Terriermen for hunt supported by Jacob Rees-Mogg caught on film ‘blocking badger setts’

Terriermen for hunt supported by Jacob Rees-Mogg caught on film ‘blocking badger setts’

Police are investigating secret camera footage that appears to show terriermen for a hunt previously supported by MP Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg blocking an active badger sett just hours before the chase is due to begin.

The video clip, taken in Somerset, appears to show the men, who were working for the Mendip Farmers’ Hunt, digging into spoil heaps and filling the sett entrances with mud, which is illegal.

It would have stopped badgers, which are protected by law, from returning to their sett.

The two terriermen appeared to fill badger sett entrances with earth (Mendip Hunt Sabs)
The two terriermen appeared to fill badger sett entrances with earth (Mendip Hunt Sabs)

According to saboteurs who placed the covert cameras in Somerset, the Mendip Farmers’ Hunt arrived for a meet soon after the terriermen blocked the holes, then spent about an hour hunting surrounding woods, using horns to encourage the hounds.

Hunters block badger setts to prevent foxes from using them to take refuge underground, which prolongs the chase of the wild animals.

But tampering with a badger sett is an offence under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, and the Mendip Hunt Sabs sent the footage to police.

The Mendip Farmers’ Hunt has been a favourite of Sir Jacob, who is the MP for North East Somerset.

Tampering with a badger sett is an offence under the Protection of Badgers Act (Getty/iStock)
Tampering with a badger sett is an offence under the Protection of Badgers Act (Getty/iStock)

It is understood that his wife was master of the hunt from 2012 to 2014, and his children have ridden with it.

In 2019, Sir Jacob was accused of hosting a fox hunt for which a badger sett was illegally blocked. In March this year, he was said by saboteurs to have hosted the hunt on his land once again.

Saboteurs said around 25 riders were out with the Mendip, many of whom were children, with several supporters following them in cars. It happened at Christmas, but the footage has only emerged now.

A spokesperson for the activists said: “Hounds were sent through thick scrub and brambles where no human could ever have gone through to lay a trail.

“The hunt are really unpopular in this area and we heard the disgust of plenty of local residents before and during the meet.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg has previously supported the hunt (PA Wire)
Jacob Rees-Mogg has previously supported the hunt (PA Wire)

Shadow environment secretary Steve Reed pledged this week to eliminate the practice of foxhunting under the guise of trail-hunting in Labour’s first term in power – closing what is widely considered to be a loophole in the 2004 ban on the sport.

In December, Luke Pollard, a former shadow environment secretary, said the party would ban the practice in England and Wales.

A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset Police said an investigation was continuing into the alleged tampering with a badger sett in Peak’s Girt Wood, near Litton, adding: “Officers have carried out a number of enquiries following the incident, including visiting the site and scheduling voluntary interviews with two suspects.”

Wildlife TV star Chris Packham has previously called on Labour, if it wins power, to properly enforce the legal ban on foxhunting, after footage emerged of hunt supporters in the Midlands allegedly smashing vehicles.

“They throw live foxes to a pack of dogs to be torn apart and laugh about it,” he posted on social media. “They smash people’s vehicles up with impunity.”

Northants Hunt Saboteurs claim they have been subjected to increasing violence in recent weeks by balaclava-wearing hunt “mobs” who have dragged female protesters through mud, blocked their cars in, used hammers to smash windscreens, and kicked and shoved opponents.

Late last month, householders in Dorset said they were enraged when hunt hounds ran through their gardens, and hunt saboteurs who said they were trying to uphold the law “came under serious intimidation”.

“Sabs were driven at, a horse crashed into the side of a sab wagon, blocking of roads and abuse and threats that narrowly avoided a full-scale battle,” North Dorset Hunt Sabs reported.

In Devon, an elderly person was knocked over when hunt dogs reportedly ran through gardens.

The Wildlife Guardian organisation reported that hundreds of horses at an animal-assisted therapy centre in Hampshire were terrified when a pack of hounds ran into their field before running in front of cars on a road, leaving a driver shaken up.

The Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt, in Dorset, was temporarily suspended by governing body the British Hound Sports Association last month, after video footage showed a fox being killed by dogs in a farmyard during a trail hunt.

Saboteurs in Nottinghamshire and East Sussex said their vehicles had been attacked. In one case, it was claimed that masked men had kicked and beaten an RAF veteran sitting in a stationary vehicle, causing him to need hospital treatment.

Footage showed attackers hurling a tyre at the windscreen to smash it.

A spokesperson for the Countryside Alliance said: “The Countryside Alliance is against all forms of violence and intimidation, even in the case of extreme provocation. We encourage those with evidence of such offences to make complaints to the police so matters can be investigated appropriately and that those responsible for any illegal activity can be brought to justice appropriately.”

The Independent asked Sir Jacob, the Mendip Farmers’ Hunt and the British Hound Sports Association (formerly the Hunting Office) to comment on the terriermen footage but did not receive a reply.