29 October 2005
BAYING FOR BLOOD
Campaigner beaten up as hunting mob ignore pleas for help
By Daniel Boffey
THIS is the bloodied face of animal campaigner Kevin Hill viciously attacked as he filmed a baying mob of hunt fans waiting for the kill.
Grandfather Mr Hill, 55, was punched to the ground and kicked in the face by a hunt supporter.
Other blood sport fans, including parents with children, stood and watched as he was beaten up, ignoring his pleas for help.
One elderly man even laughed as blood poured from Mr Hill's gashed forehead after the beating.
The campaigner - who was with a Daily Mirror investigation team - said: "I pleaded with the attacker to stop but the blows kept on coming.
I was punched in the head three times and then kicked in the face twice on the ground."
Mr Hill had got too close to the mob as the three-hour stag chase drew towards its bloody climax.
The desperate animal, hounded through miles of countryside, was cornered, and escape routes were covered by cars or riders on horses.
Mr Hill said: "I walked a little on to the moor from the road and a man barged me from behind.
"I went behind him so that he couldn't do it again. He must have realised that the camera was running and came up again and started pushing me around.
"He kneed me in the groin. I tried to calm him down but he came back and laid in to me."
One spectator shouted at the attacker to stop, but only to say it would do their cause more harm.
Mr Hill - an International Fund for Animal Welfare hunt monitor - was given six stitches in hospital but was warned he could be scarred for life.
He was working with a Mirror team investigating the legality of the Devon and Somerset stag hunt.
As the chase started in Exmoor national park, a Mirror reporter was threatened he would have his "teeth smashed in" and the four monitors, two of them women, were called "stalkers" and "paedophiles".
Police are hunting a middle-aged man for the assault on Mr Hill. The stag escaped in the confusion.
We launched our probe because in the eight months since the Hunting Act became law, there has not been one prosecution against those who breach it.
Mr Hill's IFAW colleague Pete White said: "The police have not monitored the hunts around here at all and we are scared that this area is becoming a free-for-all.
"This sort of aggression has been bubbling for a while."
The law allows two dogs to flush out quarry towards a gun, but anti-animal sport groups claim hunters are using extra hounds to replace tired ones - prolonging the chase.
Yesterday, Diana Scott, joint master of the Devon and Somerset hunt with her husband, admitted hounds were sometimes replaced but claimed they were simply "managing" the deer.
But in October there have been four "managed" events planned every week. Mrs Scott condemned the attack on Mr Hill but claimed the Mirror and IFAW monitors provoked the situation.
She said: "People were trespassing on private property and could have been shot.
"These people have spent the last 17 years trying to provoke a situation and, for the first time in my mastership, that might have happened. Although I deeply suspect it was a put-up job."
She added: "Hounds are on occasion changed and there is nothing in the Act to say they shouldn't be."
But IFAW hunt campaigner Josey Sharrad said: "We're a law-abiding organisation. We never attempt to intervene.
Hunters have been chasing stags over long distances and boasting openly about 'testing the law'."
-A RABBIT hunt set up by three boys in Hants, exploiting a loophole in the law, has been condemned by animal campaigners.