with Horse and Hound

What Were They Thinking?

The Quorn by John Fernely.Yale Center for British ArtThe Quorn by John Ferneley, Yale Center for British Art 

Quorn huntsman John Finnegan and his whipper-in at the time, Rhys Matcham, have been accused of hunting wild mammals with dogs in contravention of England’s Hunting Act of 2004. The incident is alleged to have occurred on February 24, 2020.

Finnegan and Matcham denied the charges and entered not guilty pleas in March 2021. A district judge ordered both men to stand trial at Loughborough Magistrates’ Court on August 24, 2021. So far, the story matches that of so many other British hunts since the passage of the hated Hunting Act.

Frustrated by mandated changes in the sport, by the menacing interference of hunt saboteurs, by video cameras on the ground and in the sky spying on the hunt’s progress, it’s no wonder that numerous hunts have been similarly charged over the years. In the courts, most of the prosecutions have been decided in the hunts’ favor for lack of compelling evidence.

The Quorn is, of course, a high-profile hunt to begin with. It is known throughout the hunting world for the very creation of modern foxhunting in the eighteenth century. Its followers have included sportsmen of royal birth, and the hunting country in Leicestershire is the original model for small, holding coverts, galloping grass fields, and fencing to be jumped out of stride. The Quorn has been celebrated in sporting literature and art over the centuries. Regardless of the court’s decision after trial in August, one might suppose that a high-profile hunt like the Quorn would attempt to maintain a somewhat lower profile during the months running up to their trial date.

Not so! Right off the bat in March, the hunt made news once again with reports of a birthday party hunt at which government-imposed Covid-protocols were ignored by the partygoers. It was also reported that even the rules of organized foxhunting were ignored as the partygoers hunted a neighboring hunt’s country without notification or permission.

What were they thinking? And what are other British hunts now thinking about their Quorn cousins as most of the hunts continue the seventeen-year-old battle to mitigate or at the least coexist with the Hunting Act to keep the sport alive in England?

I am reminded of the famous line from that wonderful old comic strip, Pogo: “I have seen the enemy, and he is us.”

Posted June 22, 2021