The Secret Monitor: Partners in crime
Who's enabling the cruelty of stag hunting?
Damaging stories from inside hunting, shooting, and the badger cull have been circulating for years.
Everything from breaking the law to assaults or harassment of monitors and the public and a police force seemingly happy to 'look the other way'.
But there is always someone watching, always someone listening. The Secret Monitor.
In the sixth post of an occasional series, the Secret Monitor is in the west of England.
Partners in Cruelty
Stag hunting is characterised by its inherent cruelty, as deer are terrorised and chased to exhaustion. Relief only comes when they are eventually killed. Behind the scenes is a complex industry, with various 'main players' that run the hunts, and suppliers who provide the support needed to keep this outdated, unwanted bloodsport alive.
Farms, pubs, and agricultural businesses are the main culprits, offering their land as a meeting point for hunts and supplying resources. These businesses knowingly become partners in an illegal and barbaric practice, normalising the bloodsport and contributing to the suffering and death of countless deer.
By permitting hunts like the Quantock Stag Hounds, The Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds and the Tiverton Stag Hounds to meet on their land, or by providing refreshments and facilities for both the hunt and its supporters, these businesses form an integral part of the bloodsport industry.
So, who are the major players in Stag Hunting?
The Gibbons clan and Rydon Farm and Staple Farm, West Quantoxhead
The Gibbons are a family deeply entrenched within the Quantock Stag Hounds, with all of their children regularly riding out with them when they’re hunting stags (even, I hear, when the hunt are trespassing).
For how much longer though? The Secret Monitor can exclusively reveal that Chris Gibbons, a gun-toting master at the QSH, will be taking a forced 'break from hunting for a while’ after resigning his mastership following the recent violent attack on North Dorset Hunt Sabs. That's a huge deal. It seems that the QSH happily tolerates violence and aggression right up to the moment it's splashed across the internet. (I’ll be looking at the potential ramifications of this breaking news in my next post.)
The Quantock Stag Hounds attackers and their cameraman, including firearm-carrying huntmaster Chris Gibbons (right) and Helen Hopson daughter of Sue Pile, Master of Porlock area (left). Photo via North Dorset Hunt Sabs
Gibbons’ libidinous wife Beth cut her teeth at the New Forest Buckhounds where her father was the huntsman. The NFB folded following a four-year campaign by monitors who secured a vast collection of footage which depicted horrendous cruelty, including a child holding a buck’s head underwater until he was drowned. Maybe now would be a good time to break out the old footage of a young Beth being berated by her father to hold the buck they were killing as Beth grizzles and cries ‘You know what happened last time’. This is how it works though: children are normalised to killing and cruelty then turn into adults who go stag hunting.
The Greenalls and the Exmoor Forest Inn, Simonsbath, Minehead.
Situated in the Exmoor National Park, the Exmoor Forest Inn forms part of the Simonsbath Estate and has a long historical connection with stag hunting. The Barle River which carves its way through The Chains and down into the village of Simonsbath passing just a stone’s throw from the Inn has been the last refuge before death for many hunted stags. Few who have seen the images will ever forget the face of one of those deer, ‘The Barle Stag’, who was chased and eventually killed by the Devon and Somerset Staghounds in 1994.
The Barle Stag. Image K. Hill
The Inn is owned by three Greenall brothers, Edward, Freddie and Alexander. Edward Greenall is an emergency doctor for the NHS, and enjoys hunting with the infamous South Herefordshire Hunt, the Ledbury Hunt, and the Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds. With no confusion around the illegality of the practices in which he participates, he often adorns his pro-hunt insta posts with the hashtag ‘#fighttheban’.
What Greenall doesn’t realise is that his ‘pals’ at the Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds can’t stand him! The Secret Monitor has been assured that behind his back Ed is the butt of many of their jokes - but not to his face: the last thing any backstabbing stag hunter wants is to lose their prime hunting ground in Simonsbath!
The Exmoor Forest Inn proudly provides a section on its website under Activities entitled ‘Equestrian Sports’ where the Greenalls direct their customers to three bloodsport groups that can be found in the local area. Just a quick question for the Exmoor Forest Inn owners: why not be honest and pop a few pictures up of the mangled bodies of deer once the stag hounds have finished with them? I think we know the answer to that...
The Inn also wants its share of the 'killing birds for fun' market. Its website says it can 'accommodate whole teams of guns in considerable comfort, with private dining and exclusive use options available and an excellent wine list" and says that "from 2023, we will also have an extremely comfortable shooting lodge (sleeping up to 18 guests) available in a very private location on the estate".
Yes, 'What exactly are national parks protecting?' is indeed a valid question.
The QSH regularly leave the Quantocks to ride on the Simonsbath Estate which is owned by Ed’s dad, the Rt. Hon. Dr Gilbert Greenall. He is a senior advisor to both the British Government and the United Nations on humanitarian emergencies and on the welfare of civilians during and after conflict. He also serves as Vice Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire. Deer hunting is an abomination. For a highly educated, well-respected humanitarian to allow convicted criminals to torment and kill deer on their land is frankly disgraceful. And to facilitate them when they then go further and violently assault and rob law-abiding citizens carrying out their civic duty? Indefensible.
