during the illegal hunt disguised as a “trail hunt”. He was then seen carrying the dead fox out of the undergrowth where it had been cornered.
Molly Mifsud, the prosecutor for the CPS, told Weymouth Magistrates’ Court that Pearson had failed to stop his hounds from killing the fox while unaware he was being filmed. She said, “There was a hunt going on and the hounds went to ground…Actions of the huntsman prior to that point caused that fox to be killed…These actions were all in violation of Section 1 of the Hunting Act 2004…A person commits an offence if he hunts a wild mammal with a dog.” Joanne Joss, one of the hunt saboteurs who gave evidence in the trial, said to the court “He got off his horse and joined the hounds in the gorse…He seemed to be encouraging them and I could hear him shouting ‘carry on’ and when he emerged from the gorse he kept saying ‘hunt on’… He told them to ‘carry on’ and said that four times as if he wanted them to carry on where the fox was.”
Presiding magistrate Justice Stephen Corben found Pearson guilty and told him that he should have had control over the hounds before they slaughtered the fox. Pearson was fined £6,000, victim surcharge of £190 and costs of £620.
On their Facebook page, Weymouth Animal Rights said this about the verdict: “We have known for a long time that the South Dorset flagrantly flout the law in their pursuit of ‘pleasure’, and we are glad we were able to conclusively demonstrate this before the courts. The South Dorset Hunt has been proven to be untrustworthy and unlawful, and we insist they be disbanded with immediate effect.”