It is baffling to understand why the Greenalls would associate with and host convicted criminals and thugs. The endorsement of the family gives the QSH and their cohorts the delusionary belief that their conduct is acceptable. Heads up– we normal working folk are here to let you all know it isn’t!
Richard Coate and Owls Hill Farm
Richard James Coate, the owner of Owls Hill Farm at Broomfield, made headlines in November 2006 due to his involvement in illegal activities. Tricky Dicky was convicted of Cheating the Public Revenue, reclaiming nearly £1 million in VAT for a business that traded in non-existent sheep! This marked the first prosecution of its kind, resulting in a prison sentence of three years and nine months. Of course, Coate doesn’t live in poverty in Bridgewater for his sins: he still boasts the most expensive property in Broomfield (according to The Move Market) with a valuation of £924,000.
Owls Hill Farm serves as a regular meet venue for the Quantock Stag Hounds. The QSH gather at Owls Hill Farm before embarking on their killing sprees, criminals together celebrating the hunting and slaughter of deer on the Quantock Hills. The involvement of a convicted criminal in supporting these hunts only confirms suspicions about the integrity and ethical standards of everyone associated with stag hunting. Spoiler alert – they’re all depraved.
Other local farms who host the stag hounds include:
• Higher Vexford Farm, Stogumber
• Venn Farm, Upton
• Broad Down Farm, Enmore
• Combe Farm, Countisbury
• Miltons Farm, Bagborough
• Zeal Farm, Hawkridge, Dulverton
A Call for Accountability
The revelation of criminal ties associated with landowners who support stag hunting further deepens the troubling nature of this bloodsport. The criminality of some landowners sends a clear message that the support for stag hunting extends beyond a mere disregard for animal welfare - it involves individuals with a history of illegal activities.
The fact that the Quantock Stag Hounds have been convicted themselves not just once but twice, illustrates their disregard for the law. The association between the Quantock Stag Hounds and landowners demonstrates a willingness to overlook criminal activities in pursuit of cruel and unethical practices.
Why would a business support something like this?
How about some of what might be termed ‘the junior partners’ – second-tier, but still partners in crime?
Higher Woolcotts Farm, Brompton Regis, Dulverton.
What possible connection could there be between “Food to FEEL GOOD about” upmarket retailer Waitrose and “nothing to feel good about at all” stag hunting? That would be Somerset’s Higher Woolcotts Farm, owned by Stephen and Roseanne Coates. Stephen is a master at the Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds. His business interest is producing high-end eggs for Waitrose (who proudly claim on their website they are “Working in PARTNERSHIP for a HAPPIER world” and those are their block capitals). According to a Western Daily Press article his hens "are genetically modified for the retailer". Yes, that means 'selectively bred', but just shows how careful you need to be when reading supportive puffpieces. Anyway, you can believe me when I say that by shopping at Waitrose you too can enable stag hunting. How good does that make you FEEL?
The Carew Arms, Crowcombe, Taunton.
Ian Kirkpatrick and his team have proudly hosted the Boxing Day meet of the Quantock Stag Hounds for many years now. The pub has a very informative website where they describe at length the ancient history of the pub. Such a shame that Ian never thought of jotting down his thoughts on the history of illegal conduct by the Quantock Stag Hounds - rather than contributing to its future.
The White Horse Inn, High Street, Stogumber, Taunton, TA4 3TA
What’s as bad as a business that hosts stag hunts? A business that wants to host them perhaps. Michelle from the White Horse Inn in Stogumber confesses that the QSH used to meet at the pub and she wants them back. Either the information superhighway hasn’t reached the backwaters of Stogumber, or Michelle just doesn’t care that the QSH not only break the law but commits heinous acts of cruelty whilst doing so. Either way, hopefully on reflection Michelle might have a rethink.
Bagborough House, West Bagborough.
Occupied by Diana and Philip Brooke-Popham, Bagborough House is the wedding venue which hosts deer killers from both the Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds and the Quantock Stag Hounds (the latter, according to a starry-eyed puffpiece on West Bagborough in Great British Life have their home in the village). The perfect venue to start married life - if killing deer is what gets you pumped that is. Incidentally, that ‘Great British Life’ article is titled “Visit the village that people never want leave” – at least, unlike so many unfortunate deer, people get to choose…
The Notley Arms Inn, Exmoor National Park, Front St, Monksilver, Taunton.
Ideally situated for romantic walks in the Exmoor National Park, the Notley Arms is described on its website as ‘a traditional country inn with open fires and a beautiful beer garden bounded by a bubbling stream’. Who wouldn't want to visit a pub when it evokes images of tranquillity and peacefulness like that? Which perhaps explains how they somehow forget to mention the wildlife terrorists and thugs they host: the Notley Arms Inn is a QSH meet.
The Bicknoller Inn, 32 Church Lane, Bicknoller, Traunton.
Ahh, who could forget the antics of the QSH in Bicknoller and a family terrorised by armed trespass as QSH thugs rampaged across their garden and manhandled a stag seeking refuge there. The QSH masters and huntsman and guns all descended on the family residence like an armed siege and wrestled with the stag to get him out of the garden. The QSH shot the stag just outside the boundary of the family home. If that floats your boat and you are looking for a bloodsport-supporting venue nearby look no further than the Bicknoller Inn: they host meets for the QSH too.
The Farmer’s Arms, Combe Florey, Taunton.
‘A traditional country pub in the heart of somerset [sic]’ according to its Facebook page, the Farmer’s Arms looks charming, but we all know the saying about looks and deception eh? According to reviews visitors seem fascinated by “the huge stag heads behind the bar” – have any of them ever stopped to think how those animals suffered and died before being dismembered and stuck to a pub wall? The ‘FA’ is apparently ‘family friendly and dog friendly’ – best to check ahead though because the owners, Tim and Jane, give a big welcome to the QSH too. We wouldn’t want your family pet to end up being chased up and down the Quantocks by a bunch of armed thugs on horseback.
The menu at the FA is overwhelmingly meat-based incidentally. For anyone reading this who doesn't support the meat industry but still wants to visit, sad news as according to one reviewer the veggie option of Tuna has been removed. No, I'm not making this stuff up...
Some confusion about the meat content of fish apparently...
Fennington Fibres, Kingston St Mary, Taunton.
Fennington Fibres, by their own claims, have grown to become the leading supplier of miscanthus bedding for horses and other animals in the U.K. However a lesser-known business matter is their involvement with the Quantock Stag Hounds. More trying to fit in with the hunting 'community' than hunting themselves, the Dusting Family who own Fennington Fibres host the stag hounds on their land where they hunt the miscanthus crop for deer. They pride themselves on supplying bedding for animals but don’t appear to be perturbed about the cruelty inflicted to the wildlife on their land.
Taunton Rugby Club
Beggars belief really, but in 2018 the Taunton Rugby Club played host to the fun-loving QSH and their Hunt Ball. They can’t have been that desperate for cash, surely? Hopefully the barracking they received has put them off taking such bloodstained money ever again.
The Power of Consumer Choice
That hunted deer suffer is not merely the opinion of anti-hunt campaigners. The graphic images of stags gasping their last breath, their bodies broken and exhausted after the chase, clearly illustrate the torment they have endured. For those looking for scientific evidence, 1998’s Bateson report is clear on the immense suffering of hunted deer. It is a well-documented fact that these animals experience significant stress, pain, and fear as a result of being chased with dogs.
Businesses that support stag hunting in the southwest by hosting hunts on their premises bear significant responsibility for that cruelty. It is not acceptable in the modern era to allow these businesses to profit from their affiliation with the dirty world of bloodsports.
Tens of thousands of like-minded people readers will read this article. Between us we possess the power to influence businesses through our choices. As consumers, it is crucial to hold businesses accountable for their actions where we can. By not using businesses or visiting establishments that support stag hunting, we can send a strong message that these partnerships will not be tolerated.
By refusing to host or facilitate these hunts, businesses themselves have an opportunity to align themselves with ethical values and demonstrate their commitment to compassion and empathy rather than animal cruelty and lawbreaking.
Finally, the persistence of stag hunting highlights the need for stricter regulations, increased enforcement, and a collective effort to bring an end to this cruel and outdated practice. All eyes are on Avon and Somerset Constabulary!
Until next time
The Secret Monitor
Would you like to contribute to this occasional series and expose the hunts or shoots in your area? We will never publish an author's name or location but will verify the facts with you before posting. Please get in touch.
You can help tackle stag hunting on the Quantock Hills. Email the AONB authority (email@example.com) and ask what they’re doing to ensure the stag hunts are hunting within the law (they're not). The same goes for the National Trust (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Forestry Commission (email@example.com). And write to Natural England (firstname.lastname@example.org) requesting an explanation as to why no enforcement had been introduced regarding the persistent incursions onto the SSSI by supporters' vehicles.
Like to know more about the laws that should protect deer? Please see our 'Protectors of the Wild' page Deer and the Law
Protect the Wild vehemently opposes stag hunting, an activity we consider inhumane and unjustified.
This year we produced a hard-hitting animation exposing the sick reality of this pastime in order to rally support behind our campaign for a new, proper ban on all hunting with hounds.
The Hunting of Mammals Bill, commissioned by Protect the Wild and drafted by legal firm Advocates for Animals, provides the solution to ending stag hunting for good.
If you share our commitment to exposing and ending stag hunting, consider supporting our efforts by adopting a deer with us. It's an impactful way to contribute to our work and help us continue to shed light on this critical issue.